People Need Their Own Representatives


Six Republican Members of Congress from Missouri – Ann Wagner, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves, Billy Long and Jason Smith – all voted against relief for survivors of Hurricane Harvey. One-hundred Republican House members nationwide voted against the relief and they will probably vote against aid for survivors of Hurricane Irma as well.

They voted no because they said the aid was not offset by cuts in domestic spending. They want to cut Medicaid, which pays for nursing home care for the elderly, and also school lunch programs and Head Start. In addition, they want to cut drug rehabilitation and mental health programs.

Why do politicians pit disaster relief against social programs? Because they want to eviscerate social programs? Yes, but the narrative goes beyond this. One has to think about economic security, money power and their connection to our economy. In order to attain middle-class status in our market economy (a dream of many), individuals and families have to have access to the financial resources to survive obstacles that are beyond their control. Examples include the damage of Mother Nature (hurricanes) or the vicissitudes of life (lack of food, education or healthcare). Let’s face it, we can’t predict when a hurricane will strike or when we will be laid off and in need of the basics of life. In order to protect individuals from that which they can’t control, we must act collectively.

Why do legislators use disaster relief as a tool to cut social programs? Because certain legislators choose money power over people power! If working people don’t have the access to healthcare, food or quality early childhood education (Head Start), then they become more desperate and are willing to work for wages they would not work for otherwise. This works to the benefit of employers (who have money power) and against employees and potential employees. This story amounts to a political game to damage the bargaining power of those who depend on wages for a living.

But money power certainly pays off in spades for some people. Look at how little trouble the banks had in achieving a bailout after wrecking the economy in 2007! Look at how the auto companies were bailed out after ignoring the need of consumers for fuel-efficient cars! Look at how retail giants such as Walmart and fast-food companies like McDonalds get by with encouraging their workers to rely on the social programs many Republicans detest! And one can’t forget the billions spent a year on the military-industrial complex! Pentagon waste, fraud and abuse have been exposed time and again. Does anyone really believe that we need 7,000 nuclear warheads in any defense scenario? Congress doesn’t seem to see a weapons system that it doesn’t like.

We can return to the subject of money power. Retail chains, banks, fast-food chains, and those who manufacture weapons systems all have the money to purchase legislators and place the government on their side. Of course, these economic entities don’t rely on wages on pay bills, giving them a huge advantage. Acting collectively in the realm of economic security (Head Start, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, higher minimum wage) helps create an economy where larger numbers can succeed. As citizens we need to act collectively to take on the money power that feeds the activities of fast food companies, retail chains and the military-industrial complex!

Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area for over a decade and is currently executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis, Mo. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2017

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