2009 Year Review – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly From The American Political Class
Throughout 2009, while the country and it’s citizens were facing a terrible economy, foreign wars, extreme Congressional partisanship and sniping, no improvements in the major issues facing this country such as the soaring national debt, high unemployment, failing public schools, wide spread drug addiction problems, rising health care costs, and other major issues, what were the politicians worried about? Looking back on 2009, there appears to have been three distinct categories of American political class behavior: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
By all accounts, 2009 was a rough year in America. The good news is that I could actually identify some areas where the political class did some good things. The bad news is I could only come up with three examples where the actions of the political class had taxpayers and fellow citizens in mind when they executed their actions:
1) The first example is based on personal experience. I live in Pinellas county in Florida and over the past four years my property taxes have gone down on a year over year basis. They have gone down so much that I now pay about 40% in less in property taxes today than I paid four years ago with a significant portion of that decrease occurring in 2009. There are probably a number of factors, both political and non-political, that have gone into this decrease but the bottom line is that they have gone down significantly. And here is the good news: I still have police protection, I still have fire protection, the schools are still open, the parks are still open, most of the libraries are still open and the roads and traffic lights are still in good shape. This is proof, that on a very local level, excess waste can be taken out of government without substantial reduction in essential protection and services. The primary word in that previous sentence is essential.
2) The second example comes from the U.S. Senate and it was a suggestion and formal proposal to the Senate from Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. His reasoning: since the Federal government paid about billion of U.S. taxpayer money to acquire a 60% share of General Motors and theoretically save it from bankruptcy, shouldn’t each American taxpayer get stock certificates and partial ownership of GM rather than the Washington bureaucrats? After all, since government is able to function only because it takes money from taxpayers, if government acquires ownership in a private company, doesn’t that mean that the taxpayers own the company since it was their money? Senator Alexander was the single politician this year that showed he understood the relationship between paying taxes and government spending. Giving individual citizens those shares of GM would ensure more interest in how GM performed going forward since each citizen would have had a stake in its survival, probably giving GM a better shot at survival than it has with government ownership. Unfortunately, the Senator’s suggestion was not approved by the Senate.
3) The final example comes from a small town in south Florida, Miami Gardens. In the past year, Miami Gardens city government took the following actions:
The city payroll grew. Most everywhere else in the country unemployment increased.
City employees still got cost of living raises and merit raises. Most everywhere else in the country salaries and wages were frozen or reduced.
The city increased its financial reserves by about 0,000. Most everywhere else in the country, local and state governments dipped into their reserves to cover operating costs.
The city upgraded 17 parks and 4 schools. Most other government entities were reducing or eliminating maintenance projects.
How was Miami Gardens able to do all of these positive things in light of a very, very deep recession and the fact that they are not a city of wealthy residents? According to interviews with city officials:
City employees share both personnel resources and other resources.
The city hires only those people they actually need to do the work needed to be done.
City officials claim they have the ability and backbone to say “No” to non-essential projects and programs, claiming that they cannot be everything to everybody.
Thus, much like the first example above, the Miami Gardens politicians have shown that running a lean, efficient government operation is possible if you are respectful of taxpayers’ dollars. All it takes is a little planning and the ability to just say No.
In life you have to take the good with the bad so now let’s review some of the less than glorious antics that the political class served us with in the second half of 2009:
Ginny Brown-Waite, a Congresswoman from Florida, was actively investing in bank stocks at the same time she was sitting on the House banking committee to determine which banks got what levels of bailout money and support from the American taxpayer through the Federal government. This is a blatant conflict of interest. Ordinary Americans would probably have gone to jail for insider trading if they did the same thing, apparently conflict of interest and insider trading activities do not apply to Congressional members.
Senator Hillary Clinton apparently also does not understand conflict of interest theory. She helped pass a bill that allowed a mall developer in New York state to get preferential tax treatment, shortly after the developer made a significant donation to Bill Clinton’s foundation.
Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye’s staff helped a bank in Hawaii get bailout money from the FDIC after the the FDIC determined the bank was not worth saving. Turns out that the Senator had invested heavily in the bank and stood to lose a load of money unless the bank was saved by the American taxpayer.
Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut received substantial campaign donations from Fannie Me and Freddie Mac. Two things wrong here. First, Dodd was chairman of the Senate banking committee responsible for overseeing the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a clear cut case of conflict of interest. Second, how do two Federal organizations that exist now solely because of taxpayer support and bailout money get to use taxpayer money to support specific candidates for office? Shouldn’t government organizations remain non-partisan and not a piggy bank for the politicians who are supposed to oversee them?
