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We are all hostages


As the 112th Congress skulks out of town after their Fiscal Cliff zombie walk on New Year’s Eve, the unvarnished obstruction of the GOP can be seen without makeup, good lighting and artfully placed mirrors. President Obama predictably failed to hold his ground on tax increases for those making $250,000 or more. The bar is now $400,000 for the plutocrats while 77 percent of the nation will lose two percent of their pay, thanks to the Social Security payroll tax shooting up. The middle class has been saved from looming tax increases, sequestration has been punted down the road and the debt ceiling is the next bound and gagged hostage for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to menace in exchange for deep cuts to public programs.

The American way of governing is a publicly funded chain saw massacre and as bad as the system is, the national character is what needs to be examined. Boehner, McConnell, Eric Cantor and so many more represent constituents who are ill informed, intolerant and they are impervious to any established fact. Many love guns more than the lives they take and they scream for small government as they collect their government pensions and benefits. They bray about the Second Amendment without ever having glanced at the First Amendment.

Piers Morgan, the British cable news pundit who recently called out gun nuts for their insanity, is now the subject of a petition demanding his immediate deportation. It now has over 96,000 signatures. Freedom to kill is fine with the gun loons. It’s freedom of thought that really bothers them. Japan, home of the strictest gun laws in the world, recorded only two murders in 2006 and averages 20 or less a year. Great Britain averages 35 murders a year. Even when you consider population variables, this is absolute proof that gun control works.

The most amazing thing about the House GOP hostage takers is that they keep winning elections, thanks in part to the gerrymandering that keeps them in office and the studied ignorance of their constituents. This may sound like a purely partisan rant but it’s not. When political discussion across the divide is impossible, thanks to unexamined and inaccurate political cliches on both sides, then national progress is not possible either. No matter how enlightened our founding principles may have been, it takes enlightened public officials to carry them out. Instead, all we have are lobbyists and their bag men buying what they want and the bill goes to the voters.

Elections are not enough to curb these abuses as the country stumbles ahead. We need an automatic remedy to deal with the Fiscal Cliff brand of governing. Robert J. McClennan, a former history teacher from Rhode Island, offered an interesting solution in a January 2 letter to the Providence Journal. He wrote in part:

“I therefore propose to our Congressional delegation a Constitutional amendment to rectify a situation of this type: “Whenever a session of the Congress concludes without the resolution of a Bill, each party must submit its own version of this Bill to the Federal Board of Elections for a national referendum within 60 days.” The letter continues, “Such an amendment would bind our legislators with the same discipline as other Americans. If their work is not completed within a specified period, the legislators lose the privilege of judgement.”

A million lobbyist checkbooks would open simultaneously to oppose such an idea but the Congress needs to be accountable to voters beyond the quaint convention of elections. It’s not really our country anyway, is it? The 113th Congress took their oaths today, January 3rd. John Boehner was elected Speaker in spite of the treasonous obstructionism that he likes to call “governing”. Though the above described national referendum idea would never see the light of day in the Washington swamp, we need new rules to take unilateral power away from the Speaker when it comes to bottling up legislation so it can’t proceed to an up or down vote.

The Senate is reining in the filibuster. The House needs a modest structural change to free a few hostages before the next cycle of legislative bloodletting begins. We need to bind up the nation’s wounds, not the legislative process itself. As to most hostages who pay for this government, Stockholm Syndrome must be in the water supply. It is surely a government plot…




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