At least Byrd could fiddle

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I guess the U.S. Senate, in particular, and Washington, in general, really miss the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd. I say that because Washington sure seems to be fiddling around these days and Sen. Byrd was a genuinely talented fiddle player.

The old saying is that while “Rome was burning, Emperor Nero was fiddling.” That’s not exactly true since the fiddle or, the more formal name, the violin, was not created until the Middle Ages. Still, the saying is popular. People fiddle around when they waste time doing things that are not as important as those things that should be priorities.

Fiddling around is akin to twiddling one’s thumbs. Whether it’s fiddling or twiddling, the Washington crowd is like an old commercial “Bo Knows.” They “knows” how to fiddle around and waste time!

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Setting priorities would be a good thing. Setting the right priorities would be even better. If one were to ask me what sort of priorities have been set in the nation’s capitol, I’d say that making sure they all get to stay up there seems to be the priority they have set for themselves.

It may have already happened, but if it hasn’t it’s pretty close. What is pretty close? Campaigning 24/7 for 365 days per year.

Forget that we elect people to go to Washington to make our lives better. Set aside that there is important business to accomplish. Pay no attention that the wheels are about to fall off of the machine that we call the United States government.

Sometimes I think our politicians feel that their brief moments in the House, Senate or other offices are secondary to their occupations as hand-shakers and speech-givers. I think that they forget that once the flesh is pressed and the words are spoken and offices are won, there is an expectation that we might get what we call our money’s worth.

When I think of how hot and hard the work is around here and just how difficult it is to make a living, I get a little hot under the collar thinking that they are not even showing up for their jobs.

The month is June; almost half the year is gone. Yet, I read this past week that the Senate has had the equivalent of 17 eight-hour days where the only business that has been conducted has been the reading of the name of the senators. That’s because the Senate has lacked enough members in the room to conduct business. Do we need a time clock for these adults to punch? Is their $174,000 salary not enough to woo them to their work place?

Back in the beginning of the year, the most important talk coming out of Washington was that the rubber was going to meet the road when the vote for raising the debt ceiling was to be held. We were told that vote was absolutely necessary for the financial future of the country. We had arrived at the crossroads. One side said it had to be raised. The other side said “Over my dead body.”

The vote was to come in April. Then it was postponed into May. It’s June and the vote has still not been taken. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says that he can rob Peter to pay Paul until August. After that it really, really, really must be passed.

How about a clear and responsible budget? When do we need to pass one of those? The red ink of the United States government is flowing faster than the speeding bullet of Superman fame. You and I would have been put in debtor’s prison a long time ago if we had been so irresponsible. Yet, the money printing presses just keep on whirring along.

The President did present his suggestions, a form of a budget, to the House in February, but it was shot down fairly quickly because it added over a trillion dollars in debt for the next year. The House, then, passed the Paul Ryan budget and sent it to the Senate. It was voted down. So, we have no budget.

We’re broke and spending money we have to borrow, but we’ve been doing that for so long, our consciences, or at least some consciences, don’t seem to mind. I almost said we were spending money like a drunken sailor on leave, but didn’t because that sailor was at least spending his own money.

We’ll soon not be able to borrow unless we raise the debt ceiling. We don’t have any money to spend. Our spending programs are unsustainable and will ruin us if something is not done soon. One would think that there would be this extra special, hard as nails effort being made to work on these problems. Think again.

Here’s what is being discussed. Should a member of Congress named Weiner hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more?

Or can anyone find a “gotcha” in all those 24,000 pages of emails that Sarah Palin sent while she was governor of Alaska? How about her recall of the history of Paul Revere’s ride? It doesn’t matter if she is running for office or not. She’s more important than tackling entitlements or reforming Medicare or saving the financial health of the country.

Finally, it doesn’t matter that the Presidential election is more than 500 days, almost a year and a half away. Let’s start raising all that money that is needed. Let’s start attacking each other. Forget that civility we talked about just a few months ago. We got an election coming up in 2012. As Snuffy Smith would have said, “Time’s a-wasting.”

And speaking of that moonshiner Snuffy Smith, I bet he would have enjoyed Sen. Robert Byrd’s West Virginia fiddle. Me, too. At least it would have been better than the current tune.

The Rev. Lynn Roberts is pastor of the Sutton Chapel United Methodist Church, located on Vada Highway.