The interviewer was speaking about the bombing at the AT&T Pavilion in Atlanta last Saturday and asked Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, directly about the provision in the much vilified "Crime Bill", the one President Clinton had proposed to Congress, which required munitions and certain fertilizer makers to add chemicals to any form of explosives that would mark the product and allow chemical tests to determine their origins and manufacturers. The reporter asked why the Speaker had worked so hard to remove this clause, at the bidding of the National Rifle Association, considering such traceable substances would have made a crime such as this bombing so much easier to unravel.
Newt's answer? He explained how the provision in Clinton's crime bill, allowing the FBI to wiretap many cell phones at once, would prove to be unconstitutional and how the Republicans, instead, wanted to research the various methods of wiretapping only one cell phone at a time across the country.
The incident got me to thinking about the many ways our representatives in government constantly sidetrack our attention from the genuine and important issues back to the points they want us to feel are important, for whatever reasons.
Take the issue of Welfare. The only solutions Congress and the President seem to be able to conceive of have to do with making life as miserable as possible for everyone enrolled in order to punish the miniscule few who abuse the system. They state over and over the easily disproved notion that families on Welfare get on and refuse to find employment in order to leave. Their own department statistics show the average stay on Welfare is less than two years but, of course, that wouldn't fit in with the national mood to punish someone, anyone, for not having lives that conform to the high standards society sets for others.
The problem isn't Welfare, gentle readers, but rather the entire political system itself and its inability to address the actual underlying issues. What issues?
Let's start with the poverty which forces so many mothers onto Welfare. Many women are forced into the system because they are trying to feed, educate and raise children without benefit of financial support from fathers and/or husbands who have left, for whatever reasons. How does Congress expect to rectify this? By forcing the mother to work and find her own way to care for the children at home. Why not require the absent father either to support the children he helped create or be forced by law to take one of the jobs the government seems to think are available to the mothers? If they refuse, remove all of their rights to acquire services of government such as driver's licenses, IRS refunds, unemployment checks, Veteran's benefits, etc. until they agree. Perhaps we could even hold our government representatives to the same standards they force upon others? (A magnificent example: Newt Gingrich refused to make the child support payments he was required to pay and his ex-wife and children were reduced to taking charity from their church in order to survive. Yet he is the celebrated point man for this punishing movement regarding his so-called "Welfare Reform". Any hypocrisy here?)
The jobs Congress believes exist in the economy are not capable, as a rule, of moving Welfare families out of poverty and still providing funds for childcare or healthcare. Perhaps costs could be shifted from the tax system to the business arena by requiring businesses to provide the benefits necessary for survival. Business could then pass the costs on through their products and targeted tax breaks. This would remove the massive bureaucracy in government which oversees the system and will reduce the cost of government. It would make the problems of availability of these services a moot issue since you will receive them if you work and make the costs of providing benefits less by removing the government's always inflated outlays and allowing business to decide how to provide them. Finally, this would create new tax revenue producing jobs in health care, childcare and other areas as more people find work and spendable dollars. You, as a taxpayer, would spend far less for the same programs since, as the Republicans believe, business can provide services far cheaper than the government. It has the final and most agreeable facet of not punishing anyone for their life nor the children for the parent's mistakes.
Alas, solutions of this character aren't likely to be well received, inasmuch as no one is chastened for their circumstances. This type of remedy won't find much support in this Conservative "Morning in America" arrangement. Repairing the system and improving lives are no longer the desire of voters. Any proposed change which focuses our attention away from the real issues and, at least, appears to produce reform to the issue of the day and, of course, to censure that segment of our population we currently wish to insult is applauded , regardless of the results.
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