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A SWAT for sucking up the freebies while work goes undone

Submitted by on Thursday, 28 January 2010 No Comment

It’s amusing, in a “fiddling while Rome burns” sort of way, to see how public officials flock to the freebies like hogs to slop – and then fail to report the corporate largess that’s showered on them.

Take, for example, a California assemblyman – their salaries are $95,000 a year plus $142 a day in expenses – who received almost $500 in tickets to Disneyland and Sea World San Diego.

The median household income in his home county is $40,000, and its unemployment rate is 17.5 percent. Yet, a man who actually has a job and pulls in more than twice a year than his average constituent can’t afford to take his kid to an amusement park?

I’m picking on Assemblyman Tom Berryhill because I used to live in his district and know that a lot of people there are happy simply having a park for their kids to play in, amusement or otherwise. Disneyland could be on another planet as far as they’re concerned.

But Berryhill’s in the company of plenty of other porkers, according to The Sacremento Bee. There were greens fees and trips to college football games. Airport parking and shuttle service. A lot of concerts, including many at Indian casinos. It all added up to a quarter of a million dollars in free stuff over an 18-month period, most of it properly reported but a chunk of it not.

It’s not that a ticket to a Keith Urban concert is going to buy someone’s vote. It takes a much bigger contribution to do that, and the casinos are adept at those as well. Many of them give enough to be considered major campaign donors.

Yes, I know the standard defense for the freebies, both in California and the other 49 states. Officials set policy for the whole state, not just for their districts so it’s important to “educate” them about what’s going on elsewhere. I’m sure going to a concert by Mr. Nicole Kidman was highly enlightening. Are our lawmakers representing Australia now?

In a state that’s in the constant state of chaos that California is and will be for the foreseeable future,  it’s galling to see elected officials park hopping for free when they’re unable to focus on the business at hand. Maybe one of them has come back willing to hold hands with the opposite party and sing, “It’s A Small World After All,” but there are no obvious signs of that happening.

Politicians everywhere should Stop Wasting America’s Time with the pretense that the free trips and dinners are about anything other than greed and ego strokes. If they want a scary ride, they should stick closer to Sacramento. What goes on there is frightening enough for most of us.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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