Is the “Money Game” Dying in DC?

ChangeCongress-FollowTheMoney696In my last post I decried the incessant corruption in Washington, DC.  I recently read Peter Schweitzer’s amazing book “Extortion” and suddenly I see the baffling events inside the Beltway with new clarity.

Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor got 26 other Republican congressmen to join 200 Democrats and pass a “clean” bill to extend the debt limit until after the election.  All the other Republican congressmen sensibly voted against passage.

Today the Senate, with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Whip John Cornyn voting along with the Democrats, passed the bill for President Obama’s signature.  As a result the national debt will rise to at least $18.2 trillion while our government does nothing but accelerate the calamitous decline in our economy.

Until I read Schweitzer’s book I could not fathom how the Republican leadership of both houses of Congress could vote not only against the wishes and interests of their constituents, but also in defiance of their own body of legislators.  The Republican majority-holding members in the House could have stopped this travesty in a heartbeat, and would have, were it not for John Boehner and the other Republican leaders.   What kind of evil pathology is this?  How can we face our children?

It just didn’t make any sense to me.  Until I learned about “the money”. 

I learned from Schweitzer and subsequent research that the game of government in DC is all about “the money”.  A congressman cannot get elected without “the money”.  Once a candidate is anointed by his party (both teams play by the same rules) and then elected, he is immediately indebted.  He is required to not only raise enough funds to win his own re-election, he also must also raise funds to sustain the party.  And let me tell you, these are some high stakes.

Committee assignments and leaderships are granted to legislators based on the funds they raise.  Votes are bought and sold.   Party leaders can financially make or break any member in a heartbeat.   None of the attributes a congressman brings to his position – knowledge, experience, skill, hard work – matters at all.  One’s status and hope for re-election is solely the result of how much dough he raises for the party.  The vast majority of a legislator’s time is spent chasing “the money”.

While you never hear about this “Lord of the Flies” culture in the press, it is no secret inside the Beltway.  It has been in place for a long, long time.

But a change took root in recent years.  Conservative voters, seeing that the entrenched political class in Washington, DC no longer took any interest in limiting government, supporting constitutional rights, and passing reasonable budgets, began sending principled men and women to the nation’s capital.  These newcomers were less engaged in “the money” and more driven by practical economics and common sense.  As the Tea Party influence became more pronounced, and fewer members feared the leadership’s “protection racket”, the DC money machine started to break down.  The Republican war chest was depleting.  And the central control of the Republican leadership started to crack.

For a candidate, the worst thing about the Tea Party is that they will work hard for you, but they won’t bring you a lot of money.  The best thing is that you won’t have to sell your soul to pay them back.

Boehner and friends have thrown in the towel. From the Huffington Post:

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he “hoped to find 18 of them to join 200 Democrats to get the job done.”

“The fact is, we’ll let the Democrats put the votes up,” Boehner said. “We’ll put a minimum amount of votes up to get it passed.”

The new conservatives don’t care that much about raising money and are not indebted to the leadership.  They voted a resounding NO, and led most of the Republican membership into the light with them.  The old guard Republican leadership hunkered down in their central command, clinging to the hope that they could keep hold of their power and positions, and “the money”, by caving in, again, to their Democrat opponents.  In his final hurrah, Boehner bought just enough votes to do the deal and now he is broken and broke, along with Cantor, McConnell and the others.  “The money”, and the power structure it bought, may soon be extinct.

I hope we will look back at this day as a pivot point.  It was a battle lost, but one that could light the path to winning the war, where true conservatives stand on principle and vote for the people, not “the money”.

(To my Montana friends – The “Responsible Republicans” in the Big Sky State should take note.  Their future may look a lot like that of Boehner and friends.)

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideYou never give me your money
You only give me your funny paper
And in the middle of negotiations
You break down!

You Never Give Me Your Money – the Beatles
covered by the Ed Turner Band

Good Day To Be A Conservative

sunshineToday it feels good to be a conservative.  Heck I might even claim the Republicans again for the first time in a long while.

Last week John Boehner finally listened to the people and decided to stand his ground against the intransigent, ideologue Democrats.  Many weak-kneed squishy Republicans spent the last few weeks hiding under their desks, afraid to be “blamed” for fighting a program that they know is harmful to the nation – and even they have now sheepishly joined the fray.

Then Ted Cruz jumped to the front of the battle, his brave filibuster inspiring everyone on the right side to finally stand up.  Well, almost everybody – John McCain showed us why it’s probably a good thing he was defeated in his presidential run.  Cruz was still making perfect sense and a compelling argument against the Train Wreck after a physically grueling 21 hours on his feet at the microphone.

How refreshing to finally see some leadership in the GOP.  It’s about damn time!  Where were the Ted Cruz’s during the last two presidential elections?  Will we ever learn the futility of running milk-toast candidates?

Today the federal government is shut down.  Oh, we know that it’s a charade.  We aren’t really going to stop, or even slow federal spending.  In a few weeks the federal employees who are now furloughed will receive full back-pay – it’s just another paid vacation to them.   The grants will still flow, the cronies will line up at the trough, and we conservatives will still be branded as hard-hearted meanies and racists for even questioning the insanity.

