I’m tired of witnessing how our elected officials are so out of touch with the plight of the common person.

This is evidenced by the fact that in December, some refused to include emergency unemployment compensation in the budget bill provisions. This affects about 1.3 million Americans who have lost or will lose their benefits.

Emergency unemployment compensation is a temporary program that provides additional weeks of unemployment benefits to qualifying jobless workers during periods when work is hard to find.

I wish members of Congress could humanize and consider what life is like for my friends and neighbors who are losing benefits. I don’t believe we need to compromise people’s well-being to shrink the deficit – it’s not either/or.

Why not make approval of emergency unemployment compensation a no-brainer and move on to closing tax loopholes? Companies like Verizon, Apple, Microsoft, GE (the list goes on) continue to evade paying their fair share of taxes – some pay none at all.

Shouldn’t these companies be the ones we rely on to shrink the deficit? Congress could more aggressively pursue closing tax loopholes instead of bickering over funding needed programs that benefit poor and middle-class Americans. Instead, Congress and the media have us stalling on issues like emergency unemployment compensation (perhaps because both benefit from the current system).

This screams the need for campaign finance reform. But first I would like to call on elected leaders, including Sen. Susan Collins, to swiftly extend unemployment benefits and move on to systems-level changes that are in the best interest of everyday people, including us Mainers.

Ashley Bahlkow

Portland