Mr. Smith Thinks Twice Before Going to Washington

Posted: Jul 25, 2013 12:01 AM

At some point in your life, it’s quite likely that you’ve had the pleasure of knowing a very special teacher that went above and beyond the call of duty in order to make sure their students received the best education possible.  It’s also very conceivable that you’ve acknowledged an excellent doctor, one that would routinely make house calls with a smile on their face.  In addition, we’ve all heard the notion which implies that if you love what you do for a living, you essentially never work a day in your life — and you actually get paid to do it.  Yet, as I continue to observe all the Humphrey-Hawkins drama being played out on Capitol Hill, I truly wonder if any of the aforementioned accolades can be applied to the politicians who are attempting to represent us.    

Why do people strive to become senators and congressmen?  In my younger days — and more than likely if the unforgettable Mr. Smith (James Stewart) was asked this same question — I believe the response would have been, “To make a difference.”  But as I’ve grown a little wiser over the years, it’s nearly impossible to ignore all the congressional perks, including ever-increasing salaries, excessive retirement pensions, generous healthcare benefits, extravagant excursions, high-priced theater tickets, and exclusive parking passes, all of which have seemingly become the dominant reasons to choose a career in politics these days.      

Unfortunately, when “the outsider looking in” advocates their policies of good government, beneficial economic strategies, and overall American well-being — and subsequently runs headfirst into the reality of a categorically chaotic world — instead of sticking to their principles andimplementing legislation in an attempt to do the right thing, it obviously appears that elected officials are now basing their lawmaking decisions on the sole purpose of being reelected.  Of course, the easy solution would be term limits.  However, since the incumbents have the right to vote not only on the term limit issue, but also on other areas of concern which includes legislative salaries, the elimination of insider trading — or any one of a half dozen other controversial congressional benefits — the likelihood of changes being made for the betterment of the system are slim to none, and “slim” just left the building.   

A long time ago, with a politically knowledgeable friend of mine, I discussed a situation that occurred in the early 1900s as a legislator in Buffalo, NY spent hundreds of thousands in campaign dollars merely to win a mayoral job that paid less than $10,000 per year.  When I asked my acquaintance why anyone would do such a thing, he just smiled, shook his head, and simply replied, “You just don’t understand the benefits of being elected.”  Fifty years later, I finally realize exactly what he meant.    

In this day and age, before naively going to Washington, Mr. Smith would definitely give it much more consideration.