Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now Taking Applications

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

In case you haven't seen this classic, here is a synopsis:

Smith is an innocent, wide-eyed idealist who quotes Jefferson and Lincoln and idolizes Paine, who had known his crusading editor father. In Washington, after a humiliating introduction to the press corps, Smith threatens to resign, but Paine encourages him to stay and work on a bill for a national boy's camp. With the help of his cynical secretary Clarissa Sanders (Jean Arthur), Smith prepares to introduce his boy's camp bill to the Senate. But when he proposes to build the camp on the Willets Creek site, Taylor and Paine force him to drop the measure. Smith discovers Taylor and Paine want the Willets Creek site for graft and he attempts to expose them, but Paine deflects Smith's charges by accusing Smith of stealing money from the boy rangers. Defeated, Smith is ready to depart Washington, but Saunders, whose patriotic zeal has been renewed by Smith, exhorts him to stay and fight. Smith returns to the Senate chamber and, while Taylor musters the media forces in his state to destroy him, Smith engages in a climactic filibuster to speak his piece: "I've got a few things I want to say to this body. I tried to say them once before and I got stopped colder than a mackerel. Well, I'd like to get them said this time, sir. And as a matter of fact, I'm not gonna leave this body until I do get them said." ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide

In both the movies, and in real life, Jimmy Stewart personified my idea of an American hero. In case you didn't know, he was the first movie star to enter the service for World War II, joining a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was initially refused entry into the Air Force because he weighed 5 pounds less than the required 148 pounds, but he talked the recruitment officer into ignoring the test. He eventually became a Colonel, and earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre and 7 battle stars. In 1959, he served in the Air Force Reserve, before retiring as a brigadier general.

His movie credits include my all-time favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'm probably one of the very few people who could tell you the last name of Clarence-the angel sent to earn his wings by showing George the right path in life. The subject of this post is another of his movies, all of them classics, Mr. Smith goes to Washington.

In this movie, Smith is appointed to finish the term of the Senator Samuel Foley by Gov. Hubert "Happy" Hopper. He is chosen because of his reputation as an honorable man, but also Gov. Hopper wrongly interpreted his personality included a large dose of naivety. Smith did find Washington to be a bit overwhelming at first, and was amazed at the inner workings of the legislature. This movie opened in October of 1939 - imagine what a Mr. Washington would find today - almost 70 years later!

Somewhere along the way, we have lost our way with regard to our "citizen legislators". I suspect the major change came with the other intrusions that came with FDR. This was a time of major governmental expansion and encroachment upon the liberties enshrined in our founding documents. A time when Democrats would solidify their relationship with Big Government for decades to come. Looking back with the perspective of historical 20/20 vision, our response to the New Deal should have been "No Deal, Howie!!" (Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel - they're never funny if you have to explain them!)

What has Congress done for (to) us within the past year?

  • Remember TARP? That was the bill rushed thru the legislature to rescue those that "were too big to fail.
  • Fannie and Freddie - To insure that everyone has a home mortgage (without any consideration of their ability to repay) legislation was passed that created the "sub-prime" fiasco. Just another example of the governments’ intrusion into the banking process.
  • Because of union pressure, Congress bowed to the automakers and rescued (twice) GM and Chrysler by injecting dollars (borrowed dollars) and becoming the largest shareholder. We've also created "special" rules to allow these two companies an accelerated path thru bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Stimulus package - Got to stimulate the economy now - remember that crisis? $284.9 billion has been spent as of 6/26/09 according to the official government tracking site, http://www.recovery.gov/. A couple of comments on this issue-
  1. While the amount spent is a LARGE amount of money, it’s nowhere near the trillions that were authorized. The dirty secret is that the majority of the spending is targeted for future years – no doubt to assist with political campaigns by promoting home-town pork where needed.
  2. Why would anyone in their right mind ever think that spending is what would is needed to revive an economy? Do that with your own personal depressed economy and let me know how it works out!
  • Cap and Trade legislation – not the first bill passed that wasn’t read, but now the poster child for Congressional dereliction of duty. This was a total abrogation of Constitutional responsibility – both in the betrayal to the country by not reading the bill and allowing the passage of this destructive legislation – over 2 reams of paper filled with more favors to lobbyists.
With all of the above, and framed by the latest unemployment numbers that are the 2nd highest ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, did you realize that Congress voted themselves a pay raise at the end of last year? Between 1798 and 1901 the average number of terms served by House members was 2.18 compared to 4.86 terms for House members serving between 1901 and 2002, and since 1947 the average number of terms for a House member has increased to 5.84 terms. (from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/6/7/8/4/p67846_index.html ). The Senate is not immune to this malady, as they too have their share of "tenured" legislators. Robert Byrd holds the distinction of having cast the largest number of votes, 18,517, being first elected in 1959 and serving continuously since. I don't think this is what the founders intended.

What did they intend?

The founding revolution of this Republic was in response to the oppressive oligarchy of England. They opposed elitism, and considered themselves common citizens of the colonies, bound together by duty of service - service to fellow man and to God.

This Independence Day, I have been thinking a lot about the courage shown by these men. I have wondered how our leaders and the common citizenry would respond to the same challenges these men faced. I have come to the conclusion that the absence of leadership suggests that we are not prepared today to face such trials. Washington now marches to a different drumbeat than Main Street USA. We need to clean house (and Senate!).

There will be 36 US Senate Seats contested in the 2010 election. 18 are currently held by Republicans, and 18 are held by Democrats. 5 Republicans are retiring and not seeking re-election, as is 1 Democrat. Regardless of the label worn by these incumbents, We the People have the opportunity in this election to make a difference. We're taking applications now, experienced need not apply!!

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dougb said...

Hey Rick,

What we have now is taxation without representation....while cap and trade and the tarp...the bailouts etc are not labled taxes they truly are as we and especially our children are going to have to pay the bill...don't know about you but I do not feel that I am be represented in these proceedings...it kind of makes you want to give up out of frustration but I really don't think Americans are made that way...least I hope not. I agree it is time to clean house.

Shane Coley said...