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Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 2

26 Feb

Continuing from part 1[1]  of Mr. Newman’s list of 11 things wrong with Congress[2] we pickup with number five.

5. Lobbyists

Now here’s one the masses get riled up about but don’t understand fully. Mr. Newman gives the impression all lobbyists are wealthy, entitled people who can bend a Congressman to their will by using money and power. However, that’s not the truth. What is a lobbyist? He or she is someone who, by definition lobbies. So what is lobbying? It is simply “the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.”[3] In other words it is someone who goes to a representative and has them listen to their issue, cause or point of view on a subject. Anyone in this country could be a lobbyist. If someone has called up a representative to make their voice heard about an issue, guess what, they are a lobbyist. Unpaid for sure, but a lobbyist nonetheless. Granted not all lobbyists are good or do good work. But there are plenty groups of lobbyists who stand up for people who might not otherwise be heard. All lobbyists are not wrong. How some operate and how some get around the rules is wrong. That should be the focus of where something needs to be fixed.

 

6. Earmarks

Remember when these little additions of spending were big news? Many people had never heard of them before but did not know what exactly they were. In Congress they are “loosely defined as guarantees of federal expenditures to particular recipients in appropriations-related documents.”[4] There are a couple of types of ear marks:

Hard earmarks, or “hardmarks”, found in legislation, and soft earmarks, or “softmarks”, found in the text of congressional committee reports. Hard earmarks are legally binding, whereas soft earmarks are not but customarily are acted upon as if they were binding.

They have become synonymous with “pork barrel” legislation.[5]  There are some politicians who speak out against earmarks, but their actions tell a different story. One of the most visible is Ron Paul. He ran for President on reducing government spending and fiscal responsibility, yet he still played the game of earmarks while denouncing them. Mr. Newman is right about needing to eliminate earmarks. Especially when they have nothing to do with the bill being proposed and voted upon. Attaching an earmark for improving dog catching equipment to a bill on funding the military should be as illegal as it is unethical.

 

7. Speeches to nobody

Hearing a Representative speak can be informative and energizing. It can also put one to sleep better than any insomnia medicine on the market. Many people see a clip of a representative on the new speaking to Congress about a subject they too are passionate about. The impression is the Congressman is working to sway the other representatives to see his or her side of the argument. However, as Mr. Newman points out, there are times when that representative is speaking to an almost empty, or entirely empty room but is shown on C-SPAN. Seems like a huge waste of time and energy. And in some cases it is. There are times though, when it can be advantageous to use the empty chamber to give an impassioned speech which will hopefully get picked up by a media outlet. By doing so a the issue is given a voice. What is the cost to us the taxpayers for these empty house speeches? Probably not much of any. The Congressman is already getting paid and money is already being spent on having the chamber open at the time. The only real cost is the time which the representative could be using doing something else. But sometimes having them bloviate to an empty room keeps them busy from doing other foolish things. That might be money well spent.

 

Coming up in part three are the final four on Mr. Newman’s list of 11 things wrong with congress. Two are a stretch but the last two clear problems which have been facing Congress decades.

 

References

  1. Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 1 – Clearly Wrong
  2. 11 Things Wrong With Congress – US News
  3. Lobbying – Wikipedia
  4. Earmark (politics) – Wikipedia
  5. How Congressional Earmarks and Pork-Barrel Spending Undermine Stateand Local Decisionmaking – The Heritage Foundation

Only 11 Things Wrong with Congress? Part 1

21 Feb

An article[1] written back in September of 2011 by Rick Newman lists 11 things wrong with Congress. Limiting as list of things wrong with Congress to only 11 took a machete the size of the Empire State building to chop down. Some points on his list I agree with and other sound like the same liberal talking points heard numerous times before. In this series, we’ll break down the 11 things Mr. Newman lists is wrong with Congress back in 2011. Has anything changed? If so has it been for the better or worse? Are any of the points valid or are they just rhetoric? It’s time to find out.

1. Too many rich people

Mr. Newman begins his list with attacking “the rich”. Yes those horrible, people who create businesses, jobs and salaries. Mr. Newman’s contention is they are so rich they are out of touch. While I would agree there are some in Congress who are out of touch with the “common man”, being rich is not a direct correlation. But why let that get in the way of some old fashioned class warfare, right? In the final sentence commenting on this point he states, “Congress may even have gotten richer, overall, thanks to the influx of new money—at a time when America as a whole is getting poorer.”

Getting poorer? What’s his point of reference? Mr. Newman doesn’t say. However, let’s look at some data from the US Census Bureau. According to historical data available [2] people of all races (their breakdown no mine) have seen the median income increase since 2008. Additionally, there was a decrease of the population earning less than $25,000 and an increase in those earning more than $25,000, from 2010 to 2011. Clearly America “as a whole” was not getting poorer at the time.

