Monday, February 09, 2009

Finding Common Ground

Patty here...

My elected representatives in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. are embroiled in partisan politics and do not seem to notice that Rome is burning. Unemployment in the U.S. is at a 16-year high. In January alone, 598,000 people lost their jobs. Every day brings new bank closures. California's governor has recently furlowed thousands of state workers due to lack of money to pay them.

As a citizen, I expect a lawmaker to vote his conscience and do what is best for the people he represents, regardless of his party affiliation. That is why I was shocked and appalled that not one Republican member of the House of Representatives voted for the initial stimulus package. Not one. Don't get me wrong. Eight hundred billion dollars is a lot of moolah, so I'm all for a healthy debate about where and how to spend it. But in these times of economic crisis, I'd like to see less grandstanding and mean-spirited sniping and more effort toward finding common ground.

I have a conservative Republican friend with whom I do not agree on all issues, but he is a reasonable guy who is always--well, generally--willing to listen to my point of view because we share a mutual respect. Frankly, I think we could have hammered out the stimulus plan in an afternoon over a couple of martinis. He recently sent me an e-mail, introducing me to Charley Reese, a former syndicated columnist for the
Orlando Sentinel Star who is known for his outspoken manner and conservative views. Reese wrote in the September 8, 1993 issue of the Conservative Chronicle:

"But regardless of whose fault it is, most politicians today are not human beings. You want to pry open their mouths and shout into the darkness, 'Hello! Is there a human being in there?' Buried under all that lust for office, all that fear of offending a contributor? I know there must be."

Here is the article from the Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper my friend sent. I don't know when it was published but from the historical references, it appears to have been a decade or more ago. Reese makes an interesting point. Do you agree or disagree with him?

THE 545 PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF AMERICA'S WOES

BY CHARLEY REESE

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 235 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation's responsibility to determine how he votes.

He goes on to say:

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon (read IRAQ), it's because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation" or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Happy Monday...

12 comments:

  1. I find it just as odd that not one Democrat voted against this pork infested bill. Not one? Not one thought it was too much money for frisbee golf courses? That there was too much pork that doesn't create jobs? I don't think you could have ironed it out with your one Republican friend. Not if he's really a fiscal conservative.

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  2. Well, I'm a bit fiscally conservative myself, so I do believe we could have ironed it out because my friend and I are both aware that nobody can have everything they want in these troubled times. We all have to sacrifice. If we do nothing, the wealthy will likely weather the storm. Not so much for other groups.

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  3. The outlook is as grim as a Leonard Cohen song:

    "Everybody knows the fight was fixed...

    The poor stay poor, the rich get rich...

    That's how it goes...

    Everybody knows.

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  4. Yes, Paulie, but what a dangerous situation for all of us.

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  5. from Jacqueline

    The problem with the balance of power is that there isn't one - the government should be really, really scared of the people, because we put them there and they should be working for us, all of us - and that means that, unless we say so, there should be no red on the balance sheet, no murder by war, no theft of our citizens' rights and no big juicy corporate handouts. Generally speaking, there are people in government who have demonstrated that they probably couldn't organize a party in a brewery (and that's the nice version of that saying!).

    Trouble is, we are collectively too paralyzed by fear and debt that we have lost our voices. It's about time we had a good old gargle with reality mouthwash and remembered that it's "We, The People" who have the voice (and I know we demonstrated that in the recent election, but now it's time for the government to look us in the eye and do what is right - get their asses in gear, come to a sensible and realistic agreement with the interests of The People front and center, and get themselves working, and hard - without those gargantuan egos getting in the way. That's what was promised, that's what we want.

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  6. Okay, so when the hell did you all re-emerge? There was no fanfare, no fireworks, yet here you are, business as usual as if there were no hiatus after all.

    Welcome Back Naked Authors!

    And I have a hard time even commenting on this post, Patty. I have friends losing their jobs every day. My husband works for the state and if he gets to keep his job he will probably be forced to take two weeks without pay. Yale is cutting back and I hope the medical journal I edit sticks around a while.

    I want the $40B cut from the state aid restored in the package. I want the food stamp cut restored. I want the health care assistance for those unemployed restored. And regardless of what the Republicans think, no one who's afraid of losing their job will take advantage of the $15,000 tax credit to buy a new house. Because buying a new house if you have no work isn't a good idea. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

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  7. I agree completely, Our J.

    And Karen, thank you for your welcome back. It appears that our closest friends are sometimes the last to know. You have clearly stated the problem and the fear that is taking over. Before the meltdown, we could not imagine that jobs in the government were vulnerable. Now we know that everyone is at risk.

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  8. James O. Born2/09/2009 2:27 PM

    I have to hand to Patty for making me think about the 535 and to anonymous because I swear I had not looked at it that way.

    I love when I think I', open minded and someone shows me I'm not.

    Jim

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  9. word in "the industry"......yeah, the one in Chatsworth,CA they're producing one of those soft core blacksplotation movies: The Man with THE STIMULUS PACKAGE....starring Bo-rock YO'mama....

    "They are called special interest groups, unless you belong to one....then it's no longer pork, but something of real importance! So I say, more taxes to fund more fressbie golf courses." Waldo Innova

    Go-Lo is 100% correct in that we all need to bear the burden and make some sacrifices......I dare say that even the worst of us have it much better than a significant number of people in the world, 3rd World, or otherwise.

    I heard this today on Air Talk on NPR....seems applicable.......maybe a good read: I know it's piqued my interest

    Letting go of Old Ideas to Unleash New Prosperity
    [ Listen ]
    What is the root of the current economic crisis, and what are the deeper woes yet to come if we do not change our ways? In "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas", Matt Miller says that "dead ideas" are the root of the problem. He warns that Americans are filled with misconceptions, like the notion that money follows merit or that schools are strictly a local matter. He says Americans must transform their thinking, such as learning lessons from abroad to save American ideals. Larry talks to Miller about his book and how "dead ideas" can become "destined ideas."

    Patty, Thanks for walking me through the memory lane of my jr high school civics class....good post....
    Jon

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  10. I hadn't thought of it that way either, James O.

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  11. And thanks for your input, Jon. As always, it provides food for thought (whatever THAT means). I think I learned that phrase in JR HI :O)

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  12. I have to admit to holding back on this, partly because I wasn't sure as to what I was going to say. "Fools rush in..." and all that.

    I am going to say that President Obama is correct in saying that a situation like this feeds on itself. The irony is that preople are losing jobs because others aren't spending money, and others aren't spending money because they're afraid of losing their jobs.

    Well who has been trumpeting fear and hesitation and reluctance over the past several minths? Someone had a vested interest in frightening the heck out of everyone--even if it was just to sell newspapers.

    A slight, cyclical dip in the economic road became a hole, and thresatens to become a yawning pit. So tell me, whose fault is it, really?

    The other thing I was going to say, Patty, is that perhaps your Republican representatives had other reasons for voting along strict party lines...than simply strict party lines. After all, the first drafts of anything are hardly ever palatable to everyone--and that's an awful lot of moolah to rush into committing ourselves to, especially when the federal debt is already so immense.

    So I'll take another point from your thesis...if there's a problem, it's with all 545. Or at least a vast majority thereof.

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