THE PROBLEM WITH CONGRESS

Too many people believe we will get better government by making sure no one in congress gets to stay there for a long time. I don’t know why inexperience would mean better government. In what other field do we prefer raw recruits to veterans? Would you want an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?

Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded The Constitution) showed them that good people are not interested in temp jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Those elected to office walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place. There was no future in it.

congress in session

When the Constitution was written, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest into government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs or part-timers. Learning the business of governing takes years.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. It failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history

Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs, much less support families. That’s why term limits were rejected by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Their aim was to encourage professionals to enter government service.

Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It morphs into a hard temp job without a future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid

They are paid more than you and me, but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. “What?” you cry, “How can that be?”

Most members of congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of congress have other income streams.

Our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right.

Skill and experience matter

Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by courts and other members of congress takes a long time. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of experienced lawmakers who understand how the system works, know how to compromise. Can work with an opposition party. It’s every pol for him/herself these days … and that means no one is there for us. You know. The people.

Experienced old-timers got old. They retired. Or died. And were replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and work miracles. Newly elected members of congress hope to build a career in politics. With luck, some will become great legislators, another Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or another of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi (many) term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate any chance of finding great legislators

Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.

If you don’t elect them, they won’t be there

We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. Among the biggest concerns Democrats had about Barack Obama in 2008 was he didn’t have enough experience, hadn’t been in the senate long enough. With term limits, no one would ever have enough experience. Where would we get candidates to run for President? Look at some of the bozos who are trying to run right now. Not exactly the best and the brightest.

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates.

The President doesn’t run the country

Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault

The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one wants.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means . Term limits won’t fix the problem. Because that’s not what’s broken.


POSTSCRIPT: FROM GARRY ARMSTRONG. WHO WAS THERE AND KNOWS HOW IT WORKS. really.

I read all the comments before jumping into the fray.

First, this is a cogent and thoughtful post. That’s the old reporter not your husband speaking. Second, as the old reporter, I’ve had first hand, up close and often personal time with members of Congress and folks who’ve occupied the White House.

Former “Speakers” John McCormack and Tip O’Neil shared stories about the business of working both sides of the house to get things done. Party affiliation was put aside as veteran “pols”, guys who knew each other, brokered deals to get bills passed that helped their constituents. Younger pols, clearly just looking to make their bona fides and move on, were muzzled. These were the “term limit” people so many seem to want today.

Senators Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, and others often talked about the lengthy but focused verbal card games played to avoid grid lock and, again, get the job done.

Garry and Marilyn at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s VineyardI’ve had the good fortune to spend time with Presidents from JFK through Bill Clinton. The brokering stories were repeated, regardless of party affiliation. Even Richard Nixon, in rare and calm moments, shared his beliefs about how to get the job done, using experience, collected favors and insight on what was important with the clock ticking.

I think my favorite pol was LBJ. I spent some very interesting personal time with Johnson, including a stint in Vietnam where he shared “off the record” insight into the job of running the country and assuming responsibility even if it would eventually cost him his job. (And it did cost him his job.)

So, you’ll have to forgive me if I have little patience with folks who spout opinion with little knowledge of how government and politics work.

Yes, we truly could use some people who really understand public service, have the desire to devote themselves to the demands and collateral damage of the job and want to help their constituents.

Enough of the sound and fury signifying nothing. Back to sports.

MEDICARE TO SENIORS: WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE?

If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’re getting.

Out-of-pocket costs of Medicare have been going up annually, with ever-higher deductibles and premiums and a massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage that like the energizer bunny just keeps going and going and going. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. Out-of-pockets costs are terrifying. Now, they’ve added a new twist. Something special to make us feel the love.

Coffin

I had my semi-annual physical a few weeks ago. These are supposed to be no-cost, no deductible preventative visits. Included in the visit were some standard blood tests and vaccinations. Three of the vaccinations were boosters to the vaccinations we got as children: polio, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping-cough (which is making a come-back). One was against shingles, which apparently is an issue for anyone over 60 who had chicken pox.

When I got my statement from Medicare, I expected to find maybe $20 due for the lab. Instead, there was an outstanding balance of $464, all for vaccinations. More than $300 of those dollars was for the shingles vaccine. No way can I come up with this amount of money on our fixed income.

Medicare had covered none of it. It said my “other insurance” (what other insurance? I’m on a Medicare PPO Advantage plan) didn’t pay anything either.

medicare confusion

When my husband’s Medicare statement for his physical arrived, there was another $265 for vaccinations, all boosters. I compared the statements. Garry is not on an advantage plan. He’s on straight Medicare with a “Medigap” policy that never seems to pay anything no matter what the claim.

That was when I realized how they’d done it. Vaccinations are no longer a medical expense. They are prescription medication.

Medicare reclassified vaccinations as prescription medication so they now fall under Medicare Part D. None of the prescription plans ever have — or ever will — cover vaccinations.

