This is perhaps the ethical equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel (which, come to think of it, isn’t very ethical), since Rep. Conyers has been displaying his rank incompetence in word and deed for decades (he was first elected in 1964). It was Conyers, after all, who during the health care reform bill debate last year not only admitted that he hadn’t read the bill, but ridiculed the notion that anyone would expect a House member to read such a complex, wide-reaching piece of legislation before voting for it. I might suggest that the Congressman is suffering the mental ravages of age, but a) that would be age discrimination and 2) he doesn’t deserve an excuse. He’s always been like this.
Conyers is also a powerful and high-ranking member, so his special brand of cluelessness is neither harmless nor cute. It is useful, however, at least to Republicans looking for the perfect example of the proverbial Democratic Congressman who only knows one way to govern: spend as much money as possible in ways that will line the pockets of constituents and thus guarantee re-election. The Republicans would like the public to believe that all Democrats are like this, which isn’t true. The fact that at least one Democrat is like this, however—not only like this, but candid and proud about it—makes the stereotype much more credible.
Here is what Conyers said this week:
“This is the first time that I can remember being confronted by members of the Congress, my colleagues, who say, ‘I don’t care if I get reelected or not, I want to cut the budget by $100 billion or whatever. I’ve never seen that kind of a member before. … It’s a dangerous point of view from my perspective.”
Let’s examine the jaw-dropping, brain-melting, “head-for-the-bridge-it’s-time-to-cash-it-in-I’m-coming-grandpa” import of Conyers’ words:
- He says that in the 47 years he has been in Congress, he has never seen a member who was willing to do what he or she felt was essential in the long-term best interests of the nation if it meant not getting re-elected.
- This either means that 1) he has never before seen a member who understands the ultimate duty of an elected representative of the United States government; 2) that he doesn’t know that this is the duty of elected members of the government; 3) that he has forgotten either the responsible members he once knew or didn’t understand their motives; 4) that he has spent all those years in the House believing the duty of a representative is to spend enough money to get re-elected no matter what the consequences, or 5) some horrible combination of the four.
- He has never seen a member willing to cut 100 billion dollars from the budget, and doesn’t understand that this is because the United States never had a 14 trillion dollar debt before.
- Conyers thinks that the determination to cut 100 billion from the budget is dangerous, but doesn’t perceive the danger in a ballooning debt that threatens national solvency, social programs, security and the economy.
This man, who as a four decade member of Congress is as responsible for the fiscal mess in Washington as anyone, pronounced himself stunned that any member of Congress would be determined to make large budget cuts, all while thinking that a measly 100 billion dollars is an unimaginably large amount in the context of the budget, which it is not.
Anyone who wants to understand why spanakopita and moussaka may be on the horizon for the U.S.A. has only to consider the caliber of the elected representatives we have been allowing to hold the nation’s purse strings. If this is what 47 years in Congress has taught John Conyers, imagine how his other long time colleagues think. The only hope is that he could be the most irresponsible and dumbest of the batch, a real possibility. The alternative—that he isn’t—is too frightening to contemplate.