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The sinking ship of Congress: A crying need for statesmen

Where have all the statesmen gone?

Who in today’s excuse for a Congress commands the respect for service, accomplishment, statesmanship of yesterday’s John Stennis, Herman Talmadge, Lindy Boggs, Dan Inouye, David Bowen, Bob Dole, Ed Jones, Robert Byrd, William Fulbright, Jay Rockefeller, Sonny Montgomery, to name a handful in a long list of earlier-era elected officials who gave meaning to the term public service?

Compare yesterday’s statesmen to today’s governing body that has, for a decade, accomplished little more than rancorous, partisan brinksmanship, and which in a most recent poll had a public approval rating of 10 percent — the lowest ever.

Is this the best we can do? Do these people, a healthy percentage of whom are millionaires and multi-millionaires, actually represent us and our interests, remotely identify with our concerns and problems? Were the current Congress a private company, would we hire any of them? Or spend the $2 billion or more it costs yearly to support them in royal style?


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The latest fiasco, a government shutdown, however brief or long, is just another example of a body that has put power, self-aggrandizement, and in-your-face obstructionism above working for the collective good.

Every last person in agriculture should be foaming at the mouth, mad as hell at the farce that has been Congress’ ongoing wrangle over the farm bill — yammer, yammer, pontificate, posture, bloviate, delay, leaving farmers, the nation’s needy, and vital programs in the lurch.

Everyone who needs, or will at some point need, medical care should be up in arms at the countless hours and millions of dollars our elected representatives have spent in futilely trying to derail the healthcare law — which is just that: law. And it will be so unless, until there is a change of ownership of the Senate/administration that will maybe, perhaps succeed in scuttling it (and won’t that be a holy mess, scrapping a program that has by then enrolled millions of new clients?).

Rather than squandering time and resources in pointless votes to kill it, why not act like the people’s representatives, and sit down together and figure out ways to make it work? That’s what statesmen would do.

No massive new government program is universally embraced. Social Security had a rocky start, but it has been the underpinning for our nation’s aged for decades; it has been — and would still be — a fiscally sound program if Congress hadn’t been looting its trust fund for other purposes. Medicare, at the start, was decried as socialism, but wrinkles were ironed out as it moved along, and it has been a salvation for the nation’s elderly and disabled who could not otherwise have access to healthcare (funneling billions of dollars into the coffers of the private medical establishment in the process).

Yes, there has been fraud and excess in Medicare, as with any government agency (military, EPA, education, etc.), or with private medicine for that matter — who hasn’t received an insurance statement showing charges for tests you know full well weren’t done or for supplies or services that weren’t provided?

But on the whole Medicare has worked well, has helped hold the line on healthcare cost inflation (notwithstanding the billions of dollars unnecessarily given to the pharmaceutical industry when the Bush administration refused to allow competitive bids for the Part D drug plan), and year-in year-out has had a high public approval rating.


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One can only wonder, in fact, why Medicare wasn’t used as the model to expand healthcare to everyone: a proven system already in place which, with some tweaking, could have worked well.

The farm bill and healthcare legislation boondoggles are but two of many examples of the ship of Congress listing drunkenly — and its Looney Tunes crew is doing little to get it aright.


TAGS: Legislative
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