Many of us have a bipolar relationship with social media. On the one hand, I think it’ll go down in history as a horribly corrosive influence on human interaction and cultural advancement. On the other hand, it offers us the opportunity to “meet” and interact with fine people that we’d never have crossed paths with otherwise. Squarely in this “other hand” is a fine Southern gentleman I met via political blogging, who happens to own a restaurant in the Atlanta metro area called “Praise The Lard.”

It’s a wonderful name for a barbecue joint. It’s also a phrase I imagine echoed endlessly through the halls of Congress as our esteemed and illustrious elected representatives passed a 5593 page long (the largest bill ever enacted, by a factor of two), $900B COVID relief bill that none of them read, concurrent with a $1.4T omnibus spending bill that funds government through September. The biggest headline is the $600 in cash that most Americans will receive, and news outlets are tripping over themselves to tell us when those funds will land in people’s bank accounts. It includes additional unemployment insurance money (no thought to the adverse impact, an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, and financial infusions into countless business sectors.

The bill also directs the Smithsonian institution to create two identity-based libraries, and funds the Smithsonian to the tune of $1B. It sends $1.3B to Egypt, $700M to Sudan, and $453M to Ukraine, and that’s just some of the international largesse. It’s got $1.4B for Trump’s wall. It restores the “three martini lunch” business deduction. It updates rules for carbon monoxide detectors in federally assisted housing. It provides funds to “support democracy programs in the Russian Federation and other countries in Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia.” And that’s just a tiny smidgen of the stuff that’s in there that is connected to COVID relief through only the most tortured logic, if at all.

Here is the text of the bill.

Read it. You have five hours. Five hours to decide if you should support it en toto, and tolerate everything that’s been added in that you’d not support as stand-alone spending.

Six senators and fifty-three congresspersons decided the answer to that question was “no.” The senators who voted no, all Republicans, are Rand Paul, Rick Scott, Mike Lee, Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, and Ron Johnson. Not one Democrat stood against this mess, even in principle. In the House, 50 Republicans were joined by Democrats Tulsi Gabbard and Rashida Tlaib, and libertarian-independent Justin Amash in voting against. Political taste-maker/influencer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, despite tweeting “Congress is expected to vote on the second largest bill in US history today – $2.5 trillion – and as of about 1pm, members don’t even have the legislative text of it yet,” appears to have voted Yea.

When you vote for Congressional representatives, is this what you expect? When you hear candidates talk about what they’re going to do when they get to DC, is blindly voting for behemoth spending packages negotiated in secret, based solely on the say-so of their party leaders, included in that rhetoric and passel of promises?

I channel Doug Niedermeyer: it’s a goddamn disgrace. This goes beyond atrocity and into the realm of banana-republic farce. It’s why we have Presidents who stretch executive authority to extents never envisioned by those who created this system of government. It’s why the national debt continues to spin up faster than is comprehensible. It’s why Congressional approval has not been above 31% in the past decade, and has crossed the 50% rubicon only twice in most of our lifetimes (late 90s, when a GOP congress actually did something good, and after 9/11, when national fervor in the wake of that attack unified Americans against a nameable enemy).

The real disgrace is that the incumbency rate – the rate at which these collectively disliked politicians get re-elected – has not dipped below 85% in at least the last half century. Some will blame gerrymandering for that, arguing that they’ve rigged the system. With some merit. But, the fact is that we, the voters, pull those levers, both in the primaries and in the general election. And, the fact is that we the voters don’t really care that much. When a 20% turnout in Congressional primaries is considered very good, that point is driven home. We come out for the general election, sure, but 90% of us (or perhaps even more) vote for “our party” no matter what.

This is the government we deserve, one of endless, unaccountable spending, one of infinite pork, one of rubber-stamping what a handful of people in a formerly smoke-filled room have cobbled together, and one where the persons who say “wait, slow down, this is wrong,” get vilified as being callously indifferent to the plight of the citizenry.

A bill will come due for all this one day. If history is any indicator, the fall will be swift, sharp, and terribly painful.

There are those who’d lead us away from that path. Not nearly enough of us care to follow them.

Editor’s note. Apart from the Wendy’s sandwich offering, the cart in the featured image contains the actual bill, a bill so large the Capitol computers crashed while trying to print it.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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