Tag Archives: Bipartisanship

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

The Cost of Being Right and wanting to Win Politically

11 Dec

It’s funny when the world around is viewed with eyes wide open. Partisan blinders removed. Biases checked and ears unplugged. When we turn off the voice in the echo chambers on all sides we can begin to comprehend what exactly is happening around is on all levels. Then we can take the first real steps to actually fixing the problems facing our lives.

Look at people on the political spectrum. Not just the politicians flapping their jaws on TV, radio or the internet. But the “everyday” people. There are those on both sides of the aisle who are “useful idiots” regurgitating the rhetoric put forth by the party (ie. team) they are fans of because they want to win. These same people don’t stop throwing insults or accusations long enough to really listen to what the other side is saying.

It the race to be right and to “win” this country has become so polarized neither side is really listening to each other. Yes there have been times one side has forced laws, rules, decisions on the other. Yes there is backlash due to those actions. But really isn’t that type of behavior what most people in their late 30’s and older were told not to do as children? I know I was.

I love playing a game and winning. I’m never a fan of losing. That doesn’t mean losing won’t happen. It also doesn’t mean winning is the best thing to happen either. Winning without empathy for those who lost is an empty, shallow victory which will produce negative results in the long run. The losing side will feel bitter, disgruntled and want to “avenge” the loss. There are very niche cases this could be useful, but for the most part, it’s worthless. Moving this nation forward and saving it from destruction is not a game and something we cannot afford to lose.

One of the best pieces of relationship advice I have ever received was when a boss once told me, “My wife is always right.” I looked at him with a very skeptical face before he continued. “And I’m always right.” Now I was really wonder if he was off his rocker. He pointed out both he and his wife were always right, in their eyes. The idea was for both of them to stop trying to prove their position was right and to listen to the other person. One or both of them just might find out the other person has a completely valid point to consider. Be it personal or professional, it’s great advice for everyone to hear and apply in their lives.

The people of the United States need to quit feeding the talking heads in the media, the self serving politicians and the power hungry opportunists. We should demand better, now. We the people must stand up, demand the grand standing stop and real work be done. That does not mean everyone will abandon the principles and values the their constituents voted them to represent. Quite the contrary. They should hold firm to those. However, they should also work to find common ground with whom they disagree. After all, they are both right, remember?

Both sides need to operate in the realm of truth and honesty. Quit twisting facts, figures and other words to suit an ideal. Playing political games has gotten us into the trouble we are facing now. Enough is enough. Truth seekers can always stand tall because their story will not be contradicted. It will not twist and shift in the winds of public opinion which change at the breath of freshly spun words. Instead they will be rocks upon which the country can rebuild itself to once again be a shining city on a hill.

To build the hill for the city it will take lots of different rocks working together to raise it up. Those rocks are we the people and the truth seekers whom we chose to lead us.  It’s not about always being right or about winning politically. It’s about saving this country from becoming something it was never founded to be: one sided.

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

Veterans Day 2012 – Honor, Respect, Dignity, Valor, Sacrifice

11 Nov

Today is a day for everyone to put aside their differences and come together. We the people owe the men and women of the US Military a huge debt of gratitude. Not because of what we think they have or have not done. No we owe them for what they have done. Most chose to join the military out of their own free will. Those who did not but were instead drafted deserve no less thanks. The men and women of our military do a service many of us could never do.

Some people, when debating about the military, try to “trap” me by asking the leading question, “Well have you ever served,” with disdain in their voice. My reply is simply this, “No. I knew myself well enough to not volunteer for military service. I have left that important job to the men and women who are there and doing a much better job than I could ever do. I would bring them down when they need as many people as possible lifting them up.”

For the most part, the reply quiets those who grasp what is said to them. I have too much honor and respect for the US military. I do have family members who have served and they do talk about their experiences from time to time. But none ever do so in a bragging way. They simply count their service as just loving their country and doing what they could to defend it and what is represents (or at least represented to them in the past).

So today, take a break from the finger pointing. Stop the political posturing and bickering. Instead, take the time to thank the US military men and women for doing a job many of us could not do. If one of the happens to pass by, take a brief moment and thank them. The vast majority, though they may not show it outwardly, will feel honored and eternally grateful on the inside.

Compromise is Not a Dirty Word

9 Nov

From dictionary.com the first entry for the definition of compromise:

“a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.”

When did the word compromise become a dirty word? Compromise is not bad. It’s not awful. It’s what this country was founded upon. Don’t believe me? Take a trip in history with me back to the birth of this nation. Back to the creation of the document which set the framework for the United State of America, the Constitution.

During the creation of the Constitution there were numerous compromises which had to be reached to get a document everyone could approve. The Connecticut Compromise is one of the most, if not the most, influential compromise of the convention . Yes the word compromise was used. Still sound dirty? Read on and see if it does.

The Connecticut Compromise bridged the gap on how the legislative body of the new government would be represented. On one side were those who favored the “Virginia Plan” and the other the “New Jersey” plan. Men discussed, debated and listened to arguments from each other. Was it lively and spirited? I would imagine so. People usually are when talking about ideas and philosophies. Sound familiar? Two sides passionate about their beliefs, ideas and philosophies?

In the end an initial proposal was made, and while initially rejected, eventually it was approved and then modified to eventually frame how the bicameral legislature would initially work in the federal government. This framework would stand the test of time until the 17th Amendment was, unfortunately in my opinion, adopted in 1913.

Of course other compromises, large and small, had to be reached to get to the Constitution which was ratified by the states and would become the final law of the United State of America. But why what is the point to this talk of compromise now? It’s really quite simple. Since the 2000 election this country has become increasingly polarized. Both sides play to their “base” and by doing so we lose the ability to come together and find some common ground to keep the country going.

For those on the right, the biggest slap in the face of not working together on a compromise came with the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). If someone is really honest with themselves, and looks how this pieces of legislation was handled one should come to the conclusion it was a blueprint of partisan nonsense. I am not sure which example from the left would be as equal but would entertain some examples as I know there must be some which come close.

Now we are left with two sides who do not want any laws, policies or ideals shoved down the others throats. Yet the side which feels it got the short end of the stick is looking on how it can stick it to the other side when the rolls are reversed. Going down that road will get us only one place, divided.

So which party will be the mature one to sincerely offer to sit down and work with the other to do the will and work of the people? Which party will look beyond their base, beyond the echo chamber of cheerleaders and do what must be done to save this country? Those are the proverbial twenty-thousand dollar questions. The answer must come quickly because the clock is ticking down faster and faster to the final buzzer.