Monday, November 12, 2012

My Ideas for Keeping the Government on a Tight Leash

Not to sound too idealistic, but I thought the government of the United States was supposed to be working for us, the little guys (and girls).  Did I miss a memo?  A lot of what comes from them seems to be edicts from on high to us, the unwashed masses.  They seem to have lost sight of who's working for who.  Over half the members of Congress are millionaires – who are they supposed to be representing here?  Not me.

Look, we send these men and women to Washington with a simple order: fight for us.  And many seem to have an altogether different purpose.  Perhaps it’s time we set up some rules to ensure that these people remember who brought them to the dance in the first place.
With that in mind, I humbly offer the following revisions to the deal we give elected officials in Congress:

  • Your income will reflect the average income of your constituency, as per IRS records.  If your people are poor, so are you.  Let’s see you fight for better jobs now, douchebags.

  • If both houses of Congress and the President sign off on a balanced budget, you get a $100,000 bonus.  If you fail to get a balanced budget through, then you get a 10% pay cut.  Watch a bunch of people get very good at math, very quickly.

  • Re: campaign ads: if you put out an ad making claims about your opponent that are proven to be false by an independent panel, then you forfeit the election.  No exceptions.

  • You pay 50% towards your health insurance, and only after being on the job for 90 days.  We the people will pay the other 50%.  And you get the same crappy Blue Cross HMO the rest of us get.  Have fun with that.

  • You (and your family) are forbidden to make additional income from book deals, public speaking or other sideline ventures during your tenure as a Congressman.  If you do, that money gets donated and split evenly between PBS and Planned Parenthood.  You need extra money?  Get a paper route.

  • Any campaign fund raising you do goes to a pool used for all candidates, not just you or your party.  Hard to get enthusiastic about those $10,000 a plate dinners when you know some of it may be going to the other side of the aisle.

  • Any money you take away from education, the poor, the elderly, or the sick in the budget, you must take an identical amount – in percentage – from the military budget.  Fair’s fair.

  • Incumbent Congressmen should be required to be re-elected by more than a simple majority.  If it’s for a second term, you should have to win by 60%, a third term would require a 70% vote and so on.  The idea that we’ve got six-and-seven-term Senators is just a bad idea.  Let’s get some fresh blood in there.

  • No retirement pension unless you produced a balanced budget during every year you serve.  Go make a living like the rest of us, you freeloaders.
These are are just a few thoughts on keeping our elected representatives playing fair.  What are yours?

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Comes the Prophecies

Having been re-classified as "irrelevant" and "out of touch" by the majority of the electorate this week, the political dodo bird that is the Republican Party has wasted no time in telling us how we'll be sorry.  They're like the crazy ex, standing on the sidewalk at two in the morning, drunk, screaming up at your bedroom window, "they'll never love you like I do, you bitch!".

Yeesh, enough already.  Let it go.  There will be other elections, you know?

But rather than take what happened on Tuesday as an object lesson, a cautionary tale, an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, they want us to understand that it was our mistake, not theirs.  We screwed up.  They were right, and we were wrong.  And now we're going to pay for our folly.  They're predicting the end of everything good and sacred in America (if it's not gone already), massive inflation, another recession, double-digit unemployment, terrorist attacks, plagues of locusts, you name it. 

But before we sink too deeply into buyers' remorse, let's take a moment to consider their history when it comes to prophecies:
  • They also told us Iraq had WMD's.  Hans Blix and those inept U.N. weapons inspectors were wrong and we were right.  They had pictures and everything.  How'd that work out for us?
  • They told us Iraq would be a "slam dunk" and we'd be in and out of there in six weeks. 
  • They told us we would be greeted as liberators.
  • They received a memo on August 4 2001 entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S." and said "no chance".
  • They told us that cutting taxes for the wealthy would spur economic growth and reduce unemployment.
  • They told us they could prove Obama was born in Kenya.
  • They predicted Romney would win in a landslide.
To be sure, Democrats make predictions that don't come true as well. We all do. But usually Democrats' failed prophecies don't get innocent Americans killed or cost us trillions of dollars.
So believe whatever you want, but before you buy into the Romney camp's Doomsday prophecy for America, ask yourself, is there any reason to take them seriously on anything?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why Are Republicans Losing (Again)?

So the results are in, and even with arithmetically-challenged Florida's lack of willingness to commit, the GOP got shellacked.  With the exception of the Tea Party Fluke of 2010, this is the third election in the past four cycles where the country has sent the Republicans a message: thanks, but no thanks.

Why?  Are we still that bitter over Bush?  Well, some of are.  But we Democrats try to focus on what's ahead.  We only look over our shoulder when it's about remembering what to avoid going forward.

Watching the GOP go through its five stages of grief, I think I can see the fatal flaw in their logic: they're stuck in denial.  Losing (badly) on Tuesday does not seem to have shaken them out of their dream state either.  So in the interest of helping the wounded opponent off the field, I have some advice to offer, maybe a little insight as to why they keep getting hammered: they aren't really Republicans.

The way I see it, they're not about fiscal responsibility, not really. They're not conservatives when it comes to spending money. If that were the case, we'd be seeing balanced budgets coming out of the Republican controlled House of Representatives. We're not. They like spending money just as much as Democrats do, maybe even more. The differences are, they think we can promise tax cuts across the board and it won't affect the bottom line, and they just want to spend the money on other things, like war and drilling for oil.

Republicans claim they're all about personal responsibility and keeping government small, but ask them how they feel about gay marriage, and see how intrusive they think the government ought to be. Ask them about gay couples adopting. Ask them about abortion. Ask them about legalizing (and taxing) marijuana. Suddenly these "small government, personal responsibility" Republicans reveal themselves to be anything but. They think that being a "social conservative" makes them a Republican. It doesn't. It just means they're scared of change and want to go back to the 1950's morality. But we're past all that, and there's no going back.

In point of fact, there hasn't been a Republican who lived up to the party's ideals since Eisenhower. This current crop of pretenders that claim to be Republicans have no idea what the word actually means. If they did, and if they acted out those principles, there might actually be a contrast in the candidates at election time worth discussing.  During the final Presidential debate, most of Romney's responses to Obama amounted to "I agree with him, but I'm white."  The Republicans, furious over a President who would support universal health care and gay marriage, nominated a candidate who, as governor, supported universal health care and gay marriage.  To the undecided voters out there who refuse to pledge allegiance to either party, this choice was a transparent farce.  Republicans can easily establish themselves as a true alternative by insisting on staying mum on social issues and making themselves about balanced budgets (with or without lowering taxes).

If the GOP wants to return to relevence, they're going to have to be willing to re-define what it means to be a Republican. Let go of the social conservatism and focus instead on balanced budgets.  Cut spending on big-ticket things like wars (particularly the unnecessary ones). De-funding PBS and Planned Parenthood is not the path to fiscal solvency. Quit voting yourselves raises, at least until you get unemployment down to 4%.  Make getting Americans back to work your #1 priority. Start taxing the rich and corporations, make them pay their fair share (fair, meaning the same tax rate the Middle Class pays in personal income tax).

Otherwise, just find something else to call yourselves, because your current game plan (which is a losing one, in case you hadn't noticed) is not a Republican one.