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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whats Wrong With America is America

*Term limits comes to mind, but you need a constitutional amendment for that. Running the old party hacks out is another, but the party machines are still alive and well and very adept at convincing a STUPID republic that change is not really good after all, fear reigns supreme on both sides of the isle. So nothing ever changes. I try to be hopeful, I really do. But with unemployment likely to continue to rise, and a Congress more concerned with what the other side is up to than whats good for the country as a whole, I believe I will never retire here. I am not sure where I will go yet, but to be old in America will likely not be much different than where we are right now. And while historically, and I am a lover of history to be sure, things are much better, they are not better for me today than they were for my parents just 40 years ago. My mother did not work outside of the home until my father was faced with prison time. She drove a school bus because she had no other skills and no formal education. Yet she managed to buy a home and support three and then four children pretty darn well. Tell that to my many single mother friends today who can barely afford to pay the rent. Prices for everything from a house to a car to putting food on the table has risen ten fold at best, while wages have remained stagnant. Healthcare? Teeth? Are you kidding? Ronald Reagan started the precipitous decline of my great country by extolling corporate greed and independence as an american way of life harking back to the era of Teddy Roosevelt. Well the 80's weren't the early 1900's ijiots. Under Reagan america sold its soul to the devil of Wall Street and we stopped making things here because they hated the unions. Unions began to hate themselves by caving in to whims of greedy me first politicians so now everyone hates them too. One need look no further than the hit HBO series The Wire to see what I mean. An endless cycle of creating nothing but more people with less jobs and basic resources to choose from while the fat cats just get fatter and the poor just stay poorer and the middle class becomes the sucker of all suckers. Wake up people, and don't give that join the tea party movements to effect change. Dick Cheney et al let Osama Bin Laden hide out in the hills of wherever so the business sectoring military establishment and oil machine could reap their billions by going to Iraq. If a democrat had been in office for EIGHT fucking years with no capture you pubbys out there would be having the coronary you seem to have now over Obama, back when you should have been having it you yellow bellied ignorant drinking the kool-aid IJIOTS! Congress, the federal reserve and Wall Street are so damn worried about the losses the banking system will sustain if they don't keep prices of everything propped up, that they just keep doing what they have always done to poverty, just throw money at it and everyone will just go away and leave us alone. What they fail to realize is that these very same prices are whats keeping this economy from going anywhere sustainable long enough to absorb the needed jobs with levels of pay to sustain their prices in the first place. Good luck to you all is all I have to say.

Why I’m Leaving the Senate
Published: February 20, 2010

BASEBALL may be our national pastime, but the age-old tradition of taking a swing at Congress is a sport with even deeper historical roots in the American experience. Since the founding of our country, citizens from Ben Franklin to David Letterman have made fun of their elected officials. Milton Berle famously joked: “You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.” These days, though, the institutional inertia gripping Congress is no laughing matter.

Challenges of historic import threaten America’s future. Action on the deficit, economy, energy, health care and much more is imperative, yet our legislative institutions fail to act. Congress must be reformed.

There are many causes for the dysfunction: strident partisanship, unyielding ideology, a corrosive system of campaign financing, gerrymandering of House districts, endless filibusters, holds on executive appointees in the Senate, dwindling social interaction between senators of opposing parties and a caucus system that promotes party unity at the expense of bipartisan consensus.

Many good people serve in Congress. They are patriotic, hard-working and devoted to the public good as they see it, but the institutional and cultural impediments to change frustrate the intentions of these well-meaning people as rarely before. It was not always thus.

While romanticizing the Senate of yore would be a mistake, it was certainly better in my father’s time. My father, Birch Bayh, represented Indiana in the Senate from 1963 to 1981. A progressive, he nonetheless enjoyed many friendships with moderate Republicans and Southern Democrats.

One incident from his career vividly demonstrates how times have changed. In 1968, when my father was running for re-election, Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, approached him on the Senate floor, put his arm around my dad’s shoulder, and asked what he could do to help. This is unimaginable today.

When I was a boy, members of Congress from both parties, along with their families, would routinely visit our home for dinner or the holidays. This type of social interaction hardly ever happens today and we are the poorer for it. It is much harder to demonize someone when you know his family or have visited his home. Today, members routinely campaign against each other, raise donations against each other and force votes on trivial amendments written solely to provide fodder for the next negative attack ad. It’s difficult to work with members actively plotting your demise.

Any improvement must begin by changing the personal chemistry among senators. More interaction in a non-adversarial atmosphere would help.

I’m beginning my 12th year in the Senate and only twice have all the senators gathered for something other than purely ceremonial occasions. The first was during my initial week in office. President Bill Clinton had been impeached and the Senate had to conduct his trial. This hadn’t happened since 1868, and there were no rules in place for conducting the proceedings.

All of us gathered in the Old Senate Chamber. For several hours we debated how to proceed. Finally, Ted Kennedy and Phil Gramm, ideological opposites, were given the task of forging a compromise. They did, and it was unanimously ratified.

The second occasion was just days after Sept. 11. Every senator who could make it to Washington gathered in the Senate dining room to discuss the American response. The nation had been attacked. The building in which we sat had been among the targets, and only the heroism of the passengers prevented the plane from reaching its destination. We had to respond to protect the country. There were no Republicans or Democrats in the room that day, just Americans. The spirit of patriotism and togetherness was palpable. That atmosphere prevailed for only two or three weeks before politics once again intervened.

It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or an attack on the nation to create honest dialogue in the Senate. Let’s start with a simple proposal: why not have a monthly lunch of all 100 senators? Every week, the parties already meet for a caucus lunch. Democrats gather in one room, Republicans in another, and no bipartisan interaction takes place. With a monthly lunch of all senators, we could pick a topic and have each side make a brief presentation followed by questions and answers. Listening to one another, absent the posturing and public talking points, could only promote greater understanding, which is necessary to real progress.
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