Times are tough even for yes-men.
The British news agency Reuters recently reported that austerity of a sort has even reached the Chinese parliament, a group that basically exists to gather once a year and kowtow to the Communist Party. This year, that party for the Party is required to be much simpler: no welcoming ceremonies for deputies at the train and railway stations, no flowers in the hotel rooms, no fancy galas or pricey meals.
Put it this way. When the state isn’t even sure it wants to shut down the road as you drive by, things are sensitive.
A little belt-tightening? Not exactly. According to Reuters, it’s more of a charm offensive.
“The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public wrath at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth,” the agency reports.
Hmm. A government afraid of the public? Needing to calm the waters, sharpen its image, make at least symbolic moves to straighten up?
How do we get a piece of that?
The cases, of course, aren’t perfectly analogous. The Chinese Parliament is a rubber-stamp body connected to a system that’s perceived to be increasingly out of touch with the people. The U.S. Congress is a brawling system that can’t often agree with itself, never mind anyone else – and is perceived to be increasingly out of touch with the people. When the IRS has a higher approval rating, there’s definitely room for improvement.
This should probably be a serious call for reform, I know. But with the Chinese example in front of me, my mind couldn’t help taking a few flights of fancy: “If I could set some new rules for Congress, what would I do?”
Tip the Waiter, Please: Let’s face it. As much as we’d like to get all the special-interest money out of Congress, it’s not likely to happen. We could put a delegation of angels in there and within six months, half of them would be getting campaign assistance from the National Halo Association (“A brighter tomorrow – today”).
So if we can’t stop it, can we at least benefit from it? Under the new Decrees, 15 percent of all special-interest money received by a congressman or senator would be set aside for the voters themselves, to be totaled and dispersed every Dec. 1. Call it a Christmas stimulus, if you will. (Oh, if you want to be boring, we can put that finders’ fee toward the debt instead. Meanies.)
Hit the Highway: It’s admirable that so many delegates want to travel home so frequently. But from now until your terms are up, planes are forbidden to you. (Sorry, Hawaiian and Alaskan congressmen, it’s for the greater good.) If you travel, it will be by bus, train, or personal vehicle – the perfect chance to get an up-close look at both the country and the state of its infrastructure. Highway bridges become a higher priority when you may be rolling over the next collapsing one yourself.
The Grand Tour: One big issue with today’s Congress is that many delegates – both Democrat and Republican – come out of “echo chamber” districts where they rarely hear opposing viewpoints until they get to the Capitol floor. So let’s bring in the scheduling geniuses from the National Football League and start planning some away games. At least half of the visits back home must be to districts in your state that had a majority for the other party, with a “Congress on the Corner”-style public meeting that lasts at least an hour.
And yes, Colorado Republicans, we can probably talk about scheduling a Denver visit on Bronco weekends. But no public meeting, no game. Capice?
I know. Idle fantasies. Waste of time, right?
I mean, next thing, I’ll be thinking these folk work for us. That they’re actually supposed to be accountable to us. That if we want something different than what we’ve got, we actually have the power to make it happen; that it’s our country, to be reshaped by us as we see fit.
Whoa. Better get down from those clouds. It’s getting me a little light-headed.
Maybe I should go get us a meal.
Chinese sound OK?