A Capital Conversation


The scene is on the steps outside that monument to Democracy: Congress. The participants are Congressional Republican Wilbur Grinch and Senate Democrat Stanley Giveaway. Let's listen in, shall we?

Grinch, "Stanley, what will it take to get your side to agree to the complete destruction of that darned Welfare system? My constituency is up in arms over the 2% of their taxes that go to all those blasted unemployed single mothers and their little rug rats. My phone rings constantly with personal demands that we do something about this before it starts cutting into my supporter's business tax breaks. We have to balance the budget on somebody's back and my campaign contributors are very serious that it won't be their backs."

Giveaway, "Well, Wilbur, you're going to have to offer something pretty special in trade since my phone calls are nearly unanimously in favor of an increase in the funds for Welfare as well as relaxing the requirements for qualifying. My constituency is in favor of cradle to grave government support. I'm up for re-election again and my campaign contributors won't stand for anything less than complete victory in this area."

Grinch, " Okay, I have a couple of billion in my committee for some kind of military bases in your district. That would mean jobs and nonsense like that for your citizens."

Giveaway, "Jobs? My campaign contributors already have scads of money or they wouldn't be able to buy the influence to get through to me on the phone in the first place. You of all people should understand that! Besides, to the folks who can afford me, Welfare has nothing to do with feeding and clothing the poorest among us. It's a feel good issue."

Grinch, "Yeah, I can understand. My supporters are just irritated that some miniscule portion of the vast wealth they have either acquired playing the stock market or that they inherited is going to women and kids so dumb they weren't born into the right families. Even the ones who are basically white, middle-class males in my district are mad because they figure women should just stop behaving as if the government has some duty to take care of those who are destitute. They seem to figure that if a white male can make it in this world, so can a divorced woman with two or three kids and a husband who won't pay child support."

Giveaway, "Okay, then. It appears that we are at an impasse. Your people won't budge and neither will mine. We're both up for re-election so we have to do something that at least appears to be progress. We've tried shutting down the government, we tried ten-second sound bites, we even tried actually doing something by having the Governors of some states meet and give us recommendations but nothing has come from any of it. So what do we do now?"

A grounds-keeper, who has been silently listening to this exchange, puts down his rake and comes over to the two politicians. "Well, as a voter, my suggestion is why not tighten the qualifications for Welfare," he says, "provide child care for working mothers or those attending school, enact a national health care program so that mothers will be able to work and not worry about their children's health and safety, enact legislation to make hiring employees more beneficial than layoffs, and stop acting as if being poor is an affront to American ideals. If you both would quit using the phrase "Family Values" as a campaign slogan and start enacting laws that actually support all the different kinds of families in America, maybe we as a nation could get past the nastiness you try to pass off as politics and make this country as great as you claim it can be."

The gardener tipped his cap and went back off to his job.

Wilbur turned to Stanley and asked, "Who the heck was that? Why did he feel so free to interrupt our important conversation?"

Stanley replied, "I have no idea who he was. I've never seen him at any of my $3,000 a seat prayer breakfasts or $10,000 per person campaign dinners. I suppose he was just some simple voter. Well, if he's so silly as to think we would listen to his ramblings when he can't afford to buy his way onto our schedules then I guess he has plenty of time to waste bothering us. Now, where were we? You mentioned some extra money in your committee? I don't need the military bases but let's talk about some more special corporate tax breaks. If there's one thing I've learned in my years in Congress it's that you can always buy time and more campaign contributions with a little extra tax break for those who don't really need it. If we put this issue off long enough we can invent some other crisis to grab the media's attention and we can go on to that one."

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