Category: 2012 Election

Congressional Pay Raises Without Merit

by David T. Bruce

With the economic uncertainty of the past two years, we should not be surprised that our highest elected officials find the need to broach the topic of pay raises.  A recent blog highlighted the misgivings that at least two representatives have with their lot in life, citing the struggles that they are have making ends meet with their relatively miniscule salary. As Steve Southerland points out, health insurance is not free for representatives either.

This may be true; however, according to the premiums of Aetna’s HealthFund HMO, federal employees only pay $186.91 a month for HDHP (High Deductable Health Plan) family coverage.  The remaining cost of the premium – $560.72 – is covered by the government.  The average American who does not work for a company that offers health insurance, or a citizen who is unemployed, must shop around for their own insurance, paying premiums that are equally as expensive yet are not subsidized by the government.

In regards to salary, Mr. Southerland suggests that his annual salary is not enough, considering his personal sacrifices and risks associated with his job. Yet $80 an hour for 50 hours a week would probably have many of us willing to trade places, assuming such risk and sacrifice as necessary to secure such pay and benefits..

In regards to the risks of getting shot at, I suspect that those American who work in any mining industry at the wage of $18-$28 per hour realize a greater risk in their profession that that of an elected official.  In fact, many jobs exist that are far riskier than that of a representative or a senator.

Arguing back and forth, though, about who works harder, who gets paid less, and who has the riskiest job, leads us away from the point regarding raises for our elected federal representatives.

Everything is relative to the reality we choose to live in. The typical American lives within his or her means.  In other words, if we do not have the money to afford an expensive house, we do not buy an expensive house.  If for some reason, a twist of fate forces us to sell an expensive house for a house that is not quite so expensive, then that is what we do.

For many Americans over the past several years, foreclosure has been an undesirable yet often unavoidable consequence of the fiscal turn of events in our country.  The fact that some of our elected representatives in the House and the Senate find that voting themselves a pay raise is a viable option grossly demonstrates their pompous demeanor and a total detachment from their constituents who do not have the same luxury. I think I speak for everyone when I write that not one person exists who would not vote themselves a pay raise to avoid losing their home or living beneath the poverty line. We simply do not have that option available to us.

This is why, when a person opts to run for political office, a certain amount of altruism should exist. The idea behind holding a political office is to serve your country.  On the contrary, the majority of those currently holding political office behave as if they are owed a debt for their sacrifice.

We all have families, we all take risks, and we all must assume the consequences of said risks.  Should $174,000 annually not be enough to cover your cost of living as an elected official, then you face the same option as the rest of working-class America: you cut back.  You do without.

If you do not like your job or feel that the sacrifices outweigh the benefits, then you find a different job.  You can quit.  If you cannot find another job, then you can join the other 9 percent of Americans who do not have work or insurance.

Giving yourself a raise is not an option.  Your boss gives you a raise based on your performance.  Can you venture a guess as to who your bosses are and how we might measure your performance?

Will the Real Rick Perry Please Stand Up?

by Shadra Bruce

Rick Perry announced he was dropping his hat into the large ring of Republican presidential candidates on August 11. Since then he has worked diligently to position himself as the perfect choice for the Republican extremists, currying the favor of the Tea Party at the expense of all other Americans. But then, this is the man who, as governor of Texas, vetoed a bill that would have prevented the execution of mentally retarded inmates.

If he doesn’t care for those most marginalized citizens of his own state (preferring instead to be the governor who has presided over the largest number of executions in Texas history), why would we ever believe he would care about the populace of the United States?

At one point, Rick Perry could have probably given many Democrats a run for their money. He was initially elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 as a Democrat. He supported Al Gore (not George Bush) in his 1988 presidential bid, serving as his Texas campaign chair. He pushed for increased healthy funding; he increased funding for education. He actually pretended, there for a minute, that he cared for the PEOPLE (you know, those he would lead, serve, and protect as President).

What happened?

As Billie Joe Armstrong sings in “Holiday,” he found out the money was on the other side.

In 1989 Rick Perry joined the Republican Party. Perry went from the champion of health care and education to cold-hearted, counterfeit authoritarian overnight because it made not sense, but CENTS.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Perry’s entire campaign has been backed by a small group of very wealthy individuals and couples who have bought Perry’s favor with more than $37 million in donations over the last ten years. In exchange, many these donors have been granted contracts, been given tax breaks, or have been appointed to positions in the Texas government.

Are a group of elites trying to buy their way into the oval office?

Combine this with the fundamental changes Perry wants to make to the constitution – changes that shift the balance of power considerably, attack equal rights, and further benefit corporations, big business, and big oil – it is clear in my mind that Perry has been bought and paid for.