2. Automatic pay raises

Here’s a point where many people would agree with Mr. Newman. Congress should never, ever get an automatic pay increase. Most of America has to prove they deserve a pay increase from their boss (and their boss, and their boss, etc…) Not Congress though. Unfortunately instead of making a real case, again Mr. Newman trots out more class warfare rhetoric. He does make one very good, valid statement when he notes:

“Congress has voted to forego its annual raise. One bill introduced this year would cut members’ pay by 5 percent, while another would dock pay for every day the government fails to operate. But such token bills come up every now and then, and never garner meaningful support.”

How many times has the American public seen this from both sides. What appears to be one party getting a backbone and standing up for what’s right and good for the country, only to bow and kiss the feet of the opposing side when push comes to shove. And yet we the people continue to elect these same hypocrites back hoping for something different?

3. Gold-plated benefits and 4. Free parking

Mr. Newman lists these as two separate items but really free parking is just another benefit of the elected position so we’ll put them together. Indeed Congressmen get quite a few benefits for their jobs. As noted in the article, their retirement and health insurance is second to none. And we the tax payers get to foot the bill for those benefits. Mr. Newman does give this interesting statistic regarding Congressional benefits:

“A recent study by Our Generation and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, two nonprofit research groups, found that fringe benefits for members of Congress are worth about $82,000 per year—which raises total compensation to well over $250,000.”

Some other, minor benefits are free parking at their job (which lets face it many Americans have) and free mail service. Listing free US Postal service as a benefit might be stretching it though. A 2010 article by Fox News [3] lists some other benefits for members of Congress. While it’s perfectly fine for someone to advance to a position which gives perks and benefits for the job, Congress should never complain about not being able to cut expenses when there is plenty of room from their own, tax payer supplied, benefits to do so.

Tomorrow we will look at another set of Mr. Newman’s 11 things wrong with Congress.

References –

  1. 11 Things Wrong With Congress – US News
  2. Historical Income Tables: People – US Census Bureau (Microsoft Excel File)
  3. How Are the Benefits? For Members of Congress, Not Too Shabby – Fox News
  4. Rick Newman Bio

So What the Polls are Saying is…

18 Jan

Looking at the Real Clear Politics (RCP) pages for “President Obama Job Approval” [1] and “Direction of Country” [2] the results presented are interestingly confusing. The RCP polls take all the polls for a particular topic, gather their results and compile them into a singular result. It’s one way to get an idea of how those polled across various different means are responding.

The compiled RCP poll results for “President Obama Job Approval” shows President Obama sitting at an approval rating of 52% as of this article. While it went back and forth through out 2012, it started trending upward days before the election and has continued to do through today. If this is one statistic is viewed by itself one might draw the conclusion the majority of people are please with the direction President Obama is leading the country. People wouldn’t approve of a someone leading them in the wrong direction, would they?

Real Clear Politics fortunately has compiled the poll results for “Direction of Country” and it’s not good news for the President at all. According to the RCP poll results around 57% of those polled feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. However, this trend isn’t new. In fact, this has been the case for almost three years. Only in 2009, between April 20th thru June 13th, did the poll trend downward. After June 13th people began to show their dissatisfaction in the direction of the country.

Are these two polls telling us we approve of President Obama leading the country down the wrong direction? Maybe, maybe not. If not then exactly what are the polls telling us then? Quite honestly, not a whole lot. Which is why polls are dismissed by so many people today. The numbers can be spun in an infinite number of ways by both sides to sell their ideology to the masses. To paraphrase the saying by Ben Franklin, there’s lies, damn lies and statistics. We shouldn’t trust any of the three.

In fairness, Congress has maintained a worse rating than the President over the same time-frame. In fact, the RCP “Congressional Job Approval” [3] compiled poll average for the United States House of Representatives and Senate is embarrassing at just over 80%. In other words, while almost 5 out of 10 people disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, 8 out of 10 disapprove of the job the 435 members of Congress is doing.

In the end, we only have ourselves to blame because it is “we the people” who keep sending people we so drastically disapprove of back to do the same job but expect different results. It makes “we the people” fit the definition of insane quite well. Now there’s something to think about.

References:

  1. President Obama Job Approval – Real Clear Politics
  2. Direction of Country – Real Clear Politics
  3. Congressional Job Approval – Real Clear Politics

Words Mean Something: Sheila Jackson Lee Talks but Says a Lot of Nonsense

13 Dec

This woman  is an embarrassment to Houston, Texas and the country as a whole. Sheila Jackson Lee keeps getting re-elected by wide margins due to a rigged congressional district. She couldn’t sound like a bigger idiot if she tried. Seriously do a youtube search on her and witness first hand the brilliance of her speaking and thinking skills. Her latest gem is getting lots of feedback, mostly negative. If you haven’t seen it here it is. Viewing could lower one’s IQ by a few points.

