Sunday, January 5, 2014

Here's to the New Year, Just Like the Old Year

Don't be afraid to leave your laptops and TV's for awhile; nothing's going to change.  Just as before the holidays, our president is imploring our Congress to do the right thing by the long-term unemployed, and extend their benefits.  And Congress is being the stern daddy, saying we aren't going to give them a thing unless somebody pays for it.

I think that's a great idea.  And I think we should start with Congress.  They don't work too many more hours than a part-time Walmart employee, so we could start there.  Do you know just how many dollars it costs to support a member of Congress?  They have aides and aids so they don't have to read bills and follow the news; we give them time off so they can take care of their "families;" i.e. their political campaigns.  We pay for their meals and health care, their transportation -- limos and drivers, their communications and communications staff, and if you don't believe their time on the golf course is coming out of our pockets, well, you're probably going to vote them back into office in November.  Of 2014.

Imagine if a McDonald's worker, going to school or raising a family, had all those benefits.  Our communities would thrive because they'd be spending that money on good things like college and food and clothing.  They surely wouldn't be putting it into financial assets (whatever they are) that employ no one but some 25-year-old cocky Harvard MBA who gets paid even more than the Congressman he sets up financially.

And how about that farm bill those yahoos in Washington are still fighting over?  It's not that they can't see the relationship between growing food and being able to afford to buy food.  It's just that they don't see Big Agriculture as food, and that's because it isn't.  Those big farms don't grow food for people.  They grow corn for fuel because that's where the big bucks are.  The fields are deteriorating because of lack of diversity and overfertilizing, but that's because it's all about profit.  They sells seeds that can't be reproduced in the fruit that they produce because there is less profit if a farmer can collect seeds for next season.  If it can't be thrown out, if it can be reused, it's just not profitable.

Yet there are real farmers in this country and sadly, they also tend to oppose "handouts" for food stamps.  They work hard, they don't make the fortunes that the big corporate farms make, they are honest and believe in their work.  But many are also willing to use undocumented workers so they can pay them less.  You might say they need to do this to compete with corporate farms, and it is so.  But they are fighting the wrong battle.  Easier to pay desperate hard-working people lower wages than fight Monsanto and ConAgra, who will easily wipe out your farm with their lawyers.

And that takes us back to Congress and food stamps.  As long as they can get us fighting about those folks that can't afford to put food on the table without assistance, they not only have friends for life in the world of big agriculture, but they can pretend to be sticking up for the struggling local farmer.  Which local farmers would not be struggling without government throwing its weight behind the gigantic agricultural corporations.  And the other thing about keeping this "debate" about food stamps going, is that those folks we elected to serve us don't have to.  Serve us, I mean.

And that brings me back to the argument that we need to lower costs in the federal budget before we can fund food stamps.  Not including big agra, which is too big and powerful to defund.  So again, I say that the place to cut is Congress.  Not just the subsidized cafeteria, but the salaries that are frankly too big for someone who claims to represent the people.  We need a special committee to look at all the perks our members of Congress receive and start slashing them.  No perk is too small, because there are lots of them, and they add up.

Considering the way Congress whined in the spring over the inconvenience of closed and cutback airport services after their self-imposed sequestration, and the way certain of them talk about how those folks on food stamps have the easy life, I'd like to see how, say, Paul Ryan would deal with having to take a lunch hour and clock out and go buy a lunch that he doesn't have time to sit down and eat.  Granted it's not like having to skip a meal, but not having a staffer to fetch for him and not being able to take a couple hours to entertain wealthy constituents at lunch just might bring him to his knees.  And I would pay to see that.

Which is another way we can fund government services for the poor. 

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