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October 2, 2008

Pork and Power

Patricia A. Kelly

I was listening to Senator Orrin Hatch the other day on television, when, referring to the financial bailout vote, he said, “We’re just going to have to sweeten it, and then they’ll vote for it.”


A sickening example of politics as usual in the face of what may be the biggest financial crisis America and the world have ever faced.


“They voted it down because they didn’t much want to vote for it with elections coming, and then Nancy Pelosi infuriated them with her hostile rhetoric during opening remarks.” House Speaker Pelosi’s opening remarks are, of course, another story. But this column is not about stupidity. It’s about self interest among public servants.


I suppose their re-elections and their little tempers matter more to them than whether our companies, big and small, can get the funds to buy materials and meet payrolls.


Maybe it matters more than that Ferris Baker Watts clients have had their accounts – the ones from which they debit automatic payments – frozen, so, now, their clients can’t pay their bills.


Maybe it matters more to them than that a potential buyer for my mom’s house, on the market for months – now listed at $20,000 below the most recent appraisal – was told by PNC Bank that he shouldn’t try to get a mortgage right now.


We’ve been having a lot of fun with this self interest issue locally in recent weeks as well. Two elected members of the Republican Central Committee were fired for missing meetings. Both say the absences were excused and covered. One was either serving in the military or in training for the sheriff’s department during his absences! Both say they were blindsided. The obscure rule that allowed this has never been implemented before. I wonder if there is anything political going on here, or if anyone did this for personal gain, by any chance.


Rick Weldon, a respected state delegate, left the Republican Party in disgust over partisan politics and the constant wrangling for power and pork among our august team of state delegates. He may be talking at the state level, but his view applies across the board and at all levels.


Delegate Weldon’s decision to become unaffiliated with any party may not be the most practical solution. An argument could be made that he would have more clout as a delegation party member than as a lonely independent who has already declared his intention not to seek re-election when his time is up in two years.


I have to admire his choice in spite of my wish to see him with as much influence as possible until the end of his term. He is a man who has sacrificed much to serve us, and done so with integrity and honor. He is the kind of person I’d like to have as a representative.


Rick’s plan now is to work for the next couple of years on getting healthcare to those who don’t have it. I’m delighted to hear of his choice, as our present healthcare system is on the verge of breakdown. We spend so much money providing very expensive treatment – at government expense – to those who have become seriously ill due to lack of treatment in the early stages of their illness, that there could really be enough money for preventive care.


We need to spend our government healthcare dollar where it will do some good. Instead of waiting for critical illness, a way must be found to provide better preventive care. Thanks, Rick, for taking this on.


As for the national level, no one’s resigning in disgust that I know of. It’s just politics as usual…“my power, my re-election, my secret payoff to my electorate, attached in tiny print to a bill that addresses something completely unrelated.” Try reading a bill some time. The length should cure your insomnia, if you don’t pay much attention to the contents. I think the top players have been referring to this as earmarks.


It’s my understanding that Delegate Weldon believes, as do I, that going to the State House, the Capitol, or down the street as a representative of the people should be about country and constituents rather that pork and power. Kudos, Rick, and thanks for the time you‘ve given us.



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