COMMON SENSE IN GOVERNMENT? YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!
How can the legislative branch of our government relate to the population when basically they have nothing in common with the common people? (“Common” meaning the middle class majority.) The very fact that in order to qualify to run for a legislative seat requires risking a reasonable amount of money and a large amount of free time, of which the working class have an abundance of neither, automatically excludes most “common” men and women from ever getting in to office. So, the candidate pool usually comes from lawyers and high profile business owners of upper to higher income, who in many cases already have been playing the political game within their respective states. Unfortunately, by selection, this is NOT representative of the masses.
The end result of all this is a system of government that serves primarily the upper class, large corporations that can contribute large amounts to election campaigns and other special interest groups that can also afford to buy preferential considerations. No, it’s not bribery by current ethics standards. But when someone can contribute a large amount of cash to a re-election fund that a legislator gets to keep when he retires and will sit and draw interest for years if not spent staying in office, it is still becomes dirty money that most likely bought influence.
How can we expect Congress and the Senate to ever address or improve Social Security and medical care in this country, when they can’t possibly relate to the problems? Effective January 1, 2000 legislators received $141,300 a year annual salary. In less than 24 months after that date, and in the weeks following the terrorists’ air attacks on the New York Trade Center and Pentagon, Congress approved an annual pay raise for themselves to approximately $150,000 a year. In 2002, with the stock market down to a four-year low, effectively wiping out some people’s savings and retirement funds, they voted themselves another raise of $5,000. Keep in mind also that they already get free medical care for their family, they don’t pay Social Security and they have expense budges separate from their own personal salary. After only two terms, they can retire at FULL salary and keep their medical benefits for life! If a congressman was elected in 1998 at the age of 58, retired at age 62, and lived to 70, he would draw $1,226,400 during those eight retirement years. This is not counting cost of living increases that might be included during the period. Try and equate this to a common working man who, if lucky goes to college, begins work at 21, earns enough wages to pay maximum Social Security, retires at 62 after putting in 41 years of tax paying service and lives to 70. He will collect less than $120,000, out of which he’ll have to pay for his own medical insurance and all of any costs not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Anyone see anything wrong with this? Four working years as legislator gets $150,000+ a year for retirement and forty-one years working as a taxpayer gets you less than $15,000 a year? That’s only ten times as much return for one tenth the work years. Do you think your representative can really relate to your problems?
The following is how Congressional pay has changed since 1985. I think most can remember and equate to the years. How much raise did you get each of these years?
Year Speaker / Leaders
1985 $75,100 / $85,000
1987 $77,400 / $87,600
1987 $89,500 / $99,500
1990 $98,400 / $109,500
1991 $101,900 / $113,400
1991 $125,100 / $138,900
1992 $129,500 / $143,800
1993 $133,600 / $148,400
1994 $133,600 / $148,400
1995 $133,600 / $148,400
1996 $133,600 / $148,400
1997 $133,600 / $148,400
1998 $136,673 / $151,813
2000 $141,300 / $156,900 (Speaker $181,400)
Government abuses are not limited to Capitol Hill Legislators either. Just within the past year or so the FBI charged one of “their own” with spying. He was 57 years old and probably had about 35 years service. During that time they estimated he traded government secrets for approximately $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. Under the terms of his plea agreement, his family keeps their mansion in Virginia, three vehicles, and his wife will still collect 55% of the pension he would have received, or the equivalent of $38,000 to $39,000 annually. I don’t have a problem with her getting 55% of his pension because she was his wife for all the years of service. However, letting her keep the house he purchased with spy money seems a bit too much. Also consider that had he not done that dastardly act and just retired at age 57 (not 62 like tax payers), his full pension would have been approximately $70,000 a year for the rest of his life? I know working local police officers who have families and are out there risking their lives every day, that don’t make in three years what the FBI agent would have made in just his first retired year! What’s wrong with this picture? Be reminded again that the average retired tax payer would take almost five years to get that same amount from Social Security.
Someone once came up with a philosophy that was based on the concept “from each according to ability, to each according to need”. That sounds like a wonderful concept and it seems to be what we are striving for in our own government and society. The only scary thing about that concept is that the father or that concept was Karl Marx. More scary would be learning that a very large percentage of our population may not even know that name. We’ve actually carried this concept a step further in that those that work for the government seem to get a lot more than the common working tax payer.
