Letters to the Editor

New rules

April 13, 2011


To the editor:

Our elected officials in Washington are responsible for the poor economy. They don’t talk about what they are getting accomplished. They make excuses for things not getting done and blame the other party for their failures. They take no ownership. A committee is delegated to study the issue.

They talk about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid but never talk about cutting their staff or office budget or announce that they will take a pay cut. There is no leadership.

What needs to be done is set some new rules for Congress. Term limits are needed to keep our officials in touch with reality. Members of Congress should not be able to exclude themselves from legislation passed that affects us.

Congressional salaries and pay increases should be set by voters of their represented state. Eliminate the special retirement program for members of Congress and fold it into the Social Security program. They should receive what the average middle-class American gets from Social Security.

And presidential trips need to be reduced. Look up “cost of presidential trips" on the Internet. It will open you eyes. Members of Congress talk about how hard they work. Congress has had three vacations since the first of the year. How many vacations have you had? Success is measured by results, not effort. We should expect more from members of Congress — and pay less. All Congress is successful at is fighting along party lines. That is why we are at where we are today.


Kendall Simmons 6 years, 10 months ago

Good one??? Wouldn't a "good one" require factual information rather than Internet myths???

For example, Congress hasn't had a "special retirement program" since 1984 when they started paying into Social Security just like their constitutents. Plus they also pay into the Federal Employees Retirement Fund (or the Civil Service pension fund if they began before 1984) just like everyone else who works for the feds. So Henderson was off by 26+ years. But I'll bet he found his bogus "special retirement program" information on the Internet.

(As an aside, these are the circumstances under which members of Congress get a pension: Age 50/20 years of service or any age after 25 years of service or 62 or older...as long as they've served 5 years minimum. And, no...they don't ever get their full salary, either.)

And how about Henderson's suggestion we look up 'cost of presidential trips' online? Well, there's a real flaw to that 'advice'...because the actual figures are not released by the White House. So, if you want to find out anything about costs, you'll have to specifically look for GAO reports...and there are very, very few of them on the topic. Plus they will not provide Secret Service costs.

So what you're going to get online are things like the ridiculously exaggerated travel claims that came from a single anonymous Indian source and reported in an Indian newspaper of "$200 million a day" for Obama's trip to India.

(Now, you might ask why I think it's a ridiculously exaggerated claim since the actual figures aren't online? Well, it's because the entire war in Afghanistan costs about $190 million a day. Hmmm.)

And then there's the claim that Congress has had three "vacations" so far this year. Since when is it a "vacation" to have to work from your local office rather than your D.C. office? Or is Henderson saying that he wants our Senators and Congressmen to spend all their time in D.C...and to heck with coming back and actually being accessible to their constituents?

Plus how about his demand that Congress not be able to exempt itself from legislation that effects the rest of us? Exactly what legislation does Henderson think fits this description? Was he, perhaps, fooled by all the bogus junk on the Internet that claims that "Obamacare" doesn't apply to Congress? If he thinks that...he's wrong. Again.

As long as people choose to believe Internet nonsense and long-outdated information like Scott Henderson spouted about Congress, preferring to believe anything, no matter how false or illogical, that supports their already-existing biases, we aren't going to have "better" representation. Of course I have to admit that I'm not sure most of us would recognize "better" representation if it hit us in the face.

mr_right_wing 6 years, 10 months ago

Wow...about the length of a short 'merrill' but it actually makes sense, is coherent and free of endless babble!

Abdu Omar 6 years, 10 months ago

We also have to stop special interest groups from having contact with our Congress. No more lobbyists!

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

How do you propose to eliminate lobbyists? I just can't see how it can be done without infringing upon their Constitutional right of free speech. Maybe there is a way, but I'm not seeing it.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

We could eliminate the money part of the equation, and cozy deals between private and public sector - like representatives getting high paying jobs with private firms when they leave Congress.

Lobbyists can contact politicians the same way the rest of us do.

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

And we can contact the politicians the same way lobbyist do. The only difference is the average person doesn't get involved in shaping politics.

I am playing devil advocate here, so let me ask how is a politician suppose to support his/her family if they can't work? Define high paying? So, a politician who was a corporate exec before becoming a politician couldn't return to work in the private sector? Are we limiting all politicians to just public sector work?

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Why doesn't the average person get to be involved in shaping politics? Because we don't have the clout (usually meaning the money) to influence them.

I've contacted my representatives a number of times on a number of different issues, and have generally felt that my input made no difference whatsoever.

I asked one of them why human services is so heavily scrutinized by the state/federal government while Halliburton, etc. aren't - his response was money.

Since you're playing devil's advocate, I take it you understand and agree with my point.

If we don't do something to counter it, the power and force of money on politics will continue to degrade the quality of it even further.

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

I do understand and agree with your point. The problem is how do we do it?

Now, you may or may not like the tea party, but you have to admit they were effective in making their voice heard so the average person can do it if they band together.

