Charley Reese’s final column on how Washington D.C. operates

There is an op-ed that is flying around the internet lately.  It has gone viral as they say.  Author Charley Reese, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel, calls it the Frankenstein column.  He says he calls it that, because people rewrite and update it with current politicians’ names, but it could also be said that brilliant, common sense pieces such as this one never die.

The title of Reese’s column is 545 versus 300,000,000 people.  It was Reese’s final column for the Orlando Sentinel, and it appears as though it unleashed the libertarian frustrations that had built up in him over the years regarding how our beloved country is being run.

It was written back on February 3, 1984, but you’ll swear it was written yesterday.  Writing such as this is called beautiful by writers such as myself, because it’s brilliantly simplistic and beautiful, and brilliant, simplistic writing is timeless.

It was written during President Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president, but it is non-partisan in its condemnation.  It was written after a tumultuous year (1983) of spending that led to a mountainous 1.4 trillion dollar debt.  That was a leap in the debt of nearly 6.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from President Carter’s last days.  The final amount of the debt, as a percentage of the GDP, that enraged Charley Reese enough to write this prescient column in 1983 was 39.9%.  The debt that we currently have, as presented by the fine people at Skymachines, is nearly 16 trillion, as of 12/31/2011.  The final amount of the debt, as a percentage of the GDP for 2011, is currently listed at 99.7, a percentage increase of 15.6% for Barack Obama from George W. Bush’s last days.

545 vs. 300,000,000 People By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in a foreign country it’s because they want them in a foreign country …

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees…

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

As I said, this piece could’ve been written yesterday to condemn President Barack Obama’s 3.8 trillion dollar budget resolution.  It could’ve been written as a direct complaint about the president “spending much of his energy convincing you that this economic mess we’re in is not his fault.”  How many presidents have expended such energy on such a topic three years into their presidency?  Why would they do it if the fruits of their budget spoke for themselves?  How many presidents were former Senators that voted for all of the Bush spending increases, only to turn around and complain about the horrible economy that spending and those votes created?

Obama is now declaring that the only reason he had to submit a 3.8 trillion dollar budget resolution is because “no one knew how bad things were economically”.

To paraphrase Reese, “The only reason we have deficits is because he wants those deficits.”

The president and Congress have had the power over the last three years to make things better.  Instead, they’ve made things the way they want them.  Obama would tell you that his current difficulties are based on the fact that the Republicans have controlled Congress.  Whenever he does this, he should be forced to examine how he and the previous Democrat-controlled session of Congress may have affected the economy in his first two years.  That session of Democrat-controlled Congress voted for everything Obama put forward.  Pelosi’s budgets were passed without Republicans.  Republicans were shut out of these legislative sessions, so Democrats could take all the glory if things turned around … or all the blame if they didn’t.

To be fair to the Democrats in Congress, it’s difficult to turn an economy around in four years, as they had four years between 2007 and 2011, but they could have laid the groundwork for some momentum.  What they did, instead, ended up tanking the economy.  A conspiracy theorist could say that tanking the economy assured Senator Obama’s victory over Senator McCain, but that’s speculation.  Bottom line, the members of that session of Congress did not do the difficult things to change the course of this country.  They did the easy things that made the economy worse, and they ruined lives of ordinary citizens living paycheck to paycheck for the purpose of creating a problem that they could  campaign against.  How easy would it have been for them to follow President George W. Bush’s numerous recommendations that they fix what was wrong in the mortgage industry?  How easy was it for them to allow sectors of an economy to crash?

The next time a concerned citizen hears an incumbent President, Congressman, or Senator campaign for re-election on the basis that the economy may be horrible, but they know how to fix it, the concerned citizen should ask themselves how long that incumbent has been in office.  If your representative claims that our system of government makes it difficult for one person to affect an economy in the manner the concerned citizen suggests should be the goal, the concerned citizen should first ask themselves what kind of leader complains about the conditions of his or her job, and what kind of leader leads in such a manner that others cannot help but follow.  The concerned citizen should also look at the record of said politician to measure their ability to lead, persuade, and compromise for the betterment of the American public versus the politician’s partisan goals.  The concerned citizen should also look at the politician’s voting record to see if they have done anything in the past to enact the sweeping changes they state they are going to propose if they receive your vote.

The average tenure of a sitting Congressman is just over ten years at this point.  The average tenure of current sitting Senators is 12.8 years.  That is plenty of time to create an environment that “they want” as Reese says.  It’s more than enough time to make things better or make things worse depending on how they want them. That’s more than enough time to put a huge dent in the deficit and the debt, it’s enough time to create a simple tax code that is necessary and fair to all, it’s enough time to set a decent fiscal policy, to vote on appropriations that will turn this economy around, and it’s enough time to fix the problems that they will no longer be able to campaign on if they fix them.  All of these sitting Senators and Congressman have had enough time to fix the domestic problems that plague this country.  The question is why don’t they?  Do they want a bad economy?  Of course not, but they have created the environment for themselves in which we must live, that leads us to bad economic year after bad economic year.  It’s their fault…regardless of their party.


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