Imagine being a candidate running for Congress and promising voters you won’t bring back any goodies from Washington for them? They won’t be getting any bike paths or solar panel factories, no new federal buildings in their district, or actually any buildings in any district.
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No, your motto would be…nada. “You’re getting squat from me, not a penny back from me.” No road. No bridge. No post office. No park. No path. No way.
Imagine how that candidacy would fare? Probably not well.
Yet all this week on FOX Business, I’ve been asking one simple question. Why? Why does that sound so crazy?
Why wouldn’t a candidate like that succeed? Why wouldn’t such a politician be a breath of fresh air? Why wouldn’t voters welcome someone not trying to buy them off, but make them think?
It’s sad; we live in a country where we seem to define a politician’s success by how much bacon he brings back to his constituents. Why not how much bacon he saves his constituents?
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I guess what’s got me thinking is how harshly the media’s been treating Congress this week – closing the books on what one newspaper called the “least meaningful tenure” of any Congress ever. But you know why that newspaper and so many others are saying that? Because it hasn’t been busy, it hasn’t been doing more things.
Believe me, I’m no fan of Congress not moving on big stuff, but what’s been interesting in these media attacks is this notion Congress should be doing lots more stuff – big or not. What they’re saying is Congress isn’t earning its keep because it’s not keeping to the time-honored tradition of putting more stuff in the books.
That’s why some newspaper columnists say this Congress can stuff it – because it hasn’t legislated more stuff. Talk about a mixed-up metric! How would you like that to be your performance measure – not what you’re really getting done, but how busy you look doing it?
How is it the media is all over this latest Congress for being, as USA Today noted, “the least productive in recent memory”? Exactly how is it defining “productive”? Again, apparently by the new laws it’s passed, or new programs it’s initiated or new regulations it’s approved.
And on all these counts, this Congress doesn’t count for much – and the Republicans who lead in the House apparently count for even less. They are the party of “no” in the eyes of a screaming media that seems to be saying they should just be saying yes to more laws, more initiatives, more regulations and to more spending. Tell me the last time you can remember reading an article about how stubborn the president’s been on a spending measure? Chances are, more likely you’ve read about how stubborn Republicans have been opposing his measures. It’s kind of a rule of thumb—Republicans are always intransigent resisting more government – rarely Democrats pushing for more government. Those who want to DO more – spend. Those who DON’T want to do more – don’t spend.
That’s weird. Think about it: judging a government body by how much more government it provides as a body. Imagine if it were the other way around. Imagine if the litmus test wasn’t how many new rules you put on the books, but how many rules you took off those books? Not how much thicker you made the tax code, but how much thinner? Not how much more money you spent, but how much less? Not how many new initiatives you started, but how many old initiatives you simply stopped?
That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of completely do-nothing government – just do-things-that-matter government. That means making sure our veterans get the care they need, and we as a nation, the military protection and support we need. That means focusing then on the things that matter, not the boondoggle nonsense that does not.
But woe to the politicians who dares wander off the spending script, or dare touches entitlement growth and, heaven forbid, says enough is enough. The media suddenly has had enough of him! Say what you will of Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan to curb Medicare spending over the next few decades, you’d almost think he was killing grandma all over again, when he was simply reining in projected annual spending increases from 4% to closer to 3.5%.
That’s what happens to those who try to dial things back – the media pounces on their back. Because it breaks some sort of weird code of politician behavior that defines their accomplishments by the dollar signs attached to those accomplishments. Not how much they take away, but how much they add. No one is heralded for coming under budget, just over budget, so they can guarantee an even bigger budget.
I think we can do better, and I think Americans are realistic enough to know life as we know it cannot be sustained. Either you need to bring a lot more money in to keep all these praised programs going on, or you start examining all that money for them going out.
Voters aren’t stupid, but many politicians really are sinister. Actually, they’re more like drug dealers – trying to hook us in with the cocaine of cash they invariably throw our way. It’s as if they’re saying, “there’s more where this came from.” We’re impressed. We get our fix. And when we later realize we’re only in a deeper fix – another fix, another hit, another blast to get past the pump.
Enough. The time has come for politicians and our media that seems to goad them on to stop the nonsense now. Let’s re-set the metric. Let’s re-define success in Washington. Let’s rethink worth and productivity in Washington and getting something done for the long haul.
Let’s start distinguishing between a government that promises everything and a government that delivers something. Let’s start appreciating accountability and responsibility.
I think we have it in us to challenge the politicians trying to buy us. I think we know the standards that we apply living within our means at home should extend to the politicians representing us in Washington.
We all know if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Maybe it’s time we smell their bacon, and call their bull. Gone are the days we should be impressed by the Congressman who offers us a bridge to nowhere. Because no matter how often he sells it…that damn bridge never goes anywhere.