A Naval Officer takes a long strange trip to the Desert.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Warning: I found my soapbox.

I hate to do it, but I feel the need to jump back on my soapbox once again. I’m motivated today by a few different things, most notably by H.R. 1595, also known as the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. It was introduced apparently back on March 20th, but only came to public attention in the last day or so. I will return to this gem a little later.
A few days ago I came across a Washington Post article written by Jonathan Weisman and Lyndsey Layton, titled “Democrats’ Momentum Is Stalling”. This article didn’t strike me as being to terribly biased to the left, but it was a fairly interesting account of the progress made thus far by the Democrats of the 110th Congress. It basically describes the current status of the bills that were pushed through the House during Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “First 100 Hours” publicity spectacle. Among the big ticket items were things like raising the minimum wage, enacting all the recommendations of the 911 commission, student loan interest rate cuts, Medicare drug price negotiation capability for the Federal Government, and ending some tax breaks for oil and gas companies (even those owned by Ted Kennedy). Even though the Dems succeeded in pushing all this legislation through within the 100 hour deadline, not one of them has been signed into law. The authors site an ABC News-Washington Post poll that found that 73 percent of Americans characterize congress as having done “not too much” or “nothing at all”. They also site a memo from Democracy Corps, a democratic polling firm, which suggested that the favorable rating of Congress and the Democrats had dropped three points because of the stalemate over the war spending bill between Congress and The White House. (They didn’t say specifically what the Congressional favorable rating was, of course. I suspect they’re afraid to be specific on this point given that the approval rating of Congress is below that of the President, and has been for a long time.)
Here is my biggest beef. I find it interesting that the Democrat controlled congress conducted this 100 hour thing, pushing through a whole laundry list of items that were supposedly important to the people that elected them, and then failed to add them to the war funding bill. What did the war funding bill have instead? Pork…and lots of it. I have heard plenty of conservatives comment that the only way the Dems could pull this bill together at all was through bribery, but I’m wondering why they didn’t throw in all that 100 hours stuff instead? Certainly the policies they were supposedly elected to enact would have served them better than the pork they stuck in the darned thing, wouldn’t they? It certainly would have played better in the press.
The article quoted a very accurate Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona, who remarked that Democrats are just “trying to score political points on the war…Part of their party can’t conceive of anything else to talk about but the war.” I think he’s right on the money with this observation about the Democrat Party, but I would go one step further with the belief that it’s that portion of the party that is truly holding the purse strings. I would offer the Lieberman affair as an example of what happens in the Democrat Party if you don’t tote the anti-war party line.
The most telling quote of the article was given courtesy of Leon Panetta, who had served as a chief of staff under Bill Clinton. It came right at the end of the article, and for me, served as a wonderful illustration of how Conservative and Liberal thought differs.
“This leadership, these Democrats have shown they can fight, now they have to show they can govern.”
In the same breath, Mr. Panetta refers to the Democrats as “Leaders”, and then admits that they have yet to figure out how to govern. Isn’t one exclusive to the other? According to his statement, these democrats apparently aren’t leaders at all. More importantly, Conservatives at the most basic level, don’t want to be governed! Conservatives demand leadership when absolutely necessary, and the rest of the time we generally want to be left alone. A stark contrast, of course, to the necessity of the Liberals to govern in their characteristically heavy handed fashion. (Pay the taxes we tell you to, don’t offend anyone ever or you’re a racist-bigot-sexist-homophobe, your very breath is a pollutant, and the environment trumps all.) I have to ask the question, would a Democratic congress be of greater or lesser value to Liberals if it didn’t have to fight? Would a Democratic congress, that was consistently unable to govern, continue to fight? In what way would it fight to see its policies accepted, and to what end? Would it resort, to say, bribery? Not the Jack Abramoff variety, but more of the “pork” variety perhaps? And even if it worked, and their policies were adopted at the cost of billions of dollars of additional spending, would they then qualify as leaders? I have a feeling that to people like Mr. Panetta, whey would. Probably to most of the media, as well.
This discussion of needless spending for the sake of polital capital brings me right back to the House Bill, H.R. 1595. This is, in short, a war reparations bill that seeks to reimburse the people of Guam for atrocities committed at the hands of a foreign government. That’s right, a foreign government, specifically the “Imperial Japanese military forces that occupied Guam during World War II”.
