By coincidence, I was watching a movie called “Mars Attacks” on the night Congress reached a deal to reopen the government. There are interesting parallels between the movie and the deal, which you’ll see in a moment.
In the film, Earth is overrun by merciless Martian invaders determined to destroy everything. Wherever the Martians go, they use deadly ray guns to vaporize every human being they see. As they carry out their worldwide campaign of annihilation they bring along batteries of loudspeakers blaring, “We come in peace. Don’t run away. We are your friends.” In light of their murderous behavior, this message is obviously ridiculous.
Now for the parallel. Throughout the parade of absurdities leading up to and during the shutdown, certain messages were frequently heard permeating the airwaves: “We are doing this for the good of America. It’s not really our fault. We really don’t have a choice.” In light of the behavior exhibited by our elected representatives, we are amply justified in questioning their sincerity.
As the great proverb teaches us, “Actions speak louder than words.” The average taxpaying American would be justified in asking, “If all this was done for the good of America, why were bereaved families of our fallen heroes treated with such callous disrespect?” Why did the politicians choose to shut down public roads to prevent us from viewing some of our national monuments even from afar? Why were service members who risked their lives to defend this country denied access to memorials in their honor? Why were certain chaplains threatened with arrest if they entered government installations even though they offered to perform their sacraments for free? Like the aliens in the movie who insisted they were our friends, we are justified in suspecting that someone in Washington is being dishonest.
Here are three things that might have come out of this circus that would have been good for America. Congress and the president might have taken some meaningful steps to get America’s runaway debt under control. Congress and the president might have taken pity on the American working family and extended the same Obamacare delay the president so generously extended to big business. If there was some critically important reason why individual taxpayers could not be spared, even temporarily, from the mandate, it would have been good for someone to explain why.
It would be wrong to say there were no winners in this legislative fiasco. While our legislators and our president engaged in an ego driven tug-of-war, they were quietly greasing up a multibillion-dollar slice of pork to slide into the legislative deal.
The Washington Examiner reported Oct. 16 that the Olmsted Lock and Dam Authority was quietly supplied with a $2.92 billion appropriation as part of the bill to reopen the government. Could this be true? Didn’t we hear from our Senate leadership that nothing short of a “clean continuing resolution” would be entertained? There are, of course, a number of ways to explain this. First, it might be said that pork, of any flavor, is an appropriate add on to any legislation. It also might be said that any add on of any kind, is clean, so long as it originates in the Senate.
The truth, however, is this that $2.9 billion appropriation will, for the most part, be spent in Kentucky, the home state of Sen. Mitch McConnell. As you know, Sen. McConnell just happens to be the minority leader in the U.S. Senate.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this $2.9 billion appropriation looks like a porcine reward to the Senate Minority Leader in return for his help in shoving the Senate appropriations bill down the throats of his colleagues in the House of Representatives. Well, you know what they say — if it walks like a duck.
It is no surprise that one of the chief advocates in support of this handsome appropriation is Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. The fact that the Democratic leadership is so eager to put a plausible face on this craftily included bit of pork should not be interpreted as evidence of a devil’s bargain — should it?
We should note, in passing, that there was also a $450 million tidbit distributed to the State of Colorado; another cleverly disguised bit of pork included in this “clean continuing resolution.”
I’m reminded of a quote by Edward Everett Hale who served as the Senate Chaplain early in the 20th century. When asked whether he prayed for the senators, he replied, “No sir, I take one look at the senators and pray for the country.” I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.