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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Draining the swamp requires new blood

Another high-profile Democrat has been hit with ethics violations. Rep. Charlie Rangle, D-NY, was charged with 13 violations of House ethics rules last week.

In addition Rep. Maxine Waters is probably looking at charges as well.

Of course that doesn’t even get into the federal indictment and conviction of former Louisiana Congressman William “Cold Cash” Jefferson who was nailed with $90,000 in cash in his freezer by the FBI back in 2005. He was eventually found guilty on 11 of 16 charges.

Republicans of course, are not clean by any stretch and have had their share of ethics violations over the years — to include former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who was reprimanded in the well of the House for his transgressions.

The point here is not to note chapter and verse of which party has been the most unethical. It is interesting to note however, that after current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised to “drain the swamp,” and Democrats made hay in the 2008 elections with the “culture of corruption,” in Washington we now have the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, perhaps the most powerful House committee, in deep ethical trouble.

The problem here, in my opinion, is that the culture in Washington is all too permissive of this sort of thing.

And it is not helped when the president continues to appoint people whose ethics are questionable at best to high positions.

The Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, was found to have cheated heavily on his taxes and proceeded to blame the tax preparation software he used for his troubles. In other words, the chief tax enforcement officer in the country can’t run TurboTax.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius, our own former governor also had to fix some tax issues before she could take office, and mercifully leave Kansas.

Most of Rangle’s problems are also tax related — mostly dodging them.

What it comes down to is the political class — on both sides of the isle have become what might best be described, as author Jerry Pournelle once put it, “a self perpetuating oligarchy.”

Rangle has been in the house for four decades, Waters for nearly 20.

Too often the politicians spend their entire adult lives in office, living lives that bear little or no resemblance to that of the average American.

They live in elegant homes in Washington DC, visiting their districts only rarely, with privileges generally reserved only for the very wealthy.

They have health care many times better than most of us, pensions and benefits most of us can only dream of.

They are rarely told no, have people treating them like royalty in order to curry their favor and vast sums of money put into their reelection campaigns. Money which they are allowed to keep after the campaign is over.

It is the rare politician indeed who doesn’t leave office much wealthier than he went in — usually with a cushy lobbyist position waiting for them when they get out of office.

There are a few — painfully few — legislators who see public service as that, service.

For most it seems to simply be an easy job where their own sense of self importance can be puffed up by the gaggle of yes-men with which they surround themselves.

Those who would actually be good at the job are more often in the private sector, where they can actually do something of importance.

As you vote in the primary today and especially in November, take a close look at the people asking for your vote. Look at their record. See if they return to their district regularly. See how large the entourage they surround themselves with is.

And then ask yourself, “does this person regard public service as a privilege, or does he look at me as a serf? Does he understand that he works for me, or does he think I work for him? Does he see government as an unfortunately necessary means to an end? Or as an end in itself?”

And then vote your conscience, not your party.

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