Before we start, please note two things. First, all of the instances of political activity I will review have already been discussed and analyzed in previous posts to this blog. Thus, for more detail on anything listed and discussed in the next three days you can review the past posts. Second, everything discussed in the three posts come from credible news sources, these are not facts and stories I made up or are coming from highly partisan sources. Typical sources include CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times, The Week Magazine, Reason magazine and other news sources. While I will not identify the sources again in these review posts, you can refer to the original posts to get the date and source referenced for the information.
So let's review some of the less than glorious antics that the political class served us with in the second half of 2009:
- Ginny Brown-Waite, a Congresswoman from Florida, was actively investing in bank stocks at the same time she was sitting on the House banking committee to determine which banks got what levels of bailout money and support from the American taxpayer through the Federal government. This is a blatant conflict of interest. Ordinary Americans would probably have gone to jail for insider trading if they did the same thing, apparently conflict of interest and insider trading activities do not apply to Congressional members.
- Senator Hillary Clinton apparently also does not understand conflict of interest theory. She helped pass a bill that allowed a mall developer in New York state to get preferential tax treatment, shortly after the developer made a significant donation to Bill Clinton's foundation.
- Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye's staff helped a bank in Hawaii get bailout money from the FDIC after the the FDIC determined the bank was not worth saving. Turns out that the Senator had invested heavily in the bank and stood to lose a load of money unless the bank was saved by the American taxpayer.
- Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut received substantial campaign donations from Fannie Me and Freddie Mac. Two things wrong here. First, Dodd was chairman of the Senate banking committee responsible for overseeing the activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a clear cut case of conflict of interest. Second, how do two Federal organizations that exist now solely because of taxpayer support and bailout money get to use taxpayer money to support specific candidates for office? Shouldn't government organizations remain non-partisan and not a piggy bank for the politicians who are supposed to oversee them?
- Ex-Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana was convicted of taking bribes and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. You may recall that Mr. Jefferson was caught with frozen bribe money in his home freezer. This continues the hall of shame tradition of the political class who recently included Congressman Randy Cunningham who was sentenced to eight years in prison for taking $2.4 million in bribes, Congressman Bill Ney who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for taking bribes, Congressman James Traficant who was sentenced to seven years in prison for taking bribes, and the majority of ex-Governors of Illinois who are either serving prison time, have served prison time, or may soon face prison time.
- 60% of the Congressional members sitting on the House Armed Services Committee received campaign contributions from the very companies that they had previously earmarked pork barrel budget money for.
- Congressman Charles Rangel of New York is being investigated for a number of ethics violations including, but not limited to, non-declaration of rental income, certain assets, and other income.
- In the area of "who really cares about this bill", Congresswoman Anna Eshoo of California and her staff are working on legislation to Federally regulate the sound volume on television commercials. Never mind that TV watchers can mute the sound, change the channel, leave the room to get something to eat, fast forward on their DVR machines, or just ignore the TV for 60 seconds. Why work on Iraq, Afghanistan, soaring deficits, unemployment, failing public schools, etc. when the TV commercial sound volume issue is so pressing????
- In the same vein as Ms. Eshoo's contribution to America, Congressman Jim Moran and his staff are investigating whether erectile dysfunction television commercials should be banned. I did not know this was so important either. As with Ms. Eshoo, let's ignore real issues facing America and work on E.D. commercials.
- And it never ends. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and his staff is working on legislation to provide up to $300 a month in income tax deductions so that the unemployed do not have to put their pets up for adoption. Maybe if his staff and he were working on how to get America working again, there would be no need for this ridiculous program that would never be able to be tracked and would be rife with fraud.
- The fence along the border between America and Mexico was the work of the entire Congress. In a 2009 report we learned that the construction of the fence is seven years behind schedule, it will cost $6.4 billion to maintain the fence over the next twenty years ($870,000 a day!), and there have been at least 3,000 breaches of the fence where illegal immigrants were able to enter the country despite this billion dollar fence.
- As we have referenced any number of times these past months, the new Washington D.C. visitors' center was completed but only after it overran it's construction budget by 50%.
- California Congressman Henry Waxman was quoted as saying: "I certainly don't claim to know everything's that's in this bill" in referring to the massive cap and trade legislation that is likely to come before Congress in 2010. The troubling aspect of this statement is that Waxman is the official co-author and writer of the bill!
- Recently, who could forget the blatant bribes that Henry Reid allowed to enter the recently passed health care reform bill where a handful of Democratic Senators were able to get breaks for their individual states in the hundreds of billions of dollars in exchange for their final vote in support of this lame bill.
And the winner is: I have to give it to the Mexican border fence. In typical political class tradition, it is a program that does not work (the fence is constantly breached, allowing illegals to enter), it is over budget and seven years behind schedule, and it will waste taxpayer money to the tune of $870,000 a day for the next twenty years. The entire political class worked on this one and they all merit mention on this disaster. This does not belittle the conflict of interest, waste, illegal actions, and other missteps mentioned above. They all waste time, energy, and taxpayer dollars for no discernible benefit to the vast majority of Americans.
As mentioned previously, many of the steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government" would prevent these travesties. These include term limits for politicians, a ground up review of all Federal programs and projects to see if they serve any useful purpose, an annual code of ethics statement and vow for each sitting politician, a rule to prevent any Federal project to exist unless it materially benefited a large number of citizens from at least five states in order to reduce local earmarks, and campaign finance reform that would allow only individual citizens to contribute to political campaigns (conversely, forbidding unions, PACs, businesses, etc. to contribute.)
Tomorrow we will look at "The Ugly" wastes of earmarks and other Federal programs that solve no problems for the majority of Americans and serve only to get incumbents re-elected.
Visit our website at www.loathemygovernment.com to order an autographed copy of the book, "Love My Country, Loathe My Government -Fifty First Steps To Restoring Our Freedom and Destroying The American Political Class" and to sign up for the cause. The book is also available online at Amazon and Barnes And Noble.