Friday, August 16, 2013

What Happened to the Money, Harry?



Money, money, money, we’re all tearing our hair out about money running government and yet it’s like the weather, everyone talks about it, but no one does anything. The brutal fact is that, like the weather, nothing can be done but to tough it out. How the hell did we get here?

Like most attacks on representative government, it didn’t happen overnight. Over decades, Congress awarded itself perk after perk, from gold-plated healthcare to taxpayer paid ‘junkets’ all over the world, a working week that includes only 113 days, party gerrymandering that very nearly insures re-election and no time left for thoughtful legislation.

More recently, they made up a few self-serving laws so lobbyists could pay them to support particular legislation. In simpler days we called that bribery, corruption and fraud. And I almost forgot, once having left Congress, Senators and Representatives join the very firms that lobbied them as consultants—at six and sometimes seven-figure salaries. (Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Representative’)

Oh, and the Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision granted both corporate personhood and the right to make unlimited donations to political campaigns. That pretty well swamped the little personhood boat you and I enjoy as voters. 

A pretty sweet deal, more for them than us.

Harry Reid is a good example of where this is taking us. 87,000 Nevadans re-elected him in 2010, but Harry had a campaign coffer of nearly $22 million. Where did you get the dough, Harry? What does $22 million say about your obligations to Nevada and the country? You are the leader of the Senate majority and the Senate currently can’t find its ass with both hands. Who owns your allegiance, Senator Reid?

Reid comes up for re-election every six years. That’s 678 ‘working days’ in a term. Cadging together $22 million over that period means Harry is being paid-off at the rate of $32,448 each and every day he’s in Washington. How does that compare with your paycheck? Of course that’s not Harry’s salary. He earns $193,400 annually, or $1,712 for every one of the 113 days he purports to work. Not all that bad, but the payoff dough is almost 20 times his salary. Is it any wonder that he votes for them instead of you?

Meanwhile, we stand around like cows in the field, losing our homes and watching the kids we proudly sent off to college carry a financial burden larger than the combined credit-card debt of every citizen in the country.

Item: Banks currently access money from the Fed at essentially 0% interest, yet they quite legally charge you and me 18% for credit-card purchases, and as much as 5% for accessing our own money from ATMs. Oh, and if you’re late with a payment, banks can up the ante to 30% and hook that rate to other credit obligations as well, such as your mortgage. Banks are a major source of Harry’s campaign funds. Wonder how they got that usurious legislation passed? Makes Al Capone look like an amateur. 

The list goes on and on, from healthcare to student loans to retirement benefits and off-shored jobs.

It does no good to march up and down in front of the Congress, lugging a banner or placard, they just laugh you off. But it might be embarrassing as hell back home, when your particular Congressman or Senator makes a public appearance at a State Fair or local ribbon-cutting. 

“What did you do with the $23 million, Harry?
Where’s my healthcare?”

“What did you do with the $23 million, Harry
I’m losing my home and you’re cutting a ribbon.”

And on and on. But it won’t stop until you and I stop it. And that means dogging the dogs that represent us.

Let’s stop being cows in the field. We’re better than that!