Day 23 of 46 c Lenten Season 2010
Whoever taught you how to use a screwdriver probably used the phrase “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.” It’s a handy phrase to help remember which way to turn, and I confess to having whispered it softly as I turn bolts even today. But after watching adherents to far-right and far-left political philosophies bicker and fuss recently, I’ve realized that “righty-tighty” can also describe how intransigent far-right-wingers can be these days, and that “lefty-loosey” can describe how disconnected far-left-wingers can be from reality.
A Senior Leftist Loose With the Constitution
Take Harry Reid, for example. Actually, as the droll Henny Youngman would say, “Take Harry Reid… PLEASE!” You might recall an earlier post where I chastised Reid for his "so what?" attitude because of all the pork and bribes in the Senate’s healthcare bill. Reid simply considered it part of how legislation is crafted in Washington.
Well, yesterday, Reid had the audacity to suggest that legislators would make better justices on the US Supreme Court than judges. Here’s his exact quote:
"I think we've had enough of them (judges appointed to the Supreme Court). I think what we need are people on that bench who have been legislators, people who are lawyers, people who are academics. You look at our Supreme Court and all these people, all they know is working with people in black robes. We have got to change that."
Can you believe a senator can be so willfully, completely, and proudly ignorant of the separation of powers doctrine canonized in the Constitution? What arrogant folly for Reid to even hint that legislators should oversee the very laws they create. And what hubris to suppose legislators understand the legal process better than judges.
Reid was in rare form because of his anger with the Supreme Court’s decision to disallow limits on campaign spending by corporations and activists. He complained that judges don’t know what it’s like to run for office, otherwise they wouldn’t have ruled as they did in the campaign spending case. What Reid apparently forgets is that four of the nine justices actually sided with Reid’s position, which negates his opinion right there. Personally, I, too, doubt that the Supreme Court made the best ruling in this case, but I don't see the connection between that and their legitimacy as justices.
The residents of Nevada must be so proud of their senior Senator. Not only has he acquired the lofty position of Senate Majority Leader, but he’s increasingly becoming the poster child for everything that is wrong with Congress today. Not that Nevada itself represents all that is good about America and capitalism – is it too much of a leap to suggest that a state which pins its economic success on an industry as vile as gambling gets the representation it deserves? Unfortunately, this senate choice of theirs has been imposed on the rest of the country, and we have to put up with their lack of discretion at the polls.
But this is America. We don’t need to rise and fall based on one person’s ignorance. Hopefully, the more Reid talks, and the more people realize how loose he is with the mechanics of the US Constitution, maybe his colleagues in the Senate and his constituents back home will tighten his bolts for him. After all, loose nuts mean something is about to fall apart.
Far Right's Tightness Cutting Off Logic
Meanwhile, back over on the far right side of the political spectrum, uber-conservatives have been squawking about this year’s Census forms. Apparently, they’re having the same constitutional brain freeze that Reid is having, although far-right-wingers have been screwed too tight. They’re the “righty-tighties.”
Nobody can recall such a stink over the 2000 Census, which makes some people wonder if maybe having a black president in a bad economy has made far-right-wingers (FRW’s) more suspicious and cynical of anything to do with the federal government. They seem to have forgotten that the US Constitution – which they claim to revere – commands our government to conduct a census to figure out how many people live here and how their representation in the House of Representatives should be calculated.
Or, maybe they’re just trying to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution they want to follow, just like many of us try and pick and choose which of the Ten Commandments we want to follow?
If you don’t fill out your Census form, the government won’t officially know you exist. Your state may be denied accurate population statistics, which may mean that your representation in Congress could be short-changed. FRW’s already scream at how poorly Washington does its job – so they think being under-represented will help fix anything?
What FRW’s also seem to forget is that if they don’t fill out and send in their forms, there’s a high likelihood that an employee from the Census will come knocking on their door to collect the information manually. And who do they think pays for that Census worker traipsing to their house? Not only do FRW’s risk losing representation in Congress, but they could also waste taxpayer money in the process. How is this model citizenship?
Now, contrary to popular fiction, there is only one Census form floating around this year. The official 2010 Census is 10 questions. A more exhaustive, 28-page form, now called the “American Community Survey (ACS),” is mailed to three million residents every year to collect detailed information for government planning. Some FRW’s have heard ill-informed conservative pundits confuse the two surveys, and assume the Census is the big bad woolly monster everyone is throwing away. Other FRW’s will begrudgingly send in the 2010 Census form, but they adamantly refuse to participate in the Community Survey. Too much intrusion into privacy. Too much personal information being given away. Why does the government need to know all this stuff?
Well, you like indoor plumbing, don’t you? You like paved streets, hospitals, and you don’t like mass transit, so interstate highways are a big plus. How do you think all of these services get planned for? Where do you think government engineers get the information to decide where resources are allocated?
Planners don't get their statistics from thin air; they rely on data collected by the Census and the Community Survey to calculate population dynamics, demographic shifts, and areas of growth and decline. This information actually helps all of us when it comes time for new water sources, planning for sewer facilities, and mapping out highway infrastructure needs.
If we want the government to spend tax dollars wisely, do we help them in that effort by refusing to tell them what’s going on in our part of the country?
Now, I’ll admit a lot of questions on the ACS seem pretty personal. Filling out that questionnaire would make me uncomfortable. But on the other hand, how much of your life do you really think is private anyway? Isn’t this form just a consolidation of information almost anybody could collect from a variety of sources if they wanted to? You’ve probably already provided most of this information if you’ve bought a house, had personal health insurance, or applied for student loans. If your suspicions of the government are so deep, do you think some federal agency hasn't yet compiled this data in some secret dossier about you? Remember – our FBI can’t even communicate basic terrorist information between agents because of its antiquated computer systems.
If you don’t like the survey's questions, wouldn’t the best course of action be contacting your US Representative and lobbying for changes? After all, the Founding Fathers might say it's your obligation to protest a legitimate intrusion into personal privacy rights. But not responding to the Census and/or the ACS is lazy, illegal, and even punishable by a $5,000 fine. If you're angry with how our government does things, be proactive and direct your concerns appropriately. Don't just throw the form in the trash.
Nobody’s blaming you for wanting to protect your personal information. But loosen up, you righty-tighties. Bolts that are ratcheted too tight can rust into place, so brittle that when a real disaster strikes them, they break apart, totally useless.
The trick in politics is knowing when you’re too loose or tight for your own good – or anybody else’s.