Opinion

A more perfect government

By Paul Newman

In the late 1970s D.C. politicians joined hands with fat cat bankers, devious brokers, and Wall Street poo-bahs, and jumped off a 30-story building. As they passed each floor they reassured the American people: “Well, so far so good.” Last month they landed. On us. A plague on all their houses!

A plague on the Bush Administration. Were they brain dead? A plague on the Federal Reserve. Did the credit meltdown just sneak up on them? A plague on Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and the Congressional leadership. Did they think oversight was another word for overlook?

And, while we’re at it, the House and Senate Banking Committees have almost as many Republicans as Democrats on them; just as there were almost as many Democrat committee members when the GOP controlled Congress. Did none of them have the brains, or the courage to play Paul Revere?

In fact, no Congress member, Senator, or Administration big-wig should have been so out of touch that two weeks ago they said: “Uf dah! How long has this been going on?” This has been building for a generation. Can they be that stupid? Can we? We elected them. Year after year.

There has been an unholy alliance between the sharks at Countrywide, Fannie May, Freddie Mac, banks large and small, Wall Street, and the pillars of public trust we elect to look out for us. All are slathered in guilty grease from the public pork barrel. Time to start makin’ bacon.

Sadly, tar and feathers went out with witch burnings, and flogging. Consequently, I must present a more modest proposal; but unlike Jonathan Swift’s, this one is as serious as a heart attack.

1. Limit Congress members and Senators to 12 years in office. I think that’s generous enough. Don’t be gulled by their alibi that we hold elections to decide term limits. If Congress really believed that, they would not have passed a Constitutional Amendment limiting presidents to just eight years in office.

2. No elected official may register as a lobbyist for six years after leaving office. That’s pretty generous too. If they try it without registering it’s a crime. They can, and should do jail time. So should the special interest execs who hire them.

3. No family member of an elected official may be employed by a lobbying firm, by a Political Action Committee, by a 527 soft money advocacy committee, or by any other group that would give the appearance of undue influence, nepotism, or conflict of interest. ‘Nuff said.

4. While we’re at it, no civil servant may lobby the department in which they worked, for six years after leaving it. If they worked for the Department of Defense, Agriculture, Transportation, hands off for six years.

5. No cushy retirement or health plan for Congress members or Senators. They shouldn’t be there that long anyway. Let them use ours, or give us theirs. In fairness, the same can’t quite be said for civil servants, though it hurts to see them with a better deal than most of us whose taxes pay their salaries.

6. We might as well get rid of those fancy Congressional fitness centers, grooming salons, and other perks they enjoy for little, or nothing. Let them pay fair market value. We all put in a full day’s work.

7. Any elected official convicted of a felony may not run for office for 25 years. Believe it or not, Pakistan passed that one after a few or their “public servants” absconded with most of the treasury. Wouldn’t hurt to try it here.

Will these measures clean up the whole pigsty? No, but they will go a long way toward forming that “more perfect government” envisioned by the framers of our Constitution.

Paul Newman, a former Republican political consultant, lives in Oak Harbor.

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