Of What People By What People
Our Congress, indeed our entire system of government is predicated on the principal, ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. With an approval rating of just 6%, it’s interesting to ponder just who are ‘the people’ our elected officials in Washington are representing.
The latest budget debacle is just one example of how this 94% disapproval rating has been well earned, on both sides of the aisle. To put it into context, let me tell you what I did last weekend.
On Saturday, I participated in the Wreaths Across America ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. At hundreds of sites across the country, thousands upon thousands of everyday citizens gathered to honor those who at one time in their life took an oath similar to the one those who hold elected office swore. In short, to uphold and defend the Constitution.
One of the differences between the oaths, and the two groups, is the first risked safety, security, comfort for themselves and their families. If they defile that oath or service, they risk losing not only their position but their future benefits and would carry the mark of that dishonor to their death, affecting even where they may be buried.
The second group, when they dishonor themselves and even their country often don’t lose their position. Even if they do, they still retain future benefits including health care and pensions that are unmatched by any other sector of society.
The reality of the difference between how these oaths are lived was driven home by the budget compromise passed this week. No one side of the aisle can be fully faulted, or credited. The budget is largely a Democrat construct, but it could not have passed without Republican support.
Our President, who also holds the title Commander-in-Chief, promised not to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans, as did many Democrat members of the House and Senate.
Republicans, including the Senate Majority leader and the House Minority leader chose to pass this budget, complete with slashes to the pensions of our veterans, in an attempt to appear willing to compromise.
I’m still checking, but I have yet to find a single Republican who voted for this budget who is not facing a Republican challenger for their seat in the next election. Rather than appear to not be willing to compromise (which the American public has swallowed as the reason for the last government shutdown), they sold out our military and veterans. In order to better position themselves in the next election.
Our elected officials did this while keeping their own life time health care coverage, which make no mistake is completely different from and far superior to the Affordable Care Act they have forced the rest of us to live with; while retaining their own outrageous pensions, even for those members of their cadre that have dishonored the oaths they swore, they have slashed the pensions of those who swore that similar oath.
To sum it up, a veteran who served this country faithfully, doing all that was asked, including risking their life gets their pensions slashed. These veterans did not just follow orders, they lived their lives according to a code of honor, which if violated could end their military career.
Adultery, driving under the influence, lying under oath, accepting bribes, gifts or favors (particularly from a foreign power) are all things that according to that code, render the offender unfit for the uniform and can result not just in a loss of position, but prohibit them from receiving most if not all benefits upon separation from service. And, depending on the severity of the offense, they may well end up spending their final days in the service of Uncle Sam as his guest someplace like Ft. Leavenworth.
Congressmen who haven’t been caught lying, double dealing, lining their own pockets, driving while intoxicated, cheating on their spouse or appropriating Federal assets for personal use is so common, the quip ‘an honest politician can’t be trusted’ is the norm.
Congress Defines 'Being Human'
We’ve all heard the laughably contrived mock-apologies which usually conclude with something on the order of ‘I’m just human and made a mistake’. Therein lays a clue as to how these self-serving career liars can so easily strip the hard-earned benefits of our veterans. Since members of the military manage to live their lives without making these ‘mistakes’, they must not be human.
You served your country for more than twenty years without dishonoring yourself, your nation or the oath you swore? Well, by your example you prove us politicians to be weak and morally bankrupt so we are going to cut your pension and benefits.
You were wounded, perhaps lost a limb or merely the use of one in a war we sent you to fight? You received multiple Traumatic Brain Injuries, making it difficult or impossible to support yourself and your family? Good thing you’re used to adversity, because we are slashing your pension, too.
What Wasn't Discussed
This moral outrage perpetrated upon our nation’s veterans is simply so astounding it defies description; all we can do to fully grasp the depth and breathe of this to look at what wasn’t sacrificed in this budget. These are just a few of the options that were not debated-
A proposal to reform the welfare system to address rampant fraud;
A proposal to require welfare recipients to pass drug screenings to receive benefits (those who work and provide the taxes out of which these benefits are paid are subject to drug testing);
A proposal to ensure only those legally in this country can receive welfare benefits (other than emergency, humanitarian medical care)
A few other things that may have balanced the budget, with or without the above, but were not even proposed except by constituents –
All elected officials must give up their current health care plan and enroll in ObamaCare;
Elected officials receive one year of pension for every year of service rendered (no more one-term Congressmen getting lifetime pensions-and those pensions are to be at the same rate as that of the military, roughly 40% of their pay)
All elected officials convicted of certain crimes (see the list of offenses which result in an other-than-honorable or dishonorable discharge for military members) lose all benefits and any pension they may have earned;
These are not unreasonable standards to expect our elected officials to uphold. We expect more from the members of our military and they manage to live by them, often under much less comfortable conditions.
The real shame in all this lies at the feet of the American people. We have become so inured to the bad behavior of those we elect, other than a few words written in protest we do nothing. Worse, we keep returning these lying hypocrites to office.
We Deserve No Better
“Every nation gets the government it deserves” is an oft-repeated quote, usually aimed at Third World countries with a sneer, a smug superiority that only those who believe themselves to be free can manage. It is interesting to note that the author of that quote, Joseph de Maistre was actually decrying the concept of democracy and advocating a return to rule by divine right of kings.
Maistre was of the opinion that God had ordained certain individuals, by birth, to be the rightful and just rulers, temporally subject only to the Pope. In his view, individuals were unable, by divine attribute, to rule themselves. His opinions were expressed in direct relation to the French Revolution; his proof of the rightness of his opinion was the Reign of Terror that followed. I think he would view the current social and political climate in this country as further proof of his opinion.
As an American, I am deeply offended – and frightened – that we are deserving of this government we have created. We have allowed ourselves to become apathetic. We have allowed those who produce nothing to take the most. We have allowed those whom we have entrusted with the power to direct the course of our nation to ignore the will of the people.
Then again, there are more people on welfare than there are veterans. So, perhaps it is the will of the people to balance the budget on the backs of those who above all others believe in the ideals for which this country stands, on which this country was founded. And that is the most frightening thought of all.