Can you imagine if, in the middle of the ice storm of 1998, then-Gov. Angus King had just sort of gone on vacation for three weeks? It would have killed his career. He certainly never would have been elected to the Senate.

So why are we letting him abandon us now? Why are we letting Sen. Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden sit around until early May at the earliest, which is when the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate will deign to come back into session again?

“Ah, but Victoria, we’re all sitting, trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” you might say. True, but there are exactly 535 people to whom the Constitution grants the power of the purse. And you know what we really need right now, in the middle of the worst national crisis since the last world war and the worst economic crash since the Great Depression? The purse! Taxpayers really, really need the purse and its powers right about now. More than 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The number of us without an income is almost certainly higher than that. Rent is due May 1.

At least their unwillingness to help is bipartisan. The Senate is controlled by Republicans, the House by Democrats. Both of these chambers are quite willing to let us twist in the wind for a few more weeks.

Despite their titles of “representatives,” Congress has never been a very representative institution, but right now they might be the most unrepresentative of the average American that they have ever been, because everyone I know is not only trying to keep themselves safe but also trying to help out others. A group at my mom’s church has formed a phone tree-videoconferencing bush to check in on every member of the church and see if they have any needs that can be fulfilled while complying with social distancing. They are calling themselves “The Winged Oxen” (a liturgical reference to St. Luke). A friend of the family dropped off an entire carrot cake and several sewn face masks on our doorstep. We’ve shared our own precious supply of toilet paper (white gold!) with friends who haven’t made it to the store. The vast majority of people are trying their best with the minimal resources they have.

Did you know you can go on the Federal Election Commission’s website and poke around and see the filings of how much cash on hand various campaigns have? Senators usually have millions; regular ol’ reps, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how much I can donate to the Good Shepherd Food Bank when I don’t know when I will have any income coming in. (If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you may wonder how my filing-for-unemployment journey is going. I have a telephone interview to determine my eligibility for benefits scheduled in early June. Yes. June.) If I were a U.S. senator or representative, I would be shelling out donations to mutual-aid networks as fast as I could. But giving away money isn’t how you get rich, and it’s definitely not how you stay rich.

If you think I sound mad, let me tell you, I just went for a long, soothing walk with the dog (in rural Buxton, where there are no people around). I saw flowers blooming and birds chirping and a horse rollicking around in a field. It was relaxing as heck and by the time I got home and sat down to write, I still had a belly full of flames.

So yeah, I’m mad. I’ll probably be fine. My family doesn’t have much, but we have enough. But other people are not fine. Americans are suffering from and dying of what is, inherently, a preventable cause. Health care workers are putting their physical and mental health on the line for us and they don’t even have enough personal protective equipment. The workers who grow our food, deliver our supplies and stock our shelves are overworked and underpaid.

A few months ago I accidentally ordered 12 purse-sized copies of the Constitution instead of the two I intended (one for me and one for my sister; I think all sisters should have matching handbag Constitutions). Any elected representatives who need a reminder of their responsibilities as delegated and ratified by the Founding Fathers can feel free to contact me and I will mail them one. I will even pay for the shipping, because the Postal Service is also underfunded and needs all the help it can get.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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