An Open Letter to the 116th Congress,
Both the Senate & House
By. Raimondo Graziano
I intended for this to be an article originally to deal with exclusively local matters in the City of New York. However, on a recent walk home from a local market, running some errands for my mother, something profound occurred to me. At the sight of many of the people in my hometown, in this senate district, in this congressional district, in this city council district and so on and so forth – I have seen two things. Both pain and hope. In the former, it has manifested in the very real economic consequences of the current crises we are all collectively experiencing. It also has manifested in regards to the inaction of Congress. On many fronts, this current crisis only exacerbating the very real consequences of apathy displayed by those whom we have sent to those hallowed halls to be stewards, shepherds of the well being of the people of this country. In the latter, I do see great hope. I see members of my community rising to the occasion – taking on more responsibility in a time of crisis, persevering and overcoming challenges, and watching out for their families and their neighbors. That is the spirit of the people who live in this community, in this district, and in this city at large. We are a community of innovators, fighters and devoted Americans – devoted to an ideal – no matter how often those whom we have placed so much trust in betray that sacred honor. So these words herein are addressed to the 116th Congress, and in honor of all those who reside in our community in Queens, New York.
For too long we have put you in office, and provided for your pensions, your salaries, and your government sponsored healthcare that you admonish us for seeking. We have received very little in return. We have been brandished by both sides of the political aisle as opposed to the very idea of America. We the people, whether Democrat or Republican have been too busy fighting each other to the benefit of your political campaign coffers. While we suffer, you all enrich yourselves and take long and frivolous recesses without accomplishing much of note. Both sides of the political aisle have made negligible overtures to the opposing sides of Congress. Instead, through your blatantly hostile rhetoric, you have turned the American people against one other and have worked to fool us into believing that our fellow man is our enemy. In reality, by the definition of such a word, you have been acting in that manner toward the broad masses of the American people. See here; “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something:,” see further; “a thing that harms or weakens something else.” That is the definition of an enemy. You have acted as an enemy to the people, in an overwhelming way as evidenced by your gross dereliction of duty, and egregious negligence toward the very basic needs of the American people. The evidence is clear:
Economically, Americans are suffering, according to reporting from The Wasington Post:
“Forty percent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense such as an unexpected medical bill, car problem or home repair.
- Forty-three percent of households can’t afford the basics to live, meaning they aren’t earning enough to cover the combined costs of housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cellphone, according to the United Way study. Researchers looked at the data by county to adjust for lower costs in some parts of the country.
- More than a quarter of adults skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.
- Twenty-two percent of adults aren’t able to pay all of their bills every month.
- Only 38 percent of non-retired Americans think their retirement savings is “on track.”
- Only 65 percent of African Americans and 66 percent of Hispanics say they are “doing okay” financially vs. 77 percent of whites.”
American education is under siege from mismanagement, and misguided leadership – hampering our children futures.
- “Teacher quality is one of the most significant factors related to student achievement. In the U.S., 14% of new teachers resign by the end of their first year, 33% leave within their first 3 years, and almost 50% leave by their 5th year.
- 1.3 million high school students don’t graduate on time yearly. States with highest rates (80-89%) are Wisconsin, Iowa, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. States with lowest (less than 60%) are Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina.
If the 1.3 million dropouts from the Class of 2010 had graduated, the nation would have seen $337 billion more in earnings over the course of the students’ lifetimes.
High schools are not preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel after graduation. Only 1 in 4 high school students graduate college-ready in the 4 core subjects of English, Reading, Math and Science.
In the workplace, 85% of current jobs and 90% of new jobs require some or more college or post-secondary education.”
Poverty in the nation is appalling. Our measurements of poverty as well are woefully out of date compared to the rising standard of living, or should I say burden of living. For a family of four, the Federal Poverty threshold, is $25,700. For a single individual that’s nothing, especially when you’re living in a city such as my own. In my own community, rent averages out at $3,000.00 month. That means someone living in New York City would need to allocate $36,000.00 for rent – without even factoring in utilities, groceries, healthcare, childcare and personal expenses. And the rent alone is $10,000.00 over the federal poverty threshold where nearly “One out of every five New Yorkers, 1.7 million people, lives below the federal poverty line. One out of every ten New Yorkers has a full or part-time job and still lives below the federal poverty line.” Lets dig in nationally:
In 2018, 16.2% of all children (11.9 million kids) lived in Poverty USA—that’s almost 1 in every 6 children. In 2015, the National Center on Family Homelessness analyzed state-level data and found that nationwide, 2.5 million children experience homelessness in a year.
5.3% of the population—or 17.3 million people—live in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of their poverty thresholds. And 29.9% of the population—or 93.6 million—live close to poverty, with incomes less than two times that of their poverty thresholds.
The USDA estimated that 11.1% of US households were food insecure in 2018. This means that approximately 14.3 million households had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. Rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line.
Poverty thresholds are determined by the US government, and vary according to the size of a family, and the ages of its members. In 2018, the poverty threshold—also known as the poverty line—for an individual was $12,784. For two people, the weighted average threshold was $16,247.
In 2018, the poverty rate for people living with a disability was 25.7%. That’s nearly 4 million people living with a disability—in poverty.
So, Congress; both the House & the Senate, there is this, a small sliver of the maddening reality of living in the United States of America – the nation you are sworn to preserve, protect and defend. You have sold us on a false idea of what is actually going on – and you must do better. Do better or face the consequences of the ballot box, and an increasingly agitated American public willing, ready and able to march to Washington to make their demands, a reality.