Fractured Government, Ideology and the Abuse of Power

This week the US Senate proved to every American it is fractured. The defeat of the United Nations Treaty, which would have  given to people with disabilities around the world, the same protections people in this country have under the Americans with Disabilities Act, was an act of defiance by 38 Republican senators.

Ex-Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP standard bearer, was in the well of the Senate giving his support of the Treaty but that did not sway the Republican senators who voted no to the measure. Dole, who by all accounts, looked frail as he entered the chamber with the aid of a wheelchair was dismayed by the vote from the current group of Republican neo cons.

In a separate event, news broke about Senator Jim DeMint’s decision to leave the Senate to work for the Heritage Foundation as the conservative organization’s executive director. NPR reported his salary will increase to $1 million dollars. DeMint said he thought he could influence policy from the outside more effectively than he could as a member of the minority party in the Senate.

DeMint, who with a reported net worth of $40,000, is not a millionaire as are most of the other senators who work at the US Capitol — but he will soon be one. He is just like the hundreds of former politicians and government officials who have gone on to lucrative jobs representing special interest groups or law firms that represent influential lobbyists. As another example of that, when Congressman Heath Shuler did not seek re election he cited concern for his family factored in his decision — however, he failed to mention he would be joining Duke Energy as a lobbyist.

The other half of the American legislative body, the House of Representatives has more millionaires than at any other time in the history of the chamber. Some, like Representative Darrell Issa, are worth well over $295 million dollars. They are not members of the 2%; they are in the top 0.0001% and are some of the wealthiest people not only in America but in the entire world.

The stalemate over the Bush era tax cuts are just another example of the American government’s inability to not just regulate themselves but the government’s inability to govern. The obstructionists in the Republican party have brought their recalcitrant behavior to new lows in this battle of wills with the Democrat-led Senate and White House; they have willfully misinterpreted the majority of voters’ mandate to let the Bush era tax cuts expire for the top 2% of the wealthiest Americans.

The incapacity to listen to the will of the people is nothing new in Washington; senators and congressmen do not vote their constituents’ will; they vote the will of Mr. Green, the almighty dollar. Remember when it came to light that in the days before the financial collapse of 2008 that many senators and congressmen used insider information to either sell or buy stocks? And remember how Martha Stewart, someone who is not a politician, was convicted in federal court and was sent to prison for doing the same insider trading? For too long, members of the Senate and House of Representatives have been allowed to sidestep laws since they are the ones who write the laws of the land.

This abuse of power and privilege is the reason Washington is broken. It has little to do with ideology and much more to do with personal wealth and power. Jim DeMint did not leave the Senate so he can spread his ideology, he went to the Heritage Foundation for the big bucks with an eye on the White House.

The American political landscape is littered with politicians who have little interest in America or their constituents and much more interest in their own wealth, power and how to line their pockets with the rewards of their public service.

 

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Image credit: DavidMixner.com