Medicare decided it’s cheaper to let old people get sick (maybe they’ll die and save even more money) than to vaccinate them against disease. Because while millions might avail themselves of preventative measures (we are old, not stupid), many fewer will actually contract the illness. Cost analysis won.

I’m so angry, so upset, I’ve been waking up early in the morning already in a rage. Brooding on the kind of mentality which leaves us — people who worked our whole lives and paid tons of money into this system — vulnerable because our government has misused our funds.

I will not go into the history of this mess, except to say it started under Reagan, and has continued apace. With everyone crying crocodile tears over Medicare — while spending the money earmarked to keep us safe in our senior years.

Meanwhile, I’ve got about $700 of medical bills I have no idea how to pay. They never said they won’t pay for vaccinations. They just reclassified them as “medication,” knowing full well that no plan would pay for it. No Medigap plan covers prescriptions, so you are well and truly screwed.

Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security simply reclassified (sound familiar?) me. I’m just old, not disabled. They switched me to standard Social Security. I get the same monthly money, but without medical protection. They also lowered the poverty guidelines so we no longer qualify for the extra help on prescriptions.

“Why don’t you just die already? Stop using up valuable resources.”

Obviously, we’ve outlived our usefulness. So how come we are not dead yet?

When did the United States become such a mean-spirited country? When did we decide it would be better for us to get sick or die rather than give us proper care? How did we come to this? Who are we?

I get the message. Just die already. If you are not outraged, you must think somehow this will never affect you. Think again.


NOTE: Well said, for all of us — of a certain age. The old man was right!

“Generosity. That was my first mistake.” Obviously, not my last.

Apparently we have outlived our value to the society we served so long and so well. You are welcome.

Garry Armstrong

THAT BORING STUFF YOU IGNORED IN SCHOOL

75-ElectionNK-6

Back on Facebook, the site I love to hate. Someone who ought to know better is saying “Here’s a suggestion: To solve all our problems, we should call a general election and let the people decide what should be done. Let’s go back to running the government by the people! Sounds simple to me!”

And getting the response:  “What’s simple to us is hard for our elected officials!”

Your Vote Counts

It sounds moronic to me, but hey, what do I know? Because it’s not hard for our elected officials. It’s impossible and illegal for our officials — elected and otherwise. There is no such thing as a national general election other than the regularly scheduled ones in November.

Nor have we any mechanism to allow a plebiscite in which everyone gets to vote his or her opinion and The Government has to Abide by That Vote. How would that work, exactly? To which part of our legal system does this election belong? Judicial? Legislative? Executive?

I’m pretty sure — feel free to correct me if I’m wrong — we have to pass laws via the legislature. To change laws, we have to get rid of old laws via the judicial branch and/or enact new laws through Congress.

If you don’t like the bozos in congress, don’t vote for them. What? You didn’t vote? Well then. I guess you got what you deserve.

The executive branch (aka The President) can’t enact laws. He can use his influence to try to get Congress to create laws he likes. He can veto proposed laws although presidents do not use their veto much. It’s a thing. Oh, and congress can overturn a veto if enough members of congress can agree. Like that’s going to happen.

So — after we have this entirely illegal “public opinion election,” who will enforce “the will of the people”? The National Guard maybe? Guns and tanks in the street?

VotedDry

Returning to Facebook, I post a little something. Because I love it when I absolutely, positively know no one is going to pay any attention to me. I say: “You can’t just ‘call an election’ in the U.S. We have scheduled elections. The Constitution specifies how and when elections will be held. You can vote down a government in England and in other parliamentary systems, but you cannot do it here.”

Everyone ignores me. Probably because I’m so smart.

So what can you do about all the stuff you don’t like? Between scheduled elections, you are free to gripe, whine, wail, argue, rant, piss and moan … but you can’t vote until the next scheduled election.

constitution_1_of_4_630

It’s one of several fundamental differences between our form of government and parliamentary governments (most of the rest of the free world). Americans are always saying how superior our government is, yet they don’t seem to know how it works. Hmm.

I love it when folks call for an election to change something they don’t like. As if the United States has ever or could ever “just call an election” and “let the people decide.” Even in a parliamentary government — which is nominally more responsive to public opinion — you can’t just “call an election” anytime citizens are displeased with what’s going on.

Somewhere in every government throughout history a lot of citizens are/were/will be unhappy with whatever the government is or isn’t doing. If you had an election every time a bunch of people were mad at the government, we’d always be in the middle of an election. Wouldn’t that be fun!

You are not required to like what’s going on, but if you want to participate, you need a fundamental grasp of how your government works. The boring stuff you ignored learned in grammar school. Today, you’re all grown up. Your government may be boring, but it’s the only one you’ve got. I know. It’s not fair.

Feel free to ignore me. Everyone does. I should never read anything on Facebook. It just pisses me off.

