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 I don't know when it was published but from the historical references, it appears to have been a decade or more ago.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.