Imagine people who get paid to perform a job requiring no heavy lifting but only work about half the days of the week and are absent from the workplace many weeks out of the year. Appalling. Sounds like some of those layabout 47 percenters Mitt Romney was caught complaining about. Takers, not Makers.
Now suppose that even on the few days they manage to show up they produce almost none of the work product that is expected from their job description. And when their job performance is assessed, they fall in the lowest quintile. In addition to being unproductive, they are unpleasant to work with. Always feuding with their fellow workers and disrupting the workplace. Completely unacceptable. In most corporations such behavior would be a firing offense. Sounds like featherbedding union members or lazy government bureaucrats.
Now suppose much of the time that is supposed to be devoted to the job is spent moonlighting, scrounging up a lot more money than their annual salary comes to. And the extra remuneration from people not their employer is to do things their employers would oppose if they knew about it. Huge conflict of interest. My God, what are they? Industrial spies? Hackers?
No, members of Congress. And we are the employers who are paying for such rotten performance, bad behavior and actions not in our best interest. Norm Ornstein is the dean of Congress watchers who has become so disillusioned by the spectacle that his most recent book is called “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.” He offers this depressing fact. With 25 weeks left in the year, the House calendar created by the Republican Majority Leader calls for your representative to work for a grand total of 3 1/2 weeks between now and 2015.
How do they achieve this level of sloth? The House is in session each week from Tuesday morning until noon on Thursday for an onerous 2 1/2 day work week. In addition, the House is adjourned for he entire month of August plus frequent so-called constituent weeks. This is when members allegedly come back home to perform services for you and me and to learn what folks in their district want them to achieve.
I’m sure you remember the many times you’ve strolled into your rep’s local office to share your views and have a heart-to-heart talk about the direction of the country and the most pressing issues of the day. Or the enriching give and take each time your member hosts a town meeting, attends the local block party or PTA or Rotary meeting. All those community get togethers are the soul of grassroots democracy.
What’s that, you can’t remember your member ever making himself available to you, answering a phone call, responding to mail with anything but a form letter kiss off? You are not alone. You are a member of the 99 percent. Almost no one is the the kind of constituent who gets serviced.
But if you are a lobbyist for an important (and generous) industry or interest group, the door is always open. If you are an attendee at a $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 per plate dinner, you’re Congressperson is avid to hear your views. Hell, he’s avid to give you a personal massage and pass the special interest legislation of your choice. Spring for really big bucks and you can get your own personal tax loophole. You could probably even get naming rights for the tax dodge if you weren’t trying to keep it quiet to avoid pitchfork toting socialist, anarchist, malcontents from picketing your daughter’s cotillion down at the country club.
This year, being an election year, the rapacious dialing for dollars takes precedence over any legislative business, unless it aids your member’s reelection. So Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has decreed the Republicans will gum up the works and pass nothing unless it has an amendment attached to exempt the Kentucky coal industry from EPA regulation. And Speaker Boehner has thrown red meat to the Tea Party by promising to sue President Obama for trying to make the government work when it is the prerogative of congress to make sure it doesn’t work at all.
So, there will be no fix for the VA, action on immigration, reform of budget or tax systems. Your member is too busy to bother doing his day job, running the government to the country’s benefit. He (with his nine percent approval rating) must devote all his attention to wining reelection in a district gerrymandered to make it virtually impossible for a member of his party to lose.
Which brings us to today’s quiz. Who or what poses the greatest threat to the nation’s future prosperity, productivity and safety?
A) Militant Islam
B) Vladimir Putin
D) Climate Change
I know who gets my vote.