What the heck is shipshod? She wants to “use that terminology”? What does that mean? Has anyone heard of a narnstarter? I sure haven’t. Of course there is the typical political garbage spin heard from the vast majority of politicians.

After viewing this atrocity I was quickly reminded of a comedy show I used to watch back in the 90’s. The name of the show was In Living Color and for a time it was hilarious. There was one skit which was brought back to my mind though. It was this one:

I don’t care what a person’s race, religion, nationality, etc… are. If someone is just trying to sound intelligent by using “big” words they are doing a disservice to themselves and those who they are speaking. Just stop speaking and do everyone a favor.

Let’s contrast her speech with one by Ted Poe:

The difference is crystal clear.

Wild Wild West: Allen West Concedes His Congressional Race

20 Nov

There is definitely something rotten in Florida, but it isn’t the uneaten seafood. For better or for worse Allen West has conceded his race to be re-elected to Florida’s 22nd congressional district. With the concession, Democrat Patrick Murphy will become the new representative in Congress next year. Though the Republicans will still hold a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives.

West was well known for telling people his thoughts with no sugar-coating. Many people appreciated this direct approach and many others did not. Even so, the integrity of the vote should be protected by everyone no matter where one falls on the political spectrum. West was right to seek the truth and do what he could in protecting voting integrity.

At some point though, one has to weigh out the cost of continuing to fight the current battle with stopping and regrouping for another. West, being a veteran of the United States Army, knows first hand about this concept and, even though he may not like it, had to apply it in this situation. He put his country and the betterment of the district he had represented above his personal feelings and ideals.

There will be vitriol from those on the left in some joyous celebration of West no longer being a member of Congress. That’s to be expected, sadly. However one should not expect Allen West to ride quietly off into the sunset. Do not be surprised if West starts working on a ground game now to win back either the 22nd district seat or another one in the midterm elections in 2014.

The vote count was close in the 22nd district this time. A glaring reflection of the divide the country is facing on a local and national level.

Legend of the Fall: Don’t fear fiscal cliff, says Democrat

12 Nov

“If the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we’ll start over next year,” said Patty Murray, who was co-chair of last year’s deficit supercommittee, on ABC’s This Week. “And whatever we do will be a tax cut for whatever package we put together. That may be the way to get past this.”[1]

Really Ms. Murray? Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead? It’s this all or nothing type mentality which will get us no where. If the president is really committed to reaching across the aisle to avoid financial armageddon, he needs to get people like Ms. Murray to sit down and be quiet.

“I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000, make it $500,000, make it $1m,” said Mr Kristol on Fox News Sunday. “Really? The Republican party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood?”[1]

While I may not fully agree with raising taxes on everyone, Mr. Kristol makes an interesting argument and point. If those who are making that much money really want to be forced (they have the option to pay more voluntarily now) to pay more in taxes, by all means let them. Especially those who decided vote President Obama in for a second term. What I would say to the Republicans is to do all they can to make sure the limit is not $250,000 but something over $1 million. This would help ensure smaller business are not harmed as much as the “elite” who are set on letting the government handle/control their financial future.

References

[1] Source – The Financial Times

And so it begins.

8 Nov

After the re-election of Barack Obama how will the country move forward? With true bi-partisan ship? Or more attempted force feeding from one party and firewalling by the other? Maybe something in the middle? No matter which direction it goes, the end result will felt by we the people.

So what do people of this country, who were raised and believe in work, honor, integrity, faith and old (I would say traditional but the tradition has changed) American values to do? Give in? Give up? Keep fighting? Adjust and adapt? I honestly can’t tell anyone the path they should take. It is for each and every person to look inside their heart, soul and mind to figure out.

What I can do is tell everyone what I am doing. I am preparing for multiple scenarios. In the short term, my family will stay where we are and continue to do what we have been doing, with some adjustments to how and where we spend our money. In the long term, I am keeping my options open. If things get worse, I have no qualms about leaving this country.

How could you some might ask. The answer is, because the country I grew up in and loved would have died and no longer exist. I will fight the good fight until it becomes apparent it’s a losing battle. At that point I will put my family first. That is my job as a husband and father. Case closed.

If things get better, we will stay and help to improve things on the local, state and federal level. We will continue to grow and thrive where we have been for decades. I would much rather this be the scenario than having to leave.

So are the thoughts and decisions of everyone in this country. Moving forward. It’s what we all must do. The only question is the direction each of us will take. And that choice is what will determine if the United States of America will be a shining city on a hill or a broken used light bulb in the trash heap. We the people will decide.