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Remind lawmakers they have a job to do

WASHINGTON DC - DECEMBER 16:  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durb(D-IL) (C) pauses as he answers questions from

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: U.S. Senate Majority Whip Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) (C) pauses as he answers questions from the media after he met with fellow Senate Democrats on a deal on payroll tax cut that has been struck with the Senate Republicans December 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate Democrats and Republicans have reached to a deal to extend the payroll tax cut holiday for two months. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Updated: May 3, 2013 12:15PM

Are you rushing to get everything done before the holidays? Perhaps you’re headed off to a vacation in warmer climes — or maybe it’s just getting prepared for a few days at home with your family. In either case, you know the feeling of trying to get everything done in the last few days.

But while you’ll get all the important stuff at work finished because your boss is watching, Congress seems to have no such incentive. We, the people, are their boss — and Congress couldn’t seem to care less.

You won’t be able to hide the year-end project under a stack of other stuff and leave work with a clean conscience. But Congress seems completely capable of postponing their real work for a couple of months while they go on vacation. Do they think we won’t notice?

Political priorities

It took until Saturday to pass a year-end $1 trillion spending bill to keep the government operating. Perhaps the ultimate pressure of returning home to face the electorate finally got to them.

But they can’t agree on extending the payroll tax cut.

And still up in the air is an extension of unemployment benefits and reimbursement rates for physicians who see Medicare patients — two issues that have a real impact if they are not dealt with immediately.

Of course, part of this is the process of jockeying for political and public relations supremacy in an election year. Even projects that both sides agree would be good for the economy are held hostage to the process.

A pipeline that would create energy independence and thousands of jobs had been postponed until after the 2012 elections — despite the fact that both laboring Americans and big business have reason to agree to its construction. Why this one pipeline — when we have many thousands of miles of pipelines criss-crossing America?

This pipeline, which is a real economic issue, has been turned into purely a political football — despite the fact that it benefits both sides of the aisle — big business and blue-collar workers. That’s because “green” organizations are big political contributors.

Procrastination as process

We’ve all felt the desire to procrastinate, despite the nagging feeling that accompanies that option. You know you should make smart financial decisions, but the overwhelming consequences of facing reality encourage you to delay.

For example, you know you should be making a list of your current outstanding credit card balances before you go shopping. But in the “holiday spirit” you go shopping first, and figure you’ll tally up the consequences later when the bills come due.

In that same spirit, Congress rushes off to vacation, hoping to push the hard decisions into the New Year. And hoping we won’t notice if they can announce something temporary.

It’s time for the bosses — us — to speak up, and force them to do the job that we’re paying them to do. Here’s how to make your voice heard, no matter what your take on the issues:

Go to Then just fill in your address and ZIP code to be sent to the page with your U.S. representative and two senators. Click on each name and you’ll find a link to a “contact form.” It takes only a minute to fill out that form with your name, address and e-mail and then a category for your comment.

Then post a message to be sent directly to each of them.

It will take only a few minutes to contact each of your representatives. They may not listen to any one message, or reply with a pre-formatted e-mail — but if we all send a similar message, the impact will be huge. Remember, you’re paying each of our senators and representatives $174,000 a year — not to mention health care and retirement benefits, and paid vacation!

Let’s make sure we’re getting our money’s worth from each of them. The only way to do that is to remind them they owe us some attention to their job, just as our bosses demand of us. You’ll have the final word at the ballot box — but it can’t hurt to remind them who’s their boss. And that’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is the Chicago Sun-Times’ nationally syndicated financial columnist, and a registered investment adviser. Post personal finance questions on her blog at and

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