Consider some numbers. These are simplified for the purpose of making an example and of course are subject to variation, but I think you’ll get the point. Let’s say a college graduate starts working at age 22, earns an average of $50,000 a year for every working year until age 62 (40 years) when he can finally start getting his social security back from big brother. Keep in mind that although he has been paying 7.5% of his income into his social security account, his employer was matching it with an additional 7.5%, for a total of 15%, or $300,000. Now let’s use a social security payment of $2,000 a month, which is quite a bit higher than the maximum draw. That equals $24,000 a year. That person will have to live to 75 before he will even get back what he put in …. and that’s not counting the fact that the government has been using his money for 40 years! Maybe the reason the government actually pays only about half that amount to social security recipients is because they are paying all the government retirees higher pensions after only 20-30 years service. Be reminded that the FBI agent I mentioned earlier would have received an annual retirement pension $20,000 MORE than the $50,000 annual earning figures for the WORKING tax paying college graduate just used in this example. If any of this makes you mad then you need to start telling your legislators about your feelings. Tell others to speak up too. Stop sitting around watching this continue to get further and further out of balance, while thinking you can’t change it. Change has to start with US!
I was fortunate enough to be present when President George Bush addressed a gathering of business people. How refreshing to hear him remind everyone that the government’s money is not the government’s money, but the PEOPLE’S money! I go ballistic when I hear the Democrats start talking about all the money they want to pour into various projects as if they actually make the money. They just seem to forget that they TAKE it from us. I also hate to hear them talk about the rich as if it were a curse and blight on our society. Do they think the rich just sit on their piles of money? Of course not, it all goes back into the economy by purchasing services, products, properties, companies, etc. etc. They spend it just like us average people, but they just spend more of it. Since the median income in this country is far less than $100,000 annually, does it not occur to these Democratic Congressmen that they themselves are considered by the majority to already be among the rich? If they were not rich when sent into office, I can assure you, they all leave that office with a net worth far above that of the “average” or if you will, “common” American.
The President went on to say something about our needing to use our “common sense”. Unfortunately, there appears to be no common sense among our elitist lawmakers. The only thing common about them is that many share some “un -common” traits most of us would find objectionable. Out of the 2001 legislative body, it was reported that:
29 had been accused of spousal abuse
7 had been arrested for fraud
19 had been accused of writing bad checks
117 had directly or indirectly bankrupted at least two businesses
3 had done time for assault
71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
8 had been arrested for shoplifting
21 were defendants in lawsuits
84 had been arrested for drunk driving within the last two years
These people are among the 535 members of the United States Congress. The same group of idiots that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.
If the above statistics are true, why do we keep putting these people back in office to “represent” us? What does it take to put a common sense, working class church going, Boy Scout Troupe leading, Little League coaching average American into office? I’d love to see some local home-owning guy, with a wife and two kids, who works in the hardware department of Home Depot, is involved in his local church and is maybe a volunteer in the Boy Scouts or Little League, go to Washington to represent me for two to four years, than what we have up there now.
There ought to be term limits so that it can never become a permanent job. When politicians on ANY level begin to make their representation into a life long career, the entire concept of “representation” diminishes proportionally by the years served. The longer they stay in office the stronger their commitment is to “staying in office”, becoming one with “big brother” and getting support from the special interest groups than it is to the people who they are elected to represent. When I see a Senator who has been in Washington for 48 years, I can not help but question if he still has even the smallest relationship with any of the “common” people back home. There also ought to be accountability for behavior unbecoming a legislator. (The military very quickly and often severely disciplines officers for misconduct.) There ought to be acceptance of NO outside money for ANYTHING while in office. Candidates for election and re-election should be allowed to spend a pre-determined amount of money, provided by the government and equal for all challengers, for the purpose of election advertising. When that amount is spent, that would be the limit! Common sense says simply, we need to REMOVE the influence that MONEY has in the passing of legislation and the election of legislators. Money and lobbyists of the special interest groups are what is presently being represented in Washington, not we the people …. and we ALL know that MONEY CORRUPTS!