Ex-Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted of taking bribes and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. You may recall that Mr. Jefferson was caught with frozen bribe money in his home freezer. This continues the hall of shame tradition of the political class who recently included Congressman Randy Cunningham who was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking .4 million in bribes, Congressman Bill Ney who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for taking bribes, Congressman James Traficant who was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking bribes, and the majority of ex-Governors of Illinois who are either serving prison time, have served prison time, or may soon face prison time.
60% of the Congressional members sitting on the House Armed Services Committee received campaign contributions from the very companies that they had previously earmarked pork barrel budget money for.
Congressman Charles Rangel of New York is being investigated for a number of ethics violations including, but not limited to, non-declaration of rental income, certain assets, and other income.
In the area of “who really cares about this bill”, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California and her staff are working on legislation to Federally regulate the sound volume on television commercials. Never mind that TV watchers can mute the sound, change the channel, leave the room to get something to eat, fast forward on their DVR machines, or just ignore the TV for 60 seconds. Why work on Iraq, Afghanistan, soaring deficits, unemployment, failing public schools, etc. when the TV commercial sound volume issue is so pressing?
In the same vein as Ms. Eshoo’s contribution to America, Congressman Jim Moran and his staff are investigating whether certain television commercials alluding to a specific male health problem should be banned. I did not know this was so important either. As with Ms. Eshoo, let’s ignore real issues facing America and work on television commercial issues.
And it never ends. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and his staff is working on legislation to provide up to 0 a month in income tax deductions so that the unemployed do not have to put their pets up for adoption. Maybe if his staff and he were working on how to get America working again, there would be no need for this ridiculous program that would never be able to be tracked and would be rife with fraud.
Worse than individual Congress people and their staffs working on trivial bills, how about an entire House subcommittee worked on legislation aimed at forcing the NCAA to go to a playoff format to determine the best Division One college football team? Where would this issue rank with the vast majority of Americans today? Probably not very high.
The fence along the border between America and Mexico was the work of the entire Congress. A 2009 report documented that the construction of the fence is seven years behind schedule, it will cost .4 billion to maintain the fence over the next twenty years (0,000 a day!), and there have been at least 3,000 breaches of the fence where illegal immigrants were able to enter the country despite this billion dollar fence.
The new Washington D.C. visitors’ center was completed but only after it overran it’s construction budget by about 50%.
California Congressman Henry Waxman was quoted as saying: “I certainly don’t claim to know everything’s that’s in this bill” in referring to the massive cap and trade legislation that is likely to come before Congress in 2010. The troubling aspect of this statement is that Waxman is the official co-author and writer of the bill!
Recently, who could forget the blatant bribes the recently passed health care reform bill required where a handful of Democratic Senators were able to get breaks for their individual states to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in exchange for their final vote in support of this bill.
If these actions were not serious and far reaching, they would be comical. Conflicts of interest, trivial projects, wastes of money, sad but true in 2009.
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, it is difficult to find much beauty in any of the following Federally funded projects since they waste Federal tax dollars on local projects that contribute nothing to solving the major, national issues facing the country today. The only beauty is in the eye of incumbent politicians who waste these taxpayer dollars to support their re-election efforts:
Exhibits at the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural Site Foundation – 0,000
Restoration of the Portsmouth, New Hampshire Music Hall – ,000,000
Restoration of the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia – 0,000
Construction of the Monroe County (Kentucky) Farmers’ Market – 0,000
Restoration of the Murphy Theater in Ohio – 0,000
Restoration of the Slater Mill in Rhode Island – 4,000
Restoration of the Pregone Theater in the Bronx – 0,000
Construction of the Santa Ana River Trail in California – 0,000
Funding for the Myrtle Beach International Trade and Conference Center – 0,000
Funding for the Washington (state) Opera – 0,000
Funding for the Montana World Trade Center – 4,000
Funding for the Arkansas Commercial Driver Training Institute – 0,000
Funding to study and educate citizens about the role and importance of the U.S. Senate, located in Massachusetts – ,900,000
Funding for the Brown Tree Snake Program, funding that was embedded in the 2010 Defense Department budget – 0,000
Renovation of the Ritz Theater in Newburgh, New York – 0,000
Renovation of the Laredo Little Theater in Lardeo, Texas – 0,000
Widening of Bristol Street in Santa Ana, California – 0,000
Construction of a bike path in Port Sanilax, Michigan – 0,000
Funding for the Museum Of Aviation – 0,000
Funding for the World Food Prize in Iowa – 0,000
Questionable Medicare claims including such, as an example, paying for blood glucose strips for sexual impotence – ,000,000,000
Government waste due to improper payments across all Federal government departments – ,000,000,000
Conversion of 21 cabooses into a caboose motel in Pennsylvania – 0,000
Funding for a remote Pennsylvania airport that serves about twenty passengers a day – 0,000,000
Funding for a state of the art radar system for that remote Pennsylvania airport that has never been used – ,000,000
Funding for a remote Montana border checkpoint at the Canadian border that handles about three travelers a day on average and less than 0 of freight a day on average – ,000,000
Funding for the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii – 8,000
Funding for the Forage Animal Production Research Lab in Kentucky- ,600,000
Funding for Swine Odor and Manure Management Research in Iowa – ,790,000
Funding for oyster rehabilitation in Alabama – 0,000
Support of health and economic development activities for the Arctic region – ,600,000
A loan to a California company to develop and build an expensive hybrid sports car…. in Finland – 9,000,000
These are just a couple dozen programs that waste hard earned taxpayer dollars. The 2010 budget bills have over 11,000 other such programs, even though President Obama campaigned to keep the number of pork projects like these well under 2,000. The reasons we have state and local governments is to handle state and local needs. It should not be the role of the Federal government to fund local bike paths, widen local roads, renovate theaters, etc. It diverts time, money, and resources from the truly national problems like the two wars we are currently involved in, soaring Federal deficits, high unemployment levels, Social Security and Medicare heading for insolvency, failing public schools, high drug addiction rates and the associated crime problems, the lacking of a national strategic energy plan, etc.
