Saturday, February 12, 2005

Contract Reprise

In 1994 the Republican party swept into a majority of both houses of the 104th US Congress. The Republican vote increased by nine million from 1990 to 1994 (while the Democratic vote declined by one million). One of the major tools used by the Republicans during their campaign was the “Contract with America.” The Contract read, in part:

On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:

· FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
· SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
· THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
· FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
· FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
· SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
· SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
· EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.

The Contract also promised an immediate vote on ten pieces of Republican/conservative legislation.

From a political point of view, the Contract appealed to voters for three reasons;

1) The Republicans adopted a contract instead of a platform. They bound themselves to do something (a contract) and not simply to be for something (a platform). [With regards to Newt Gingrich, Winning the Future, Regenry Publishing, 2005]

2) They provided an easy-to-grasp list of actions for voters to consider. This is a key concept. If Americans know nothing else, they know that politics in Washington is a complex, dirty game. The intricacies of committees, pork barrel spending, add-on legislation, presidential vetoes – these are beyond most voters. The Contract promised to cut through all the junk. Voters could look at the list and say definitively, “Yes, I’m for that.”

3) The Contract provided a scorecard to judge the new Congress. Either a congressman did what he said he was going to do, or he didn’t. Although not articulated, this concept of accountability is what most Americans want from their politicians. Elected officials dance around subjects, hoping to never take the consequences for their actions. (“I voted for it, before I voted against it.” – John Kerry, on the $87 billion Iraqi spending bill)

The 2004 campaign was one of the most bitter political seasons ever in American history. Although all of us were exhausted by the seemingly endless commercials and arguments, we don’t have time to relax; the next round of campaigning has already started. Politicians are positioning themselves on certain issues, and their bridesmaids-fighting-for-the-bouquet-like battle for camera time (“Oh, you’ve written a book?”) starts to look like Saturday night roller derby.

We as voters must insist that each candidate promise to do something specific and measurable, explained in easy to understand language. The media’s job is to help candidates who are willing to do this to get their message out, and to expose candidates who refuse to comply with this requirement.

If a candidate won’t do what voters ask during the campaign, why would he do what voters want once he’s in office?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Latro Ergo Sum #1

latro ergo sum - "I rant, therefore I am"

So much to drive you nuts, so little time....

Social Security
For twenty years, we've been hearing that the Social Security system will go broke some time in the first half of the 21st century. Fewer and fewer taxpayers will support more and more recipients. The Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age -- meaning I'm approaching retirement age, so I'm concerned. There is no Social Security "guarantee." The government does not keep its promises. ("Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river." --Nikita Khrushchev) Unless something is done soon, the next generation of taxpayers will be paying 30% of their income to support the "promise" of Social Security. Better to let all of us keep more of our money now and put it into something that will earn us more. Running the funds through Washington only supports the bureaucrats; it does nothing for my future.

Iraqi Elections
The anti-Bush crowd has pooh-poohed the elections in Iraq. Now, even if the sole reason for the large turnout was to hurry and get the Americans out of their country, Iraqis stood in line to vote, when terrorists had threatened to blow them up if they did. We Americans won't even get out to vote if it looks like it's going to rain....So maybe this election in Iraq was a wee bit more momentous than the Left wants to let on.

Super Bowl Ads
I heard today that Fox executives pulled the second of two ads for after that company had paid 5 million dollars for the time. Apparently the spot was considered "too controversial." Now, I'm among those who thought the Janet Jackson thing was very inappropriate, in poor taste, and that someone's head should roll. But the backlash has gone too far. The Budweiser ad that never made it to TV (called "Wardrobe Malfunction") was hilarious, but was never shown because it was "too controversial." The powers that be -- the FCC and media execs who are too gunshy to show any guts -- need to be pulled back. While I don't want smut to show up unexpectedly on regular broadcasts, all the flavor and originality is being removed from our programming. What used to be harmless, or at worst, suggestive is being banished by the FCC's heavy-handed tactics (or the threat of their use.) They need to ease off.

Because if, by God, I spend 5 million bucks for two ads, they had better both show, or it's gonna be somebody's ass.

No Smoking
Weyco, a small insurance benefits administrating company in Michigan, began a policy in January that forbids its employees from smoking -- at home.

My hometown of Lubbock, Texas, passed a no-smoking ordinance a few years ago banning smoking in public places.

Although I'm not a cigarette smoker, it's about time that someone stood up for individual choice. These rules regarding personal use of a legal substance are a huge invasion of privacy. In principle I agree with Weyco's right to employ whomever they want....but to control every aspect of an employee's life is a bit cult-like. One can only hope that the karmic wheel turns enough so that Howard Weyers, the president of Weyco who implemented this policy, winds up running the whole place by himself, because no one will work for him anymore.

As for Lubbock's invasion of business owners' rights, let me quote Augie Smith: "I don't like Bed Bath & Beyond. I don't like what goes on at Bed Bath & Beyond. But I don't protest, or start a petition to close them down. I just don't go there." If someone doesn't want to be around smoke, or doesn't want to be someplace that allows smoking....don't go there.

The hyprocisy of the government's stance -- federal, state and local -- is staggering. If the politicians are as concerned with smoking's effects as the prohibitions indicate they are, then tobacco should be illegal, period. But the governments love the money that tobacco brings in. When it comes to the subject of smoking, then our politicians are common streetwalkers, willing to do anything if there's enough money in it for them.

At first they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out, because I was a Protestant. And they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak out. - Martin Niemoller, Protestant minister and German protester against the Nazi abuses in Hitler's Germany