Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sausage and Law

Okay, I admit it.  I am an idealist... and I like to pretend that if we would all just do the "right thing" everything would be fine all the time.  But the reality is that isn't going to happen, and most certainly not when it comes to politics.... and it makes me sad. 

Plus, even good people trying to do the "right thing" get confused on what that is.  It's not always black and white when you stop to really look at the arguments in depth, something that is hard to do watching 5 minute clips on the news.   One has to hope that people we trust are really investigating the issues in depth, and giving us the short version accurately, so we know how to vote, what to support.

For example, when it comes to my business, I belong to many REALTOR associations - National, State and local.  They are supposedly all looking out for the interests of property owners, small business owners and REALTORS, I happen to be all three, and so I read the stuff they publish, carefully. 

The most recent magazine from the Virginia Association of REALTORs was highly political, and it made me so sad.  The board was quite upset with many of us who didn't donate our "fair share" to RPAC, that is the group that handles the political stuff for us - they lobby on the Hill, etc. etc.  They told us that while our organization has more cash on hand than most lobbyists, we didn't raise as much this year as we need to.  They say that our politicians, before they agree to meet with any group, look to the group's finances... both cash on hand and current contributions...before they decide to give our group (any group) the time of day to even be heard, and so, since we didn't pay into the fund enough this year we might not get to bend the ear of enough of our politicians to get support for the things VAR believes are important.

Don't be upset at VAR for this.  Or the other "special interests".  Nearly every group has a committee that is supposed to be convincing the lawmakers of what is "good"... the National Association of Homebuilders, the Teachers Association, everyone... no matter what you do for a living, or who you are (handicapped, immigrant, Christian, etc.) there is an association out there working to protect the interests of that group of people.  That doesn't upset me.  In order to maintain balance, every group of people needs to be heard, and we need to designate committees to do this for us because we can't all go to Capital Hill.

What upsets me is the stuff typed in bold... You mean we can't talk to our politicians unless we have enough money? I was shocked.  I suppose it shouldn't be shocking to me, but it was a moment in time that I was forced to take off the rose colored glasses. 

Then I think to the State of the Union address where President Obama said (last night) that any bill that comes to his desk with an earmark would be vetoed.  Sounds good in theory, but really?  Will that happen?

I used to work in Affordable Housing.  Again, great in theory.  There were these weird exceptions to the rules - rules Congress made up.  A consultant I know, John, was in the room when Congress was debating the laws.  He said Congressman A stood up and said we should have an exception for someone like his granddaughter... and then he described her situation.  Congressman B did something similar, and so it went.  In order to get the laws passed, many of those "exceptions" requested had to be included, otherwise the law wouldn't have enough momentum to pass. 

I've seen this process in action even trying to update Architectural guidelines for our neighborhood with a committee for our HOA. To get the votes, you have to "give" and make exceptions for the people who are there.  It's frustrating.

I remember John (the consultant I mentioned earlier) summing up the experience "There are two things you never want to see being made - Sausage and Law".  I think he was right.  Both sort of make me sick.

I hope God does bless the USA, because we surely need it.

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