Then why does the political class spend/waste time and money on these clearly local issues and needs? It helps guarantee them re-election by attempting to prove to their own voters that they are adept at stealing money from other U.S. taxpayers and funneling into their home districts and states. Remember, the government pays for nothing, it funds programs with taxpayer money taken from all American taxpayers. Thus, the bike trail in Michigan is being financed in part by taxpayers in Arizona who will never ride that trail. The Polynesian Voyaging Society is being funded in part by taxpayers in Vermont who will never get any benefits from the Society.
A long time ago, the Statue Of Liberty, an enduing symbol of this entire country and its freedom, was in badly need of repair and renovation. The country rose up to privately donate enough funds to restore this national symbol. If the Statue Of Liberty did not merit Federal money several decades ago, why do farmers’ markets and bike paths merit such Federal support today?
This pilfering of national tax dollars possibly hides a more dangerous reality. It could be that this generation of politicians, and the ones that have come immediately before them, do not know how to solve the real national problems facing America today. In the 1960s, Nixon declared war on drugs but we still have a major drug problem in this country. In the 1970s, Carter was President when we lived through the energy crises but we still no do not have a national strategic energy program in place. In the early 1980s, the Reagan administration identified the danger of our failing public school systems but today many of our public schools are still failing. In the 1990s, despite numerous wake-up calls (first World Trade Center attacks, U.S. embassy terrorist bombings in Africa, USS Cole attack, etc.) we still do not have the terrorist threat under control, as witnessed by the almost catastrophic airline security breakdown on the Christmas day KLM flight into Detroit.
Thus, it could be that our current politicians work on useless and wasteful local spending programs and worry about the sound volume on television commercials because they are incapable of doing anything else. If they were, than many of our national problems would have been addressed and solved already. That is why the following steps need to be taken to start reducing “The Bad” and “The Ugly” and expanding the “The Good” from the political class:
Step 1 – start reducing Federal spending by 10% a year, for five years, in order to begin weeding out the wasteful, but politically convenient, local wastes of money.
Step 2 – allow only individual citizens to contribute to political election campaigns since many of the wasteful programs are really bribes, directing taxpayer dollars to companies, unions, and lobbyists in order to get reciprocal campaign donations for incumbents’ re-election campaigns.
Step 3 – hold Congressional committee and subcommittee members accountable for their performance, removing them from committee posts when their efforts are unsatisfactory and wasteful.
Step 4 – establish term limits for all Senators and Congressmen since allowing them to serve forever is not working. If the President, the most important elected official in the world, has term limits, less important Senate and House of Representative seats should also be limited in term length.
Step 5 – no Federal money could be spent on any program or project unless it materially affects a substantial number of residents in at least five states, i.e. spend Federal tax dollars on national needs, let state and local governments and private citizens handle the local needs.
While “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” made for a good Clint Eastwood movie, it does not make for effective and efficient governance. Let’s hope that 2010 is better and that somehow some of the steps listed above take hold this year, resulting in a 2010 list of wasteful spending programs and negative political antics that is far smaller than in 2009.
Note: only credible, well known news sources were used for the information included in this article. These sources included, but were not limited to, the New York Times, the St. Petersburg Times, CNN, the Associated Pres, The Week Magazine, and Reason Magazine and does not include personal opinions or information from highly partisan sources. For detailed information on the sources please refer to www.loathemygovernment.blogspot.com where all of these facts and figures have been previously identified and discussed.
Visit our website at www.loathemygovernment.com to learn about “Love My Country, Loathe My Government – Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class”.
Walter “Bruno” Korschek is the author of the new book, “Love My Country, Loathe My Government – Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class”, a blue print for reversing the loss of freedom in America and addressing the real issues facing Americans today.
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