Tag Archives: Democrat

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

Bad Reasons for Laws: Find Out What’s in the Bill

24 Jan

Wrapping up our series is a reason given for just one bill. It is the most controversial bill in modern history and will be debated for years and years to come. It is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Back in 2010 the debate of “health care” reform as the hot political topic. Both the left and the right were battling it out to get public support for their version of reform.

At the time, the Democrats had the majority in both the House of Representatives, 255 to 179, and the Senate, 57 to 41 with 2 independents who caused with the Democrats. While not filibuster proof, all the Democrats needed was three Republicans to join their side to prevent one. The Senate passed their version of the reform bill on December 24, 2009. In March of 2010, shortly before the House was to vote on the Senate version of the bill, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House at the time, gave a  speech at the Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties[2]. During her speech she made the following statement:

Some argue this one statement was taken out of context. However, Pelosi is not the only one who scoffed at the idea of reading the bill before it was passed. Isn’t that right Mr. John Conyers?

It is easy, at this point, to draw the logical conclusion there were other members of Congress who did not read the bill before voting on it. Instead of being knowledgeable about the proposed legislation which affects all Americans, these people given authority willfully ignore doing their job and just vote as they are told by their party. This could not be any more wrong and insulting.

In the end, their choice cost many of them their elected offices in the 2010 elections as the Republicans took control of the House and gained seats in the Senate. To say it was a lesson learned though would be a stretch at best. While it is unlikely a politician will use the same or similar phrase again, the arrogance and attitude behind the responses seen will likely not change any time soon.

 

References –

  1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Wikipedia
  2. Pelosi Remarks at the 2010 Legislative Conference for National Association of Counties

Bad Reasons for Laws: If It Saves One Life

23 Jan

Life happens all around us and sometimes it isn’t very good. News of someone losing their life is almost daily occurrence for most people. We all process this in our own ways. Politicians and pundits however take death and spin it to advance their ideology. After all we the people don’t want people to die, or at the worst die in vain do we? No we don’t and if the law they propose saves just one life then it’s worth it. Is it really?

One of the more recent local examples of this reasoning was when “conservative” Texas Governor Rick Perry tried to force women to take a vaccination for the  Human papillomavirus (HPV)[1]. Back in 2007, Governor Perry decided to by-step the Texas legislature and issue an executive order making it mandatory for girls starting int the sixth grade to get the HPV vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Perry’s reasoning was based on “if it saves one life”. Durring the 2012 US Presidential Republican Primary debate, Perry said the following:

“Did we do it right? Should we have talked to the legislature?” he asked. “Probably so, but at the end of the day, I will always err on the side of saving lives.”[3]

Fortunately the outcry of the public prompted the Texas legislature to create and pass a bill overridding his executive order. Perry did not veto the bill knowing his veto would be overturned by the legislature. While Perry might have had the best interest of the girls and women of Texas in mind, the execution of that interest was almost as poor as his reasoning.

If people used this type of reasoning to create legislation and laws in order to make the world a “safer” place then we would all live in some type of self contained “safe” bubble. People would survive but no one would thrive. Federal, state or other local legislation, laws or even dictatorial type executive orders should never, ever be created or enforced by either political party just to “save one life”. While the emotional outcry for one life lost in some tragic manner seems to demand an emotional response, wiser people know a knee-jerk creation of legislation, laws or executive orders doesn’t bring about real solutions. More often than not it creates more problems than it solves.

 

Resources

  1. Human papillomavirus – Wikipedia
  2. Texas Gov. Orders Anti-Cancer Vaccine – Washington Post
  3. Perry in first GOP debate: ‘I kind of feel like a piñata here at the party’ – KHOU

Bad Reasons for Laws: Have to do Something

22 Jan

For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Sir Isaac Newton was referring to physics when he created his three laws of motion [1]. However, the idea of his third law is seen in many different areas outside of the bounds of physics. Politicians have used this basic concept when they start saying, “we have to do something” to create new legislation in response to an event.

The action of the politicians clamoring to creating new legislation is in direct response to an action from an outside source. The greater the action, the louder the cry to do something. It is an emotional plea to a logical situation. The obvious and most recent example is hearing politicians reaction to the tragedy at Sandy Hook demanding more gun regulations.

