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The Price Is Right -- Washington's Version
Let’s say you own a little business. Any kind of business. It doesn’t matter. And let’s say you need a permit from the city to expand. You are painfully aware that the process of getting permission from the bureaucracy can be cumbersome and take a long time, But you need the permit now. If you don't expand you may go under. So you decide to bribe some low-level government functionary in order to grease the skids. Okay, now here’s the short version of what may very well happen after that: They arrest you, indict you, put you on trial, convict you, and send you to prison. And if the government official decides to take the bribe, he can be your cell mate.
Too bad you’re not a United States senator. Because if you were, you’d be in Fat City. Let’s say you’re a Democratic senator from Nebraska and your name is Ben Nelson. Now let's say the Senate's Majority Leader, Harry Reid, needs your vote on an important piece of legislation – oh, maybe ... healthcare. You're no dunce, so you decide to hold out until he pays you off, which he gladly does, since it's not his money he's throwing around. It's tax money, which is everybody's money, which is another way of saying it's nobody's money. He offers to pay all your state’s Medicaid costs associated with the new healthcare legislation. That’s a lot of money. Hundreds of millions of dollars – a year. Every year. Forever! So you vote the way he wants you to. And here’s the best part: unlike the poor schnook with the small business who bribes the government functionary in some dark alley, this bribe takes place in broad daylight.
Or let’s imagine that you’re a senator whose name is Mary Landrieu and you’re a Democrat from Louisiana. You not only get hundreds of millions of dollars shoveled into your state in exchange for your vote on healthcare, but you get to tell reporters, “I know people don't believe this, but I can't be bought.”
She’s right. People don’t believe it.
These crooks aren’t even embarrassed. Hey, they say, that’s the way business is done in Washington, which just happens to be the God’s honest truth. In fact, Harry Reid told reporters after a crucial vote that any senator who didn’t get goodies is not a very good senator. “There are 100 senators here and I don’t know that there’s a senator that doesn’t have something in this bill that isn’t important to them,” Reid said. “If they don’t have something in it important to them then it doesn’t speak well of them.”
Get it? You work hard, play by the rules, pay your taxes, so some crummy politician with a thin voice and a cheap suit can dole it out to whomever he has to buy off. Ain’t America great?
The good news is that this is no big deal. Just ask Senator Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat from Iowa. When asked about vote-buying in the Senate, Harkin told CBS News that it’s all “small stuff” – nothing more than a distraction from the real issue: passing ObamaCare.
And earlier this year, when the Senate was debating the $700 billion dollar-plus so-called stimulus bill, which was loaded with pork, Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, said, “The American people really don’t care” about all those “little, tiny, yes porky amendments.”
You just thought you cared about how they spend your hard-earned money. Silly you.
So what’s the lesson? That’s easy: If you’re a United States senator, do not vote – under any circumstances -- on any important legislation unless you get paid off first. Bribes are legal on Capitol Hill. Don’t be a fool. Let the leadership buy you off then hold a news conference and defiantly declare, “I cannot be bought off.” Then under your breath, you can whisper, “Unless, of course, the price is right.”