Saturday, February 8, 2014

Time for some traffic problems in Cheyenne

To paraphrase the now infamous email message plaguing the governor of New Jersey, “Time for some traffic problems in Cheyenne.”

The legislature comes to town next week. There may never have been a more important legislative session for the working people of Wyoming. There may have never been a more urgent time for the voices of middle class families, the working poor, and others to be heard.

If you’re one of 18,000 Wyoming people whose insurance and healthcare are at stake in the debate over the expansion of Medicaid, you need to create some traffic problems at the State Capitol. You need to be there telling your story and demanding to be represented. That traffic can come in the form of personal visits, email, snail mail, and phone calls but it must come in volumes. No member of the legislature should be permitted to argue that his or her constituents don’t care and didn’t call.

If you’re one of the tens-of-thousands of Wyoming workers earning less than a livable wage, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you need to cause some traffic problems at the capitol. State Sen. Floyd Esquibel and State Rep. James Byrd are sponsoring a bill raising the minimum wage to $9. Lobbyists are lining up to oppose it.

If you’re struggling to live at hourly wages much lower, this is the time for all good men and women to come to their own aid. Don’t assume legislators understand your lives. Most don’t. Don’t assume they represent you. Most don’t. They are hearing day to day from lobbyists whose clients have a huge stake in paying low wages. If anyone is going to tell them about your life, it’ll have to be you.

When the people of Wyoming elected this legislature, they were too often voting against their own economic interests. Thomas Frank wrote the best-selling book “What's The Matter with Kansas." It could just as accurately been called “What's The Matter Wyoming."

Frank described a demographic made up of people with no health insurance, working hard for low wages, at jobs with no benefits, who go to the polls faithfully and elect legislators who oppose health insurance for the poor, oppose increases in the minimum wage, and march to the drummers of big business.

Frank said, “It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming ‘more power to the aristocracy."

It’s one thing to vote against your own interests. It’s even worse to not even register to vote.

As important as causing traffic problems at 24th and Capitol, you really need to cause even greater traffic problems at 20th and Carey. That’s where you need to go to register to vote. The legislators who cuddle up to the lobbyists who represent those who oppose livable wages and healthcare for the middle class and the working poor need to know there will be an election-day reckoning.

Current voter registration numbers would give them and the lobbyists comfort. Forty-six percent of all eligible voters are not even registered. That’s dangerously close to a majority. You’ve heard of the ‘silent majority.’ This is the ‘self-silenced majority,’ people who gave up on the political system, believing these guys don’t care about “people like me.”

Unregistered voters tend to be low income, elderly and younger, working people, and the ones who would benefit most by the bills the legislature refuses to pass.

If you’ll cause traffic problems at 24th and Capitol, you’re voice will be heard. If you’ll cause traffic problems at 20th and Carey, it will be a politically seismic event. Imagine what it would mean if on the day the legislature convened the news focused not so much on the Capitol Building but the county building. Imagine if the lead story was not about legislators but about long lines of people registering to vote.

The legislature comes to town next week…and it’s time for some traffic problems at both 24th and Capitol and 20th and Carey.

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