Yo Mama and Lilleyhope Go To Washington

So today, my Camp Rhoda friend, Lilleyhope, went to the Senate and I was lucky enough to go with her.  Having a son with Type II juvenile diabetes, she is an advocate for JDRF.  Our mission was a meeting with Rhode Island Senators Whitehouse and Reed to persuade them to sign on to a bill allocating $200 million to fund research.

The Rhode Island senators have their offices in the Hart Senate Building, a rather new structure with a huge, enclosed atrium in the center, which is filled with a seven-story tall, black Alexander Calder sculpture called “Mountains and Clouds”.  It was impressive.  Both Senators were unable to attend our appointment, as they were on the floor of the Senate voting on Baucus’ tax bill.  I know: what a shame.  However, on the brighter side, at least they were actually voting on something.  Instead, we met with one of each of their aides, competent thirty-somethings, direct and the information collectors for their bosses.  It was heartening to see these young people in important, paying jobs.

I have a few observations about my day.  This country is huge and it is amazing that it works at all.  The layers upon layers of staffing and special interests astounded me.  It made me realize that when we vote for any elected official, from our own local jurisdictions all the way up to the Presidency, we really are not voting for that one person and all that he may represent.  We are really electing an entire staff of hundreds, who meet with special interest groups of every shape, size and cause.  It is no wonder that we the people feel so frustrated and helpless in having a say as to how our elected officials conduct their business for our behalf.  There really is no personal involvement between the citizens and their government representatives, as the sheer size of our nation and its government obviates that working relationship.

Also, I realized today that the JDRF is only one special interest group lobbying the government for their objectives.  Multiply the JDRF by thousands to get the full picture of the involvement of special interest groups in our country.  While the JDRF is an upstanding, bi-partisan organization that works for the peoples’ betterment, imagine how many other groups, some with corrupt and greedy aims, who also take up the time of our Congressmen.  Some of the special interest groups you have heard of are the NRA, AARP, big pharma, the insurance industry, the numerous unions —– the list goes on and on.

However, I am also convinced that these special interest groups are the career employees of our government.  Whereas our elected officials have specific terms and have to fight for re-election every few years, these lobbyists are the civilians who remain in their jobs decade after decade.  In other words, our government representatives who are supposed to be running this country, come and go at the whim of their electorate and thus, the private lobbyists are the permanent employees really running our government.  Most of the time this is detrimental to the citizens.  However, these lobbyists are well-informed and often serve the purpose of educating the elected officials, sometimes even writing the bills.

Unfortunately, since the United States does not manufacture or make any tangible goods anymore, the only “products” many, but not all, of these profit-powered lobbyists can use to make money for the special interests are the intangible moneymakers, i.e. financial scams, Ponzi schemes and con games.  Furthermore, the legislative process is so convoluted that our representatives need the help of experienced government careerists to guide them through the tangled web of Congress.  These lobbyists are the navigators for our elected officials.  This is the danger that faces our representatives when they accept the education offered by career lobbyists.  As a result, our elected lawmakers are often only the mechanism for the actual voting in Congress, while the lobbyists of the special interest groups are the real policymakers.

On the other hand, this endless layering of support staff in our federal government has made me realize why the metropolitan D.C. area has not suffered to the same degree that other parts of our country have during this recession.  There are so many employees either working in our government or for it, there is no way this area will see a huge rise in unemployment figures.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The federal government gets bigger and bigger, thus perpetuating the paralysis in governing and yet, this ineffectual, wasteful situation also allows for the continuation of many jobs.  But there is something wrong with this scenario.  When government is in the business of sustaining itself for its own gains and loses sight of its intended purpose of bettering the lives of all Americans, we all lose.  It is kind of like this sign in the Hart Senate Building.  Something about it just rankled me:

While it is all well and good when a truly altruistic group, such as JDRF, lobbies the government, it is part of our founding, democratic principle that all citizens and groups have the same access to our governmental process.  This is all a part of what we call democracy.  And sometimes, the evil forces are more persuasive and offer richer rewards to those officials who do the voting on new legislation.  After all, our country currently is on a path whereby our lawmakers’ main goals are to get re-elected.

Yo Mama and Lilleyhope exhibited extreme self-control, clearly respecting the seriousness of our mission.  Imagine talking to people from Alaska in a crowded elevator and not saying a word about you-know-who.  Imagine speaking with some JDRF volunteers from Minnesota who just wrapped up a meeting with Representative Michele Bachmann and zipping our lips.  Damn: we were good.  Also, know that despite my rather conservative attire, I did wear my fishnet stockings.  That was my own inimitable way of shaking things up a bit.

All in all, today was quite enlightening.  My lessons learned today were discouraging considering the overwhelming stratification of groups advising our lawmakers and the ulterior motives of many of those advisors.   But our nation is huge and its operation very complicated.  Most of our elected lawmakers do not have the intellectual capacity or the knowledge to carry out their job descriptions.  However, today was also inspiring because I got to witness so many young, talented people who are truly dedicated to working for the American people.  That part of my day renewed my hope in effective government and cemented my respect and admiration for the youth of America.

And finally, we should be grateful, but not necessarily happy, that we get any pertinent legislation at all.  That is the real miracle.

Yo Mama and Lilleyhope go to Washington

I will close this post by yelling at the top of my lungs: RHODA GIRLS ROCK!

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3 Responses to “Yo Mama and Lilleyhope Go To Washington”

  1. Natalie R. Says:

    I had a cousin, now deceased, who always said to me when I criticized the country that it was amazing that it even functions as well as it does. I guess you really have to see it in action to appreciate that thought but it is so true. Living in my little corner of the the formerly all Democratic state of Massachusetts (and hope one day to gain that mantra back again) it appears to me that everyone must be liberal. Say it ain’t so that they are not!!

  2. lou Says:

    You go, girls!!!

  3. amy lilley Says:

    I award us a life time brown stripe for ‘effort’…love the post…have forwarded it on numerous times already…great pic of us in front of the Nymphs on Horses…:))

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