* Editor's Note: This is Mister Bud Meyers' 3rd annual report on "The State of the Union and Members of Congress". As usual, it is a political diatribe packed with a lot of useful facts, with a mixture of satire, a measure of irony, with just a dash of melancholy.
The State of the Union Address
(Las Vegas, May 2, 2012) I could simply say that Americans hate their political leaders for the same reason they've always hated politicians...most are liars, crooks and thieves. As to liars, look no further than the recent Republican presidential candidates, especially Mitt Romney.
From DUI manslaughter to drug possession, from tax dodgers to draft dodgers, from Iran-Gate, to Whitewater-Gate, to Watergate, yet so few go to prison. They protect each other and their 1% circle of friends, while writing laws that the rest of us are expected to obey, holding us to a higher standard.
That scum-bucket, John Edwards, hopefully, will be an exception to the rule. Americans are angry and want congress and the courts to throw him to the wolves to satisfy our thirst for some blood.
But for most of us, one joint can get you prison time, but bankers at Goldman Sachs can steal trillions of dollars and never spend a single day in jail. Our political system is rank with corruption - capitalism has been a big lie, and just like my grandfather and father have been saying for years..."The rich get richer while the poor get poorer."
||Now these same people (our esteemed leaders, the top 1%, and Fox News) are vilifying the Occupy Movement the way the English royalty had vilified our Founding Fathers; the same way the French peons were treated by their "leaders" before finally turning the guillotine on them -- the way Benito Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were hung upside down at an Esso gas station in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan.|
Our U.S. Declaration of Independence says, "...that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government...it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
But if we just hold up a home-made sign in protest today, we're called communists, socialists, and anarchists. In 1776 they were lauded as heroes and patriots. Now a protest sign can get you time in jail (we need a permit from the government to protest the government!)
But if you know somebody in congress (or a big banker, our true governors), then you get a free pass like you would if you had diplomatic immunity...above the very laws they impose on everyone else...the masses...the peons...The People.
It's no wonder congress has been polling so low. Since the internet was invented, Americans are starting to find out just how congress really works. I mean, come on now...did congress actually have to pass a (watered-down) law forbidding them to conduct insider trading on the stock market? Do they also have to pass a law forbidding them to kill someone too? What happened to common sense and basic morality? The "privileged" really do have special privileges (like I might get a "perk" at work, such as free parking.)
Members of congress (as well at state legislatures, governors, etc.) are already above the law on almost everything else as it is now. They certainly don't lead by example, so why are they called our "leaders".
No wonder congress is so hated.
Shared Sacrifice (*cough-cough*clear throat*giggle-giggle*snicker-snicker*)
I have a great idea! Why doesn't everybody in Congress make one of those "shared sacrifices" that the poor and working poor have heard so much about since the Great Recession. And I'm not just talking about deferring their scheduled annual COLAs that they so publicly and ceremoniously offered us. I mean a REAL sacrifice, like what most Americans in the 99% had to make. They should all be required to take a 33% pay cut like working families and the unemployed had to do.
With 50% of all Americans earning less than $24,000 a year, I think members in congress can survive on a meager $116,000 annual salary, don't you? ($116,000 is 66% of $174,000). The Senate has 100 members + the House of Representatives with 435 members = 535 total members of congress x $58,000 in savings per each member = $31 million a year in annual savings --- just in salaries alone.
Don't they always complain about cutting waste in government? Let's start
with the cause of the problems first...congress.
Besides, half of congress are already multi-millionaires anyway, so they wouldn't miss the money, because they're doing a "bold, selfless, and noble service" for their country, right?
Rich Members of Congress Set Our Standard of Living
The former CEO and current Republican U.S. Representative from California’s 49th District tops the list. Doesn't congress also write the tax code? Here's just the top ten:
Why do members of Congress only have to disclose their assets and liabilities in "broad ranges". Wouldn't the IRS have their tax records, and shouldn't they be made available to the public if their salaries are paid by the taxpayers? They work for the taxpayers, and hold public office, do they not? If not, there ought to be a law. (Oh yeah, I forgot, congress write all the laws. And the fox guards the hen house too.)
Drug Test Members of Congress Too!
All members of congress should be drug tested (not just those on welfare, unemployment benefits, food stamps or Social Security), because members of congress always make "life and death decisions". We need clear-headed people in congress passing laws that affects millions of people and our national security. Wars were started for no good reason, and that makes me wonder...
The Supreme Court had ruled that drug testing for political "candidates" was unconstitutional in 1997. (And that's why we should drug test Supreme Court judges too! If I can be drug tested, so should they!)
Lawmakers had been previously mistaken to think that testing the legislature would be unconstitutional, since the stricken law targeted "candidates" and not people already holding office, because they also receive "government funds" for their salaries.
Democrats in several states have proposed bills to require drug testing "elected" officials. Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) recently introduced just such an amendment.. "If we're going to impose standards on drug testing, then it should apply to everybody who receives government money." More here...
Now that's what I'm talkin' about! But unfortunately, that was all for show.