Obama To Disband the Marine Corps (NOT)

I’m not sure if this is a new rule or it should be a corollary to the Murphy’s Law which states “Anything that sounds too good to be true is probably untrue.”  This law, simply stated, is “If it sounds unbelievable, don’t believe it.”

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

You didn’t know this, did you?

On a flight home I sat in between two individuals,  a Marine and boxing promoter. The boxing guy was an older gentleman, and told interesting stories, such as meeting Don King. Both men were very pleasant and that helped make time pass on the flight. We were all combat veterans and all Southerners, so we had a lot in common. Then the discussion, inevitably, turned to politics.

The older guy turned to the Marine and said “You know Obama is getting rid of the Marine Corps, right?”

Source: www.dailykos.com

 

Explainer: How Democrats and Republicans ‘switched sides’ on civil rights

Or, how the “Party of Lincoln” became the preferred party of racists everywhere.

I just about lost my damn mind this morning after coming across this piece from the National Review about how Barry Goldwater totally wasn’t all that racist or anything.

As a history nerd, this weird thing the Republicans are doing now where they are trying to pretend that they are the true heirs of the civil rights movement is starting to drive me up the wall. Like, f’reals, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King would not freaking be conservative Republicans today. For that matter, neither would Susan B. Anthony. It’s absolutely absurd. It doesn’t even sort of make sense because at all times throughout all history, all civil rights issues are progressive issues regardless of party alignment.

READ THE ORIGINAL: www.deathandtaxesmag.com

FROM SERENDIPITY, A LITTLE BACKGROUND MUSIC:

This is flippant and funny, but it is a not half bad summary of American politics for the past hundred years. Give or take a lie or two. And it adds some much-needed perspective to the lies we hear on the radio, see on television, and read on the Internet.

It’s always a good thing to add a little truth to an ongoing debate, though considering the incivility, name-calling, mud-slinging, and general bad manners and ill intent of participants on both side, but in particular the “right” side … one can only wonder if Truth and Facts actually have any role to play in this ongoing melodrama we call politics.

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

GENEROSITY. MY FIRST MISTAKE.

My husband’s statement from Medicare showed a charge (paid by Medicare) for a doctor neither of us had ever heard of. This wasn’t the first time such a charge had appeared and I was fed up with phantom charges, even if they didn’t personally cost us anything.

I called the number on the Medicare summary to which one was supposed to address issues of fraud. After half an hour on hold, I got a person … who told me I needed to call the “Fraud Hotline.” Following some grousing (I was merely trying to be a good citizen … Medicare was the one getting hit with bogus charges, not us), I called the hotline.

75-WalmartNK-2

More like a cold line. Endless voicemail options. Press this, press that, press the next thing, press another thing … and then …

You got it. Wait on hold for another half hour.

When finally I get through, I provided the information. Then, I pointed out if they are serious about stopping fraud, they might want to make it less of a challenge to report it. She said that’s the way the hotline is, nothing to be done about it and I mentally threw my arms in the air and gave up.

It turns out it was actually Walmart (who we already paid for Garry’s eye exam), billing Medicare for yet another eye exam with the optometrist’s wife — who he had never heard of and never seen. Another $100 on top of the $110 he already paid to Walmart. Nice little scam, eh?

Apparently no one appreciated my attempt at good citizenship and like Calvera in “The Magnificent Seven,” I realized “Generosity, that was my first mistake.”

I spent nearly 2 hours trying to report a fraud … and no one cares. As far as Medicare is concerned, it is more trouble to track down scams than to just pay them off.

And here we sit, wondering where our money goes.

Wonder no more. I know where it goes.

vote today

If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain about the government.

Get off your lazy butt. Go to the polls. Instead of whining about it on Facebook or ranting on your blog, be a citizen. Stand up and be counted. Vote!


We voted. The rest of the world is discussing the pluses and minuses of electronic and online voting, but here in Uxbridge, we have paper ballots. And black ballpoint pens with which to fill them out.

We also have really long referendum items. It took half an hour to just read all that fine print.

Do we want casinos in Massachusetts? And, by the way, how about expanding the greyhound racing so they can abuse even more dogs? (No, we don’t. Casinos do not improve the economy. They just bring in crime and infrastructure expenses.)

Would we like to  have our commonwealth charge us even more for a whole bunch of new things to recycle? Like we don’t pay enough? (No, thank you.)

Would we like the tax on gasoline adjusted based on the cost of living index? (I think so. Probably better than paying and paying and paying forever at the highest possible rate.)

Then there were all those school board people we never heard of. The one or two we knew (one of them is our neighbor) we voted for, the others were left blank. They are all running unopposed and unaffiliated, so asking for our vote is pro forma.

The lines were longer for parts of town where houses are closer together. Yay for living in the middle of nowhere.

The governor’s race should make interesting viewing. It was, last we heard, too close to call. Elections are my favorite contact sport, after clearance sale shopping.

ELECTION DAY – NOVEMBER 4, 2014