Waiting for Bush to Pay Up
Mark Hyman says that several congressional representatives should reimburse the government for time they spent away from the job, but as is all too typical, his logic (such as it is) is one-sided.
Citing a study by the National Taxpayers Union (ostensibly a nonpartisan organization, but which is considerably to the right of center and receives much of its funding from right wing sources, including the Scaife Foundation), Hyman notes that several members of Congress missed a significant number of votes in the last year. The leaders in absenteeism are, as one would expect, those members who ran for the presidency (all Democrats, of course). The NTU points to a long-outdated law that says members of Congress must pay back salary they received when they were not in Washington. The law hasn’t been enforced in ages, but since the current circumstances allow the NTU and Hyman to use it as a means of attacking Democrats, they pull it from the legislative dust bin.
But Hyman may have a point. Perhaps we should hold elected representatives accountable for the costs inflicted on the American people for time not spent in the office. If that’s the case, however, we should be equal opportunity tightwads. To that end, consider the following:
President Bush spent significant proportions of the months from July through October away from the Oval Office. Shouldn’t he pay back his salary for those days?
Bush’s campaign stops often drained local governments dry. After swings through Oregon, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and Michigan (to name but a few), the Bush campaign stuck local towns with the bill for the extra security and arrangements for the presidential visits. The total bill for these towns runs into the millions. True, local governments footed the bill for a number of Kerry stops as well, but the GOP regularly coughed up significantly less in reimbursements than did the Democratic candidate. Even more importantly, Kerry campaign stops were open to the public. They were truly civic events. Bush campaign stops, however, were by invitation only, complete with the administering of loyalty oaths and bouncers to toss out anyone who looked the least bit unsupportive. In essence, the Bush/Cheney campaign held private parties and stiffed their hosts with the bill.
These cities and towns were often already strapped for cash because of the enormous federal giveaways in the form of tax breaks for the wealthy (thanks to you-know-who). Local governments ended up having their budgets stretched to the breaking point to make up the shortfall in services. Shouldn’t the Bush administration, doubly responsible for this predicament, pay back their hosts?
Then there’s the issue of vacation. Even before the campaign, Bush spent more time on vacation than any other president (according to The Guardian, Bush spent 500 days of his first term away from the White House). Shouldn’t the taxpayers be reimbursed by their part-time president?
And finally, speaking of not showing up for work, an investigation of Bush’s National Guard service (or lack thereof) suggests that the commander in chief owes quite a bit of back pay to Uncle Sam, along with 30 years of interest, his “honorable” discharge, and an apology to those who actually fulfilled their military obligations.
In short, Bush owes American citizens a heck of a lot of dough. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the White House to cut you a check.
And that’s The Counterpoint.