There are other examples though of politicians using the “we have to do something” reasoning for creating and getting laws passed. At the same time America was learning about Sandy Hook it was also learning about the “fiscal cliff”[2]. This was the hyped up financial disaster looming over the country due to previous “have to do something” legislation. Ironic isn’t it? In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union, Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma said the following:

“You have to do something, and doing something requires the cooperation of the Senate, which the Democrats run, and the signature of the president,”

And there it is, “have to do something”. But just by doing something lawmakers, politicians and pundits all fail to remember another law most people know all to well by experience. The “law” of unintended consequences[4], or when talked about in a humorous manner Murphy’s law. No matter who well intended some new piece of legislation my seem, there are always caveats which are not addressed and cause problems later down the road. There are a vast number of laws which are examples of this. One such law was actually an amendment to the United States Constitution, it was the 18th Amendment[5] which created the prohibition of alcohol in the United States.

While the idea behind prohibition was well intended by those of the temperance movement [6], the unintended consequences of creating and passing the 18th Amendment proved detrimental to the nation. The article in Wikipedia notes:

“The police, courts and prisons were overwhelmed with new cases; organized crime increased in power, and corruption extended among law enforcement officials.”

In fact the results of the amendment were so bad it was repealed by the 21st Amendment. It was the only time in US history a Constitutional amendment was repealed. While the thought of some people was “having to do something”, the result in that course of action usually result in having to do something again later to fix the emotionally charged legislation. There is a reason the framers made the process of passing laws a time consuming process instead of streamlined one. Calmer and more rational heads will hopefully prevail against the emotionally charged feelings of “having to do something”.

 

References:

  1. Newton’s Laws of Motion – Wikipedia
  2. United States fiscal cliff – Wikipedia
  3. Obama, Boehner try to talk their way down from fiscal cliff – CNN
  4. Unintended Consequences – Wikipedia
  5. Eighteenth Amendment – Wikipedia
  6. Temperance Movement – Wikipedia

Bad Reasons for Laws: Think of the Children

21 Jan

Starting off this series on bad reasons for laws is one most of  us have heard plenty of lately: think of the children! The idea of course is to strike at many people’s inherit desire to protect innocent children. Most people want no harm to come to their children or any others. Children possess the hopeful potential to make this world better than it is and we try to protect and nurture that hope. However, there is a fine line between showing a child as an example for a law and exploiting them for it.

With the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary politicians and pundits began their crusade for or against new laws by pulling on the emotions of Americans. Those against gun rights and those against gun control both have used children to pull people toward their side. However, the most egregious displays has to be when President Obama had children surround him when signing, not a law, but toothless executive orders for more government intrusion on gun ownership.

Children exploited by President Obama for more government gun restrictions.

Agree or not with more restrictive gun laws or rules, using children in this manner is down right deplorable. Later the White House released the videos of these same children reading letters to the President on the issue. I honestly don’t know which is worse.

On the other side the NRA used the President’s children in a video about the President’s hypocrisy for more gun rights restrictions by the federal government. While not quite as bad as President Obama’s use of children, the NRA could have make their point without using directly using the President’s children in their video.

Both sides think trotting out children is a useful strategy in swaying public opinion. Even on more local issues, like seat belt laws. Who would ever be against requiring children to be safe on today’s roads with all the horrible drivers? Apparently in Texas even those who say they are conservative like to use kids. Case in point, Texas State Senator Dan Patrick. While Dan has been conservative in the past before becoming a State Senator, his credentials have become tarnished more and more. In 2010 Dan backed a new law which added three years and over a foot and a half to the requirements for mandatory booster seats for children.

Senator Patrick told on air how lobbyists spoke with him about the “need” to increase the height and age requirements and he backed it “for the children”. This was disturbing to hear coming from someone who champions less government in our lives as their campaign platform.

So the next time anyone comes out and uses the reason, no the excuse for creating or voting for a new law is they were trying to “think of the children” do some research. Odds are it was very likely a bad piece of legislation if they have to resort to stooping that low.

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