Austerity Parity

Isn’t it a bit unseemly for our elected leaders to suggest that low-income people, seniors and low-birthweight babies should give up yet more food, shelter, and medical care so that we can reduce the deficit?

If you ask me, it’s poor form … even if you use Father-Knows-Best phrases like  "everybody's gotta take a haircut" to refer to budgets that take food out of the mouths of hungry children.
And if you’re one of 250-plus members of Congress who is a millionaire or spends a lot of time at the golf course, maybe you should try a haircut or two yourself before asking  hungry people to stop eating so much.
When I hear news of proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food assistance programs, etc., my mind wanders. I like to imagine that by some twist of fate, I get to administer some austerity to our elected leaders who don't understand the "shared" part of "shared sacrifice." So far, I have come up with a program divided into four parts, ordered from easiest to hardest. They are: I) Taking A Haircut, II) Belt Tightening, III) Taking Tough Steps, and IV) Change We Can Believe In. 

Below are examples of areas in which members of Congress would take a haircut:
House and Senate Gyms: The House and Senate each has its own gym, with discounted memberships (subsidized by taxpayers).  

The way I see it, we taxpayers could get more for our money by making these gyms multifunctional - for instance, by making not only the gyms, but also the related shower and laundry facilities available to D.C.'s many homeless residents. I am sure that Mitch McConnell wouldn't mind sharing his Zumba class. And there's an added benefit for the 30+representatives getting flack for using their government offices as free, tax-free personal housing; they could get leads about other places to spend the night for free in D.C. 

The recent brouhaha over the tweeting Congressman who photographed himself at the gym got me to thinking... about photo IDs. I would use part of the gyms to offer services related to civic participation: Gym guests who are waiting for their clothes to dry could get a government-issued ID, which would make it easier for them to vote. But why stop there? Our new civic participation center could also train people to be election judges, advocate for people harassed at polling places, and offer other services that became less available with ACORN's demise.  
On-Site Medical Care for Congress:  In addition to care through personal insurance policies and at military medical facilities, members of Congress can opt into a third source of health care - primary care through the Office of the Attending Physician (OAP). Fun facts about OAP care:
  • It's "the best medical care on the planet," according to a former OAP employee.
  • OAP physicians, according to Representative Steve Kagen (D-WI) "will see you on the spot, on the beck and call."
  • Congressional members get referrals to the best specialists in their fields, often brought to the Capitol to provide treatment at no charge to the patient.
  • The total cost per member, per year: $503.
I would make the clinic and its six satellite offices into a community health center. Members of Congress could use it for essential services only, relying on one of their two other sources of health care for nonessential services. The rest of the taxpayer-subsidized health care would go to guests of the gym/civic engagement center. This arrangement would be very handy for the majority of them, who lack access to planes, limos, or bus passes.

Congressional members who oppose universal health care would be eligible for only one plan, which I would design (with help from Fox and Friends and Nevada's former U.S. Senatorial Candidate Sue Lowden). Under my plan, they would get their preventive care, like mammograms or pap smears, at Walgreens, and pay for it with chickens.   

Legislative Dining Rooms and Parking Lots: Congress might have to go elsewhere for fine food and free parking. As has been said many times, this country is broke!! Why are we spending taxpayer dollars on tastefully appointed dining rooms for our members of Congress who would almost certainly prefer thrift to ambience? 

Think about it: Spacious venues. Elegant atmosphere. Historic significance. Free parking. Now consider this:  Thousands and thousands of same-sex couples in New York, eagerly starting to plan their history-making weddings, receptions, rehearsal dinners, and showers. Cha-Ching! I would use the revenue generated to fund the creation of food banks in each of the gyms/day shelters. 

I could go on and on about Part One, but you get the idea.

Coming soon: Part Two of Four