Friday, June 17, 2011

Constitutional Amendments

During the past two weeks, I've received E-mails from people advocating changes to the Constitution. Particularly regarding a balanced budget, term limits and making Congress follow the laws that they pass for the rest of us.

Do we really need Constitutional amendments to do these things? If there are no honest, moral and ethical people left in this country, then I guess the answer would have to be yes. But I refuse to believe that everyone in this country is dishonest, immoral and unethical. There may not be many or any that are willing to run for office, but they are out there.

I'll start with Congress following laws that they pass for the country. Our Representatives and Senators are supposed to be....well, for lack of a better description, US. They are our neighbors and friends that we elect to office. This is usually true when they are first elected. Unfortunately, once they are elected, they are now part of the "elite". They set themselves up as being better than those that actually for them.

There is no better or more timely example of of this than Representative Anthony Weiner. He is still Representative Weiner as he hasn't yet resigned, although he did announce yesterday that he is resigning. Weiner had been in office for seven years. During that time he's taken part in a 401k offered to him as well as being eligible for a pension. The 401k, according to reports will get him $32,000 per year. He'll not be eligible, apparently, for another ten years. At age 62, he'll also be eligible for the pension which will get him another $46,000 per year income. After 7 years on the job, he qualifies for the pension, he only has to wait until he hits age 62. I wonder how many Americans are eligible for a pension after 7 years on the job, let alone eligible for $46,000 per year.

Term limits is something that is always put out there. People seem to forget that we already have term limits. It's called the ballot box. In Michigan, we actually have term limits in addition to the ballot box. People were clamoring for it for years and it was finally passed about ten years ago. Now, people are aleady calling for an end to term limits within the state. Term limits is nothing more than forcing people out that the voters don't have the time, energy or intestinal fortitude to vote out of office.

Yes, term limits would remove entrenched people like Nancy Pelosi, John Dingell and a host of others. But, if the people exercised their term limits ability by paying attention to what elected officials do, and the results their actions produce, and then voting them, there would be no need for the Constitution to do for them what they can't seem to take the time or effort to do for themselves.

Term limits would remove the bad officials, but it would also remove the good ones that are worth keeping in office for long periods of time.

The balanced budget is only admitting that our elected officials cannot control their urges to spend money. Not just the money we have, but money we don't have. There are times when it makes sense to run deficits. Times of war is one that stands out. Suppose we have a budget and we cannot spend more than what's budgeted. Do we then tell terrorists after a 9/11 event that they got away with it only because we can't afford to come after them?

Or we're already in a war, or two, or three, or four, and the money runs out. Do we now stop even though the objective hasn't been reached? Suppose we'd run out of money one day before Hussein or bin Laden. Do we then miss out on getting them because we just don't have the money to open the lid to the spider hole Hussein was hiding in? Or to go after bin Laden's compound?

We need politicians that will stand up during peacetime and say, "we're not going to spend this money because we may need it in the future for our soldiers." We need politicians that can control themselves to live within a balanced budget during peacetime so that if we have to go into deficit spending during a time of war, the numbers don't skyrocket so high that we can't dig our way out. That would be a responsible government.

What we currently have and have had for many years is a government full of spenders. They are like kids in a candy store. They have the ability to spend money we don't have and they do spend it. They are irresponsible. Do we really think that there are no responsible people left in this country that can control themselves when it comes to spending money we don't have?

The past two years, we've seen this irresponsibility at its' worst. The Democrat Congress didn't even try to pass a budget. The new Congress, which is split between both parties, can't even agree on a budget this year. The last Congress and the current President have spent more money than all of the previous Presidents combined!

Maybe we need a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget and limit terms and to follow the laws that they write for the rest of us. Maybe we don't have anyone with self control in government any longer. But if we do get a Constitutional amendment, spending won't be cut. Taxes will be raised. The spending problem will become more immediate and the first answer by politicians will be to raise money. Congress does not hold bake sales or raffles. Their first inclination is to raise taxes. Given the requirement of a Constitutional amendment, they will then be under the gun to get a solution by October 1 each year. This will make taxes the only real option which will then cause us to have a poor economy continuously.

Find the honest people, the ethical people and put them in office. One added little benefit of having honest, ethical and moral people in government is we might actually get elected officials that can keep their pants up and their skirts down.

You're welcome to comment.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Public (Lack of) Trust

On Monday, June 6, I had to go and take an exam. It is something to further my career that was required by the State. I arrived and they took me right in. They asked for a picture ID. They then took my picture. I then had to sign in with date, time and signature. I was permitted to go into the testing area where the computers are with a calculator that they provided, two magic markers and two plastic sheets to do my calculations on.

Then it got strange. I was then told to take everything out of my pockets and put it a locker and handed a key. I took my money out and put it in. Then my wallet, car keys and cell phone. As I was about to close the locker up, she then told me that I had to leave my watch in there as well. I raised my eyebrows, I guess because she smiled and said people have watches now that have all sorts of programs on it that could be used to cheat. Then, after all of my pockets were emptied, phone and watch locked up, I started to grab the calculator, pens and "paper" to go in when she said she needed me to turn my pockets inside out. I did so. She then told me to turn around and she had to make sure my back pockets were empty. At that point, I couldn't resist any longer and said "I know this is Lansing, but I'm not a politician". She told me that within a month or so, they were adding another measure of security by getting metal detecting wands that they'd have to start using. I sat down in front of the computer to take my exam and staring me in the face is a camera watching me take the exam.

