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You might be hearing a lot these days about the growing separation of the elites in America from everyone else. About how those at the very top in our country are playing by a different set of rules and have different realities than the millions of working families across America. Well, I agree with this view, and sadly, I see it getting worse by the day. And nowhere is it as bad as what we see happening on Capitol Hill among the congressmen we elect and send off to represent us.
The vast majority of these elected men and women are good, honorable people who set off with nothing but the most genuine motives and desires to represent the interests of their constituents back home. But as we have seen, once they arrive in Washington, something takes hold of them and they lose sight of the kinds of people and sensibilities that sent them there in the first place. They enjoy new perks, new benefits and new comforts that quickly cause them to lose sight of why they are there.
One example of this that made some news recently is the Senate barbershop costing taxpayers over $350,000 in losses a year. Taxpayers are legitimately outraged that Washington elites appear to be getting cheap haircuts at taxpayers’ expense. But it’s even worse than that. When I was in the Senate the barbershop was losing even more money, so I lead the charge to privatize it. I was opposed by both parties. Congress refused to lease the space to a private entity to run the barbershop, but I embarrassed them just enough into making some changes to cut costs and increase the cost of a haircut.
So how well does the government run a barbershop? Well, in spite of charging $20 for a haircut, the barbershop still lost millions of your tax dollars since my proposal to privatize it was defeated. Now it seems Majority Leader Harry Reid has thrown in the scissors and conceded that they are incapable of organizing and operating a simple barbershop, but, of course, we are to trust them to organize and operate the nation’s $2.7 trillion health-care industry.
Several years earlier than that, when I was a new member of the House of Representatives, I discovered another practice in Congress that would not be acceptable anywhere else. And that was that there was a bank in Congress that regularly allowed members of Congress to overdraft their accounts without penalty. Unthinkable, right?Thousands of checks were bounced, and the public had no idea the bank even existed. I got together with six other freshman congressmen, and in spite of opposition from leaders of both parties, we succeeded in stopping the abuse. We then focused on the operation of the bank, and – surprise – it was badly mismanaged. The bank closed, but that didn’t stop Congress from passing several major bank “reform” laws giving the government more power over the management of our banks.
Fast forward to this spring and you can see that Congress’ hubris under President Obama’s leadership has gotten worse. The Democrats in Washington who foisted Obamacare on a reluctant America are now keenly aware of the huge problems they have created with the passage of law. Health insurance premiums are going to more than double in some states, and the increased cost to the government will be in the hundreds of billions over the next few years. The answer from the public is repeal it; even supporters of the law have called on Congress to repeal the unpopular parts. Some obviously have received the message, so there were bipartisan talks on the Hill to repeal it for themselves and their staffs. As an employer, they are concerned they would lose hundreds or thousands of congressional staffers because of new health-care costs. They don’t care about the cost to you or your business; they just want to have their own set of rules.
Throughout my political career, I’ve attempted to do right by the many thousands of constituents back home who were just like my parents and my in-laws, and at one time me. The millions of working American families don’t get subsidized haircuts, free bounced checks, or exemptions from expensive laws. No, they have to play by the rules and make ends meet. Why should those who represent us and create these rules behave any differently?
The elites in Washington and Wall Street are never going to understand the issues Americans face, nor be able to do anything to help us, if they continue to have their owns rules. We must not accept this any longer. What’s good enough for the American people should be good enough for Congress. Maybe Obamacare will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.