Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Senators Inhofe and Coburn Give Up Congressional Benefits to Protest Big Government

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Oklahoma's two Republican senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, have found themselves in a prickly political conundrum over the issue of federal relief for the devastating tornado that leveled a 20-mile swath around Oklahoma City, flattening neighborhoods and destroying an elementary school in storm-prone Moore. President Obama promised immediate aid to the ravaged state, but the federal government's assistance draws attention to the hypocrisy of Senators Inhofe and Coburn who, unlike Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), voted against relief funds for the East Coast after Hurricane Sandy. But in a brave and rare gesture on Wednesday, these GOP senators put their money where their mouths are. Both men announced that they would be shunning the federal benefits accorded them as congressmen to show solidarity for their staunch belief in limited government and minimal taxes.

Over 50 people were killed by the two-mile wide EF5 twister in Oklahoma this week. Meteorologists clocked wind speeds in excess of 200 miles-per-hour. At least 20 of the deceased were children trapped inside the Moore elementary school.

Just a week ago, Sen. Inhofe seemed giddy at the possibility, as he envisioned it, of the president facing impeachment proceedings over Benghazi, even though documents released by the White House prove no scandal existed. Now, Inhofe must deal with being humbled by having to take aid from Obama.

Still, Inhofe's incoherent rant during an interview with Chris Jansing on MSNBC shows that he believes the people of Oklahoma deserve emergency resources while the victims of Hurricane Sandy do not. He called the Sandy bill a "slush fund" at the time of its proposal.

"Let's look at that, that was totally different," he told Jansing. "They were getting things — for instance that was supposed to be in New Jersey, they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.; everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place. That won't happen in Oklahoma."

Inhofe's bizarre explanation mirrored a rambling and obfuscated speech about federal aid he made before the Senate last December. Stranger still, his press operation promoted the diatribe on YouTube as if to boast a glorious moment for the senator.

Sen. Coburn has, surprisingly, moved to the right of his colleague with a steadfast resolution to accept no federal relief from the socialist Obama administration unless the same conditions he advocated for Sandy aid be enforced in his own state's hour of need -- that any funding for tornado relief be offset by other cuts to the federal budget.

"The budget is larded with ludicrous and unnecessary pork spending that can easily be abolished," Coburn told a group of newly homeless Oklahoma residents awaiting critical medical services, food and water in the wreckage of their neighborhoods.

"We don't need the government to pay for our police, our fire services, our schools, our rebuilding efforts; that's just taking jobs and opportunities away from private business owners who could be strengthening the economy and eliminating unemployment," he boomed, waxing eloquent with an oratory important to displaced families and the seriously injured.

But his words transcended mere campaign rhetoric or political bluster.

As of this writing, Coburn now stands far above any member of Congress by proving his commitment to eradicating socialism in the United States.

In a prepared statement to the press, Coburn's offices announced that the senator would be forsaking all the taxpayer subsidized benefits and perks he receives as an elected official.

Each of the 535 Congress members earns at least $174,000 per year thanks to the American taxpayer, whose median household income is only $50,000. Coburn finds that offensive.

"There's no reason I should be receiving such an absurdly high salary as a civil servant," he said. "My job is to help people, and I'm not helping if I'm making them pay me three times as much as they make."

Coburn said he will accept no salary beyond $50,000 per year during the remainder of his terms.

Senators also receive a discretionary allowance of $4.2 million to cover whatever incidental needs or wants they may have: staff salaries, office furniture, exotic travel and even free mail, something known as "franking." Franking is the term for the mass constituent mail sent out by members of Congress. The tab is settled courtesy of the taxpayer.

Coburn said he'll let taxpayers determine how that $4.2 million be spent. As for franking, Coburn laughed derisively and told his constituents, "Hell, I can buy my own stamps.

The Congressional 2013 calendar has only 126 working days scheduled. That's an average workweek of about 2.5 days. Coburn said he'll put in the same 40-hour week as the folks he represents, or will limit the state's work week to 2.5 days in the spirit of fair play.

Coburn also pledged to get rid of his free Congressional gym privileges, free parking at airports, private elevators and subways, his $3,000 per diem and his automatic $3,000 tax deduction for living expenses.

To show his disdain for socialism, Coburn revealed Wednesday that he had opted out of taxpayer funded medical benefits -- including free medical services at the Office of the Attending Physician and outpatient care at nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital -- along with generous pension plans, the likes of which are no longer available to most working adults in private enterprise.

Finally, Coburn called on his supporters to petition Congress to outlaw provisions that legally allow senators and representatives to vote for their own pay increases. Most recently, they gave themselves a $4,700 per year pay raise.

"There's a lot more good my people can do with $4,700 than Congress can," he said.

Without going to the same extremes, spokespeople for Sen. Inhofe say he is taking similar actions, in his own way.

"It's evident in the senator's recent speeches that he is suffering the onset of dementia, or possibly even Alzheimer's," one of Inhofe's aides told reporters. "But instead of seeking top-notch medical treatment for free, Senator Inhofe is showing his disapproval for Obamacare and socialized medical programs, such as those enjoyed by Congress, by forgoing these world-class services."

No other senators or representatives have made the same overtures, but the Oklahoma congressmen's bold principles have put all of their peers in the awkward position of having to make deep sacrifices or face angry voters.

2013. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.