Tuesday, April 13, 2010



                                              BY IRV RIKON

Passage of the health-care reform bill heralded a tremendous victory for President Obama, but the Democratic Party did not emerge a winner. Democrats publicly bickered among themselves, conservatives and liberals having conflicting ideas on what the bill should contain, while the two chambers of Congress proffered different versions before a compromise was reached, roughly a year after debate on the measure began. The final bill signed by the President numbered more than 2,700 pages, mainly the result of "pork barrel" insertions introduced by various Congresspersons.

Ask a Congressperson whether he/she had read the entire bill and understood it, you'd probably get one of two answers: "Yes, I did, and I do," or "No, I didn't, but my top aides went through it all." The reply to the first should be, "If you devoted that much time to reading this one bill, then you must have neglected other equally pressing legislation,"

and to the second, "But the electorate didn't vote for your aides. It voted for you. You're the one who should make the final decision based upon your knowledge and understanding."

The Republicans came off even worse. Not a one voted for passage. All the G.O.P. did was say "No" and complain about the bill's high cost. That complaint is legitimate. The country's budget deficit is enormous. As matters now stand, your great-grandchildrens' great-grandchildren will be taxed to pay this bill. Yet Republicans presented few viable alternative proposals and none that could be accepted as compromise. Political parties that win elections don't act like ostriches with their faces in the sand. They advance sound ideas for debate and discussion.

As for the Tea Party movement, its members completely misread history. The original Boston Tea Party was a legitimate rebellion against perceived tyrrany. Congress is not tyrannical. Nor are all our elected officials dishonest. All do accept "campaign contributions," without which they could not be elected. Every Tea Party candidate would lose without money to campaign. Money talks. Money creates the politics of corruption. That fact should be the reason for rebellion.

Consider the health care package; consider the lobbyists who walked the halls of Congress and openly or tacitly promised support to elected officials who voted their bosses' way: lobbyists represented doctors, lawyers, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, manufacturers of prosthetic devices and others I'm sure I've left out. Perhaps you spoke with your congressperson. Possibly you contributed to his or her campaign: $100 or $10 or $1. The combined lobbies contributed multiple thousands of dollars to get what they wanted. It's a form of bribery, only the media don't call it that for fear of being sued for liable. Money talks. In these days, when the primary goal of many elected officials is to be re-elected, and since most of the electorate learns of political candidates' ideas through paid political commercials disseminated via the mass media, money speaks louder than those voters who hold opposing points of view and cannot afford the advertising. Elections are not as much Democrats vs. Republicans as they are access to monetary power vs. the powerless. (And yes, I firmly believe in the capitalist system.)

The recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to spend as much as they are willing simply displays the ignorance of the Court majority.

Can something be done to change the situation? Over the long haul, yes.

Supreme Court appointees should by law be restricted to serving 20 years and no more. No one else is granted lifelong jobs. Why should they have the privilege? When the country was born, lifetime expectancy was 40 years or so. Now it's double that. Let's get more fresh air into the Court.

Political campaigns should be publicly funded. That would mean increased taxation, but it's worth the try in an effort to gain "honest" government. The media -- C-Span or something like it -- should be open to political debate during campaign years.

All money/financial bills should be written with a "Sunset" provision. Since such bills are ultimately paid by taxpayers and such bills often don't work but become boondoggles for the lawmakers, three years after

such a bill becomes law, it should be voted on again to determine if it is to be continued. I say "three years," but I note also that some of the provisions in the health-care law actually take effect in 2014, an election year. Legislators are not likely to vote against a money bill during an election year. Such votes on whether to continue or not continue a money bill should be taken during an off-election year, 2013 as in this example.

I have other ideas, but I have limited space in which to write, and I'm positive that YOU also have ideas. Let's have a discussion on behalf of good and honest government.

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