Other bits and pieces

Monday, July 27, 2009

All the King's Men

“All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
--George Orwell

In the late 1700’s, a motley collection of disgruntled landowners, businessmen, and learned whatchamdoodles, collectively generated a simple concept of government that kicked off the social experiment that would become what is now an oligarchic clusterfuck of self-aggrandization.

How’s that for a thesis statement?

That construct, which can only be viewed in our new-world history books by looking out of the corner of your eye at that little cleft between the pages, was this: Smart, successful, dedicated patriots, wired-in to the needs of their respective state constituents, would take a leave of absence from their livelihoods to perform a sacred and honored civic duty in government—temporarily. Ultimately, they would serve for as long as their respective enterprises could coast without them, then they would return to work as printers, farmers, cobblers, milk tycoons, and of slave whipping. Then, someone else would take the honor, head to the Capitol and spend a few years bickering with the haughty malcontents from other states over which former colony gets to take what quantity lands from what Indians. These were people who had worked hard to succeed by their individual merits and had become experts at running things. They were plantation owners, scholars, business owners, and generally employers of many. They were the people who knew how to get things done in life, lead others, and were the most able to lend some of their experience to government. They were truly forming a government ‘of the people’. Granted, it was a government of the 'rich' people, but would you have really wanted an illiterate candle maker's apprentice trying to argue an amendment?

So, what happened?

A few weeks ago, Senator Barbra Boxer, (D) CA, while inappropriately dressing down a respected military General Officer, summed it up with all the elegance and subtlety of a charging herd of retarded triceratops. When she didn’t like the General addressing her as ‘Ma’am’ instead of ‘Senator’, she said “…I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it…” It’s all about her. And she’s not alone…that’s the real problem.

Political office is now a career. Congress is no longer a place of humble service, but a crystal palace where the elite and power-hungry clamber to attain supremacy over the proletariat. They believe themselves to be our royal family. Every single member of congress (that includes the Senate) thinks he or she is better than you—more entitled than you. They have forgotten that they are public servants.

The salary for a congressman in 1790 was $6.00 per day, only paid for actual days spent in legislative session. Today we pay them $174,000 annually. While the value of $6 in 1970 would be about $137.00 today, a member of congress would have to work 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year to earn $35620 by TODAY’S money! In fact, congress is actually in session for an average of only 136 days a year (average of the years 2005-2008), which means that if we paid them at the same rate as we did in 1790, adjusted for inflation, they would each get $18632.00 per year (average). But wait, there’s more. If you happen to be so fortunate to be a leading member of the House or Senate, say, Speaker of the House for example, your annual salary minus all the extra perks would be $223,000. Let’s see, times that by 42, umm, carry the one and divide by zero…scratch my head; that’s $1627.00 PER DAY.

There's also campaign moneys that they get to keep and free foreign and domestic travel. They get a personal staff allowance to hire up to 18 people, but $75000.00 (per year, remember) of that can be used for 'other purposes'. They get an expense allowance which is somehow different than the other stuff. Oh, and don't forget Franking Privilege: the perquisite allowing them to mail anything to anyone for free. Now, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but when they're up for re-election, guess who's footing the bill for all those pamphlets in your mail box!

So, why did we pay them so little back then? It was a temporary side duty from the professions that actually made/kept them wealthy. It was like jury duty only they got to say 'Mr. President' and 'filibuster' a lot. Remember, they didn't really need the compensation. These people were already well off. With congressional duty not salivated over as a lucrative cash piggy, the job really only attracted those who really wanted to do the work. It wasn't going to make you rich, or powerful, or even famous.

Without using your Google, can you name a few congressmen from the 3rd Congress of the United States? And no, Ted Kennedy wasn't in office then, though it seems like it.

So these people are what they are but it's not their fault that the government is spilling over with their ilk. The problem is this: The American voter has lost its collective mind. While a large portion of this population used to research congressional candidates and really vote on their merits (and yes, you'd have to go back a ways to find when that really was), today, we vote for basically two kinds of candidates: The one that promises us free shit, and the one we saw in a movie once. Focusing on the later; we deify the famous to the point that we actually think that someone who is well known for entertaining is somehow more qualified to steer national policy than their more professional contender.

There is no other debatable explanation for Al Franken, Sony Bono, Gopher from 'The Love Boat', or Jesse Ventura.

Once in office, be they from the free shit side or the 'you might remember me from...' side, we treat them like royalty. We pamper them. We let them get away with behavior that would land any of the rest of us either out of a job or in jail. We look the other way when they don't pay their taxes. We think it's okay that they are so detached from the people they represent that they have no chance of really representing them. We simply don't care that 100% of the members of our government are deciding ways to spend our great great grand children's money on things that don't even effect them personally! They don't need universal health care, social security, or a better economy. They're right in the center of the greatest self-licking ice cream cone in history. We have no compunction whatsoever, as voters, to letting these people continue to suckle America's tit and then tell us how make a budget and get a job.

Members of Congress believe they are better than us because we keep telling them they are. Unless we stop believing it, they never will.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

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