Congress fails to show leadership by refusing to make any sacrifice

Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2002

George Washington might be disgusted if he could see government today.

During a harsh winter of the Revolutionary War, Washington could have moved his personal headquarters to a balmy coastal area in the South. Instead, he chose to wrap his feet and trudge through the snow with his troops at Valley Forge -- a decision that inspired them and, historians say, gave them the will to stay and fight on.

While people obviously aren't freezing in Florida's 90-degree weather, the American people are suffering today.

The stock market has been on a downhill slide since March 2000. The Dow has lost 15 percent of its value, and Nasdaq 33 percent, since the current session of Congress began. Unemployment is up, profits are down and some retirement nest eggs are worth a fraction of their 1999 values.

Federal expenditures are higher because of pork-barrel spending and the cost of fighting a war.

Revenue is down because there is less wealth to tax. Deficit spending is back, mortgaging the paychecks of future generations.

In Congress, the impulse is to give members a $5,000 pay raise.

Unless it somehow is derailed, this will be the fourth raise in as many years. Members will be paid $155,000 a year -- $20,000 more than 10 years ago.

The House already has given preliminary approval. ... Rep. Cliff Stearns (of Florida) ... voted against approval. "Our nation is facing many critical issues," he mused, "and a pay raise for members of Congress is not one of them."

Meanwhile, the House also has voted to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts by $10 million. ... The arts are worthwhile, but private financing is available -- and an increase in public funding is not justified with a $160 billion deficit, reflecting other priorities such as the war on terrorism.

Washington was a great leader because he suffered with the troops. Congress is a poor leader when it refuses to make any sacrifice.

-- Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

July 23

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