And members of both the Tea Party AND the Occupy Wall Street Movement agrees
on this; but as usual, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats in congress
actually ever listens to THE PEOPLE, just the top 1% of the people.
Congressional Salaries and Benefits
During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin considered proposing
that elected government officials not be paid for their service. Other Founding
Fathers, however, decided otherwise.
From 1789 to 1855, members of Congress received only a per diem (daily payment) of $6.00 while in session, except for a period from December 1815 to March 1817, when they received $1,500 a year. Members began receiving an annual salary in 1855, when they were paid $3,000 per year.
Today they earn $174,000 (or more for congressional leaders: Senate Leadership: Majority Party Leader - $193,400 and Minority Party Leader - $193,400. House Leadership: Speaker of the House - $223,500, Majority Leader - $193,400, and Minority Leader - $193,400.)
Members of Congress and other federal employees are also covered by a federal pension plan* and are vested after 5 years. Each pay period 1% of their basic salary is deposited and matched by the government for Social Security with contributions to their federal pension plan (contributions are tax-deferred). After they retire, they receive annuity payments each month for the rest of their greedy lives...up to 80% of his or her final salary.
But before they retire, many times members of congress are offered very
lucrative jobs as lobbyists or positions with big corporations, in exchange
for all the favorable legislation they've passed on behalf of the
and corporate America average hard-working tax-paying American
As of October 1, 2006 there were 413 retired members of congress who were receiving federal pensions averaging $60,972 year, more than 4 times the average Social Security retiree. PLUS their own Social Security benefits. And this money is accumulated and passed down through their generations, paying as little tax as is legally and illegally possible.
* Members of congress can retire as early as 56-years-old (and with 20 years of service, retire with full benefits at age 60). But congress wants to raise the age for Social Security retirement to 70 years for everybody else. Romney wants to "gradually raise the retirement age to reflect increases in longevity." They reason they give is that everybody is living longer and Social Security will no longer be sustainable into the future.
Congress Lives Longer than We Do
Is it just me, or have most members on congress been around all my life...and most of my father's life too?
A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office (PDF) found that the life expectancy gap between the rich and poor in the United States, as well as the educated and less educated, has been growing since the 1980s. The study also notes that because the wealthy live longer, it has clear implications for the future cost of Social Security because the wealthy will "live longer and will receive benefits for a longer period, thereby increasing the programs' costs."
And as income disparities continue to grow in this country, so do life expectancy disparities. According to an analysis by the Social Security Administration, life expectancy for 65-year-old men in the top half of the earnings distribution has increased by five years, to 21.5 more years. For those in the bottom half of the earnings distribution, life expectancy has increased just over one year, to 16.1 more years.
A likely factor, says Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in an interview for MSNMoney, is differing access to health care. "If you have better insurance, you might get tested earlier, and have better access to care."
I would say so. The top 1% like Mitt Romney and the millionaires in congress don't need ObamaCare™ or Medicare because they have been installing full-fledged emergency rooms right inside their homes, each complete with an array of medical gear that mirrors what the White House has available for the President. The company that installs these emergency rooms charges up to $1 million per installation.
They don't have to sit around and wait 4 hours in a crowded emergency room at UMC or a doctor's office reading a year old copy of Better Homes and Gardens like the rest of us must.
And that might also be another reason why the rich live longer than the poor; and also why the politicians want to raise the qualifying age for Social Security, replace Medicare insurance with vouchers that will soon disappear with inflation, and why the Republicans want to privatize Social Security by setting up "private accounts".
(* Life Expectancy from a study by Stanford University (PDF) that I summarized in a photo below.)
Congress Writes Tax Laws (ALL LAWS!) Just for the Rich
Both the Democrats AND the Republicans in congress refuse to remove the cap on Social Security taxes for the very wealthy, while everyone else in the bottom 50% of all wage earners have to pay this tax on 100% of their wages. That 50% of wage earners only makes $26,364 a year or less, and some members of congress even want the unemployed to work for free.
Any shortage in the Social Security Trust Fund could easily be fixed by plugging a big hole called "the cap". Mitt Romney and congress rejects lifting the current $110,800 cap on wages taxed for Social Security so that everybody pays their fair share – a solution that more than two-thirds of Americans support (after all, we won't live long enough to cash in, but the wealthy will.)
The tax code has ALWAYS benefited the most wealthy the most...because congress is wealthy and they write the tax code and all other laws, especially after being "lobbied" very well. Poor people can just sign petitions (or launch "fax attacks") that are usually just thrown into a waste basket.
The very wealthy also have a $5 million lifetime gift-tax exclusion. ($10 million for a married couple). The rich have the ability to shift assets out of their estates tax-free while they're still alive. Think of trust babies like Paris Hilton. (More here at Reuters)
But check this out....
A single 21-year-old woman trying to raise a baby while earning minimum wage at the local diner, also has to pay the IRS taxes on 100% of her meager tips. It had been argued that "tips" were "income" and not "gifts", as people like myself and the unions tried to say. But employees were threatened by the IRS with annual audits if workers didn't comply with the IRS's tip compliance program.