Can someone please explain to me, when this kind of thing is going to stop? What should we do next, pay for the actions of the Nazi Government?
More importantly, If I decided to walk into a federal building and demand money, would I even need a reason? Appearantly, your ability to get a hand out from uncle Sam is limited only by your imagination. It seems that the big money these days goes to the special interest groups with the most creative excuses. In this case, the excuse seems to be “the neighborhood bully beat up my grandfather, so the police owe me money”.
How about this: My grandfather dies of ALS, so the American Medical Association owes me $21,000,000.
I don’t think Dr. Evil could think up stuff this dumb, and yet, there it is, H.R. 1595.
Despite my pokes and jabs, this bill is actually written up as“Recognition of the Suffering of the Residents of Guam.” Which begs the question, why did it take so darn long for the government to recognize it? (They must have put FEMA in charge.) And more importantly, why now? The answer, my friends and neighbors, can be found in two places. The first is the web page for the islands news paper, and the second is undoubtedly K-street in lovely Washington DC. You see, this beautiful little island is having a major financial meltdown due largely to decades of overspending and corruption. (Here’s a gentleman with a pretty good run down of the situation, and here is a little more background just for effect.)
Now don’t get me wrong, Guam is an incredibly beautiful place. The people are some of the friendliest you will ever find, and the islands history is as interesting and colorful as can be. The politics, however, are atrocious. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why I like the place so much, it reminds me of Louisiana.
As sorry as I feel about the suffering the people of Guam endured at the hands of the Japanese, I have to point out, that was 60 years ago! I wouldn’t begrudge them their grief, but it isn’t a chip to be cashed in at their convenience.
In my opinion, H.R. 1595 is nothing but the outcome of a lobbying effort on the part of the Government of Guam, to bail them out of financial situation that they brought on themselves. It’s also a lobbying effort that has a much better chance of paying off for them with a Democrat Congress than a Republican one. As a Conservative, I also strongly object to the use of the “Payments for Guam World War II Claims” excuse. It’s not only cheap and dishonest, but it is a degradation of the honor of the people who actually suffered. Not to mention the fact that it belong in a Japanese court, not the U.S. Congress!This bill represents some of the very worst kind of pork, pork through misplaced and undeserved guilt. If the people of Guam are enduring hard times, then as a Conservative, I would love to help. I would love to show them ways to increase revenue, while reducing tax rates and encouraging economic growth. Despite the Liberal propaganda, it is possible. I would love to show them how to shore up property rights, encourage respect for the rule of law, and thereby enjoy a higher standard of living and home ownership. I would love to show them how to spend their precious revenue wisely, and not be dependant upon the handouts from Uncle Sam. I would love to show them how to turn their beautiful island into an increasingly precious jewel, rich and prosperous, unrivaled and unequaled in the western pacific. Even if I was allowed to help, it would still be up to them to do the work necessary to break their addiction to easy handouts from Washington. For the addicted, there are no easy fixes, no simple solutions. It takes courage and vision to even begin down the path to self reliance. Another handout will be making things worse.


Anonymous Auntie L said...

I agree with you about most of this, but honey, history just keeps repeating itself.

We have and continue to bail out the countries destroyed by Hitler, and other dictators. Shouldn't be our job, but it always is.
You mention the Guamese people needing to be taught self-reliance, how about the Indians?

Why are we importing pet food from China? Aren't we a farming nation? Who benefits from this trade agreement? Doesn't it make our country and citizens more vulnerable?

Isn't the graft and corruption everywhere and is is just one parties fault?

Just throwing the ball out there to see how high it bounces.

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Is this a case of an entire culture getting stuck on the dole? If I recall Chamorro culture was significantly impacted by the Spanish before either the US or Japan entered the picture. So at what point in that history were values of freedom, self-reliance and capitalism established?

Guam may illustrate another problem. Generally, like individual freedom, to have local control makes governments and bureaucracy more responsive to the citizens. Local control also allows local abuses. In Guam that seems to have resulted in nepotism and crime.

Globilization makes it possible to import pet food from China so that we can concentrate on more profitable endeavors. Our standard of living would be significantly lower if the only goods available were those we could create locally. It also expands the number of minds able to spend time thinking up new and better products. This is one reason why modern advances are so rapid.

4:44 AM  

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