By Aryanna Hunter
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
I didn’t always pay attention to politics. Certainly not in the way that I do now.
Growing up, my family didn’t have conversations around the dinner table about policy or how or why the government was doing something. We were just working to get by.
My mom was in black pants, a crisp, white button-down shirt, and bow tie, hauling trays of food from table to table as a waitress. My father was in a black Dickies shirt and often found underneath his tow truck or attending to the occasional backed up toilet at the hotel where he worked in maintenance. We were a part of the working poor. Each of my parents worked more than 40 hours a week and still didn’t have enough to buy food to last the whole month.
Now, as Americans are thick in the middle of a global pandemic, unemployment rates are skyrocketing, and families are unsure of where their next meal is coming from. I think about whether or not these folks, that are just working to get by, are paying attention to politics. You’d think that right now that it would be hard not to. Our social media feeds are constantly updated with news stories and headlines that grab your attention.
But I think the reality is that people are worried about their unemployment benefits running out, their kids going back to school, and whether or not they are going to get evicted for not being able to pay their rent or keep their lights on.
The stress that families are under right now is a heavy burden to bear with no relief in sight.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress are a million miles apart when attempting to negotiate a deal and the executive order signed by the President on Saturday, attempting to go around Congress isn’t going to provide much help.
The President is requiring cash strapped states to chip in on the extended unemployment benefits which would potentially total $400. It creates limitations on who is eligible to receive benefits and because this action isn’t authorized by Congress, the government will need to create a whole new system to provide this benefit to Americans meaning this won’t happen anytime soon.
The President also didn’t reinstate the eviction moratorium – putting Americans at risk for homelessness, potentially creating even a bigger problem as we are heading towards the Fall and Winter months.
Schools are starting back up and there is a nationwide shortage on Chromebooks, so the digital divide is growing even greater. You don’t have internet or a laptop at home? Guess your kids get to go to the classroom and you get to hope they don’t get sick.
According to research by Nicholas Carnes, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, “The average member of Congress spent less than 2 percent of his or her entire pre-congressional career doing the kinds of jobs most Americans go to every day. No one from the working class has gotten into politics and gone on to become a governor, or a Supreme Court justice, or the president.”
It’s any wonder Congress can’t reach a deal.
These are the elite of America who have by all accounts never held the kind of jobs that the vast majority of Americans do every day, fighting over $600 a week for people who can’t afford to pay their rent, buy groceries, keep the electricity on, they just don’t get it.
In a few short months we will be voting for the next President of the United States, but we are also going to be voting for members of Congress, State Representatives, up and down the ballot. It is far past time that we start electing people who are from the working class, that have had to live paycheck to paycheck, maybe when we do we will stop seeing senseless bickering over how little we will provide to Americans who are facing some of their most challenging days.