Before we heap too many accolades upon either major party for their performance during the election just past it would do us all a world of good to reflect upon what our leaders accomplished these past four years.
It was reported by The Washington Post earlier this year (and repeated in The Week Magazine in October) that since 2007, 73 members of Congress sponsored bills that benefited themselves or their families. Former Democratic Rep. Dennis Cardoza helped get tax breaks for racehorse owners, and then bought seven horses himself. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) co-sponsored a natural gas bill even as Exxon-Mobil negotiated for his wife's shares in two gas companies. This was apparently legal under rules Congress wrote for itself. Ethics rules are supposed to make things transparent and not require the public or the media to go digging around to make the connections.
Overall, during the recession years 2007-2010, while Americans’ median household net worth dropped 39 percent, the median net worth of members of Congress rose five percent, according to an analysis of congressional finances. The wealthiest one third in Congress saw their net worth go up 14 percent.
Now we hear daily about the so-called “fiscal cliff” we are about to go over if Congress doesn't act responsibly before the end of 2012. By “we” I mean average Americans of all colors, nationalities and persuasions. “We” does not include our leaders who have well insulated themselves against economic hard times. Nor does “we” involve the wealthy among us who spent $6 billion buying a Congress and Administration to safeguard their assets.
Granted, the rich do seem to get richer and that's because the rich effectively write the tax code. The Congressional Research Service found that 2,362 people legally collected unemployment benefits in 2009 despite living in households with incomes of $1 million or more.
It's not that our leaders don't know what should be done, they do. The Simpson-Bowles, and other deficit commissions have made sensible recommendations numerous times over the years, our leaders simply lack the integrity and the guts to do the right things. And we keep electing them ... amazing.
Praise your party's members when they deserve approval by all means. But when they act out of pure, unadulterated greed and dishonesty, tell them so and send them home. Count me among the 90 percent of Americans who trusts our government not at all. I think we should cut their perks to zero and align their pay with long-term performance.
David L. Snell — Dillsboro, N.C.