Reform Congress first
So VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns. Now what? Problem solved? Not by a long shot.
The VA is still messed up. The VA has a total annual budget of over $150 billion and employs about 314,000 bureaucrats — most of whom, thanks to Congress and its government employee protection laws, can’t be fired.
So where is the incentive for the VA to reform itself? There isn’t any. And how can any politically appointed secretary of the department reform the VA? They can’t, because Congress won’t let them. And why won’t Congress let anyone try to reform any of the bloated government bureaucracies? Because most government employees are members of the government employees union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which pays millions of dollars in protection money and “political contributions” to most of the members of Congress, especially the Democrats, to ensure that no meaningful changes are ever made in the laws that protect government employees.
So don’t expect any meaningful changes at the VA any time soon, no matter who gets appointed as the new secretary. Until we can change Congress, which, in turn, can change the laws, nothing will change at the VA.
Lester E. Scates
The writer is a retired Army officer and a disabled combat veteran.
‘Unwise in statesmanship’
Ah, “compromise”— the gold standard of cowardly pols everywhere throughout history. Joe Henderson’s blindness to the tea party’s convictions (the Constitution) leads him to believe that “compromise” should prevail in today’s political climate (“Will the tea party learn to compromise? Probably not,” Faceoff The Tea Party, June 2). Compromise with who? The lobbyists, the PACs, the special-interest groups, the political elites who are the puppetmasters of Congress? Please tell me one whit of difference between a congressional Democrat and a congressional Republican? There is no difference. Hence the tea party — for we have no place else to turn for good governance.
Historically, “compromise” brought this nation slavery, when the Southern, slave-owning colonies had to be coerced into signing off to rebel against Great Britain. Historically, “compromise” plunged the world into a devastating world war when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain acquiesced to the demands of Adolf Hitler.
Be careful what you wish for. James Russell Lowell was a 19th century American poet, critic, editor, diplomat and Harvard Law School graduate. Quoth Lowell: “Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship.”
Exactly. “Unwise in statesmanship.” Doesn’t that mean anything anymore? To the tea party it does. To the Joe Hendersons of the world (and Congress) it does not.
Steffan F. Cress
Right where they want us
It’s the great debate. Left-leaning Joe Henderson versus right-leaning Tom Jackson. The addition of this debate format into the Tribune has been entertaining and educational. It’s also downright disturbing after watching the Edward Snowden interview with Brian Williams on NBC News.
I can’t help but think the powers that be in Washington, D.C., have America right where they want us — divided. In 1994, Bill Clinton was president, the Republicans took majorities in both the House and Senate, and they worked together to pass bills that were beneficial to all Americans for years to come. Fast forward 20 years to the present day and consider the stark contrast between the two major political parties. Is there truly that much difference between Democrats and Republicans, or are we being played the fool? The members of Congress who go on Sunday talk shows and battle it out are the same ones who share dinner together, vacation together, and strike deals that benefit themselves or their special-interest groups.
I don’t know one Republican who believes we shouldn’t have a “safety net” in place for those in need during difficult times, nor do I know one Democrat who believes the federal government should spend money without limitations. We have a two-party system for a reason, and we have three branches of government to provide checks and balances. Most citizens believe in this system, and believe in its purpose: to prevent the government from having total power and control. Think about the past 10 years and how ultra-important it has become to the leaders of each political party to have control of both houses of Congress, the presidency and the U.S. Supreme Court majority.
If you haven’t taken the time to watch the Edward Snowden interview, do yourself a favor and watch it. Then take just a brief minute to think about what the United States of America would be like should one political party have control of the House, Senate, White House and U.S. Supreme Court. Total power and authority by the government is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind, and they took great steps and showed incredible foresight to prevent that from happening. Those very protections and our constitutional rights are being ignored and even violated in many situations.
While these faux leaders trample on our rights, they keep us busy, distracted and divided with partisan talking points and hot-button issues like racism and equality.
We need to wake up, stand up, team up and unite. And we need to start right now.
So our government says the amount of fraud is too small and costly to go after those scamming the system. I’ve heard this before — in the 1980s when I worked for the state of Florida in food stamps as a certifier. After I went to work there, they had to hire another agent to process all the fraud I had found.
In the 1990s I worked for a firm that processed medical claims reimbursements. All claims by law must be denied or paid within two weeks. One very experienced agent told me that at least one-third to 40 percent were outright fraud.
If I could only get taxpayers to listen. I believe our government loves fraud and waste. Why? Because it “stimulates” our pyramid scheme of an economy.
When our representatives can’t spend our tax dollars fast enough, they can always rely on all of the above to keep our economy running.
Unless we rid ourselves of our career politicians permanently, this situation will continue, and we will be the ones footing the bill.
Craig R. McNees