How must you feel if you’re a Member of Congress these days? Embarrassed? Unclean? Do you mind being classified with the creepy-crawlies?
There was a time when members of the U.S. House of Representatives were not held in the same esteem as slugs, rodents and lice. But nowadays, when they’re not carrying on like demented five-year-olds, they are featured in ads fleeing from the Orkin man or checking into a Roach Motel.
How did so many Congressmen and Congresswomen fall from respect to obloquy? How many times have you heard your neighbors say, “Let’s get rid of all of them in the next election? Wipe the slate clean and start over. The next batch couldn’t possibly do any worse.”
This is of course the old “Throw the bums out!” refrain, but it doesn’t bode well for the country when people start to think of Congress as so much mildew. It will be a sad day when voters bring bottles of Tilex to the polls. And this day is coming soon.
Was it always thus? Well, maybe not always but too often. The problem seems to be that so many Congresspersons can’t hold a thought for very long. They forget who they are, where they are, and why. Many of them don’t seem to grasp the fundamentals of representative government, and those who do can’t seem to cope with those who don’t. This pathetic corrosion of reasonable governance has now infected both houses and the Oval Office. Nobody can do anything except to vigorously do nothing.
So now, after an incredibly drawn-out and tiresome exercise in schoolyard power politics, we have a “deal,” a bill that creates another commission to study the debt problem and come up with recommendations. Congress apparently forgot that we’ve already done that — twice. But why do something only once if you can spend another few millions doing it again, and again, all the while calling for fiscal responsibility?
Fiscal responsibility used to be the byword of the Republican Party and Republicans are still trumpeting this conceit as the bedrock of their political philosophy. Once upon a time it was a respectable, if selfish, position, but now mainly draws exasperated guffaws and clucking from all but the most deranged right-wingers, the tea party extremists, for instance. Except for its own highly paid ideologues and a profoundly ignorant and mean-spirited segment of the electorate, no one in the GOP, including its elected officials, can possibly believe in its claim to fiscal responsibility.
George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress added more than four trillion dollars to the national debt, which he carried as a non-budget item, off the books, as it were, to finance not one but two ill-advised wars, wars that have accomplished absolutely nothing except to take or ruin the lives of thousands of American soldiers and countless Iraqis and Afghans. Bush loaded more onto the national debt than any president in history.
He also lowered the tax rates to give an unneeded bonanza to the richest people in the country, did much to protect the various exemptions and tax advantages enjoyed by some of the richest companies and then he tried to privatize Social Security, an idea that some scholars have called the single-most irresponsible initiative ever undertaken by an American president.
But, hey, fiscal responsibility takes many forms. And sometimes the people, they just don’t know what’s good for ‘em. But that’s what we’ve got the tea party for, to show us the way. And that’s what the Democrats are for, to mount the loyal opposition — Quiet Please! — and then to roll over so the Republicans can scratch their bellies. Thanks so much; that feels so good.
The very thought of it all brings to mind the first verse (actually, the only verse) of a favorite childhood rhyme: