The 109th session of the U.S. Congress is nothing to be proud of. It has spent most of its time on politics, travel and recesses, which is where the members are now for another 10 days. Last year, corporations spent $3 million for their trips, 50 percent more than usual.
A Gallup Poll shows that only 35 percent of the people think Congress is doing a good job, the lowest rating in eight years. Even the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal are disgusted, and that's a real surprise because those fellows thought the country would be in heaven with Republicans in charge at the White House and both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Democratic leaders in the Senate stalled the possibility of partisanship by their insistence on denying the appointments of a half-dozen judges to some courts of appeal and John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. A group of 14 Senate Republicans and Democrats (including Arkansas's Sen. Mark Pryor) met and adopted some bipartisan rules to allow the appointment of three of the judges, but the compromise they came up with was so odd that it turned into a filibuster that prevented a vote on Bolton.
Bolton and the judge candidates aren't perfect, but there are many more important problems that the Congress ought to be dealing with. Our country is in trouble — a hopeless war, a huge deficit, jobs leaving the country by the thousands, the price of almost everything going up, etc.
Fifty years ago, corporations paid 60 percent of the federal taxes, but in 2003, they paid only 16 percent, leaving the rest to individual taxpayers. This year the average family of four will pay $2,035 in medical expenses out of their own pockets; four years ago it was $1,480. What can be done to provide more money to those on Medicaid and Medicare?
When the members of Congress return from their latest recess, will they do better? It's doubtful because they still have to deal with the Bolton appointment and the appointment of four or five other federal judges. And if a Supreme Court justice announces retirement, there will be more frittering away than we've seen so far.
Then there's the bill that was passed May 24 in the House of Representatives 238 to 194 that would spend tax money for embryonic stem-cell research. President Bush does not want the federal government to pay for such work because an embryo is a just-conceived child that he would want to be born rather than researched. Such research, the President said, “would take us across a critical ethical line.”
However, scientists say there is much that stem-cell research can do for persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and childhood diabetes. Great Britain, Singapore and other places have been doing that kind of research for years. The Wall Street Journal says that several million dollars of federal money had already been spent on research of stem cells before the president made his announcement, and states like California have committed billions to pay for this kind of research. Also, 70 companies are now doing stem-cell research by spending their own money, according to the Journal.
Maybe some compromise could be worked out between the Congress and the White House. If it isn’t, we can be sure that the president and the Republicans in the Congress will again win the praise of the conservatives who are unable to find anything about stem-cell research in their Bibles. They probably would not even be embarrassed to learn that we are behind countries like Korea in medicine.
Incidentally, have you seen the full-page advertisements for “The Awakening,” performed by the Promise Keepers, who are going to appear in Razorback Stadium June 10 and 11? Tickets are $89 for adults and $69 for 18-year-olders and under. Women are admitted, but the Promise Keepers say, “We have found that men are more apt to receive the content of the message in the company of other men as opposed to a mixed-gender setting.”
This organization was formed in 1990 with the purpose of “uniting men to become passionate followers of Jesus Christ through the effective communication of seven promises to God, other men, their family, their church and their community.” They will preach, play music and sing and sell their 16 CDs, two dozen books, Bible studies, etc.
To rent the stadium, the Promise Keepers found Frank Broyles, who has been selling football to us for 47 years. They hit it off. He only charged them $60,000.
Newspaper photographers never get much money or attention. I know because I got my first job as one in the 1940s. In 1957, a guy named Will Counts learned it when he made the best pictures of the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School.
The Arkansas Leader this week shines an editorial light on legislation, to discourage sexual contact between probation and parole officers and the people they supervise. It follows some local scandals.
Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.