“Businesses work on plans,” Jack Hiles, a veteran and former worker for General Electric, told Yoder on the Kansas side of the region. “And I don’t know that Congress really has a plan right now. Every time somebody comes up with something that looks like a good plan, the opposition just starts crunching it until it just turns into a damn argument.”
Across the river on the Missouri side, Mary Lim-Lampe had a question for Cleaver.
“Is it possible to find a third way here?” she began. “Is there anyone willing to do any kind of deal-cutting right now that we could help you with?”
Yoder and Cleaver might be considered among the 80 percent of the public that disapproves of the way Congress is doing its job. But their divergent reasons for opposing the debt deal signal the difficulty in finding a resolution as the debate over cutting the deficit moves forward.
Cleaver, 66, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus and called the debt deal a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich,” said the final deal would cost jobs, hammer the poorest, further stall the economy and likely inflate the deficit, all while asking nothing of the wealthiest Americans.
“We’re in a situation where people are voting against their own best interests, which is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” Cleaver, a former Kansas City, Mo., mayor, told a union audience.
Yoder, a 35-year-old Republican who has served in Congress for eight months, invoked Popeye’s moocher friend J. Wellington Wimpy in explaining he was “not persuaded by the logic that Congress would gladly pay Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
“What we ended up with was such an abdication of the responsibility we have to solve these issues,” he said. “I just couldn’t be there.”
Both Cleaver and Yoder represent the greater Kansas City region — at some spots, their constituents can literally wave to one another across State Line Road, which divides Kansas and Missouri.
But those constituents also represent the divergent interests that have made governing so difficult: mostly urban vs. mostly suburban; poor and middle class vs. wealthy; folks who wonder why government can’t be more like a business vs. those who wonder whether government has lost its compassion.
On his own path
For his first event since the vote, Yoder gathered a small group of business people at Gates Bar-B-Q, in one of the poorer parts of his district. Owner George Gates worried that the provisions of the health care bill will force him to lay off employees. Valerie Mussett said if the government were like her business, there would simply be cuts across the board.