The real Rick Perry (the son of a staunch democrat and laid-back partier who could barely eek a 2.5 GPA out of his animal science degree) is now a puppet on the string of the wealthy elite who care little for anything but themselves.

As citizens, we must carefully examine Perry’s job performance as governor of Texas and weigh the risks associated with giving this man power as Commander in Chief of the United States.  He will most certainly create a country in his own image.

Family Values Are Private, Not Political

by David T. Bruce

familyWe hear so much discussion regarding the sanctity of the family unit and the importance of family values.  With a presidential election soon to come, the rhetoric surrounding the sanctity and legitimacy of same-sex marriages will be talked about more so.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines family as “a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.”  In this sense, a family can be what we typically envision, in which a man and a woman marry, raise children, and make a life for themselves.  Businesses, schools, and communities may also be considered families.

As a music lover and a fan of many bands, I read and hear arguments that any given band is no longer the band it once was without a certain singer or without all founding members on board.  This doesn’t seem quite fair.  The band may be different following personnel changes, influenced by the new member’s inspiration and talent, but the name carries on nonetheless.  Similarly, the family unit can morph and develop over time.

Family names carry on with the birth of a baby.  Parents are divorced.  A family member moves way or passes away.  The family unit changes, yet the family name carries on.  This concept of the family is not necessarily difficult for us to grasp.  If a family can be blended, changing over time, then can our definition of the family and of marriage change as well?

Granted, much of the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage is faith-based.  Presenting statistics is not necessary, however, when we begin to recollect in respect to how many times we have read of or heard of domestic crimes that occur within the traditional family unit.  Family values are not inherent to a marriage solely between a man and a woman, and the sanctity of the family unit is tarnished in the light of violent crimes within the family.

With these ideas in mind, I struggle to understand why same-sex marriages must be the platform of anyone’s political campaign.  With over 14 million Americans unemployed, over 69 million Americans on Medicaid, and a record 44 million Americans on food stamps, we have more to be concerned with in this country than two people falling in love, regardless of the genders of the couple.  A 2009 analysis published in the New York Times illustrated that the approval of same-sex marriage would improve the economy in New York City and New York State.  The same may be said for other states.

If our goal is to create a family unit with positive family values, then perhaps we need to reflect on our individual values that compel us to fear or hate two people because their vision of family skews our preconceptions.  A family can have value and realize love whether the family is guided by a mom and a dad, a mom and a mom, or a dad and a dad.  We need to put our resources and our energies to better use this election season.

Unemployment in America is Not a Joke, Mitt Romney

by David T. Bruce

er-unemploymentWith at least $250 million dollars in assets, Mitt Romney cannot afford to practice his stand-up comedy routine to an audience of Americans who struggle daily to remain sheltered, clothed, and nourished.  With one third of children in America covered under the Medicaid program, with over 44 million American’s on food stamps, and with over 9 percent of Americans still unemployed, American citizens cannot afford to remain complacent in terms of learning more about who they support for any office, let alone the presidency.

Make no mistake. The vast majority of politicians are not altruistic. Even with the best of intentions, the person that earns (collects?) the majority of constituent votes enjoys a lifestyle that may likely blind them to the realities of living as most Americans live. They will not want for the basic necessities of life, and in all likelihood, they will enjoy a life style with an abundance of cultural and academic opportunities. Severance pay for our each of our elected officials may run in the millions of dollars, assuring our retired or fired senators and representatives that they will never have to worry about being unemployed again.

The palpable fear of being unemployed is a daily reality for over 60 percent of Americans as they live paycheck to paycheck. The political and corporate machines feed off of one another.  In a tag-team effort, these two machines prey on the American public for their survival, leaving them just enough scraps to enjoy the moment and to forget that tomorrow we may not have a home or clothes or food. The majority of Americans do not have assets from which to draw, as Mitt Romney does. For him to compare his station, even in jest, with that of the typical American shows a profound disconnect with the reality of living in America in the twenty-first century.

At some point, we as a society need to recognize that the current corporate and political structures are set up to safeguard themselves and not the American public. Both establishments present themselves as entities whose nature is to serve their constituents, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Both establishments are self-sustaining, pandering to the American public for votes alone. They want nothing nor need anything else from the average American. Therefore, every three to four years, politicians such as Mr. Romney attempt to build bridges, comparing their reality with the reality of twenty-first century America. They make meager attempts at levity to lighten the mood and engender a sense of openness. We must recognize these façades and charades for what they are.

Mitt Romney tells President Obama that Americans “are not just statistics.”  Mr. Romney, Americans are not just a punch line either. The reality of America today is not funny, and neither are you.