When I heard that our Congress critters are taking an extended vacation for all of August and part of September, I had two incongruous reactions: Anger — and gratitude.
Gratitude, because their vacation gives us a five-week break from the spectacle of right-wing mad dogs in the House yapping, foaming at the mouth, and running around in circles. "Kill the minimum wage," they howl, "repeal Obamacare, deport immigrant children, re-invade Iraq, impeach Obama" — and yadda-yadda-yadda.
Yet, nutty as they are, it's also infuriating that these pampered politicos feel entitled to such a vacation. It's another sign of their total disconnect from the hard realities of the workaday majority they're supposed to serve. EARTH TO CONGRESS CRITTERS: Most American families are being hosed out of the middle class, having to work harder and longer for less pay, no benefits, and not even two weeks off, much less a five-week getaway.
In the spirit of fairness, though, I should concede that the current do-nothing House has been setting an eight-year performance record in one category of congressional activity: junketeering. Yes, not only does this bunch love to vacation, but it also tiptoes around the ethics rules so lobbyists can pay for their trips. Not since the sleaze days of pay-to-play über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff have House members taken as many junkets, financed by corporate interests.
Oh, excuse me, they're called "fact-finding missions," not junkets. By whatever name, nearly 1,900 of the free trips were enjoyed last year by lawmakers, their spouses and staff — paid for by private entities seeking legislative favors.
Adding to the disgust, House leaders very quietly axed an ethics requirement this year that lawmakers must disclose these travel freebies in their personal financial reports. Yet they wonder why their public approval rating is in the ditch.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow, on sale now from Wiley Publishing. For more information, visit jimhightower.com.