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Legislators have failed; Americans deserve better

Martin J. Fischer

I, for one, have grown tired of hearing about the latest results of opinion polls. We are constantly being informed the approval ratings of the president and Congress are at low levels. Is anyone surprised by this information? I think not.

There are conditions that exist in Washington which contribute to this extreme dissatisfaction. Two factors are the chronic dysfunctional working relationship between the current administration and the majority of Republican legislators; and the pathetic, unacceptable performance of the House of Representatives, which clearly has little interest in functioning on behalf of the American people. It appears we presently have a government of the people and by the people, but sadly not for the people. For the good of our country, there’s an urgent need for Congress to address major issues which have been ignored for too long. I shall review three of these issues — income inequality, education and immigration.

The good news is the economy has improved, big business is doing just fine and corporations are performing well, as evidenced by record highs in the stock market. The bad news is many Americans who historically have been considered part of the middle class are now in the lower-income segment, and lower-income Americans are still struggling. It’s inexcusable in this great country we are unable to make sufficient progress regarding the minimum wage which has not kept up with inflation. Americans should not be forced to work multiple jobs because legislators feel raising the minimum wage somehow places undue burdens on business or the American worker should survive on a wage that has been stagnant for years.

A second aspect of inequality can be seen when one looks at American corporations; whether it be in the taxes they pay, executive salaries/bonuses or the latest corporate gimmick known as inversion.

Reforming the tax code has supposedly been a priority of our legislators for years. We often hear them proclaim there are many inequities that need revision, however they continue to do nothing. The wealthiest Americans have more opportunities to “shelter” their earnings, and of even greater importance, many of the largest corporations pay little or no taxes on millions of dollars of profits.

The current practice of inversion is a form of tax avoidance whereby an American company buys a foreign firm based in a country with a lower tax rate. It then moves its headquarters to that country, while its main operations remain in the United States. U.S. officials have referred to this practice as unpatriotic and are currently examining ways in which to discourage it.

There’s a growing imbalance in America. Varying degrees of wealth, income and opportunity are part of our culture, however the disparity is widening. This is an unhealthy trend for the U.S. economy.

Little has been successfully accomplished in recent years in addressing the deficiencies that exist in the American educational system, and as a result, our reputation has suffered. American students have become average performers in math, science and language in contrast to other nations. We have struggled with programs such as No Child Left Behind and the Common Core concept. The reality is many of our schools are experiencing difficulties due to inferior instruction and/or lack of funding.

Our legislators have also shown a lack of sensitivity to college students with respect to the cost of student loans. In cases where families cannot afford to contribute to the increasing cost of higher education, a high percentage of students graduate with thousands of dollars of debt, which negatively impacts their lives for years.

The students of today are tomorrow’s leaders. For our future well-being, it’s important Congress view education as a critical priority.

The key word here is procrastination. The Senate passed a worthwhile immigration bill, which would have effectively updated and reformed the system. Unfortunately, the House rejected it. Without reform, 1,000 immigrants are deported daily.

Many of our citizens do not comprehend for years the USA was highly sensitive to millions of people who appreciated the greatness of our country. They were granted entry and they applied and patiently waited for citizenship. Between 1850 and 1930, approximately 40 million people immigrated to American. They were of multiple nationalities, including German, British, Irish, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Jewish.

In 1850 the population was 23 million. In 1930 it had risen to 123 million, with immigrants being an important part of this number. In reality, immigrants had a great deal to do with increasing the strength and backbone of what it meant to be an American. They appreciated what our country had to offer and worked diligently to get ahead and make a life here. Times have changed, as has the mix of people, but the motivation and objectives of immigrants are the same. They enhance our economy and their ability to make progress is a plus for America.

In conclusion, while I have touched on only a few issues, there remain many that simply are not receiving the attention they deserve or require. Our legislators have failed the American people. There is a dismal lack of dialogue and mutual respect. Whatever happened to the art of negotiation and compromise? The current negative environment will not change until our senators and representatives realize their present approach to governing is irresponsible and unproductive. The American people deserve better.

Martin J. Fischer, a Carson City resident, is a retired vice president and general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue.