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The choice facing the US in the November 2012 election | Chris Miller

A Congress – half of whose members are millionaires – was at its obstructionist worst last year. But Americans can change that

As the recent tax debacle shows, our Congress, led by the GOP-held House of Representatives, cannot agree even on the things they agree on, such as extending the payroll tax break for working-class Americans. The debate in Washington should never have wandered away from jobs.

Republicans argue that average Americans need to endure benefits cuts, tighten their belts and forgo revenue to decrease the debt in order to give more to so-called “job creators”, the very people who arguably caused the situation in the first place, because doing so might create jobs. Conservatives are willing to support the interests of the wealthy over those of average people; they’re willing to let the crew drown to save the ship. 

In truth, anyone that spends a nickel in this country is a “job creator”. That title isn’t reserved for the upper crust.

America shouldn’t be run like a company – because it isn’t a company. In tough times, a company can batten down its hatches through layoffs, furloughs, cuts and hiring freezes. The main purpose of any enterprise is profit, and survival of the company is more important than the well-being of its individual employees. Many companies are taking these actions now to survive.

That is not so with America, nor with any nation. Americans are not just employees able to seek employment elsewhere. They cannot be cut loose by their government, especially not when many are already receiving such treatment from employers. Though the long-term health of America is vital, the purpose of this country is to protect and serve its people – not to profit from them or stay in the black while they go under.

We should not forget that it was oversized want of profit by our biggest banks that created our current downturn, not government spending or debt. These banks asked government for a bailout and they were given one. They requested it; it wasn’t forced on them. 

Businesses are laying-off employees and not hiring new ones because of this situation, not because of government debt or taxes. Excessive debt, taxation and regulation did not cause this problem; high risk-taking, over-leveraging and profit-seeking-gone-wild did. Excess caused this. Now, average Americans are being asked to bear the burden, leaving many still wondering when their bailout is coming.

Some Americans have taken to city streets and to parks across the country in recent months to show their disgust at the situation. These Americans have been called lazy and dirty whiners who should just get a job. As someone who has a great deal of experience standing for hours in the sun and sleeping in the rain and snow for what I believe in while serving in the military, I have a different take on it. Anyone who is willing to do that deserves to be listened to.

And veterans such as me have much to complain about; among young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, unemployment is almost three times as high as the rest of America.

I and my family, like most Americans, are among those with less. Others have paid more into the system. However, for three generations, the men in my family have served America at war. My grandmother was a bookkeeper who raised 6 kids. My mother was a nurse. My aunts, uncles and cousins are union members, teachers or worked with troubled kids. Though there are others who have paid more money in, the rest of us have contributed as much in kind to building America to have a place here.

America needs real leadership from its elected officials. We need congressmen and women who will serve those they represent – and not some interest group or their own interests. Congress should not be a place people go for decades to get rich, nor should it be a hereditary or anointed position. There is a problem when only 20% of our congressmen served the country in the military, but nearly half are millionaires.

Public service needs to be about service again. Congress needs tough fighters for the average people, for their jobs and for their interests. As a soldier, service to the country and fighting hard for those I serve is what I’ve done my entire life. Fighting hard for us in Congress should be no different. If we want to change Washington, we need to change the type of people we send there, not simply change the party in charge.

This year, Americans will be presented with a choice. I hope and believe they’ll make the right one. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds