Saturday, January 24, 2009

The threat of 535 little kings and queens

Let's face it. Barack Obama is in a real pickle. Whether you voted for him or not, he's stepped into three massive crisis unfolding at the same time. The War on Terror continues in Iraq (winding down), Afghanistan/Pakistan (cranking up) and worldwide. (Mumbai, the latest, but certainly not the last surprise attack) The Worldwide Credit Crisis is still in about the 3rd or 4th inning as credit is still nowhere near where it needs to be for the system to function in normal working order. Lastly, subtly perhaps the most dangerous is the ongoing massive corruption in the U.S. political system.

Why could this be the most dangerous? It seriously affects the ability of the government to address the War on Terror and especially the Worldwide Credit Crisis. The constant distraction of crooks/politicians being busted or pursued or brazenly waltzing around collecting cash or favors keeps Obama from focusing on Usama Bin Laden, Mullah Omar et al. The fact that many of these payoffs are directly and indirectly related to the Credit Crisis only further impedes the Presidents' ability to twist arms in Congress to get something done. The average Congressional crook is already bought and paid for.

From the fraudulent Minnesota Senate recount, to the Blago Senate Sale, to Bill Richardson and his own kickback scheme, to Geithner's tax dodge to the simple everyday payoffs in Congress big and small, the system is cracking asunder. All of the examples I just mentioned have come in just the last three months. Many others could be found if we go back further on both sides of the aisle. Now when a crisis arises which demands Congress discipline a constituency they are monetarily in bed with; surprise! they can't crack the whip. In fact, they side with the miscreants!! Here is exhibit A.

Some congressmen that were involved in creating the housing mess, like Barney Frank are supposedly in charge of trying to clean it up. Already, this cleanup seems like a fools errand as Frank has been revealed to be steering TARP money to a bank with which he has had a lengthy relationship. Frank's now infamous statement about wanting to "roll the dice" with taxpayer money is what started this debacle. Why should someone with such blatant disregard for the consequences of his actions be entrusted to fix a crisis of this magnitude and importance? Is Frank some sort of kook who just popped on the scene like Jesse Ventura? Hardly, Frank has been in Congress for over 25 years. This congressional handmaiden for "change we can believe in" has been at the trough for over a quarter century. This man reeks of the status quo.

Look, I'm no fan of Obama and his cult of personality, but I do believe he's right. Everyone has some "skin" in this game. Problem is he'll never do the right thing with this aged crew of beached congressional whales. They know it too. They know that long after Mr. Hope and Change has left the White House to write his memoirs, they'll still be in Congress stuffing their pockets. The system needs to change. If Barack Obama was elected for "the change we need," then he needs to change Congress. The change America needs can never take place when one third of the government is so obviously corrupt.

How can he do it? He can give speeches and threaten sanction, but Congress only understands political measures aimed at it. The only way to hit Congress where it lives, so to speak, is stop or limit it's access to the federal trough. Now since Congress itself controls the budget, this is tough, but if one were to limit the time one spends in Congress, this would necessarily limit the time one could gorge oneself on taxpayer money. Term Limits for Congress would force out the dead wood that is simply collecting favors and funds.

If change is beneficial, as seems to be the case with the presidency, why not make it part of this institution too? Say six terms in the House and three terms in the Senate. The twelve years in the House is four more than the president and would insure a flow of fresh faces and ideas into government. The Senate members could serve just short of two decades. If you can't accomplish in almost twenty years what you set out to D.C. for, then either you aint the one or the idea isn't so great. Either way you wouldn't get any more senators for life. Isn't that what America is all about anyway?

We started this country to avoid the obvious flaws of kings. They don't know when to let go. Congress is like that now, 535 little kings and queens, gumming up the system. Unless, Obama changes the system, they'll stymie whatever he proposes. And " the change we can believe in" will remain just talk.

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