Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Check those votes

Well, my newspaper delivering days are over...sort of.  I was asked to stay on another week due to some unforeseen carrier issues, so my last day was this past Sunday, 2/19.  However, I am expecting a call in the next day or so asking me to deliver the route this weekend.  I am leaning towards a yes answer as of now.

In the meantime, I was able to sleep past 3:00 AM today and yesterday!!  First time since late July 2011.  All in all, I awoke around 3:00 about 530 out of the past 540 days to deliver papers.  For those of you who have never, or at least not recently been awake in the early morning hours, you should try it every once in a while.  Do it on a day when the moon is on the full side and either rising of falling near sunrise.  Priceless.

A month or so ago I reported on some of the votes cast by our congressmen.  Now that I am a one job man, at least for a while, I am hoping to detail the action of our elected officials more frequently.

Last week, the big vote was about extending the payroll tax cut.  Both the House and Senate approved this measure which results in about $25 more in an average workers weekly pay check.  The bill also extended jobless benefits for the long term unemployed and prevents the cuts to doctors serving Medicare patients.  (These cuts have been voted out every year since they were first proposed as a way to make Medicare more solvent).

Interestingly, the approval was bipartisan. 

Of course, many economic pundits will tell you that $25 a week is not much.  I guess if you are making $5000 a week ($250,000 a year), $25 is a tip for the restaurant parking valet.  But for those of us in the real world, $25 a week ($100 a month) can be

- used to quicken the pay off of a credit card debt
- saved for a vacation
- saved for Christmas gifts
- used to build up an emergency fund
- used to go to the dentist (less than half of americans have dental coverage)
- used to eat out at a local restaurant, perhaps twice in a month
- used to save for future college costs

As I have said before, our elected officials are not like us when it comes to the economic realities of our lives.  They don't live paycheck to paycheck.  They don't have to decide between saving for the future or paying today's bills.  They don't understand the difficulty of knowing that a $500 car repair bill or a suddenly broken washer or refrigerator means a new credit card bill or doing without that car or appliance. 

Perhaps we need a new voting guideline based, not on issues but on net worth.  Maybe we should be voting for the candidate with the least amount of money.  The person with the least amount of inside contacts, the least number of friends in high places, the least investment portfolio managers.  Perhaps we need the best and brightest who have an advanced sense of social awareness and service to the public good, as opposed to the best and brightest who have made a lot of money. 

Also, this past week, the House voted along party lines to nearly triple America's offshore oil and gas production by opening up more federal lands to commercial energy development (including a small area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  And, of course, they inserted a thorn in Obama's foot by authorizing the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline.  I don't believe there is a companion bill in the Senate so this vote was mostly symbolic.

The most interesting thing about the planned votes for this week is that Congress is in recess for Presidents' Day.  Recess for the week.  While the current level of bickering between the parties might make my next statement seem mute, shouldn't we expect our Representatives and Senators to spend a little more time doing their job?
I don't think they spend even half of the year (180 days) in session.

Finally, last week there was a vote in Congress to make it illegal for members of the House and Senate to use their knowledge to engage in insider trading.  In other words, it is now illegal for an elected official to buy or sell a stock because he/she, in performing the business of public service, is aware of events that will make that stock increase or decreas in value.  Really?  So, up until now it was OK?

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