There was another event that happened that day. Something more significant than my taking some exam that goes on every day across the country. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D) from New York was holding a press conference. A week earlier he had been accused of having contact with various women across the country that turned out to be of a sexual nature through his twitter and facebook accounts. He had been denying it for a week, then during that week claimed that someone had hacked into his accounts and done this activity.

During his press conference on June 6, he broke into tears and admitted that it was indeed him that had been in touch with various women across the country and it was him that sent out explict photo's of himself to these women. Despite many calls for his resignation, he said he would not resign and to this point, it's about the only thing he's told the truth about. He has not resigned yet.

There are so many things that could be said about this. Not long ago, Speaker John Boehner was berated in the press about his crying, but nothing was said about Weiners crying other than that he was in tears. There's the natural comparison between Weiner and other past and present Representatives, such as Mark Foley, who was accused of sexual activity using their status as a Congressman. Just a week earlier a special election was held because Chris Lee (R) also of New York had resigned after it was revealed he'd sent pictures of his bare chest out via these social network sites. Charlie Rangel (D) also of New York justified Weiners actions by saying that "at least he wasn't going after young boys" (Barney Frank comes to mind). But then, Charlie Rangel recently lost his chairmanship and was censured for not paying taxes.

On June 10, it came out that the police in Delaware were interviewing a 17 year old girl who they said was having "conversations" with Weiner as well through the internet. Weiner's office again went into denial saying that he didn't know she was 17 years old. My first thought was, 'why should we believe him", after all, he'd lied for a week saying someone hacked into his accounts and planted the contacts.' On June 11, it was announced that Weiner was checking himself into rehab and that he did indeed know that she was 17, but there was nothing inappropriate in his contact with her.

While these stories were unfolding, the talk shows all had people on to talk about the situation with Representative Weiner. Democrats, who called for resignations from Mark Foley (who resigned quickly), from Chris Lee (who resigned quickly), Senator Jon Ensign (who is still on the job but not seeking re-election, Senator David Vitter (who is still on the job), claimed that Weiners "relationships" online were of a personal nature and a personal failing and did not need to resign. This seemed the old fall back from the Clinton era when they were saying his activities with Monica Lewinsky were a personal relationship and nobody's business. They also claimed that this was on Weiners personal time and not during his working time as Representative and not using government property for this contact. We now know that's not true as well. They also claimed that this is done by many more people in Congress, but they don't name names, and offer no proof. Just state that he's not the only one. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But he was caught! The others, if there are others, haven't been caught...yet.

Apparently, the "public trust" is not a standard any longer. We elect these people to represent us in public office. To work for us. They are afforded some manner of prestige for holding the offices they hold. They are not elected to further their own careers outside of government, and they are not elected to use their positions to chase women, girls, or even boys and men for their own personal self gratification. They are there to further the agenda of the people that they represent in their own districts.

They should be held to a higher standard because they are sent to Washington to represent us. How does a Congressman further his constituents agenda chasing women from all over the country? Using a computer from his office to check his twitter account for messages from women is not representing his district. Checking private messages on his facebook account for pictures of women or to send naked pictures of himself to women, representing his district?

Imagine if you were using your computer at work for this activity. Wouldn't your boss fire you? You know the answer is yes, because there has been discussions in recent years about employers checking E-mail sent from computers at work. So why the different standard for a Congressman?

Weiner is now claiming to be a victim. He's checked himself into rehab for his "lllness" that he needs to get resolved which can only be done through professional help. He's requested a leave of absence from his job while he gets his problem "fixed". So now his actions have cost his constituents representation in Washington.

Trust in everyday life is important. The public trust however, should have, at the very least, the importance of the trust one person has for another, and I believe a higher standard because it affects the people that lent them the power of their voice in our form of government. 

They pass laws for someone like me that takes an exam and do everything they can to be sure that I'm honest in taking an exam for my own career, but they don't hold themselves to any standards when they are there to represent us.

Honesty and trust are very important. Congressman Weiner has abused that trust. He abused his office with what he did. He's apparently lied to his wife and that is personal for him and her to deal with, but he lied to his constituents, and that is not his personal life.

Like Chris Lee, Mark Foley, and many others Anthony Weiner should resign. To remove him from office would take a recall campaign by his district. By the time they gathered the necessary signatures, and scheduled the election it would be spring. There were be another election on that seat the following November, about 8 months later.

The only other way is redistricting. His district could be and likely will be eliminated by the next election due to redistricting. So even the people couldn't elect him back into that office.

Honesty and trust seem to be something we don't demand any longer and that doesn't bode well for getting quality officials in elected office. When the honesty and trust are gone, the respect is no longer there. That probably explains the lack of respect shown for our government and those we put into it better than anything.

You're welcome to comment.