My wife says that I am cynical, and perhaps she is right.
Any cynicism I may exhibit was earned the hard way. I spent two years in Washington as an assistant to a very powerful member of Congress. (The gentleman I replaced in the job, an attorney, confided to me that after he left the office the most complicated task he could undertake for 3 months was working at a construction site delivering wheelbarrows of gravel to the workers.) One might say he was burned out.
The interaction I had with many Congressmen and some Senators taught me quite a lot, and I would like to share some of the things I learned with you, and then ask a few provocative questions for you to mull over.
Congressmen and Senators, almost without exception, are cut from the same cloth. They have a deep seated need to be adored, and they get a lot of opportunities to bask in the adoration of supplicants. Why do you think they would spend over a million dollars to get a job that pays less than 1/5 of that? Have you ever met your Congressman or Senator? How did you feel and act when you were with them? Don’t be embarrassed. It is a natural human reaction to act deferentially in the presence of someone who is powerful.
Once they have attained power they will do almost anything to keep it.
Their first run for office may have been with the best of intentions, but power is seductive and addicting. You may have heard the old saying: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The old sayings from folklore are born from the "common sense" of the people. Politicians will change their mind on what they call "a firmly held position on a mater of principle" in the blink of an eye. One example is Senator Specter of Pennsylvania. He was a democrat until 1965 when he changed to the republican party to better his chances of being elected, and last year he changed back to the democrat party because he determined that he would face a stiff challenge in the next republican primary. A man of principle. It used to be said of Herman Talmadge that he had his foot firmly planted on the shifting sand of public opinion. What happened to the belief our country’s founders had, that compelled them to pledge "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom?" The concept of honor is sorely lacking in our politicians today.
If they can’t even keep their word from their "Oath of Office," which says that they promise to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic"; why are we surprised when they don’t keep a campaign promise?
Notice in the "Oath" that it is the Constitution that they promise to "support and defend", not their party or the people of their state or the President or anyone else. It is the Constitution.
They do not view "right" and "wrong" in the same way you and I do. For most of them those two terms are not based in ethics or morality. They view things as "useful" or "not useful." Something is useful if it helps them gain or keep power and it is not useful if it does not.
The sad thing is that many of them seem to be really nice people, fun to be around, good sports. If you want to see a very funny, but sadly accurate portrayal of a manipulating politician, type in the link below and watch the great actor, Charles Durning, as the Governor of Texas in the movie "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mNDHTfdn1A
Our legislators have constructed the complex rules for the house and senate in such a way that they can vote both "for" and "against" a piece of legislation and satisfy all their constituents. Do you remember the phrase: "I was against it before I was for it?" It only sounds stupid because it was said in the same breath. Our legislators do this all the time. They just say two different things to two different groups, and it is the truth because they voted both ways. We are just not savvy enough to see what is happening.
Many of them have sponsored bills that are so tightly written that they afford a tax benefit to only one person or one company in their district and no one else. We’ve all heard of "pork." Some of what is called "pork" are, in fact, badly needed infrastructure projects. It gets labeled as "pork" because someone else’s project did not get funded; this one did, so the loser calls it "pork." In reality, though most "pork" is nothing more than a vote buying scheme. It provides jobs for a special group who will not forget the favor. Remember, that I said they will do "almost anything" to get reelected?
Let me share two examples of real "pork," John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has had $200 million dollars spent on it, and it has only 6 commercial flights per day. All the flights in and out of the airport are subsidized by you and me, the taxpayers, at $149 for each passenger. There was $800,000 in the new (2009) stimulus bill to repave a cross winds runway there. I would be willing to bet that all of the employees at the airport vote for John Murtha, a democrat. Now, let’s look at some republican "pork." Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House, pushed through an earmark (pork) for a parkway in Illinois which raised the value of land that he and two partners had purchased near it for a profit of $3 million dollars. Here’s how "pork" works. One congressman agrees to support another congressman’s request for $500,000 for a Teapot Museum in his district and the payback, by the other congressman, is support for a military project the Pentagon has said they do not want. Too bad!! It will provide some construction jobs. The rich people who wanted the museum and the workers on the military construction site will vote to reelect these two boobs out of gratitude. And you and I get to pay for it.
If you want to see more about congressional earmarks and "pork" go to the web-site of Citizens Against Government Waste, www.cagw.org It will be a real eye opener.
Did you know that our legislators frequently insert a phrase within the laws they write which excludes them from having to live by the terms of the law they have just enacted? They will argue, of course, that they have to be protected from the executive branch, (the president) and maintain the "separation of powers" under the Constitution. The real reason is "power and privilege." They do not want to be bound by the laws that bind you and me. They are, after all, Princes, who deserve our adoration and privilege and power.
Did you know that they have exempted themselves from having to participate in any "Health Care" legislation they enact for the rest of us? Why do you suppose that is? Do you believe, in your heart of hearts that they actually care what happens to us?
We should all be terrified of what is in the series of bills that are currently being called "the health care bill." Read as much as you can about the subject, and then call and write your congressman and Senators before the end of August. Demand that they read the bill. Let them know that they work for you and that you vote, your family votes, your friends vote, and that you will work tirelessly to take away their power and special privilege if they do not understand that what is in your best interest is also in their best interest.
Trusting politicians to act in your best interest without holding their feet to the fire is like offering some chicken to a crocodile and trusting that he will take only the chicken.
David Freeman, Richmond Hill