BY DIANE DIMOND
Sometimes a columnist touches a raw nerve. I did that last week with my call for a citizen’s “Revolution in Thinking” about how we allow our politicians to operate. Using lyrics from “Les Miserable,” the movie about the French Revolution, I wrote about the anger of so many Americans who want better for this country. They want the rivers of red ink to stop flowing. They want political leaders to lead and to stop throwing up partisan barricades in a political war that does no one any good.
No sooner was the column published than my email box exploded!
Mary Ann Edwards proclaimed her desire to join such a revolution. “I’m in! My husband is in!” she wrote. “We are stressed about this indifference to the debt and deficit. I would say scared, really.” And Mary Ann wrote, as so many others did, about her fear of the future. “Reducing spending is a foreign concept to those holding the reins of power. We don’t understand when and how this train wreck will be avoided.”
I get it, Mary Ann. I’m scared, too.
David Bailey directed me to his Facebook page, where he had written, “I fear an out of control government more than a nut with a gun.” Bailey believes both parties have failed us, and he wrote as much to his congressional delegation. “I wrote both U.S. senators last year and told them ‘they were my enemy,’ for failing to control spending and cutting spending.” He only got canned letters in response.
Ron Burton emailed to say that my words made him yearn for “the good old days in the ’70s,” when voters were actually interested enough to hit the streets to peaceably protest government policies. Great! Thanks, Ron. That’s just the idea I was hoping to ignite.
For those who want to take action but don’t know what to do, reader Gary Keenan has an idea you may want to get behind. “The only fully effective remedy to eliminating self-interest(ed) and weak, scared politicians is to change the law to single term limits for all U.S. senators and representatives,” he wrote. “Give a citizen legislator a reasonable time to do their elected job one time and stop. No running for re-election.” Keenan also suggests a ban on elected officials holding any other government or lobbying job after their initial service.
Reader Stephen Verchinski’s plan to fix the economy was short and sweet. “Easy,” he wrote. “VAT tax on imports, rise in min(imum) wage for parity with 1968 inflation-adjusted hourly wages, financial transaction tax, lower the retirement age.” Not sure I understand all of what Verchinski meant, but hey, I think all options should be discussed.
I think we need a summit of America’s top non-political brains to devise a package of ideas for Congress to ponder. Then, it will be up to each of us to hold our representatives’ feet to the fire to act on the summit’s smartest recommendations.
Kay Sorrells wrote to remind those who think there is nothing they can do that there is strength in numbers. “I have been bemoaning the fact that we, as individuals, do not have enough power to make anything happen,” she wrote. “But, as a collective group, we can effect change!!!”
Kay’s adamant punctuation speaks to her enthusiasm. She also asked if it was true that before the 112th Congress adjourned lawmakers voted themselves a $900 monthly raise? She was aghast that a legislative body that will likely be remembered as one of the least productive since the ’40s would have the audacity to increase their own pay.
Truth is, Kay, it was President Obama who made the pay raises happen. He recently signed an executive order giving a raft of federal workers a bump in pay beginning this March. Every member of Congress will see their annual pay go up $900 to $174,900. Vice President Biden gets an extra $6,379 a year to bring his salary to almost $232,000. Must be nice.
Reader Gary Miles wrote to properly corrected me. I had lumped in Social Security with “other entitlement programs.” Social Security, of course, is a program that nearly all of us pay into for years. It is no giveaway; it is our money.
Lee Trussell said my column should be, “Required reading in Washington, D.C.” Thanks for that, Lee. If you agree, may I suggest that you print out of copies of last week’s column and mail them to your elected officials with big block letters that read: CUT GOVERNMENT SPENDING NOW! Sign it, “Angry American.”
Our collective power is breathtakingly obvious. Yet reader Joe Stehling sees the politicians’ “arrogance of power” so intimidating that many citizens don’t bother to try to understand what’s happening. Ed Hoover agreed, writing, “We just concluded a national election where we (re)-elected 90 percent of the incumbents. The only conclusion one can logically arrive at is that the majority of people still think they are the best choice for the job.”
I don’t think so, Ed. I think it is apathy. Too many people fail to take time to inform themselves so they can cast an intelligent ballot — if they vote at all. Or, worse, they personally benefit because Senator X or Congressman Y is in office so, that is whom they vote for.
In ending, I must agree with Ed’s last line. “We, the people, are ultimately responsible for the direction of this once great nation, and we will reap the rewards or the pain, accordingly.”
It really is up to us, folks.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email [email protected].