Do yourself the favor of reading this insightful article by John Aloyisius Farrell, who examines the polarized, dysfunctional U.S. Congress -- an institution at odds with its constitutional heritage and with the nation it is said to represent.
There are few blowhards out there who blow harder than I do. But the Boston Globe's Alex Beam is one of those few. Generally, my thought about Beam and his column is: what an asshole. Today, however, I agree with him completely.
In his column today, Beam rails against the raiding of the public treasury to fund congressional "study centers," which are essentially shrines to dead legislators. The case in point is the new "Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate," which will suck up $60 million of taxpayers' money to set up shop on the campus of U-MASS Boston in homage to Teddy Kennedy. Good lord. What a ridiculous waste of money.
News of this chicanery came out a while ago. But Beam is one of the few people with courage enough to step forward and label this properly: this is pure bullshit. This is pure idiocy. This is a rape of the body politic.
This is enough to make William Proxmire spin in his grave. (Proxmire, a longtime Senator from Wisconsin, railed against wasteful expenditures of public funds; he inaugurated the "Golden Fleece Awards" to call attention to the worst such abuses.) If he were alive now, Proxmire would be standing up on the Senate floor, giving a Golden Fleece Award to the morons who sponsored this Kennedy Institute.
Please, let us STOP the idiocy that leads people to lionize dead legislators, most of whom (Teddy Kennedy included) are egotistical, self-serving assholes. I for one, do not want my tax dollars going to build shrines to their memory. Many of them are incompetents; most of them are jerks. Presidential libraries are bad enough; shrines to legislators are inexcusable.
In Kennedy's case, we should let the Cape Wind turbines, which Kennedy opposed, be the shrine to his legislative career. His opposition to that project was one of the last of his public stances; it was also one of his worst. Perhaps, instead of an Edward Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, we should erect an exhibition of some dead birds and other wildlife killed by the Gulf oil spill? Just a thought.
I went with Sue this past week to Portugal, where a group of American legislators (several U.S. Senators and about ten Representatives) gathered to learn from experts about energy and climate change. The meetings were sponsored by big American foundations.
I was fortunate to be able to sit in on the sessions, along with a handful of other spouses and observers. One of the participants asked me how the week's meetings had affected my view of Congress. I replied that I was embarrassed to admit that what struck me was how smart these members of Congress are, which has not been my sense in the past from what I read and see about Congress in the media.
The institution of Congress may be badly flawed, especially on the Senate side. And I suspect that, despite my pleasant surprise in Lisbon, it is true that dolts are in the majority on Capitol Hill. But this small cross-section of individual members showed that there are at least a few of them on Capitol Hill who have some serious brain power.
An article in the NY Times points out with stark evidence what everyone already knows — our politicians are bought and paid for by large corporations and their lobbyists. More than a dozen lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — gave speeches that were written (sometimes wholly) by lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotech companies and a subsidiary of Swiss drug giant Roche. Genentech even went as far as to provide customized talking points for each party, and 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats obediently repeated them into the Congressional Record.
But that’s not what’s ironic. I’m sure these politicians feel that if they don’t take money from large corporations and do their bidding, then their opponents will. And the same thing is true of the corporations. Corporations are loathe to spend money if they don’t have to, so I’m sure that they feel like they have to funnel money into the campaign chests of politicians and lobbyists, because if they don’t their competitors will.
It is the end result that is truly ironic. By being “pro-business” for narrow corporate interests, the government actually makes the economy worse, hurting business. And by accepting money from corporations, politicians who desire to govern this country squander their ability to do so.
It is a death spiral we have gotten ourselves into. Will we be able to get out of it before it is too late? Don’t look to the mainstream media to help — they too are bought and paid for by large corporations who care only about the bottom line, which ironically is also killing them.
As I noted below (spurred on by the NYT article to which he refers), I despise the lobbyists and the legislators.
I don't like Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe's most conservative columnist. Most of the time, his column is filled with contemptible drivel. Cant. Tripe. But on Saturday he had a column that made sense. He wrote that Senator Ted Kennedy should resign his seat in the Senate. I agree.
For all of his expressed concern that Massachusetts should have full representation in the U.S. Senate, Kennedy is not there, doing the job. He is in Massachusetts, trying to fight the brain cancer that is stealing away his life. And that's what he should be doing. But he shouldn't pretend -- nobody should -- that he is representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Washington. He's not.
It's typical of the Congress that its members exempt themselves from the kinds of requirements they impose on the occupants of upper-level positions in the executive branch. No president or cabinet officer who is in as bad shape as Teddy Kennedy or Robert Byrd would be permitted to continue in the job. Kennedy and Byrd should step aside. They're no longer fit for the job.