Weir Only Human
Have you noticed how many wealthy people are elected officials in the nation’s capital? I’m talking about those who didn’t have wealth before they ran for office, but somehow end up as millionaires when they’ve been there awhile. Given that the salaries for House and Senate members are less than $200,000 per annum, how do they parlay that into millions? The fact is that Washington DC has created a lifestyle that was once reserved for Wall Street tycoons and Hollywood celebrities. How is it that 7 out of 10 of the wealthiest counties in the nation are in the DC area? How was this wealth created in a geographical area that doesn’t produce a product or create anything the public wants to purchase?
Other boomtowns in our history became prosperous because they offered something to build upon. DC, however, offers nothing but connections to power and patronage. The result is a permanent political class invested in the growth of government as they grow their personal portfolios. It seems evident that an aristocracy has taken over because of greedy officials who parcel out patronage to relatives, friends and business associates. The federal government employs about 250,000 people, and the average pay and other compensation is about $120,000. Keep in mind, in addition to the president and vice-president there are only 435 members of Congress and 100 Senators.
That leaves over 249,000 others being paid handsomely by the taxpayers, most of whom earn considerably less than the people working for them. The Founders of this great nation never intended that our elected leaders would run for office in order to make a career out of it and enrich themselves like potentates along the way. In the spirit of national service in days of yore, people would leave their businesses, come to Washington and use their leadership skills to improve the lives of their fellow Americans. After a few months or years, they would return to their chosen professions, having done their part for their country. Not anymore!
These days, because corruption has become so bold and virtually accepted, the best and the brightest view politics as a road to riches, flocking to the nation’s capital to get their pot of gold. Meanwhile, the public has been lulled into believing that the 2 political parties are actually fighting about differences in ideology, while it seems they’re really fighting for more personal wealth. Though we look at political maps indicating red and blue, i.e., Republican and Democrat, the fact is, the most important color is green. Access to power is the job of lobbyists, and they have enough cash to pave the way to the highest echelons.
Lobbying takes place on K Street in DC, only a stone’s throw from the White House and the Capital. Representing hundreds of successful companies, all of whom need influence in those powerful committee rooms, lobbyists spread the wealth around lavishly in order to buy favors. Forget about love of country; these deals are all about love of money! For example, when we view politicians taking one side or another on a budgetary issue, it’s similar to professional wrestling because the outcome is predetermined, and each side has a role in the performance.
Adding to the corruption is a dollop of nepotism, since many members of Congress (House and Senate) have relatives who are registered lobbyists. Moreover, we often see veteran elected officials trying to hand over their seats to sons or daughters as though it’s an inheritance. All of the foregoing could end if term limits were placed on these powerful legislators. However, since such limitation on their influence means they’d have to return to a real job, those so-called “representatives of the people” are not likely to relinquish those gold-plated thrones. When was the last time you saw a member of Congress file legislation to put term limits on the ballot and let voters decide? The reluctance to do so is, in and of itself, a demonstration of corruption.
It amounts to a cadre of professional politicians who refuse to take the risk that taxpayers, who inadvertently pay for all that venal largess, will go to the polls and end it. Instead, we hear a litany of reasons why term limits aren’t needed. Among them are “voters have a chance to take us out of office at election time, so why should we take that right away from them?” Well, even a cursory examination will reveal that about 95% of incumbents are reelected during each election cycle. That’s because of name-recognition and campaign treasuries that are bursting with cash due to their ability to use their influence while in office to raise all that do-re-me.
Hence, how does a bright new voice have a chance to be heard in those hallowed halls of Congress? If they don’t have some substantial name-recognition and an equal amount of moolah at the starting gate their chances are in the single digits. The result is that we have what amounts to a closed shop. Something is wrong with a structure that allows people to hold seats of power in perpetuity, virtually clogging the pipes to keep out the fresh water that may serve to cleanse the system. In other words, how do we drain the swamp if the swimmers in that murky pot of soup have an iron grip on the lid?
Bob Weir is a veteran of 20 years with the New York Police Dept. (NYPD), ten of which were performed in plainclothes undercover assignments. Bob began a writing career about 16 years ago and had his first book published in 1999. He also became a syndicated columnist under the title “Weir Only Human.”