It is said that in 1789, when being told that her subjects had no bread, Queen Marie Antoinette said in response, “Let them eat cake.” This statement showed she did not truly comprehend the hardships of her people nor their plight. She became one of the most despised of the monarchy and her statement fueled an uprising and revolution. Today, during the COVID-19 crisis we are seeing this same sentiment expressed by politicians. Would Americans be united in stating that during this time of hardship, when so many Americans have been laid off, furloughed, or evicted that a pay raise for politicians would be inappropriate? It appears these sentiments are not shared amongst many Republicans in the United States. This year, a Republican majority city council and mayor in Jacksonville, Florida felt accepting a pay raise was appropriate during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, 17 out of the 19 city council members apparently felt they had served the people so well this year that their base pay should increase in 2021. Mind you, they took longer to rename a park then to give themselves a raise. For many on the council this is a second and part time job. Has this city council said “Let them eat cake”?
Back in April of this year the city of Jacksonville launched a COVID-19 Relief Program, which provided $1,000 in assistance directly to 40,000 residents. After the 40,000 maximum had been reached, funds were then deemed exhausted – considering, there are over 900,000 residents of Jacksonville. Additionally, in order to qualify, you had to prove that your income was under $75,000, 25% of income loss was due to COVID-19, and you were employed in February 2020. There are several council members that make over $100,000 a year and didn’t lose any income. Instead of including a pay increase in the budget they could have allotted that money to their constituents. Instead it seems their “Let them eat cake” mentality prevailed and they gave themselves a pay raise.
The city also recently launched an eviction and foreclosure program for residents of $5.1 million and the grant is first come, first served. Some qualification requirements included providing proof of ability to make payments of 60 days of rent or mortgage. No elected official has applied for an eviction program, but they have installed mandates and restrictions that hindered our abilities to make payments from the beginning. Commercial applicants for the program had to prove a reduction in income, staffing, or employee hours of at least 20%. One would only hope that the government would have been forced to reduce their staffing by 20% during COVID-19. What did these politicians use as a qualifier for their increased salary? How have they sacrificed and endured this crisis along with the people?
‘We The People’ have done our best to adjust to the unconstitutional restrictions imposed on us by our government during this pandemic. We have lost jobs, businesses, income, homes, and even our tax base. Despite these hardships, we have continued to have our money taxed and grossly mismanaged by our government. They give us a fraction of our dollars back to provide assistance and they have continued to live with the financial security and safety that we provide. Remind me again, why would they ever deem any of ‘We The People’ to be non-essential? I can hear them all joining Marie Antoinette and dismissively saying, “Let them eat cake”.