Tag Archives: Rick Newman

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