Will a new year mean turning over a new leaf for politicians?

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Charles Dickens wrote in a degree of comparison to the present period making his “Tale of Two Cities” a relevance to modern audiences.  The 27th Amendment specifically says that the salaries of the House and Senate can’t be altered until the start of a new term. It’s a cruel paradox when chaos can be thrust upon Americans by politicians without worry of losing any of their $174,000  annual salary. These U.S. lawmakers left for their holiday break with a “we wish you a Merry Christmas but, by the way, we’re letting your benefits expire!” Over a million Americans were left in the lurch and states economies took a nose dive. “It was the winter of despair.” It’s contradictory of Congress to yap about needed spending cuts then make careless moves costing millions in economic losses. “It was the age of foolishness.” Yes, social injustice and harsh realities are scary shadows for many. Republicans believe benefits are an economic drain and cause lack of incentive to job hunt. So, will they neglect extending this vital lifeline to those in need, or will they “turn over a new leaf” and do the right thing? If so, what will evolve from the veins of that new leaf?  “It was the spring of hope.”

      Each New Year, resolutions are declared for making a fresh start. But, like F Scott Fitzgerald, is it also our “belief that people can’t change from who they are.” Maybe a good place to begin would be with compassion, humanity and a good dose of common sense. Cease the irrational slinging of imprudent hash which depicts one the likelihood of sounding like the village idiot. Do we just forget that Republican Congressmen were responsible for endless gridlock with record-low productivity? They played a dangerous game of a near-default on the national debt. The shutdown cost our economy 24 Billion and set back our recovery. We have seen life under a Republican house. Their top goal is to take back control of the Senate from Democrats, and maintain their majority in the House. There will be no holds barred from Tea Party groups to reach that goal. These extremists are backed by wealth which has no conscience. As in the “Tale of Two Cities,” wealth controls immoral treatment of the poor without consequences. Like irrational cuts to entitlements, attacks on women’s health, or changing the voter ID laws to disenfranchise American voters. Men like Paul Ryan has eyes focused on the White House. He and Democratic Senator Patty Murray  negotiated a two-year bipartisan budget to help stabilize government spending. The agreement was the first to pass Congress with the two chambers controlled by different parties since 1986. This places a new feather in Ryan’s hat, but don’t forget the old ones he wore in 2005 while addressing the Atlas Society, a group promoting Ayn Rand’s value system and beliefs. He said, “I grew up reading Ayn Rand. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.” Since then, he has removed his virtue mask of honesty. He denies her influence just as Peter denied knowing Jesus.  After being a recipient of entitlement benefits which helped pay for his college education, Ryan has proposed to chop away at entitlement spending which would deny benefits to others. The cycle of people’s actions leading to inequality keeps repeating itself. The problem with reformers is that they so often want to do away with things they don’t understand. They seem to regard their lack of understanding as proof that certain programs are not needed. The tradition they try to destroy most likely was put into place for a very good reason. Truth is usually found in tradition, and common sense was born from it. So, if common sense can not win, do we just give up and join them. NOT!  We as Americans must discover the lost art of common sense. It requires opening up the mind and digging for the truth. Republicans  continue to rage against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) causing confusion to fester and grow. According to a new public policy polling, many Americans still lack understanding that the ACA and Obamacare is the same law. Recently, Jimmy Kimmel joked about this problem after his staff asked people on the street whether they liked Obamacare or the ACA better. Many had strong opinions about both while not realizing they were actually the same law. Wake up America! If you can’t compute the train schedule, you’ll be left watching the caboose leave the station. Turn over a new leaf so you don’t miss the next train.  And, that’s my opinion . . . . . 

(Sharen Jergenson of Heber Springs writes her “And that’s my opinion column... “ for The Sun-Times monthly)