I just love the supposed “economic stimulus” package that is floating around Congress these days. No, really. You know the one. It’s the one President Barack Obama wants to pass, and in a hurry. Last night, he gave a speech to a room full of Democrats at a private retreat (at a chi-chi resort partially paid for on the taxpayer dime, no less) stressing the importance of getting this bill off the ground, and soon. Unfortunately, this zeppelin is becoming more and more of a lead balloon and launching it may be the biggest boondoggle since last fall’s bailout bill.
I’m all for stimulating the economy. Believe me, I live in Michigan and here the economy needs more than a shot in the arm. I’ve been saying that for years. It needs a serious intravenous injection of life saving chemo. It needs life support; it needs all the drugs the pharmaceutical companies can come up with.
But, back to the bill: Can anyone yell “suuuee-EEEE!” What has been slipped under the radar as “economic stimulus” is in actuality a cavalcade of pork products. Instead of concrete measures for the creation of jobs and the shoring up of our faltering economy, we are handed a platter of bacon, hocks and ham. I’ve read the bill, and at more than 600 pages, just doing that is a gargantuan task.
As with the TARP bill last fall, I am amazed that our politicians aren’t reading the current offering; instead they're blindly touting it as the best thing to come down the pike since sliced white bread.
After whipping off two angry letters to my Congressional representatives last week, I received boilerplate email from them basically stating "‘thanks for your input, but I don’t care what you think." Perhaps this is because both are Democrats and both have their porky little fingers in the pie. I am even more amazed that our legislators believe that their constituencies won’t read the bill and react with the same kind of annoyance I am feeling. Are they really of the opinion that we are all mindless sheep, willing to follow them into the doomsday stockyard?
Personally, I’ve had it with the audacity of politicians. With each passing day, I am more convinced that there are two realities here in the US – the fairy tale world of politicians and the real and authentic world of everyone else.
Witness this week, the release of jailbird, convicted felon and ex-Hip Hop Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from the Wayne County lockup. With good behavior (?), he was out in 99 days and was spared the remaining three weeks of his 120-day sentence. His midnight exit included a fleet of black SUVs and a contingent of Nation of Islam bodyguards, as well as a bevy of news cameras. The next day, he flew to Texas to join his family, in a private jet, chartered for $30,000, where more news cameras awaited.
Let’s get this straight: the man who shamed his office, lied under oath, went to prison, cost the city of Detroit (a city that can ill afford it) over $8 million and still owes the city $1 million in restitution is demanding to be and is treated like a celebrity? Yeah, and I’m not even touching upon the fact that he cheated on his wife, misused city funds, and tried to usurp Chicago’s dubious title of the most corrupt city in the country. Of course, the common man wouldn't have a congressional representative as a mother.
Our Governor Jen (Jennifer Granholm) was on television the other night with her State of the State address, and of course, I watched with rapt attention. She was her usual cheery self, playing up her minor accomplishments while downplaying the obvious mess we find ourselves in, basically saying nothing. However, she actually called for a 10% pay cut for all state employees. Sounds good, right? Except that under further review, we learn that the governor can only suggest such a plan, and the proposal has to come under a review board. Meaning: nice words, but highly unlikely to reach fruition, especially with so many people employed by the State of Michigan. They have unions, too; unions that would hardly go for the pay cut, even in dire economic times.
Instead of an hour of fluffy words, how about some action? Do we really need to have the First Man on the state payroll, along with his three assistants (all past and failed political office candidates)? The First Man, Daniel Mulhern, was perfectly capable of making his own money before, as an attorney and author.
Then we have President Obama insisting on a salary cap of $500,000 for any top executives of companies who receive bailout money. As much as I have nurtured a growing disdain for spoiled corporate CEOs who earn astronomical sums for leading their businesses into failure, such a mandate smacks of “do as I say, not as I do.” Mr. Obama, how about insisting on a $500,000 salary cap for elected officials? If you make more than that, or receive more than that in perks or compensation, the rest of the proceeds will go directly to the Treasury. I’m sure that the halls of Congress will ring hollow when there is a conspicuous absence of all its millionaires. Indeed, the lobbyist trade would be completely annihilated and laid to rest.
Of course, we have now almost a half dozen presidential appointees who are tax slackers. Since when do politicians think it’s within the realm of reasonableness to forgo paying their taxes? I, for one, am no fan of the Internal Revenue Service, but I can bet what little my house is worth that a regular Joe like Joe the Plumber would not have gotten away with owing the government that kind of bread. The Taxman was fairly strident when coming after my child for owing a couple hundred dollars in missed taxes, so you’d think a bounty of tens of thousands would be like stumbling upon a pot of gold.
There are other elected officials who have conveniently shied away from their tax obligations, like Charlie Rangel. I’m thinking the weight of the position is one of the reasons why he’s not currently rooming in federal prison. There's the sense of entitlement, of being too big to have to pay your tax bill. I have to think that the wiggle-worming around taxes is unpatriotic, at least in Joe Biden’s mind. I wonder what the Vice President must think.
I’m all for change, particularly if it’s positive. Mr. Obama campaigned and presented himself as an agent of change. Fair enough. So far, and I realize it’s early, he’s proven that it’s the same old status quo inside the Beltway. The line to the big payoff windows forms to the left. Cha-ching! The reality is this: the Democrats won big, and so now they are going to line their pig pens with various and sundry spending that has little if anything to do with stimulating the economy.
I suppose it’s too much to ask that the audacity of our current crop of politicians come to a screeching halt, that they descend from their ivory towers and join the rest of humanity on the planet. This behavior has been going on for a long time now, but it’s only recently where the divide between the people and their elected officials has widened to such epic proportions.
Politicians should watch their collective backs. They are elected to serve, not elected to serve themselves. Being an elected official should not mean you are the King or Queen of your own personal fiefdom, much as you may hope for it. Although we put our trust in politicians, we the people are not all stupid morons. At some point, the masses are going to join the lonely voices crying foul in the wilderness.
All I ask is that for God’s sake, will someone call a pig in a poke a Pig in a Poke?