Tags: Congress | FAA | sequester | cuts

Congress Is Full of Hot Air

Thursday, 02 May 2013 07:40 AM

By Neal Asbury

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There are 26 million unemployed and underemployed Americans, and we've just suffered the worst terrorist strike in this country since 9/11. So our Congress has snapped into action by concentrating on critical initiatives to push our nation forward.

Let's begin with the House moving to reauthorize the Federal Helium Program.

That's right. America needs to marshal its forces to keep blimps in the sky with the production of helium. Without blimps, how do we get those great overhead shots of football games? At least all the people sitting at home without jobs will have something to keep them occupied.

So as we tackle flawed technology of the 19th century, we also are spending $5 billion on all-electric vehicles, the flawed technology of the 21st century. They don't work and nobody wants them. Yet that hasn't stopped the administration from lending money to electric car manufacturers that are not only losing billions of dollars in taxpayer funding, they haven't created any sustainable jobs. At least in this country.

But let's continue to explore transportation-related travesties. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that all employee furloughs for air traffic controllers as a result of sequestration will be exempt from its cuts, so that U.S. air travel can return to its usual late flights instead of its chronically late and cancelled flights.

When people are unhappy and votes might be lost, Congress folds like a blackjack player with three face cards. So instead of sticking to its guns and following the dictates of the mandated sequestration, the airline industry gets a break. Every agency was to suffer equally — unless, of course, Congress decides that some agencies get a pass.

Those agencies without the clout of the FAA that are furloughing employees include: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), IRS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Park Police, Housing and Urban Development, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the White House Budget Office. If it were up to me, I would furlough the entire EPA and NLRB — forever.

And let us not forget that in an economic crisis, it's always best to diminish anxiety. In response, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., introduced the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, which would remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol at the federal level. It would also remove marijuana from the jurisdiction of the Drug Enforcement Administration and place it in the jurisdiction of a renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, Firearms and Explosives.

The timing couldn't be better. As the ATF (at least for now) seeks to uncover all the details surrounding the bombs used in the Boston Marathon explosions, it's the perfect time to diminish their effectiveness by having them add marijuana control to their "to-do" list.

Some people have labeled this Congress the "do nothing" Congress, but that would be a misnomer. They took quick, decisive action in April to repeal the Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, which required (among other mandates) transparent reporting on financial transactions. The Act supposedly would have kept politicians honest, forcing them to refrain from enriching themselves based on privileged information.

According to The Hill, the House "passed S. 716 by unanimous consent, with no debate and no description on the floor about what the bill would do. The Senate passed it in the same fashion."

Does that sound self-serving? Of course, but let us move on to a recent move by congressional leaders in both parties to exempt themselves from the insurance exchanges they are mandating for all of us under Obamacare.

Yes, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, while admitting to have not read its 900+ pages, which may explain why members have no intention of being included in its flawed coverage.

So, is anybody in Congress working to improve this country and its laws?

The Huffington Post had a story that serves up this bit of disconcerting news: "One member of Congress said that fundraising takes up so much time that members don't even have time to become experts on bills they sponsor."

According to Public Policy Polling, "When asked if they have a higher opinion of either Congress or a series of unpleasant or disliked things, voters said they had a higher opinion of root canals (32 for Congress and 56 for the dental procedure), NFL replacement refs (29-56), head lice (19-67), the rock band Nickelback (32-39), colonoscopies (31-58), Washington, D.C., political pundits (34- 37), traffic jams (34-56), cockroaches (43-45), Donald Trump (42-44), France (37-46), Genghis Khan (37-41), used-car salesmen (32-57) and Brussels sprouts (23-69) than Congress."

At a time when Congress is debating helium balloons when we have so many challenges to face, it's the perfect metaphor for Congress: full of hot air.

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