By MARSHA MERCER
The numbers are stunning to everyone, it seems, except Congress.
Fourteen million Americans are still jobless. The ranks of the poorest of the poor have grown to record levels, with 20.5 million Americans living below 50 percent of the poverty line.
And what does Congress do? It, um, steps up to the plate and strikes out.
On Oct. 26, the House voted 416 to 3 to mint commemorative baseball coins.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-NY, who calls himself “the congressman from Cooperstown,” introduced the measure. If the Senate goes along, sales of the coins will support the National Baseball Hall of Fame there.
Thank goodness, the coins will have “In God We Trust” on them – as all American money does.
The House is mightily concerned that some people – that means you, Mister President – don’t know “In God We Trust” is the national motto. More on that in a minute.
First, another number Congress evidently is in denial about. Only 9 percent of American adults approve of the job Congress is doing – the worst performance rating in the history of CBS-New York Times polls.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The day after the 2010 elections delivered the House to the Republicans, the new Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., set higher accountability standards he called the Cantor Rule.
Each day, Cantor said, he’d ask himself: “Are my efforts addressing job creation and the economy; are they reducing spending; and are they shrinking the size of the federal government while increasing and protecting liberty? If not, why am I doing it? Why are WE doing it?”
And yet, the House voted 396 to 6 Tuesday to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as our official motto and to encourage “public display of the motto in all public buildings, schools and other government institutions.”
Cantor didn’t comment, but sponsor, Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said it was necessary because, “Unfortunately, there are a number of public officials who forget what the national motto is, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
He was referring to Obama who, in a speech last year to students in Jakarta, Indonesia, said, “In the United States, our motto is `E Pluribus Unum,’ out of many, one.”
John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson proposed the Latin phrase for the motto on the Great Shield of the United States in 1776. E pluribus unum is a wonderful concept, speaking to the challenge of forging one, unified country from many different peoples.
Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower made “In God We Trust” the official motto in 1956.
Forbes, who founded the congressional Prayer Caucus, wrote Obama a letter, informing the president of his motto mistake and scolding him for failing to acknowledge God as the source of the rights in the Declaration of Independence.
“Omitting the word Creator once was a mistake; but twice establishes a pattern,” Forbes wrote. Forty-one members of the Prayer Caucus, including Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., now a presidential contender, joined in signing the letter.
Forbes then introduced the “In God We Trust” resolution. Not that it was needed. Congress has reaffirmed the motto repeatedly over the years.
Nobody is against the motto, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, said during House debate.
“Why have my Republican friends returned to an irrelevant agenda? Irrelevant because it does nothing. It simply restates existing law that no one has questioned. Why are we debating nonbinding resolutions about the national motto?” Nadler asked.
The short answer is that Republicans want to make Obama a one-term president. Democrats could hardly let Republicans out-do them on trust in God. And so the House showed overwhelming bipartisanship on a meaningless bill.
Obama meanwhile keeps pushing for his jobs bill. He gets knocked for his travels, but at least he has a bill.
On Wednesday, Obama stood near the structurally deficient Key Bridge in Washington to talk about infrastructure jobs. Nationwide, one in four bridges in the country is either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.
“In the House of Representatives, what have you guys been debating?” Obama said. “You’ve been debating a commemorative coin for baseball. You had legislation reaffirming that `In God We Trust’ is our motto. That’s not putting people back to work. I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work,” he said.
I agree. Our national motto wasn’t at risk; our bridges are. I want to see people at work, making the bridges safe.
c) 2011 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.