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The Deficit, Brian Williams and the Ivory Tower of Congress

  • Posted on August 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Brian Williams "job shadowing" Speaker Boehner.

We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.  The deficit problem has been solved.  If you know me, by now you know I’m being sarcastic.  Sunday night my sister called me as she wanted me to turn on the show Brian Williams was doing on Congress.  He took us on a tour.  I called her afterwards and told her that I thought it was a waste of my time.  She took a different view because it showed such a deep contrast between the average American’s life and that of the people that represent them in Congress.

From my perspective, it reminded me of the Vatican.  I know you’re wondering what that’s about, so I’ll explain what I mean by that.  The men in Congress look rather effeminate.  There is nothing virile looking about any of them.  From Senator Conrad running around with his pet bishon dog, holding it on his lap much like Paris Hilton does her pooch, to Senator Harry Reid showing off the art in his offices explaining how Speaker Boehner cannot have the art in his office because he’s a “smoker”, these guys are all rather “prissy”.  It’s hard to believe that Harry was once a boxer!  Throughout the tour we were shown the activity at this vast institution.  What I witnessed were a lot of well dressed men in Armani suits and of course NBC chose to show women’s feet walking in high heels on the highly polished marble floors.  It reminded me of that view of Sarah Palin’s legs.  While they may have been trying to prove a point, the shot seemed rather sexist to me.  The men wear their Armani suits while they are in Washington and their Mr. Roger’s sweaters or shirt sleeves when they go home to visit their constituents.  I’m not fooled by that attempt to appear like “one of us”.  The women, well there still aren’t that many so about the only one I noticed was Nancy Pelosi.  At one point you could see the unwashed masses, I mean American tourists, were off in an area merely left to be bystanders in this high drama world of high stakes politics.  I witnessed the gratuitous little black girl break away from the pack and run and hug Nancy Pelosi.  That whole scene seemed staged to me.  As an artist, I was thinking about Norman Rockwell’s painting of Ruby Bridges.  Watching Nancy embrace this child was supposed to be a heartfelt moment for the American people to witness, but of course I’m a cynic and figured Nancy had to get some Purell as soon as possible.  I don’t believe for a minute that any of these politicians want to hold our hands.  I’m talking about the hands of their constituents.

Norman Rockwell's painting of Ruby Bridges.

I was shocked by a number that Brian mentioned.  Somewhere in the piece Brian said 30,000 people work in that building, running back in forth between the Senate and the House.  I found that shocking and was left wondering which one of those 30,000 is the dog walker for Senator Conrad and just how much is the running of this place costing the American people? You can  watch this Dateline Special here.  It’s broken down into different parts.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30892505/

On Sunday we were treated to the inner workings of Congress, but on Monday we got to see the complete capitulation of Democratic politics.  It seems with this big bill we will have a “Super Congress” that will make decisions that the normal Congress can’t seem to do on their own.  As a voting member of the public, I am appalled by this.  This “Super Congress” will be made up of six Democrats and six Republicans, three of each Party from the House and Senate.  We voted for the people in Congress to represent us.  We did not vote for a “Super Power”.  It seems to me that this whole process is flawed to begin with because Congress has given up their individual voting power to a Super Power.  Years ago one of my brothers always used to talk about the 12 men that run the world.  Now we have the two party system of rule that is going to decide what’s best for the rest of us.  The Independents, Green Party, or any other “party” that may have been trying to be a voice in our politics absolutely has no voice!  Are these Super Congress people going to end up being approached by the Super Lobbyist people?  You have to be wondering by now who is planning on being these “Super Powers”.  We all thought Elizabeth Warren would get the job she was born to do.  However, we all know how that turned out.  Who thought up these super powers, someone that wanted a super job?  We all better hope Representative Paul Ryan isn’t one of the “chosen” ones.

I don’t profess to have the answers to our problems, but I know there are three things we need to do.  First, we need to stop being the world’s policeman.  We spend a tremendous amount of money on defense spending that is really just a policeman for the world.  The defense has grown so big that there is much fraud, abuse, and even lost money.  It’s time that we got out of the wars in the Middle East and used some of that defense money that is used to build bridges and roads over there to build them here.  Second, we need to focus on jobs here.  It takes money to make this happen.  We must invest in our country by fixing the infrastructure that includes our roads, bridges, schools, cities, electrical grid, sewer systems, and transportations systems.  If we want business to thrive in this country, then we must have a first class infrastructure!  We need to develop new jobs for the future which probably can be created easily around “green” and biomedical fields.  Finally, we must invest in education for everyone.  We must have broadband everywhere in the United States.  This is the way business works today.  If you don’t have access to the global network through broadband, you won’t be able to grow your business and expand it as easily and quickly.  The focus in education should not be on ridiculous test taking strategies but on giving students the type of education that they need to compete in a 21st Century environment.  This means that our students today need much different skills than we needed when we were kids.  They still need to read and write but they need much more than that.  While politicians are busy creating new test taking stumbling blocks for teachers to focus on and forcing evaluations of teachers tied to these tests, the world is moving on in education by focusing on 21st Century literacy skills.  Those skills are not about taking some test that was developed by a 20th Century developer!   These skills involve information literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, communication skills, teamwork and collaboration, information technology, and leadership.  In addition to all of this we want to develop students’ creativity and innovative thinking, self-direction, professionalism, ethics, and social responsibility.  Wow, that is a lot to accomplish and yet it seems like as a country we keep focusing on standardized test scores.

As I sit here today, I keep thinking that we have a Congress that is working like they live in the 18th Century and not the 21st Century.  These guys may think they are 21st Century because they discovered Twitter and Facebook, but the reality is they are still living in the past acting like they are some unique genetic material that cannot be replaced.  They appear to live in an Ivory tower far removed from the toils of the American people.  They have everything subsidized and taken care of for themselves from the walking of their pet pooch to their lunches and even to the art in their offices.  They have nothing to worry about except their next election and that’s what their focus is on.  They are ever the politician looking for votes.  Monday night after I watched the vote in the House, I went on Twitter and I saw a Barack Obama’s tweet, so I went to it.  He was so proud of this event and he wanted money for his campaign!

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