Congressmen long ago granted themselves the privilege of mailing items to constituents at taxpayers’ expense, a process called “franking.” Usually such a mailing amounts to a barely disguised plea for reelection, bragging about how much pork the congressman has brought home and listing services he offers to his constituents.
Anyone trying to figure out why Americans don’t trust their elected officials need look no further than an October 17 New York Times article. Entitled “Farmers Facing Loss of Subsidy May Get New One,” the William Neuman-penned piece reports that “in the name of deficit reduction,” Congress, backed by “major farm groups,” is considering eliminating a $5 billion farm subsidy — only to turn around and enact another farm subsidy costing almost as much. “In essence,” observes Neuman, “lawmakers would replace one subsidy with a new one.”
Many observers of the political scene suspected that the creation of the congressional deficit-reduction supercommittee was just a sham to allow legislators to increase the debt ceiling while giving the appearance of being serious about long-term deficit reduction. With each bit of news that trickles out of Congress, such suspicions are being borne out.
Taking a notably different tack from fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “fiercely attacked President Barack Obama’s new jobs plan Tuesday,” according to Politico. While House Republicans have taken what Rutgers University political science professor Ross Baker, in an interview with Congressional Quarterly, called a “tactically polite” approach to Obama’s $447 billion bill, McConnell came out swinging against it.
One of the terms of the recent debt ceiling deal between Congress and the White House was that Congress would vote on, but not necessarily pass, a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The deal did not, however, specify the language in the amendment, giving legislators plenty of opportunities to sneak in loopholes that might very well render any amendment that does pass meaningless.
Almost everyone is aware that the federal government pays farmers not to grow certain crops. But not many know that taxpayers are also being forced to pay airlines to fly empty planes. It’s true. According to the Associated Press, the $200 million federal Essential Air Service (EAS) program subsidizes airline service to less populous areas of the country; and because it does so on a per-flight — not per-passenger — basis, airlines sometimes fly empty planes back and forth just to keep the free funds flowing.
In voting to hike the federal debt limit, Republicans in Congress have violated more than one of their campaign promises. One of the vows they broke was articulated in the House Republicans’ 2010 “Pledge to America” under the heading “Our Plan to Restore Trust”: “We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives.”
President Barack Obama could not ask for a more helpful “opposition” party in charge of the House of Representatives. For the second time this month House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has maneuvered to prevent Congress from demanding that Obama abide by the Constitution’s requirement that wars be initiated by the legislative branch, not the executive. Furthermore, in seeking a middle ground between the patently irreconcilable options of enforcing the Constitution and adhering to the bipartisan consensus in favor of untrammeled presidential intervention abroad, Boehner has ensured that Obama’s illegal war in Libya continues indefinitely.
The House of Representatives is upping the ante with regard to President Barack Obama’s ongoing, illegal war in Libya. On Monday that body passed an amendment that prohibits the use of certain funds for the Libyan excursion. The amendment, introduced by California Democrat Brad Sherman, states simply: “None of the funds made available by this act may be used in contravention of the War Powers Act.”