I’ve been thinking about crime. Actually I’ve been thinking about extortion, our legislative branch in Washington D.C. the national debt ceiling, the number 60, and healthcare reform. Crime is a breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority may ultimately levy a conviction. It is interesting to me that for while every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime. When you consider violations or offenses that should be a crime but no law exists on the books, the anomalies of what is truly criminal... well it borders on the absurd.
You see news junkie that I am... I’ve been closely following the three ring circus that is our U.S. Congress as they hustled and bustled their way to a much needed holiday break from their duties of representing their contributors and those interests which hold the real power in this “land of the Free.” Each (the House of Representatives and the Senate) just passed their own versions of reforming healthcare in this nation. The House version was approximately 1,900 pages while the Senate solution falls somewhere between 2,000 and 2,100 pages. When you consider the “incorporations by reference” to earlier legislation, the number of pages snowballs for each version. I have little doubt that the actual “bills” were written by the lobbyists and the attorneys for the healthcare industry. Then too, there are the pork projects, freebees, and initiatives that were extorted by the Reps and Senators to the buy their vote. These added much poundage to the weighty bills which will now be reconciled in committee.
Extortion is a word rarely (if ever) used to describe Congress. We generally TH*NK of it as protection monies paid to “da boiz so that dey won’t break your knees.” Congress has refined extortion to an art form. (They are much more civilized and oh so genteel about what the do!) They don’t see their shenanigans as anything but being good representatives to their constituents (make that their largest contributors)! Getting “boot” for your homeland is just a matter of “bringin’ home da bacon.”
This maybe wouldn’t be such a hot button item for me if there were mega BILLIONS of cash piled around needing a place to be spent. Let’s face it, we are already broke and every marginal dollar of expenditure goes directly to increase the debt. With all the fanfare on health care (which really has nothing to do with the healthy) you might have missed that Congress raised the debt ceiling to $12.4 TRILLION. The hope is that nobody will notice and this second raise will get the incumbents thru the 2010 election. If that doesn’t meet the deadline the government just won’t pay their bills for a while.
It is not just the Federal Government which is in the hole and sinking deeper. All but about four or five states are sinking deeper underwater as well. 40 states have exhausted their unemployment benefit pool. This is after borrowing some $24 BILLION from Uncle $ugar --- who basically printed the money to help out. During 2010 another $90 BILLION will be “borrowed” from the Feds by the States to meet their mandated unemployment payments. So much for the “jobless recovery,” now TH*NK tanks are suggesting that unemployment won’t return to the “NORMAL” unemployment of 5% or less until 2015 to 2017. THAT is six to eight years down the road.
Uncle $ugar just loves to help out whoever is squealing the loudest. Some largess comes to those in “need” via a blanket bailout. These are truly rare though. The number 60 (or 60%) is important in Congress. This is the “SUPER majority” threshold number of members required to vote on a growing number of actions. It is also the number needed to override the filibusters, and bring an action to a floor vote. If all Democrats (and every independent vote together), Republicans basically do not have a voice.
The House and the Senate “Health Care Bills” needed 60 votes (or 60%) to get over the first hurdles. Most party loyalists fell in line and voted the way Pelosi and Reid wanted. There were however a few holdouts which sold out (or rather extorted their votes) for the fat cats back home. This porcine greed ranged from limiting the cutbacks in medicine payments to a decline of a mere $100 BILLION (when four times that was possible). 30 to 50 MILLION people will be required to buy insurance from the EXISTING insurers, or pay up to 8% of their wages as a penalty. One major insurer got a permanent exemption from penalties; it faced from the beneficiaries of their “golden policies” and Illinois got, well, a Federal Prison! Ah politics.
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
Copyright 2009 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on December 28, 2009.