It's Time to hold our Elected Officials Accountable
No Senator has been expelled from the Senate since the Civil War and no Representative has been expelled from the House since 2002.
President Obama believes that he's the 4th best president in U.S. history. That's what he told Steve Kroft in a recent 60 Minutes interview:
"As you yourself said, Steve, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln. You know, just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history."
That clip was expunged from the 60 Minutes broadcast by CBS editors, but you can see it on YouTube. If President Obama truly believes that his legislative and foreign policy accomplishments are noteworthy for anything except gross ineptitude, then he must be delusional, and candidly, I wouldn't rule that out. Even so, the president is number 1 in at least one category. The Obama administration is on a trajectory to add more to U.S. debt than all the presidents between George Washington and Bill Clinton:
"President Barack Obama has been increasing the national debt during his presidency by an average of $4.24 billion per day ($4,240,506,004.34) putting him on a pace to increase the national debt by $6.2 trillion ($6,195,379,272,340.74) by the end of his term on Jan. 20, 2013, according to the debt figures published by the U.S. Treasury.
"That $6.2 trillion is more debt than was accumulated by all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton combined.
"In fact, the U.S. national debt did not eclipse the $6.195 trillion level -- the amount Obama is on pace to increase it in one term -- until August 19, 2002, during President George W. Bush's second year of office."
That's quite an achievement, but it's not something that he should be proud of. It's a national disgrace, and he has done it with the help of willing accomplices in Congress because the president can't spend a penny without Congressional authority.
I'm reminded of a letter to the editor that I read a while back. It was written by a Navy veteran who was offended that people were comparing members of Congress to drunken sailors because as he said, "Drunken sailors have to quit drinking when they run out of money."
I'm offended, too, but not by the comparison. I'm offended because members of the House and Senate have placed their own personal, political, and financial well-being ahead of our country's security. Sweetheart loan deals, trading stocks and real estate based on privileged information, kickbacks of various sorts, and vacation junkets at the expense of lobbyists are just a few of the ways that our "watchdogs" in Congress have enriched themselves as our nation spirals toward insolvency. I'm offended because while our nation was in the midst of the most serious financial crisis that we've faced since the Great Depression, President Obama used TARP and other stimulus programs to pay off his political supporters, and he did it with congressional approval.
I'm also offended because members of Congress can get away with serious wrongdoing without having to pay the price, and by that I mean going to jail. If a kid steals a candy bar from the local convenience store and is caught, he will be arrested. Members of Congress can pocket huge sums of money and/or engage in activities that would land ordinary citizens in jail, but all they get is a slap on the wrist -- if that. Caught red-handed committing egregious offenses, they may be fined, à la Newt Gingrich, or censured, à la Charlie Rangel, but no Senator has been expelled from the Senate since the Civil War and no Representative has been expelled from the House since 2002.
It's time to hold our elected officials accountable. The first step is to vote for honest men and women who will actually do their jobs. The second step is to insist that they apply the same standards and penalties to themselves that they impose on the rest of us.
Neil Snyder is a chaired professor emeritus at the University of Virginia. His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily. His latest book is titled If You Voted for Obama in 2008 to Prove You're Not a Racist, You Need to Vote for Someone Else in 2012 to Prove You're Not an Idiot.