It#8217;s We the people,#8217; not We the special interests#8217; Staff 08/03/2006 I received an e-mail last week from a friend that put into words much of what I#8217;ve been thinking about our gover
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006
I received an e-mail last week from a friend that put into words much of what I’ve been thinking about our government (both state and national) for the past few years.
My friend had just returned from working at the General Assembly and was “disillusioned and disgusted.” (Welcome to the party).
“During this Session, it was often obvious that we are being governed by lobbyists,” my friend wrote. “Time after time in committees legislators who were attempting to present bills they sponsored deferred to the lobbyist for explanations. More often than not, it was the lobbyist who had written the legislation, or at least parts.
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“This was made painfully clear when one observed what happened to Suffolk on the floor of the Senate. Senator Quayle, at the request of the City, had entered a bill requiring developers to pay impact fees. Eleven counties currently use impact fees, but it seems that Suffolk, with a 21 percent growth rate in the last five years, is to be denied this management tool.
“Anyone who thinks these fees unnecessary should only take a look at a neighboring city. They have 315 portable classrooms in their school system with no possibility of building the necessary facilities to replace them…
“When one looks at political contributions made to General Assembly members, the votes are less surprising. In 2005, the shelter industry gave a total of $3,185,698. The major lobbyist for this industry has been heard to brag of the number of votes he “has in his pocket” on the House Committee for Counties, Cities and Towns. The House of No even has a “killing committee” known for being favorable to developers.”
It’s kind of depressing to see such clear evidence that our democracy has literally been sold, that our elected representatives take the “elected” part more seriously than they do the “representative” part. The reason they are able to get away with this n and in fact are so confident they can get away with it that they don’t even care how it looks n is that they know that voters like you me are too lazy, apathetic and stupid to do anything about it.
If we were good citizens, we’d rise up en masse and demand that the lobbyists and their cash be thrown out of Washington and Richmond and that any politician who took any of their money be voted out of office.
But of course, we won’t. To most of us, as long as they do what they can to stop boys from kissing, we’ll turn a blind eye to the rest of it. That’s what they count on and it always works.
Meanwhile, they continue to lavish obscene amounts of our hard-earned tax dollars on their friends and cronies and enable them to stick it to the rest of us.
Another great example of the hypocrisy on the national level came last week with the Senate vote to raise the nation’s debt limit by about 10 percent to $9 trillion. Here’s what that looks like numerically:
It was just a year ago n at the request of the credit card companies and banks who coincidentally lavish millions on congressmen n that our senators and representatives voted to change the nation’s bankruptcy laws. The changes made it more difficult n if not impossible n to completely be relieved of personal debt, regardless of the circumstances that caused the debt such as terminal illness, injury or even military services overseas.
We were not being responsible with our money, both Republican and Democratic congressfolk
(both tied to the same masters) told us. We were scamming the system and needed to take responsibility for our actions. What the law did, basically, was make our courts taxpayer-funded collection agencies for the credit card companies, despite their poor, or even predatory, credit practices.
So, while the rest of us are supposed to be responsible with our money, our elected representatives are permitted to squander our hard-earned money on Alaskan bridges to nowhere, launch wars on false pretenses and enact ridiculous prescription drug programs designed solely to enrich cronies in the oil, military contracting and pharmaceutical industries and keep the campaign cash flowing, to heck with the impact on our nation’s fiscal condition, our security and our health. It’s an obscenity.
So, here we are. Congressional elections are just about eight months from now. What a great day that would be if virtually every incumbent were voted out of office. On second thought, that would merely be a good day. It would be great if they were all rounded up and jailed as enemies of the state, but that’s being a tad overly optimistic.
What I expect to happen, though, is that about 90 percent or more of incumbents will be returned to office, which is typically the case. As comedian Bill Maher noted the other night, those are the same percentages we used to laugh at Kremlin leaders and Saddam Hussein for amassing in their “elections.”
What it will take to change things is for Americans to engage and participate in the process. The Founding Fathers bequeathed the government to “We the people,” not “We the special interests.” It’s time for us to do our duty before the entire nation ends up in bankruptcy court.
Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.