But a sugar daddy can write a check out to his cute little love button for $5 million ($10 million if his wife agrees) tax free for the little darling. "You can now create a $10 million dynasty trust just by writing a check," Michael Gooen, a tax and estate attorney at Lowenstein Sandler. "All that appreciation is now locked up in a trust, and you will never pay estate tax or gift tax on it."
Meanwhile, the top 1% has been cheating Uncle Sam all along, and are rarely audited. Why? As usual, it all goes back to the millionaires in congress. Besides food stamps and unemployment benefits, our fearless leaders also cut the budget for IRS tax auditors! (Did I already mention the fox in the hen house?)
And there was no estate tax at all in 2010 after all the bankers and CEOs (the top 1%) had just looted the counrty! And congress wants to blame "entitlements" for old and sick people?
The discussion today is about the "Buffet Rule" on taxing people earning over $1 million a year. It's a phony fight for the poor on behalf of the Democrats because they know damn well the Republicans will never pass it. Why didn't the Democrats pass it when they passed ObamaCare?
For the past 90 years congress has been KNOWINGLY screwing us with the preferential tax rates for capital gains (Tax Act of 1921). So why, just now, do they say they want to tax millionaires? (Historical Tax Rates on the Rich from 1862 to 2012)
That's why everybody hates congress...because congress doesn't represent THE PEOPLE, just the top 1% and themselves. The exception was when well-meaning "Progressive" Democrats first passed Social Security and Medicare...but those were the old days, when average working Americans could also still earn a middle-class wage.
The true reason why members of Congress (and the top 1%) doesn't worry about really fixing Social Security or Medicare, but instead prefer budget cuts and/or tax cuts for the rich, is because THEY DON'T NEED IT FOR THEMSELVES!
Did you see the top 1% partying like it's 1929 at the White House Correspondents Dinner? If you didn't hate politicians before, you might now. The intersection of Washington and Hollywood came into sharp focus, as members of Congress, governors and the president hobnobbed with stars.
The event's featured guests included the likes of Lindsay "DUI" Lohan ($1 million from Playboy), ex-con Martha Stewart (net worth $650 million), super model Sofia Vergara (net worth $16 million), Steven Spielberg (net worth $3 Billion), Reese Witherspoon (net worth $80 million), Kevin Spacey (net worth $50 million), Sigourney Weaver (net worth $40 million), super model Elle MacPherson (net worth $45 million), Arnold and Maria Schwarzenegger (he's worth $300 million, his love child was at the babysitters), trust fund baby and reality TV star Kim Kardashian ($35 million), Diane Sawyer ($40 million), Mariah Carey ($500 million) and many, many more.
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was one member of Congress to snag a ticket at $2,000 a pop to last weekend's White House Correspondents' Association dinner, but the Tea Party freshman later complained to Fox News, solely for the benefit of his constituents, and said he was "not impressed". So then, why did he go? What did he expect?
Most of the men wore a tux and black tie.
But maybe the GSA's convention in Las Vegas cost more...who knows. But the "do as I say, not as I do" mentality in Washington is the reason Americans hate congress.
Congress has consistently voted against the will of the majority...such as taxing millionaires for their fair share and ending subsidies to profitable corporations like big oil. Why do we even need a congress if they don't represent 99% of the people?
Now, tell me more about this "shared sacrifice".
BELOW: Governor Chris Christie with the super model and Colombian sex kitten Sofia Vergara at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.
Newt "Tiffany's" Gingrich with his latest wife, Callista
Rick Santorum flirts with with Lindsay "DUI" Lohan
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, preceded by Eric Cantor.
Exclusion from this Post
Bernard "Bernie" Sanders, the Senator from Vermont, is only one of two Independents, and is the only "Progressive" who caucuses with the Democratic Party in the Senate.
He was sensibly against the national disaster that tore this country in half,
called the Vietnam War; and he wasn't a hypocrite for not serving like so many
other members of congress, those who dodged the draft just to send others to die
in their place. And then later vote for war while in congress, pretending to be
patriotic (rather than just opportunistic).
Bernie Sanders' lifetime legislative score from the AFL-CIO is 100% -- like Ed Shultz, he is always for the working class (the 99%), that's why his constituents keep voting for him. Unlike Joe Lieberman, the other Independent Senator, he isn't a career politician who switches sides depending on the political wind...like Mitt Romney.
The establishment Democrats and the establishment Republicans write off Bernie Sanders like an old coot, just like they do with Republican Ron Paul, who was the ONLY Republican I would have voted for, had I not been an Independent Progressive. Even though I disagreed with many of his policies, Ron Paul wasn't a wishy-washy slimy politician, selling out his soul to the lowest bid.
Bernie has always represented the 99%, it's just a shame that so many voters vote against their own best interests (is it ignorance?) He would agree with FDR, another Progressive Democrat who cared about the working people and the unemployed -- who in the 1944 presidential election, won his fourth term in office. This was the last election where a Democrat carried every Southern state Today Allen West would call FDR a Communist.)
President Obama at least sounds like FDR. Now let's forget his first term, and see if he's true to his word.
* To the Secret Service and law enforcement: Please see my disclaimer here ;)