There are days when I really do feel proud to be an American. They usually happen when I read about someone like the man in the picture above, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski. I have been living in Brazil for the last three and a half years, and it truly saddens me to know that the minimum monthly salary here is about $180 a month but a Congressman makes about $6000 a month, and a federal judge about $10,000 a month. The majority of politicians have no idea what it is like to worry about bills, or just having enough to eat. They have chauffeurs, personal trainers, security details, and live in the lap of luxury. And they have the audacity to say that they represent "the people."
The governor of Oregon took and is taking his position to heart. He has led a movement, taken up by some others in Congress, to live on the allocated food stamps amount: $21 a week. DailyKos, another reason I am proud to be American, wrote up some of the lessons learned by a Kulongoski disciple, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. The highlight of Ryan's week long journal was when he checked in at the airport and the security guard held onto his peanut butter and jelly. He realized that he had almost no money and had lost 4 meals with the confiscation.
Sometimes, the distance between the Third-World and the US is not so distant after all. As the DailyKos blog notes, inflation keeps going up, and the minimum wage has not increased in ten years. At least some politicians are trying to feel the actual pain felt by the richest country's poor and neglected. Hopefully more will follow. It would be nice if a few would do the same in Brazil, but I doubt that will happen any day soon.