A recent prime example of our government’s wasteful bad management and lack of accountability is the Post Office. As fiscal year 2001 began the Postal Service projected a surplus of $150 million. In the four months that followed they revised those projections and began estimating losses between $2 billion and $3 billion! If a corporation had missed their projections by that much, the stock market reaction would be a sell-off that would bring the stock value to something near zero, all the corporate executives would be immediately terminated and if the company survived at all, it would be under new management and probably ownership. We apparently have executives in the U.S. Postal Service that can’t seem to budget and project with anything less than a 10,000% error! Yet these people will keep their jobs, their health benefits, their retirement pensions, and large salaries while asking you and me to pay for their ineptness through increased postal rates. While they reported a loss for 2000, these “executives” actually got a bonus for their performance. To add salt to that wound, they asked Congress to approve another bonus for 2001, that could be as high as 25 % of their annual salary!
Postal patrons flying into Dallas Ft. Worth airport, who happen to get the runway approach that comes in over a major postal facility, can enjoy the football size sign on the roof of the building declaring “U.S Postal Service” with Eagle logo and all in color. I’m sure that sign was not generated for free, yet you tell me what service it provides and was it necessary? Does it make anyone want to sit right down and write someone a letter?
Did anyone notice that the Post Office, in the same afore mentioned time period went out and purchased expensive new signs to be erected at all their locations? Judging from having seen what a few commercially made signs cost in the past I conservatively estimate that the one at our downtown location probably cost at least $10,000. Probably a lot more, but for discussion purposes we’ll use that figure. That equates to 30,000 pieces of mail revenue spent just so I can be reminded which building is still my post office! This one post office has been in that same location for the past 50 years. Did they think that none of us know where it’s located and that it IS the post office? In fact, where I live there are at least eight or more Post Offices, employing more than 300 people, located within our single county alone, to serve approximately 150,000 people. That’s one post office for every 19,000 people and better than one postal employee per 500 people. I’m not sure how that equates out on an efficiency scale. The problem being that these people do not need to be responsible or cost effective in anything they do, because they have a monopoly and can simply continue raising rates to cover their incompetence and waste. Some day when everything gets transferred electronically for almost nothing, they’ll be the same people crying about their lost jobs, low wages for there being only one delivery a week, and demanding money from some other government coffer to offset their losses. My local post office has inside at the counter area, electronic signs and even a TV! I’m not sure if the TV is for the postal employees, or the patrons waiting in line because there is only one clerk for three to four closed windows. I also learned the other day they even “paid” for mystery shoppers, who would report back on how they are doing in customer service …. as if I can go somewhere else to purchase stamps or mail a letter.
In mid 2001, the Post Master General announced he had just finished working some deal with Federal Express that he said would save the USPS millions! Yet it’s so secret that only one U.S. Congressman had been granted authority to view all the details. The Postmaster has said, “Trust me, this will save millions”. I wonder if he was also one of the people who did those budget projections!
In June of 2001 Phoenix postal officials concealed the theft of $3.7 MILLION, until they got an arrest warrant issued for an employee who apparently vanished with the money. I’m afraid to even speculate on what they are doing with $3.5 laying around for the taking, but I can wonder who in that facility will qualify for the management bonus money.
If you really want to get frustrated, try and find out the salaries for postal workers, especially the “management” people. I’ve looked all over the Internet and even found a site where someone else was asking if anyone knew where this information might be available. I easily found military pay schedules, other government civil servant pay schedules, but nothing for Postal workers? It appears to be a very well kept secret, which leads me to believe that it’s most likely an outrageous amount
However, while searching the Internet for postal salaries, I was able to find a few postal job listings that might indicate why they are losing so much money. I’m sure their payroll is staggering overall, but this one job really caught my eye. The job title was “Diversity Development Specialist”. It was listed as an 8-5 job open to all Postal employees with a year’s service. It was not open to anyone outside the postal service which would indicate to me that they probably have a lot of these internal roads up the job title ladder that keep everyone’s nest adequately feathered. The job description was: “Implements, administers, and monitors district wide diversity development policies and action plans: ensures compliance with diversity development goals and objectives.” The annual pay for this very important position, having obvious direct impact on getting our mail delivered, was $43,673 to $61,337. That’s an average annual COST to all of us Postal patrons of $52,500 before health and retirement benefits! Considering this critical position was for Little Rock, Arkansas, a city of approximately 175,000; and considering the fact there are about 100 cities of that size in the U.S., a common sense person can conservatively deduce there are about 100 of these specialists within the postal system. Well, there goes 5.2 Million right there! Keep in mind that this was a “district” position and if the truth be know, there are probably quite a few more “districts” in the U.S. than just 100. I can not help but wonder how many other non-delivery related “fat” positions exist that could be totally eliminated, with no resultant effect on the agency’s prime directive. That being to get the mail delivered. Do we really need so many “specialists”? What do all the other “managers” do? Are there a “specialists” for the coordination of managers and the many meetings they probably have on a regular basis? Is there a specialist coordinator of employee benefits? How about a coffee break and snack “specialist” …or bathroom hand washing police specialist …etc. Only the government can justify the need and expense for such “specialist”. Government does no have to be efficient, cost effective, or even polite. Unlike the citizens and industry, they can increase their revenues simply by raising our taxes. …. Or in this case, Postal fees.
