As you know by now, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided to call it quits and yesterday announced he’ll be resigning from Congress. Senator Reid has been serving since 1983 – the year I went on active duty in the Army at Ft. Sill Oklahoma.
I think there should be an exit assessment of any Member of Congress in order to evaluate their effectiveness while in office. One of the basic areas of analysis is in fiscal responsibility, namely our debt.
And that is exactly what CNS News did, saying “The debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42 during the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress. That equals an increase of about $145,131 for every household in the country. There have been five presidents during that time, including three Republicans (Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush) and two Democrats (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).”
“Reid was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1982 and then was elected to the Senate in 1986. He first took office in the House on Jan. 3, 1983, the first business day in January of that year. At the beginning of that day, according to the Monthly Statement of the Public Debt for December 1982, the total public debt of the federal government was $1.97 trillion. As of March 25 of this year, the latest day for which debt numbers are available, the federal debt was $18.152 trillion. That means that since Reid first joined Congress in 1983, the federal debt has increased just under $17 trillion.”
I am quite sure many are asking, so what? Here’s the so what for you and your household. CNS News says of the current $155,378 debt per household, 93 percent of it accrued during Harry Reid’s tenure in Congress.
Now, if that doesn’t bother you at all — and mind you, this should be a bipartisan analysis — then I don’t know what will. Because as you have incurred this massive debt per household, Senator Harry Reid — whose personal wealth has grown — will walk away with a taxpayer-funded pension of nearly 70 percent of his senatorial base pay, which, if I’m correct, is just over $200,000. In comparison for those who will challenge my military pension, I receive 55 percent of the base pay for being a retired Lieutenant Colonel with 22 years service.
So what are the consequences for Congressional fiscal responsibility? We all know that you qualify for a pension after having served only 5 years on Capitol Hill. And our Founding Fathers never wished for this to be a career pursuit; they wanteded servant legislators. As a matter of fact, it was George Mason who stated on 17 June, 1788 at the Virginia Ratifying Conference for our Constitution: “Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens.”
Therefore let us ask the question, what burdens do these retired Members of Congress share with the general mass of the people? What are the consequences for the irresponsible actions over a career of serving in Congress?
I can tell you simply that in the military if you’re given command of a unit and ruin that unit, chances are your evaluation report will ensure that you won’t be getting another unit. I know that so many address the “low approval ratings” of the Congress — but the incumbent reelection rate remains at or above 90 percent. So in other words, Congress — House and Senate — may stink but my representative smells like a rose. And so it becomes rather Pavlovian, and we continue to reward the abhorrent bad behavior, and unfortunately we get the government we deserve.
How about someone runs on moving Congress away from baseline budgeting, which means every year there is an increase in spending? And how about stop saying a cut to spending when all it means is a cut to the rate of increase of spending. The way it works now is, let’s say in Fiscal Year 2014, an agency had a stated budget. Subsequently in Fiscal Year 2015, they request a 15 percent increase in that budget. Congress comes back and only gives them a 12 percent increase — and that’s called a cut in spending. Instead we should move towards a zero-based budgetary system where every year the 12 appropriations bills start from ZERO, and every dollar must be justified, not taken for granted.
If we don’t get a hold of our spending problem in Washington D.C., If we don’t begin a critical analysis of individual Member records on fiscal matters –especially those in leadership and on specific fiscal committees — we are headed towards economic collapse.
I wish Senator Harry Reid happy trails ahead, but he hasn’t ensured we, the people will have them.