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True Concerns

By Kenneth Bannon

I keep hearing about the tragic effects of the government shutdown . . . like closing parks and monuments. These are propaganda posters. There are real effects. What day do you think industry bad guys will choose to burn off toxins, or pour long sequestered wastewater into the streams? If the average American family is a paycheck or two from broke, what are the effects on folks who worked hard, played by the rules, and earned a well-deserved job in the public sector? What are they to do to pay their bills absent an envelope from the treasury? I have never espoused entitlement to a job or anything else, only to an opportunity to earn a job or anything else. My concern is not for the politicos who have benefited from agency capture and cronyism. My concern is for those who took a job in public service with the load of student loan debt and the hope of stability. Among my friends and colleagues are public information officers, engineers, attorneys, and architects who are faithful federal employees. Believe me, while none spend their days in the mailroom (Mail Carriers are unaffected, BTW), these good folks are not enjoying independent financial security.

The House Republicans are to blame AND the Senate Democrats are to blame AND all of the Congressional leadership (for lack of a more appropriate word) is to blame. Congressional abdication knows no party! We elect a legislature to conduct the people’s business. Most of them, however, conduct a 24-month campaign instead. This “shutdown” is simply the latest result of a much larger, more insidious, more Constitutionally dangerous problem. That 24-month campaign means that Congress has its schedules filled with hand shaking, baby kissing, and raising the money they need (some estimates say $10K/day) to keep their job. So, who is minding the store? Did I mention that this nation is no longer the representative republic envisioned by the founders? No, indeed, The United States of America is a bureaucracy under limited oversight governance. How did this happen? Authorizing statutes are pieces of legislation that create agencies. Agencies like the Internal Revenue Service which will increase its payroll by 19,000 agents under the Affordable Care Act, which funds ZEROnew physicians to care for all of the new consumers of healthcare. What do Agencies like the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency do? The same thing Google Maps does but with much more expensive tools. Who knew the Pentagon, the CIA, and NASA would be unable to cover the need for satellite surveillance. After all, I can view the roof of my house from 212 miles away with images bouncing off a geosynchronous platform.

Agencies receive incredible authorities and have no voting constituency to whom they are accountable. Congress has that. Perhaps that is why they created these agencies, effectively insulating them from the angst of a dissatisfied public. Additionally, as agencies grow in power, they also grow in appetite. More authority means more enforcement, more enforcement means more employees, more employees means more money, etc. . . . which brings us back to budgeting. The last budget passed by Congress was in 1997. Since then, Omnibus Spending Bills and Continuing Resolutions have kept the lights on but they are not a budget.

So, what is the solution? For many years, both parties, the American Legion and the Jaycees have run “Get out the Vote” programs. Mostly, though, individual campaigns have been better able to get people to the polls with the hopes that voters will remember who brought them and vote accordingly. Many of today’s voters vote only because they are disgruntled about something. This has resulted in a more polarized, more ignorant electorate. “Vote the bastards Out!” is easier than researching candidates and looking beyond petty differences. The next “Get out the Vote” needs to be focused on the moderate multitude. The people who are too busy with their private obligations to vote . . . those who believe they don’t count, are the votes we need to get out. The people who believe that addressing opportunity is better than expecting the government to do more for us than we are willing to do for ourselves are those needed at the polls. The people who want everything they earn but not a penny more and do not mind sharing what they have with those unable to do for themselves are the desirable electorate. The people that recognize that compromise and common ground are more valuable than stubbornness and ideology are the voters that America needs in each precinct.

The majority of Americans have done nothing for decades. Compare the number of people eligible to vote, the number of registered voters, and Election Day turnout. So when we say, “the majority wants . . . ,” or “the majority supports . . . ,” or “the majority elected . . . ” it is untrue and often disingenuous. What the majority has done mostly, is abdicate its responsibility to vote, leaving the ignorant voters and the fringe to dominate the political landscape. If you want the ignorance outnumbered in Congress, we must first outnumber the ignorant individuals who sent them there. Get yourself, your friends, your family, the smartest people you know, the most compassionate people you know, and the best people you know back in the electorate.

The United States elected Jack Kennedy to the Presidency by fewer votes than there are voting precincts in this country. Your vote does count. Your Mom’s vote counts. Let us make it a national mission to get the majority back in the process: to register, to learn, and to vote. The discussion can not be about politics, but must be about ideas. Congressional abdication ends only when citizens’ abdication ends. To get the fringe out of Washington, we must get the middle majority back to the polls.

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