One of my MANY governmental pet peeves is the way the highway patrol in most states is run. Seems the only law they are prone to enforce is speeding, drunk driving and seat belts. I’m strongly in support of getting the impaired drivers off the roads, but that should include ALL impaired drivers. I’m talking now about those who have been given a license to drive who lack the basic skills, knowledge, and abilities to be on the road at all. Understand the same department that supports the highway patrol, is usually the same department that gives people a license. Now days, if you can pass a very simple written test and go around the block without running someone down or colliding with anything else, they give you license! What happened to those days when you had to parallel park with only one re-try if you missed your approach, and when you got parked the examiner would reach out with a stick and make sure you were within so many inches of the curb?
What happened to backing up between two cones and stopping within so many inches of a cone at the end of that maneuver without hitting it? Or backing through a curve? All of these little tests are “skill” tests to see if the person has actually mastered control of the vehicle. I recall the driving test manual used to state that the examiner would not try to “trick” the applicant. If the driving test included the examiner telling someone to turn left at the next intersection into a one-way street the wrong way, what’s wrong with that? The driver should be able to make a decision to NOT do something wrong by seeing the “one-way” signs and simply tell the examiner that he can’t do it. If a “turn left up here” instruction from an examiner required lane changes and the traffic situation did not allow for a safe lane change on short notice, then the response should be, “we’ll have to go around the block because I can’t get over there from here”. When a driver comes onto on-ramps they need to know to speed up if necessary to match the traffic flow in order to merge…Not STOP on the ramp, like I’ve seen many do, waiting for a break so they can slowly pull into the traffic. Then of course there are those left-lane drivers that infuriate us all! In the past 20-30 years, as we have put more and more cars and drivers on the road, we have actually LOWERED the standards required to drive a car! Yet the very agencies that give licenses can only find justification to put their efforts into enforcing seat belt and speeding laws?
According to 2001 Reader’s Digest investigation, using statistics from the 41,611 traffic deaths in 1999, “drunk drivers are not the No.1 killers on the road. Un-safe or inexperienced drivers are.” Sixteen percent of the drivers in their analysis were killed at stop signs. I wish they had furthered their study to see how many were at four-way stops! Seems in recent years the traffic and safety departments use more and more four-way stops sometimes just to “slow” traffic in neighborhoods. The problem being that the first car to the intersection that stops and then proceeds, does so with the false security that any other car approaching the same intersection is going to stop. Often times these four-way stop intersections are placed at places were no one coming down the road expects to be faced with having to stop. Speeding is often a contributing factor in accidents, but seldom the actual cause. Yet that’s the law most often enforced by law enforcement. The highway Patrol also spends an inordinate amount of time enforcing speeding laws on interstate highways regardless of the fact that statistics prove that most fatal accidents occur on local two-lane roads. Naturally more people will be speeding on the interstate, so their ticket quotas will be easier to get. Three people were killed near my home town recently on a straight section of two-lane road when a teen-age driver over corrected after her car dropped off the road shoulder, crossed the center line and struck another car head-on. Would this have happened had this young driver ever been shown how to properly handle the situation of dropping on to the shoulder? My wife presented this situation and the need for more driver experience recently to a Highway Patrol supervisor who simply said “we leave the teaching process to parents and others”. If his agency made getting a driver’s license a more difficult process wherein a higher level of skill and knowledge had to be shown, they’d save a lot more lives than they do by writing speeding tickets. There was a time when road rage was non existent. Would the fact it is now a commonly understood term be because we’re allowing more incompetent idiots on the road that in years past? Driving is a privilege that should be earned. It is not a right! Pilots don’t get a license to get in an airplane and fly until they can prove that have developed certain skills, knowledge and abilities. The same should be for driving!