ALLAN JEFFERYS: Curtail Wasteful Congressional Travel
Most of us have either forgotten or never knew the name of Thomas McKeam. But he is important to our history as one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.
He also served in Congress without pay. He was constantly hounded by the British and was rumored to have died a pauper. He will show up on anybody's list as a true patriot.
Contrast Thomas McKeam with most of the fat cats that make up today's Congress, and the word "outrage" will rise in your gorge. Would any of them serve without pay? What would McKeam or any other founding father think of today's perks?
Remember: No matter which health plan passes, our boys and girls in Congress will not care, because they have their own health plan, guaranteed for life and far better than any proposed for us. The same applies to their pension plan. And, of course, even though their pay is not astronomical, we taxpayers lay out a goodly sum for their staff and offices and supplies and things. It adds up to more than 10 times their salary.
Speaking of 10 times, that's the multiplier that applies to their overseas travel costs since 1995. The $13 million we paid for their 2008 jaunts was a 50 percent jump since the Democrats took control.
Who went where? Well, Sen. Daniel Inouye and a half-dozen other senators (and spouses) took a four-day trip to the Paris Air Show. Our favorite freeloader, Nancy Pelosi, spent eight days in Italy to the tune of close to $60,000 of taxpayer money.
My vote for the winner, however, is Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington, who took his wife and four other lawmakers (and their spouses) to the Galapagos Islands. They claimed it was to learn about global warming but failed to explain the link between that and touring a breeding center for giant tortoises and iguanas.
Maybe they were planning a revival of Tennessee Williams' play "The Night of the Iguana." Or checking up on Darwin and the origin of species. Of course, this species never originated; it got voted in.
Bear in mind that these gallivanting troupers are part of the same crowd that screamed when CEOs from the auto industry used private jets to come to Washington to testify. We have all been told to tighten our belts during this recession. Good advice, given that we may be asked to pay more taxes to pick up the tab for these unnecessary and obscene travel expenses. And the earmarks keep rolling along like caissons.
It all adds up to a government out of control. Checks and balances set up by our Constitution have been bypassed or simply ignored. More than 30 czars in the White House do not answer to anyone except Barack Obama, and they have power beyond belief. And it's all for naught. The stimulus plans, health shenanigans, auto management are as successful as driving at full throttle the wrong way up a dead-end street.
What can we do about it? Well, tea parties are fine for sending messages, but the government doesn't get messages. Tossing the whole crowd into Boston Harbor is a great idea, but its time has passed. What we must do is Seek and Groom and Elect.
The seeking part is not easy, but there are people out there in both parties who are truly dedicated to our great nation. We have to find them and then move their light from behind the bushel. Groom them and promote them and get out the vote, even if we have to elbow ACORN out of the way.
Oh, yes, let's get rid of those arrogant, incompetent White House czars who are beholden only to the president. This is America, not 19th-century Russia. We are the land of the Free and the Brave. And President Obama would do well to remember that.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic, entertainment editor and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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