The idea that a Congressman, an insider of the Washington cartel, is a traitor; is at least an attempt to slow government’s freefall. “For even I was fooled by his duplicitous persona,” writes Robert Atkinson in the forward. Congressman X’s comments reflect a seared conscience. He knows what he does is leading to the country’s demise, but like everybody else; he feels powerless to change anything.
In many instances, Congressman X helps explain the Trump phenomenon. “’The best argument against democracy is a brief chat with the average voter,’” he says. For starters, people might say they want detailed position papers, but they really want to be entertained. The masses flock to the Jerry Springer Show and online cat videos, which are more accessible than intentional obfuscation by politicians. Congressman X admits to voting “yes” on a bill and “no” on an amendment to have evidence of taking whatever side may be expedient. “I contradict myself all the time, but few people notice.”
Washington actually only reflects American culture, characterized as people wanting a lot of things and lying to get what they want. “It’s far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naïve, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification,” he says. “I promise my constituents a lot of stuff I can never deliver. [If] they’re stupid enough to believe it, shame on them.” The Congressman sees the bulk of humanity as framing fact to fit their preconceptions. “Their crazy notions may not match reality, but if you want to be all things to all people – and get re-elected – sometimes you just gotta climb down the rabbit hole and massage their egos.”
Of course Congress is pay-to-play. Members of the House have to campaign every two years to keep their positions, and the going rate is $2.5 million a seat. That means they’re spending more time “dialing for dollars” than legislating. As for all the baby-kissing, Congressman X says, “Just shoot me. Why couldn’t I have been elected for eternity?”
Most of the money comes from corporations, unions, huge lobbies, and billionaire-types. It’s only natural there should be some kind of thank-you. The author says in spite of the rhetoric, nobody wants to change the tax code. Loopholes and such “are some of the best ways we have to dole out favors to contributors.” He asks, “Can we make or break fortunes by adding seemingly innocuous riders to committee bills? You bet we can.”
In spite of all the theatre about helping small businesses, Congressmen are looking out for themselves and therefore most legislation will benefit the big donors. Lobbying from big corporations and unions is a $3 billion industry. In spite of all kinds of campaign finance caps, the wealthy will find ways to buy influence. Creative workarounds include, among other absurdities, “offsetting the costs of a member’s portrait to adorn the committee room he or she has so faithfully served.”
“Political contributions have created an enormous number of future IOUs,” he says. “We’re the puppets of special interests, bankrupting the country.” Meanwhile, legislators help the little guy by honoring a plant or heritage group, making a big deal about a kid getting on the honor roll, or sending constituents greetings on gold-embossed stationery. It’s usually enough to guarantee a vote.
Nobody cares about spending the next generation’s money. Congress concocts “accounting gimmicks and voodoo legislative maneuvers . . . to find fantasy savings to offset excess spending.” Congressman X says if a candidate votes in any way to make the federal government more solvent, “your opponent will run ads reminding voters of your stupidity.”
Like Herod, Congressmen don’t know what truth is anymore. They don’t read most of what they pass; they rely on briefings from staffers. They propose canned amendments from special interest groups. The people don’t believe anything politicians say, but like the plot of some post-Orwellian dystopian novelette, people go along with what everybody knows is a lie. Even the Congressmen convince themselves on some level they’re snowing the public. The dogma is Saul Alinsky’s, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Politicians’ cheating and lying, Congressman X repeats, is merely a reflection of societal norms. And don’t forget, “perception is reality.”
The people are only as good as their sources, and the mass media are part of the illusion. Rather, Congressman X says they are leading the politicians. “Think of the media as the Pied Piper, and we’re the rats dutifully following their lead and developing our views accordingly.” Everybody expects commentators to be left or right and “aspiring to effect election outcomes.” Nothing is fair and balanced. “It’s all about subtle headlines, nuanced camera angles, cunning editing and story placement.”
An enormous problem is blind partisanship. “The polarized public’s scared to death of the other party.” Then again, gerrymandering is typically designed to protect incumbents. Everybody knows which ones are R, D, or swing. “In effect, we’re selecting our voters. How’s that for representation!”
Congressmen are always trying to find ways to work around the rules to keep their party in power. Forms of “imaginative obstructionism [include] the manipulation of archaic rules and the creation of ludicrous loopholes.” Congress can’t even finalize a budget, but instead keeps everybody electable with continuing resolutions, off-budget spending, riders, and more. Congressmen are described from the get-go as pawns of their respective party leaders and PACs. Thickening the plot, the president’s party feels the need to kiss up to him, and judges vote along party lines. So, the separation of powers is blurred, and, “Congress is becoming irrelevant.”
Congressional candidates tell on themselves when they run on a platform opposing the mess they themselves created and will continue to enlarge. Legislation is so bad, Congressmen typically have to carve out exemptions for themselves. They say they’re plain-folks, but they mingle in high-society and retire to gated communities where they don’t have to rub elbows with the unwashed. They send their kids to private schools after passing public education “reforms that are as stupid as the students they’re meant to help.”
Conjuring flashbacks to I Samuel 8:6, the Congressman reiterates, “Pat Moynihan once said Congress defined deviancy down from the standpoint of its behavior and lack of integrity. What he forgot to mention was the people we serve also don’t live by their own ideals, except in their minds.”