We’re a little less than a year away from my predicted 50-state Obama re-election landslide (not because he’s so wonderful, but because the opposition is so clueless). It seems as good a time as any to offer some cranky insight into the current state of politics.
Supercommittee: Clearly Misnamed. In most work environments, when you’re given an assignment and a deadline, it’s considered really bad form to wait until the actual day it’s due to announce that you’re not going to be able to fulfill it. In fact, when that happens in my field, I don’t get paid, my reputation is irreparably damaged, and no further work is forthcoming. Yet in Congress, none of these rules nor these consequences apply. What a cool job!
Clarity At Last. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the federal government gave $123 billion in tax incentives to corporations in 2010, with breaks – as noted in the New York Times “for groups and people as diverse as Nascar track owners, mohair producers, hedge fund managers, chicken farmers, automakers and oil companies.” I don’t get too many epiphanies these days, but I sure got one when I read Fareed Zakaria’s Complexity Equals Corruption in the October 31, 2011 issue of Time: “The simplest way to get the corruption out of Washington is to remove the prize that members of Congress give away: preferential tax treatment. A flatter tax code with almost no exemptions does that.” Even better, it would free up politicians from having to listen to lobbyists and give them time to listen to their constituents instead.
Who Were Those Guys? Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist. Teddy Roosevelt was a conservationist. They were both Republicans. I don’t recall them saying much about religion, either their own or anybody else’s. (Exception: Lincoln is supposed to have said, “God must have loved poor people, because he made so many of them.”) Heck, even Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency. So now why does admission to the Republican Party now seem contingent not only on being a raving right-wing religious fanatic, but also intolerant of homosexuality and ignorant of environmental issues? Whatever happened to the Republican Party I used to belong to?
Our Tax Dollars At Work. According to the New York Times, Congress established a fund to help those exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder relating to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s not something I would necessary vote to spend money on, but hey, it’s the kind of thing that makes it looks like the folks in the House of Representative actually have hearts. In fact, they have really big hearts, because it’s funded to the tune of $4.3 billion dollars. It’s estimated that there may have been 10,000 people affected in Manhattan that day, which comes out to $430,000 per person. I’ve been going to therapists on and off for years, and I don’t think I’ve spent even one-tenth of that.
Here’s another bizarre example of our tax dollars at work. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, some 2,000 for-profit vocational schools receive $24 billion annually. Now, I’m sure some smart lobbyist said, “You fund public schools. You should fund vocational schools too,” and some stupid Congressperson agreed to sponsor the proposal. Hey, where do I sign up for a for-profit job that’s also subsidized by the federal government? That seems as cool as being a congressperson.
Our Tax Dollars At Play. If I can’t be a congressperson sloughing off work assignments, I think I’d like to work for the National Transportation Safety Board. For reasons I’ve yet to fathom, the NTSB is the world’s arbiter on plane crashes. No matter where a plane goes down, whether it’s an American plane or had an American embarkation or destination, it seems like the NTSB is on its way to investigate. According to its Wikipedia entry, “The NTSB will also on occasion provide technical and other advice to transportation investigative boards in countries that do not have the equipment or specialized technicians available to undertake all aspects of a complex investigation.” I want a job where I get to fly to exotic places beyond my logical jurisdiction. I bet they also get to take the congressional way out by issuing reports that say, “We have absolutely no clue why this thing came down, but we sure enjoyed the view from the mountain.”
And yet, strangely, the supercommittee still couldn’t agree on where to cut expenses.