We have to put aside our political differences and work together to find non-partisan solutions like working to prevent Congress from exempting themselves from legislation that applies to you and me.

We the people need to work together to make sure our voice is heard.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

That sounds good to me.

We'll see what effect the tea party actually has over time - my cynical side says they'll either become irrelevant or corrupt.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 10 months ago

Exactly what legislation do you think Congress has exempted itself from???

Personally I'd rather focus on something real. Maybe like not excluding the defense budget from cuts?

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

I agree that the first order of business is enacting a law that Congress shall not enact any law that is applicable to the American people and exempts them.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 10 months ago

There is a legitimate reason Congress does this. As we all know, the legislative branch makes laws while the executive branch enforces them. In this case, Congress exempts itself specifically to shield itself from the enforcement powers of the executive branch. That prevents a conflict between the two branches and helps preserve the separation of powers.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Except if you read fred's above link, you'll find the disturbing list of laws that Congress is exempt from, including anti-discrimination laws.

It really doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

mloburgio 6 years, 10 months ago

Number of Millionaires in Congress: 261 The median wealth of a House member in 2009 stood at $765,010, while the median wealth for a senator in 2009 was nearly $2.38 million.

Members of the House and Senate made investments last year in a number of companies that have a strong presence on Capitol Hill, spending large sums on lobbying efforts and political donations. The most popular company among members of Congress, CRP found, was General Electric, in which 82 current members invested. The second most popular company was Bank of America, which 63 members invested in.

The CRP's report comes as Congress considers what to do about the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. President Obama has long advocated for extending the tax cuts for everyone except individuals making over $200,000 or families making over $250,000 -- the top 2 percent of income earners. Republicans and some moderate Democrats, however, want to extend all of the tax cuts, and the White House has signaled it is willing to compromise to a degree on the matter. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20023147-503544.html

Paul R Getto 6 years, 10 months ago

"Our elected officials in Washington are responsible for the poor economy. " === Yes, but, but, but.......we elected them, didn't we? People who speak brutal truths are unelectable because we the sheeple refuse to listen. We are in deep because both parties pander to their base and won't listen to the 80% or so in the 'middle' who want rational government, paid for by a fair tax system and delivering essential services to the country and to those in need. We can get past this, but the blame game won't get 'er done! Not a bad letter overall, however.

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

You are right. Obama got elected, in part, due to his campaign of promising change and no longer doing business as usual along with "paying everyone's mortgage." Yes, I know he didn't actually promise the last part, but that is the message people heard.

Someone who runs on a platform of individual accountability, fiscal responsibility and tightening the belt will never get elected.....that is until the American voter wakes up.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 10 months ago

Huh? People get elected on platforms of individual accountability, fiscal responsibility and tightening the belt all the time.

The problem is that they only want certain people to be held accountable, responsible and tightly belted...and it never seems to include themselves or the people they appeal to.

There's a big difference between making sacrifices and being sacrificed. Too bad the latter tends to be the preferred option.

Centerville 6 years, 10 months ago

Speaking of lobbyists, this is the season that Capitol Hill if stampeded by city, county, non-profit groups from all over the country. In DC, conveniently during cherry blossom season, to rattle their tin cups in their reps faces. And guess who's paying their tabs?

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 10 months ago

Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.Maybe it's time we asked our elected officials to live like the rest of us do.And to do the job we elected them to do insead of acting like 3-year-olds.

BigAl 6 years, 10 months ago

Excellent post! I have no idea how some members of this new congress and certain news agencies have managed to lay economic blame at the people you named. And they get away with it. Been going on for a few years now.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 10 months ago

Well, Big Al: The rich are broke and the poor and middle class have to make up the difference.

mr_right_wing 6 years, 10 months ago

As others have said over and over...

We have term limits; it's called your vote; many democrats got a demonstration of its power last November.

We do have 'free speech', but if you don't vote I personally think you outta shut your mouth until you're willing to get off your big fat butt and vote yourself.

Stephen Roberts 6 years, 10 months ago

Scott - good point. I am waiting to see some leadership, when is President Obama going to announce he is cutting his pay? When is President Obama going to announce he is cutting back on his family vacations??

As much as people complain about Congress not getting anything done and reducing spending, President Obama has an easier time on reducing spending by not going on vacations or allowing his family to go on vacations.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

Spending by the president is a real issue.

As long as you have that concern all of the time, and not just with specific presidents.

I don't recall - did Bush make an effort to conserve his spending? For some reason, I doubt it.

Carter, I remember, made real efforts to reduce spending, including conserving energy use in the WH, and other things. He was criticized for it.

Stephen Roberts 6 years, 10 months ago

Good points but what is Obama doing???????????? I do not know what Bush's spending years ago going to do cut the deficit now?:??

Jan Rolls 6 years, 10 months ago

Bush took more vacations away from the white house than any president on record and that still stands. Where were all of you Obama haters then? Never heard a peep out of you or when bush killed the surplus. Some comments are about as stupid as saying planned parenthood and NPR crashed the stock market. Man what have you idiots been smoking?

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