The Gimme Something Congress and the Public Service Failure

Lurita Doan
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Posted: Nov 28, 2011 12:01 AM

Once upon a time---public service in America was understood by all to reflect a decision by those in government to put civic duties ahead of personal gain. Unfortunately, our elected members of Congress, in word and deed, are showing Americans how the system really works as they rush for personal gain.

Public service is morphing into crass expediency in which some of the members of congress expect to be rewarded with great personal wealth by exploiting information received in closed-door sessions or hearings, dodgy links to businesses run by relatives and family members, and skillful sleight-of-hand with campaign donations.

This group of elected members of Congress and senior Administration officials expect to get rich from their period of public service. What a pity.

It was not always like that.When Americans think of patriots, we think of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) whose sacrifices made this country the greatest nation on the face of the earth. Both my husband's family and mine have long lines of ancestors who served and shaped the history of this country-- Pilgrims, Free Men of Color, Revolutionary War soldiers--all who seemed to think that this country was worth shaping, sowing and saving with their sweat and blood. Countless other Americans have ancestors, with similar pasts, who contributed much.

What we seem to have now are folks in positions of power with little interest in the longevity of our republic, but are only interested in how much they can squeeze out of public service for their personal gain.Compared to the early days of our country where public servants were the leaders in sacrifice of personal gain, we have fallen far.

The Paymaster's registers in the National Archives are immensely interesting, for they tell not only the names, ranks, salaries and locations of those who served in the Revolutionary Way--from Private to General, now long dead, but they also tell who paid for what.

While much of the Revolutionary War was paid with borrowed funds, it also becomes clear that a large part of the war effort was paid for by private citizens.Whether supported by little-known patriots such as Haym Solomon or the most famous, documented and arguably the most generous, patriot, George Washington,;who advanced the money needed to fight the war and accepted no salary for his War service.

Contrast Solomon's and Washington's kind of dedication, altruism and public service with Congress' most recent financial scandal. Sadly, Congressman Spencer Bachus and former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, are just some of many of the members of congress who seem to have forgotten that they were elected to serve the people and, instead, have blatantly profited from their time in office.

Nor are Pelosi and Bachus alone.Sadly, many elected members of Congress come to Washington as modest men and women.Yet, while serving on a limited salary, they are, nevertheless, able to become multi-millionaires with stock holdings that routinely outdistance even the best-run portfolios in the nation.

Put bluntly, our elected officials and senior Administration officials are getting rich at the public expense.

What Americans are beginning to see is that these "gimme something"; public servants have no notion of public service. Public service is just a business for them, and they are just trying to make a buck. Nor does it end with their tenure in elected or appointed office.Once these folks come to Washington, they rarely leave; and make no mistake, whether operating openly or operating behind the scenes, they are always in power.

Why?

With over $3 trillion annually in federal spending alone, big government is big business.And, like barnacles on our great ship of state, they move along, feed off and erode the entity they are supposed to protect.

Some members of congress are exceptions, such as Congressman Darrell Issa, who created his wealth with his brain and his business savvy, or Senator Jay Rockefeller, who inherited his wealth.And, there are many others who married their wealth.But, these members are few in comparison to the many--too many--others who enrich themselves at the public's expense. These folks never truly leave D.C. because they aren't interested in solving our nation's problems.The business of politics is what they are all about.

In fact, many of these have created new, completely artificial industries that exist only through subsidies from the federal government. Whether elected, appointed or crowned Czars, they come in and they revolve back out to do the same thing--advance their own interests at the expense of the public. ;(Think ethanol and Gen. Wesley Clark? Peter Orszag and TARP- recipient Citigroup? Carol Browner and the Albright Stonebridge environmental advocacy group?)

Oh, how Americans long for a new group of more honest public servants and elected officials that will put the public interests above their own shameful grub for personal profits! Wouldn't Americans love to see just one former Congressman, Senator, or Cabinet Secretary actually return home to their state when he/she no longer serves, open a hardware store, work at a Pancake shop or do anything not connected to seeking political favors for some industry?

These are the public servants we need to find and to elect. And we need to do it quickly.