This past week has been a wonderful demonstration of the true power of the American system. The power of the American people to frighten Congress into to actually doing something. It wasn’t much mind you, just a couple of stop gap measures. A few lines of legislation to stop the economy from taking a dive and the quiet death-nell of lower taxes for the very rich. But we can congratulate ourselves, had it not been for our collective glare of stunned looks at the stupidity of the situation, thousands upon thousands of infuriated phone calls, petitions and “flame-mails,” we wouldn’t have even gotten that.
The next two years are going to be long and tiring if we want the congress to keep performing even at this marginal rate. Set up the speed dial now, power-type the form letter that begins “Listen, you dunce...” and invest in an on-line thesaurus service because we’ll all run out of expletives if we don’t.
There’s work to be done, a lot of work. The Sandy relief package is still stuck, even after being “porked-up” with inducements to Senate republicans so they wouldn’t filibuster our homes and infrastructure into oblivion. I hope no one has put the pork roll back in the refrigerator because by the looks of the House, we going to have to slice off some more.
In a fairer, kinder world we wouldn’t have to buy off senators to get granny’s house rebuilt, but this isn’t that world. In that same fairer, kinder world those senators would be vastly ashamed of themselves and immediately move to a monastery in North Dakota to consider their sins. However, in the absence of a rush to monastic life, what we are left with in our world is a very familiar situation; if you want something, you have to pay the man.
It’s a system as old as the human race. A timeless tradition of tributes to the powerful and favors for the rest of us. The only difference is that in our system we get to vote for those we will pay tribute to. So, as grown-ups, we have a system we understand and now it’s time to work it. For the last two months we’ve tried shame and outrage and we’ve gotten some results. However, somehow I think we can do better.
Why don’t we try bribing them? I mean directly. There isn’t anything very secret about the junkets to the Bahamas or funds for “Homeland Security” projects anyway. If some cops in Louisiana want shiny new radios, why not fork them over for a vote? It’s our money, why not blow it ourselves? Of course, that would be anarchy, even more frightening because senators and representative would be reduced to “middlemen,” dropping down from lofty purveyors of law to simple merchants of voting power.
Some would argue that’s exactly what’s going on now except the regular people aren’t allowed into the store. Only the powerful, influential or simply “well-heeled” get access. The rest of us get to press our noses on the store window though, and we’re free to imagine having all the wonderful things inside. Besides it’s always possible that one of the anointed will drop some bauble on the way in or out and then we’ll be RICH! Rich, beyond our wildest dreams! If we were really smart we’d mug them on the way out of that wonderful store.
It stands to reason that if we did get together as we have in the last two months, we might be able to get in on the pork disbursement racket. If we took down the tattered veils of semi-secrecy and got a look at what there is to be traded, the American people might do very well by it. It would mean actually paying attention to the thousands of details of government, but maybe we could do it as a game show? A kind of call-in Price is Right that aired every night after the news. Senators and Representatives would vie for wonderful prizes for their constituencies and we get to watch in glee as the phone-in votes are tallied. An education for old and young alike, suitable for viewing for all ages. We could call it “Civics 101.”
I can already hear the cries of shock that Americans would stoop so low as to bribe their own government. After all it’s a elected official’s solemn duty to uphold the law, pursue the best course for all Americans and only do things that will insure faith in their high office. Oh, grow up.
Prentiss Gray is a 30 year Morris Township resident, qualifying him only as a “long term visitor” to this historic area. He writes professionally as a freelancer for Gannett in the Domesti-tech blog and makes frequent contributions to Speak Without Interruption, an international on-line magazine. He also writes and edits travel and historical journals.