January 2013

Want to shrink government? Start here

By Galen Larson

Question: Why does New Jersey have so many waste dumps and Washington, D.C., so many politicians? The answer will be revealed later in this article.

OK, let’s start the New Year properly. I think it would be a great idea to implement what the House Republicans have been pushing for over the last four years. Cut spending: Medicare, Social Security, housing, low-interest school loans, tax relief for educating your sons or daughters in college.

And, of course, the welfare queens, including the beneficiaries of the greatest welfare programs we have: our elected officials. The great majority already have a substantial income before even becoming politicians. Only a person of considerable means can think about running for office. There are 535 senators and congresspeople. They make $174,000 a year or more, plus retirement and health benefits. And don’t forget the perks, freebies, and investment tips they get through their position. In contrast, the average person has to work at least 260 eight-hour days, minus maybe one or two weeks’ vacation (some paid, some not) just to make $35,000 to $60,000 a year.

How many days a year do these officials work? And why must they spend so much time in D.C.? The only time they need to go to D.C. is when they vote and if you watch the attendance on the floor when someone is presenting a bill or speaking for or against it, the chambers are mostly empty. With the Internet, Twitter, texting and conference calls, they could stay home and maybe do a better job than they do in person. At least they couldn’t break out in fisticuffs.

So let them stay home most of the time and travel their state talking to their constituents. In the two years of a congressperson’s term they could visit every municipality and hamlet.

We elect these agents to do what we see as necessary. They send out slick pamphlets and letters asking for our input. Well, just try to reach them to provide that input! Our letters go straight into File 13 and if we’re lucky we get back a carefully worded statement (mailed at our expense, no less) saying “thank you for your concern.”

Town meetings are the basis for government. But the politicians arrive at their townhall meetings late, jump on the stage, tell a joke, and launch into a prepared speech as to what they have done or will do – rather than spending all their time listening.

What if you travel straight to D.C. to see the elephants and the clowns in action? Well, one constituent right here in Montezuma County took the time and money to make the trip on an issue that he thought of great importance. He was to meet with the rep, but he came ill-equipped, with only a petition, not a contribution. The aide told him he would pass on the information. So much for an eye-to-eye conversation.

Every four years we get all geared up to elect a president, forgetting he is not a dictator. Our Congress makes the laws, doles out the money and is supposed to keep the engine running smoothly. Instead they are getting their arm twisted by the lobbyists who hound them constantly. Campaigns consist of bald-faced lies or half-truths designed to allow the politicians to keep their welfare job. If you don’t think this is the greatest welfare scheme ever devised, you need to read some history.

How did John Boehner go from handing out flyers in front of his father’s business to being a member of a men’s-only $250,000 country club? Mitch McConnell, supposedly a poor boy from Kentucky, is now worth millions after 30 years on government welfare called the Senate. But he isn’t willing to give help to schools, the homeless, the elderly, those out of work.

Labor often must strike to get a raise or benefits, but our senators and representatives get an automatic raise if they don’t vote not to have one. I can’t remember many times when they refused a raise.

In a lot of corporations, labor takes a cut when the company has problems. Does anyone remember elected officials taking a cut when the country was in an economic downturn? If these supposed fiscal conservatives want to run the government like a business, why didn’t they lay some of themselves off when the deficit grew?

Smaller government, they chant. OK, let’s give it to them. Cut the House by a third and the Senate in half. Limiting the number of these leeches would save money on pensions, health care and all those perks, like mailing privileges — not to mention aides, secretaries, and staff.

The corporations who now fund those 40 lobbyists per official would have fewer to bribe, and with that savings they could hire more people and produce more goods.

For those officials that remain, they must do as we do upon being hired. Show up for work five days a week, 50 weeks a year. No side jobs. Purchase insurance as we do.

Remember, this is a two- to six-year job from which they cannot be dismissed for poor performance (except egregious misconduct).

When they leave, they should have to become John Q. Public for at least five years before they can become a lobbyist. Some companies make employees sign a waiver to the effect that they cannot apply for a position with a competing company for a certain length of time.

And now for the answer to the question at the beginning: Why does New Jersey have so many waste dumps and Washington, D.C., so many politicians? Because New Jersey had first choice.

A great new book is out by Jessamyn Conrad called, “What You Should Know about Politics But Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues.” When you read that, you know the fix is in. But we can’t give up, we need to be informed. Those on the dole will not tell us the truth.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.