But today there is big-time symbolic significance.   Finally somebody has gathered the fortitude to Just Say No.

It’s a good day to be a conservative in America.  There may be hope after all.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Good day sunshine!
Good day sunshine!
I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I’ve got something I can laugh about!

Good Day Sunshine – the Beatles

John Lennon – Liberal? Or Conservative?

beatlesI’m a Beatle baby.  I grew up with the Beatles.  In my pre-pube years I watched their movies, listened to their hit songs on the radio, saw them on Ed Sullivan, and tried to figure out why all the girls were screaming.  Like every other music-aware and girl-aware boy, I wanted to be a Beatle.   I just couldn’t decide which one.

At first I thought being a British Invasion drummer would be the pinnacle of success. Here’s my story, a song I wrote and recorded a couple of years ago:

To this day I revere the Beatles (living and dead) – their magical songwriting skills, their charisma, their larger-than-life grip on pop culture, and their legendary worldview that grew beyond anything that could have been scripted.   John, Paul, George and Ringo set the tempo of the universe, both musically and socially.  They had the world by the ass.

Many of you who Rock with me On The Right Side might think that the long-haired, dope-smoking, guru-worshipping Beatles of the sixties were on the wrong side of political history.  How on Earth could conservative Tom still get such a big buzz when he hears “Baby, You Can Drive My Car”, or “Lady Madonna” ?

Well, to tell you the truth, I never really tried to extract any deep message.  Nor did you.  Much of their lyrical message was nonsense.

I am the Egg Man! They are the Egg Men! I am the Walrus! Goo Goo, Goo Joob!

Lennon and McCartney occasionally tried to convey an overtly political message.   Usually it was something basic, like “Give Peace A Chance.”  But let’s face it: they weren’t world leaders, they were relatively uneducated twenty-something kids who were getting a lot of attention. They had no clue what message would have positive results for their world and that of the future.

But they did have the world by the ass, and still do.  I still love to play and sing Beatle songs.  I plead guilty to the crime of passionately singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to audiences of all persuasions, including Montana cowboys:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Could there be a more liberal, “one world order” message than that?  I kind of hope that nobody really pays attention to those lyrics when I sing them.  Just enjoy the beautiful song.

But then I revel in Lennon’s totally conservative anthem “Revolution”, in which he proclaims:

You say you’ll change the constitution, well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution, well, you know
You better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?

Was John Lennon a liberal, or a conservative?  I don’t think he really cared.  He was just searching for reality.  For truth.  Hell, maybe he was so stoned most of the time he couldn’t tell the difference.  I suppose he stumbled onto wisdom and dreams from both sides, like many of us who try to make sense of the news today.

Anyway, thinking about Lennon, and the Beatles, and the huge philosophical and political differences between the left and the right today, it reminds me to . . . just keep an open mind.  Listen.  Think.  Teach.  Stay level.  And do your best to help make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

But if you want money
For people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right?

RIP John Lennon

Tester / Baucus: Losers Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

A while back I blogged that we “Old Bean Counters” could fix the deficit in pretty short order.  I know, I know – things are VERY messed up and it may take more than a couple of weeks to straighten it out.

But still, it ain’t rocket science.  It’s just Dollars In, Dollars Out.  In business, in government, and in family life, you can’t spend more money than you take in – at least not for very long.  So you need to make sure that what you do spend is not wasted, and you need to help the guys who bring the dollars in.  From all indications, our current Congress has it backwards – they can’t get their spending under control, and they go out of their way to stifle success in the private sector.

Here’s another simple platitude we Old Bean Counters used to throw out regularly:  Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

In business, planning is everything.  Successful companies analyze their markets, create an operating plan that shows how profit will be made, and then execute the plan.  Those who take it “one day at a time” and try to react to events as they occur nearly always fail.   It’s survival of the fittest, and the fittest are careful planners.

Our US Senate, including Montana’s own Max Baucus and Jon Tester, are not exactly “the fittest”.  They, their leader Harry Reid, and the rest of the Senate, have not passed a budget since April 29, 2009.  In fact Reid said, “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget, in my opinion.

This year President Obama submitted his budget proposal in February, as is his responsibility.   It failed to receive a single vote in either the House or the Senate, but hey – he did his job.

Soon after that, the House passed their own budget proposal.  It went to the Senate, where it languishes today just like every bill the House sends over.  The House continues to work on budget and spending bills, knowing there is no hope of success, but doing the work anyway.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been busy doing . . . well, nothing.  Senate Democrats have the ball, and if they can’t play their game, they are going home and taking the ball with them.  Senate Republicans – in keeping with recent tradition – threaten to filibuster any bill the other guys put up.  So the Dems just don’t bother.

So we spend, and spend, and spend – without a budget.  We make no attempt to improve the business climate (and government revenues) by reforming tax and regulation policies.  We just take it one day at a time, and let policy decisions be made according to political doctrine, without regard to economic viability.

We have failed to plan for over three years now.

The result is clear.  We have failed.  We are losers.  And Mssrs. Baucus and Tester share the blame.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Enjoy one of the best Beatle songs ever –

What have I done to deserve such a fate
I realize I have left it too late
And so it’s true, pride comes before a fall
I’m telling you so that you won’t lose all

I’m A Loser – the Beatles