The Outlandish Statements of Political Candidates

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Current Election cycle makes me miss Tim Russert even more

In less than two weeks, all of the political ads, phone calls, and mailers will disappear.

Those who take the time to actually vote -- which will not constitute the majority of citizens of voting age -- will decide who is elected to a number of key positions in both Ohio and West Virginia.
I’ll be glad when it‘s over because we’ll get a break from all of the platitudes and empty statements made by candidates from all parties.
The thing I regret about the current political climate is: there’s almost no one to challenge the sometimes outrageous statements made by candidates.
When a candidate says that he or she wants to balance the federal budget while not reducing any of the benefits currently enjoyed by the group of people he or she is speaking to at that moment, that candidate is talking jibberish.

When a candidate for the U.S. House or Senate says “Elect me and I’ll change things in Washington,” he or she is delusional. It will take years for any new member of the Congress or the Senate to build up enough seniority to have any individual power. Yes, given the fact that Democrats and Republicans don’t work together very well on Capitol Hill, having a majority of members in one party or the other, does swing the power to that party. But it does NOT give much individual power to a freshman Congressman or Senator.
When a candidate says “Vote for me and I’ll repeal a particular piece of legislation” again – no single Congressman or Senator can repeal ANYTHING.
I got a kick out of watching both candidates for West Virginia’s First Congressional District face off at the Smoot Theater the other evening, in a forum broadcast live on WTAP’s “My5” station. The event was organized by AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, which still lobbies on behalf of millions of Americans aged 50 and over.  Most of the people in the audience that night fit that age group, too. And the people who vote in the greatest numbers in this country also fall into that group.
Neither candidate wanted to alienate these older, dedicated voters. Neither one would say anything about the need to make any modifications to Social Security or Medicare. If they had, they might have been booed off the stage.
But if these two candidates had been talking to a group of college students, or teachers, or coal miners, or poor people, might they have denied supporting any tax increases or benefit cuts that might affect those groups, too? If you pledge to every constituency that you won’t vote to increase their taxes or cut their benefits, then you’re not going to do much to reduce the federal deficit.
I miss the way the late “Meet the Press” moderator, Tim Russert, used to ask candidates for national office what federal programs they would cut in order to bring the budget in line. If they said they wouldn’t cut any, Russert would chide them by saying you can’t attack the budget problem without cutting something. If they selected any program, Russert was ready to attack, citing either how few dollars that would really mean or how it would impact some other part of the budget or society. His point was: there’s no safe answer. There are no easy choices. If you want to reduce federal spending, you have to take a chance on upsetting someone.
So when a candidate for office promises to get Washington off your back, reduce federal spending, not increase taxes, and not cut any of the benefits you currently enjoy,  just remember the old saying:  there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Please vote in the upcoming election, no matter who you vote for.
Some other random thoughts on the upcoming election…
It can be dangerous to elect a state executive or the owner of a business to a body such as the House or Senate. They’re used to getting their own way and being the boss. Suddenly finding yourself as the new kid on the block, who’s told to go sit in the corner for a few years until you learn the rules, can be a tough pill to swallow  for a person who’s used to being in charge.
In the days of Vaudeville, a performer could do the same act for years, going from town to town, because that act would be new in each town he performed in. The people in one town didn’t know what had been done or said in another town. Politicians are a bit the same when they promise no increases in taxes and no reduciton of benefits to every group they speak to.
I read an interesting quote by former President Gerald Ford this week. In 2001, Ford lamented that it felt as if “American politics consist largely of candidates without ideas, hiring consultants without convictions, to stage campaigns without content … resulting in elections without voters.”  Wow. He nailed it.
I get so tired of hearing people say: Let’s clean house and get those bums out of Washington. People have been voting to get the bums out of Washington for 200 years. What people really mean when they say that is: Let’s get rid of the bums who don’t vote the way I want them to vote, and replace them with bums who will.
Who elected all of those current bums in Washington anyway? The people who took the time to vote in past elections, that’s who.
People who ascend to public office are either extremely dedicated to the proposition that they can accomplish good things for a majority of the people they represent and the country as a whole, or they do so to gain personal power, wealth, fame or all three. But it can be almost impossible to tell to which group an individual candidate belongs until he or she gets into office and shows his real stripes.
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