Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Lucrative Business Of Governing

The Washington Post recently ran a story that does a great job of illustrating the total disconnect between Congress and the rest of the country.
According to the Post; over the past twenty five years the average net worth of a member of Congress has risen from $280,000 to $725,000.  During that same period the average net worth of the average middle class American declined from $20,600 to $20,500.
Generally speaking there is a bit of a lifestyle change that one goes through when one enters the hallowed halls of Congress.  The $174,000 paycheck, the lifetime benefits, the perks, and the fawning swarm of glad handers can color ones sense of self and one’s purpose.  Suddenly your opinion really matters and your vote carries real power.  You spend most of your time in Washington attending fundraisers and being schmoozed by lobbyists.  You make speeches for which you are handsomely compensated and go on junkets that take you to places you’ve only dreamed of…all within the “wink, wink” of the law.    
So it is not so surprising that once elected to office very few in Congress are anxious to give it up.  Consequently, they spend most of their time, and base most of their decisions on doing whatever is necessary to continue that fabulous, powerful and  lucrative ride.  On average a sitting Congressman will raise and spend $1.2 million just to get re-elected.  The President's campaign will raise $1 billion.    
The people we send to Congress live in an artificial bubble far removed from the lives of their constituents.  So why then would we expect these people to have any empathy for the guy who clocks in from 8 to 4:30?  Why would we expect them to understand what goes through the mind of the single mom or the dad with four kids who just lost his job?  Why would we expect the “haves” in power to spend one second worrying about the “have nots” when they are so busy hanging on to their own piece of the pie?
Yet, we do.  It’s foolish, but we do.  We expect them to care and to govern in a way that is fair; not just to those with money, power and influence…but to all.  But the fact is that expecting Congress to fix the ills of the country is like expecting the mob to clean up drug trafficking.   
The middle class is the engine that runs this country.  It is their disposable income that fuels the economy.  But the middle class country is dying before our very eyes; and as they go so goes the country.  Yet Congress is too busy covering their perks and their asses to do anything about it. 
We don’t begrudge the “haves” in Congress from taking advantage of their position and power.  As long as they achieve those things within the boundaries of the law…more power to them.  That’s the system.  But as long as that system allows and even encourages those in power to reap those benefits while turning a blind eye to the engine that runs the country…we are destined to fail.
We need to remove money and position from politics and governing.  Only then will elected officials do what is right instead of what is personally lucrative and politically expedient. 
The system needs to change.  Given all that we have witnessed over the past decade: the unwarranted wars, the economic collapse, the social injustice, the greed and the rapid decline of 99% of the country; if we don’t have the will to change the system now…then when?       

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