Problems outpacing solutions, ideas

September 25, 2023 3:00 am

The U.S. Capitol on April 4, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

To: U.S. Reps. Adrian Smith, Don Bacon, Mike Flood

From: Nebraskans

Re: We have a list.

We read where the poverty rate for children in America more than doubled in the last year. Perhaps you read that, too. At least we hope so. Thousands of those kids live in Nebraska.

According to most reports, allowing increases in the child tax credit to expire fueled the dramatic rise of children living in poverty. That rate went from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022. Sixty million children — including 437,000 in Nebraska — benefited from the expansion of the child tax credit, lifting them out of what the government considers poverty in many cases. Now, according to the new numbers from the Census Bureau, many of them have slipped back into that abyss from which escape may take generations — if ever — and desperation about having enough food, stable housing or solutions to the compromised health of a family member are daily, often unmet, challenges.

Moreover, early research reveals that increasing the child tax credit did not, as predicted by naysayers, fuel a wholesale drop in those seeking employment.

Hope still exists. Some members of Congress are working to again expand the child tax credit, including the Problem Solvers Caucus, of which one of you is a member.

We’re Nebraskans so we have to ask: Why does Congress have a “problem solving” caucus in the first place? Shouldn’t such a group include every member of Congress? Problem solving? Isn’t that why you’re all there?

We say that because child poverty and its attendant and damaging consequences are part of a long list of problems that Congress needs to address.

That said, according to the leadership from whom you seem to get your lawmaking marching orders, the most pressing issue in Congress is to impeach the president … apparently without any evidence to date.

Aside from the non sequitur and a reminder for whom you actually work, we have a sampler platter of ongoing issues that have little to do with impeachment and everything to do with improving the lot and lives of Nebraskans and the rest of the American public.

— Let’s stay with children. The leading cause of death in young people under 19 is now gunfire. Mass shootings and school shootings continue to snuff out young lives, as do guns left unsecured in homes. The omnipresence of “thoughts and prayers” may convey your feelings, but what children and those who want to keep them safe from gun violence need is a change in your behavior, whether it be expanded waiting periods, closing loopholes, red flags laws, or a way to put teeth into what is already on the books. Simply put: Do something.

— By the time this finds a published page, we hope you’ve been a responsible part of funding the government. Failure to do so before the end of the month would be akin to going on strike, at least for the extreme few in your body who seem to be running a shakedown — content to threaten leaders, investigate rumors and create chaos because that appears to be all they have in the way of ideas. Perhaps the Problem Solvers Caucus, as it purports to be working on, could institute some rules reform, so fewer than a dozen members of Congress can’t hold the American people hostage. Your colleagues over in the Senate could use a dose of reform, too. There, one recalcitrant member, unable to name the three branches of government before he took office, now holds at bay our country’s military leadership and, by extension, its military readiness.

— Grousing and complaining and showing up at the border in a pair of Wranglers may make for good photos, but when is Congress going to address comprehensive immigration reform? We go from one crisis or caravan to the next, some invented on Fox News, some actual calamities for those seeking asylum, those states at the border and those cities where immigrants seeking a better, safer life find themselves. Governors who fly or bus asylum seekers around the country are part of the problem. It’s a federal border. You’re Congress. That’s on you.

— After a summer of worsening climate change consequences, rising sea levels, extreme fires and the increased magnitude of storms, I’m wondering if you or your colleagues still think “junk science” is at work. Or perhaps we truly need to address human impact on the environment? Nebraska feeds the world. Much is at stake.

So while you’re impeaching, problems remain unsolved. And we have a list.

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George Ayoub
George Ayoub

George Ayoub filed nearly 5,000 columns, editorials and features in 21 years as a journalist for the Grand Island Independent. His columns also appeared in the Omaha World-Herald and Kearney Hub. His work has been recognized by the Nebraska Press Association and the Associated Press. He was awarded a national prize by Gatehouse Media for a 34-part series focusing on the impact of cancer on families of victims and survivors. He is a member of the adjunct faculty and Academic Support Staff at Hastings College. Ayoub has published two short novels, “Warm, for Christmas” and “Dust in Grissom.” In 2019 he published “Confluence,” the biography of former Omaha World-Herald publisher and CEO John Gottschalk.