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Is ‘Credible Congress’ A Contradiction In Terms?

Posted Apr 30 2010 3:03pm

Considerably less than 50% of the American people have any trust in or respect for our “Representatives” in Congress. The Democrats believe that their vocal opponents are simply people who do not really care about others. Republicans think their low Congressional rating is because the Democrats are in power. The President says we do not listen attentively enough. They are all wrong.

The Beltway folks would understand by watching the movie “Something’s Gotta Give.” In it, Jack Nicholson says, “I have always told you some version of the truth.” Diane Keaton responds, as most Americans would, “The truth doesn’t have versions.”

Congress thinks that the truth can be adjusted, that facts and evidence are malleable, and that ethics are situational. They are not.

In early 2009, every official estimate said there were over 45 million Americans without health insurance. The Obama administration repeatedly used this statistic to bolster its claim that U.S. healthcare was in crisis.

The fact then surfaced that 11-15 million of the 45 million were illegal residents. Suddenly, the number of uninsured in all government speeches was 30 million rather than 45, thereby side-stepping the contentious issue of medical care for illegals.

Now that H.R. 3590 has been passed, the White House is again talking about 45+ million uninsured Americans. Do our ‘Representatives’ think we missed their free-and-loose behavior with their facts? They adjusted the numbers to fit their political agenda. That is why their statements of “fact” and assertions of doing “what is in our best interests’ have little credibility with us.

In January 2010, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimated that H.R. 3590 would COST about $1 trillion. Two months later with no significant change in the Bill, the CBO said it would SAVE $1 trillion.

The details of their creative adjustments in accounting would make excellent fodder for forensic accountants. Most of us do not care how they did it. The point is that they did it. How can we believe any numbers they spout when the numbers are so…flexible? The simple answer is: we cannot.

The real and certain cost of H.R. 3590 is what small shred of credibility Washington might still have had. That is now gone.

Americans are used to, some say we revel in, political differences. If one Representative strongly supports a position on principle and another opposes it on principle, we understand and often applaud. What we do not accept and unfortunately DO understand is vote buying. We do not trust Representatives who hang out a “For Sale” sign.

When Senators Ben Nelson (D – NE), Mary Landrieu (D – LA) and others sold their votes on H.R. 3590 we were all appalled. When Representative Bart Stupak (D – MI) used a transparent excuse to change his vote (under pressure from the White House), we watched with dismay.

Apparently, people in Congress can justify to themselves actions they take in pure self-interest as being in the public best interest. We know the difference between rationalization and reality, between reform and exacerbation . Most people of whatever political affiliation find such fast-and-loose behavior abhorrent and beneath what we expect from our Representatives.

Some supporters of H.R. 3590 can accept shameful political chicanery because “the end justifies means.” It does not. No matter how honorable the end might be, it does not justify dishonorable, unethical behavior.

Whether H.R. 3590 will be good for our country is not at issue here. (You will note that the phrase “healthcare spending reduction” – the reason for starting the national healthcare dialogue – does not appear in the name of the Act.)

The main concern is how Washington passed this Act, one that well over half of the country opposed. What opponents and supporters alike observed was a display of fancy footwork worthy of “Dancing with the Stars.” We experienced creative accounting that is in keeping with Bernie Madoff’s best. The lack of principle in our Representatives’ actions made most of us nauseous.

If those in Congress wonder why average Americans neither believe in them nor trust them, we say: Your actions are the reason we do not trust you. And to the President: let me assure you that we ARE listening attentively and we DO understand.

System MD

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