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S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Congress - Keep your eyes open

The election of a majority of Democrats to the U.S. House and Senate raised the expections of all of us for getting things done. We want our elected legislators to provide oversight, to make new laws, to resist special interest excesses, to provide constituent services, to curb executive powers, and to sanction executive branch appointments. We expect them to be honest, to get us out of Iraq and to see to the protection of our civil liberties. They are also to work five days a week in Washnigton, to look good, to speak well, to keep their families intact, and to be in about six places at once.
Members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate, thus, have many things over which they are expected to watch on our behalf. There is the environment, foreign affairs, constitutionality of legislation, the federal budget, the well-being of the military, public works and climate change, just to name a few.
And there are the ceremonial traditions that bolster the institution that is Congress. Monday Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) read George Washington's farewell address to the nation when the father of our country decided not to allow himself to be nominated for a third term as President. In a heavy Southern accent, the Republican rookie gamely struggled through the arcane language of the time, fortifying himself with sips of water and giving Washington's original erudite phrases a kind of wide-eyed read and commitment that was often charming. I am glad the Senators listen to the speech every year. Our first - very modest - president provides a good role model and a steadying hand these several centuries later. Congress needs all the help it can get in these trying times. The war in Iraq is draining precious lives, attention and far too much of the public treasury. Congress ignores domestic policy at the peril of us all.
Here is my list of current domestic issues needing the most scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.
  1. The Clock is Ticking for Clean Energy and the Environment - "Auto lobby bracing for higher fuel standards," says the CNN headline, from which I quote:
    Major automakers believe stricter fuel economy standards for passenger cars are inevitable, but they want the Transportation Department - not Congress - to set the goal, the industry's lead U.S. trade group said on Friday.
    "There will be an increase in fuel standards, but it needs to be through a process that relies on data in a balanced system," Dave McCurdy, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Reuters in an interview.
  2. Immigration Reform Cannot be Ignored Forever - "Immigration debate between wall and wallet" is the title of this commentary by CNN's Ruben Navarette, Jr.'s commentary. The author puts the problem in a nutshell:
    This week, Congress will return to the immigration debate when it hears testimony from U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
    I love the pairing. It illustrates America's schizophrenia on the issue and the built-in tension between the need to control our borders and the profits we reap from keeping it open, between the wall and wallet.
    Hopefully, at the end of it all, we'll have comprehensive immigration reform that gives illegal immigrants a path to legal residency. Until that happens, the popular view is that towns, cities, and states will take it upon themselves to try to end illegal immigration -- for better or worse.
  3. Safety Net Still Needed for Poor People - "Welfare state growing despite overhauls" headlines the Yahoo! News story, from which I quote,
    The welfare state is bigger than ever despite a decade of policies designed to wean poor people from public aid. The number of families receiving cash benefits from welfare has plummeted since the government imposed time limits on the payments a decade ago. But other programs for the poor, including Medicaid, food stamps and disability benefits, are bursting with new enrollees.
    The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Nearly one in six people rely on some form of public assistance, a larger share than at any time since the government started measuring two decades ago.
  4. Public Safety Still Needed for Citizenry - "U.S. food safety inspections languishing" is the headline from CNN. To quote from the story,
    The federal agency that's been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.
    The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.
Congress must take up the slack for these and many other neglected domestic problems. They must insure that our own citizens do not get lost in the fog of the very troubling Middle East conflicts.
What would you put on your list for Congress?
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1 comment:

betmo said...

list for congress- ideally fairly quickly-

dumping the police state in favor of a better more comprehensive approach to homeland security- and reinstating the constitution

getting caught up on the global warming/environmental thing. there is no reason we shouldn't be leading the way on cleaning up the planet.

downsizing and streamlining government so that we don't "lose" billions of dollars into the ether- or dick cheney's bank account. efficient is better able to handle domestic programs.

doing something about healthcare. it is the single biggest bankrupting force in this country. medicaid costs are draining state budgets as a result of disastrous federal tax cuts and it is causing our infrastructures to crumble.

i could go on- but i will leave it at that- your list pretty much summed it up for me :)