Thursday, August 06, 2009

He Said She Said: Congressional Hypocrasy

Believe nothing against another but on good authority; and never report what may hurt another, unless it be a greater hurt to some other to conceal it.
--William Penn

There is much vitriol being dished out as various legislative issues work their way through the halls of power in Washington.
I fear that participants in these battles oft times lose sight of what is really important—which is serving the best interests of the people who sent them there to represent them.

Neither party is guiltless in this:
Each side is trying to gain a pointless advantage over the other, and clawing away at one another in the process. What's left is a gaggle of bruised and bloodied reputations, and laws imposed which have neither teeth or benefit for the public.

The more I see about what goes on in our nation’s leadership, the more convinced I become that a reasonable limit on the terms of service is needed to replenish the political gene pool with fresh talent, while flushing out those who would become career politicians, more concerned with winning the next campaign than being champions for causes important to their constituents’ well-being.

Case in point: Remember the huffing and puffing in Congress last year over the heads of the Big Three automakers’ use of private jets, and their audacity in flying to Washington in Gulfstreams to ask lawmakers for bailout money? When asked which of the CEO’s would be willing to give up their private jets in return for financial support to keep their companies afloat, none of the exec’s raised their hand.

“It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo,” said New York Democrat Rep. Gary Ackerman. “Couldn’t you have downgraded to first class or something, or jet-pooled or something to get here?”

Fast forward to August 2009…

The House of Representatives has approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress. The Air Force had asked for only one Gulfstream 550 jet (MRSP = $65 million).

According to, the House Appropriations Committee, "at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes, and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials."

How did this happen? Because, in the infallible opinion of the Committee, the extra planes are deemed an "expansion of an existing Defense Department program," which magically transforms the money from an earmark to someother vaguely-classified appropriation, effectively closing down the rules on disclosure and transparency about who authorized the spending.

If you're needing further jusitifcation/rationale (and Congress apparently does), please note the cost of the plane is chump-change compared to "the cost to the nation if a top official were taken hostage or harmed taking a commercial flight to a dangerous region of the world." Or travelling back to a hostile home district.

John Pike, director of explains this logic “applies to the top members of the executive branch more than it applies to the Member from the 13th district of Illinois.” Military officials “need a long-range airplane — and [it’s] better to fly them on a small one than a big one.”

Pike says it's not reasonable to expect a three-star general and a staff of five people to attend meetings around the world with several stops in far-flung locales while traveling on commercial airlines. Apparently, the rationale extends to the ruling class in Congress, too.

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