Moochers Of The Beltway

Congress is taking another week off for the 4th of July. This follows similar breaks earlier in the year for Easter and Memorial Day. When congress returns from its current break it will work for a few weeks, then take off the entire month of August (D.C. is hot in August) and not come back until after Labor Day. It will then be in session through the rest of the year, except, of course, for long breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And every weekend starting at shortly after noon.

These days much of the work done by congress while actually showing up for work involves trimming the benefits received by moochers. You know. Like the dependency loving miscreants living it up on food stamps, a good many of whom have full-time jobs that don’t pay enough to buy food.

Happily, the moocher fighters in Congress don’t need to mooch to buy their own food. Congressmen get salaries of $170,000 a year, along with exceptionally generous benefits, great job security because of gerrymandering by both parties, no trouble getting loans for homes and school loans for their kids, a near guarantee of even better paying work as lobbyists when their public service ends, and increasingly, second family incomes paid spouses working as lobbyists or in think tanks.

Yes, there are moochers in America today. Not the ones dependent on eating regularly who have become dependent on food stamps. But the puffed up, overcompensated moochers of the Beltway.

(Now available in both print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall.)


Astonishing Level Of Public Support For Congress

One of the polls that appeared on today’s Rasmussen Reports website found that five percent of American voters still think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Five percent! How is this possible?

Who are these 5 percenters? What could possibly be animating their thinking? This is an important question. I mean, there are more than 300 million people in this country. Five percent of that number equals more than 15 million people.

Could there really be 15 million of my fellow countrymen and women who for some reason still think highly of this Congress? Is there something in our water to explain this? In gasoline additives? Is there some way we can recognize these people on the street so we can cross over in time and diminish the chances of attracting their attention? Of getting them excited?

Perhaps this astonishing level of continued support for Congress is short-lived, however. If these turkeys don’t somehow manage to keep us all from going over the fiscal cliff in the next few hours, that five percent number might finally come down to an appropriate level — a group composed entirely of members of Congress themselves and their immediate families.

Then we can all just settled in, relax — and look forward to re-electing almost all of them again in another two years.

Such is the state of our American democracy. Cry the beloved country!

(You can contact me at, and you might enjoy reading my two comic novels — Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan and The Bellman’s Revenge.

Don’t Let Congress Come Back!

Congress has adjourned for five weeks. This outfit behaves like the French used to do, the French in Paris, for heavens sake. Close down completely in August and go to the beach.

A lot of real Americans no longer even eat french fries because of French opposition to our great Iraq adventure. And now our own Congress is behaving like those…those…those foreigners!

Something has to be done.

So here’s what I propose. We don’t let Congress come back to Washington after its members do their fact finding tours on Nantucket or Antigua. We form a hand holding around the city and keep ‘em out.

They want a five week vacation in summer? And another long one around Christmas? And a few more during the year? Then they give us this kind of legislative behavior? No way, Renee. I say we just add to their vacation schedule and fill in the gaps between present long vacations with more vacation time.

I figure if we just extend every law already in place we won’t have to worry about these dingbats making things worse.The Republic might survive. We let them come back, all bets are off.


To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien

The Incredible Bottomless Congress

Congress is now debating a farm bill. One of its provisions, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as food stamps), is on the cutting block. The reason? As the number of Americans receiving food stamp aid jumped from 26 to 45 million between 2007 and 2011 because of the recession, and the cost to the federal government soared from $30 billion to $78 billion, a budget-cutting Congress has determined this program ripe for a trimming.

Senator Jeff Sessions,(R—Alabama) is leading the charge in that chamber. Here’s a quote from one of his speeches on the subject: Is the food stamp program, he asked, “encouraging people to look for ways to be productive and be responsible for their families? Or does it create dependency on a series of government programs?”

About three-quarters of the benefits in this program go to children, the disabled, the elderly. The kind of people the senator appears to think might be encouraged to be more productive and responsible if they have less to eat.

Taking food from the mouths of kids, the sickly, the old, as an act of tough love, while sparing the rich a miniscule tax hike so as not to upset Grover Norquist? What is one to say about such priorities? No simply stated negative judgment seems adequate to the perversity on view here.



To learn more about a quirky novel, a very unusual book of verse, and some Goldman Sachs satires from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012           A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012         The Chronicles Of Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Volume 1 by Michael Silverstien

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant: Helping Mr. B. Make A Major PAC Decision

Mr. B. You’re back again. Nothing bad on the digestive front, I hope.

No. Selig. I actually came by to talk with you about something important. To get your advice. Can we sit down and chat?

Sit down, sir? This is a washroom. The only places where we could…

Point taken. We can chat standing. Do you know what a political action committee is, Selig? A PAC?

Yes sir. They’re things that promote free speech. They free the media from the clutches of socialist indigents and allow decent rich people to finally get a hearing.

Exactly, Selig. Though I’m surprised a washroom attendant like yourself has this sophisticated level of understanding.

It’s because I listen to a lot of a.m. talk radio when no one else is around, sir. One of my friends is also the attendant at the Supreme Court men’s room in Washington, and he keeps me up to date on the court’s thinking about money and free speech.

The Supreme Court, you say. I’ve always wondered something about those people. Those long black robes they wear. When they have to use a washroom, how do they…you know…how do they manage…never mind. I need your advice on something else, Selig.

I live to serve, sir.

Indeed you do, Selig. Indeed you do. Here’s the thing. Some of the gang here at Goldman are thinking of contributing to a PAC. Naturally this will be chump change for us, but for people in Washington its crumbs to die for.

I’m a bit short of cash right now, Mr. B. Maybe you could come around at Christmas time if I get a bonus this year.

No need to grovel, Selig. I’m not here for a contribution. I just need some advice. The actual contributors would be the firm’s top earners, the best and brightest people, the job creators, the fighters for an opportunity society. Our problem is that being so bright and working so hard to create jobs, we don’t have time for much contact with little people like yourself. In my own case, except for a gardener who I can’t understand half the time, you’re the only little person I meet with on a regular basis.

Perhaps if you changed your diet, sir. That taco parlor you frequent. You might try eating lunches elsewhere, too.

Focus, Selig. Focus. The focus here is on which party — from your average little person perspective — should get our free speech. Should get our money. They both slobber for it. And no matter what they say at election time, they’ll both do our bidding after the election. But I still need your opinion on which to support with our free speech.

Why do you care about my opinion, sir, if both parties are in your pocket anyway?

Because, Selig, in the event that Wall Street brings the world economy to the brink of disaster yet again, people like you will be called upon for another massive bail out. And we want to be sure the folks in power in Washington then are folks who also had little people’s support this election season. So we all share the blame.

I hope you won’t think I’m sucking up, Mr. B, when I say your thinking here is brilliant, and you are one far-sighted investment banker.

Of course I think you’re sucking up, Selig. That’s expected. Now…into which trough do you suggest we throw some chump change slops?

What the heck, Mr. B. Give ‘em both a taste. It’s only fair to PAC the pair.

‘It’s only fair to PAC the pair.’ Very good, Selig. Even rhymes. I like it. I always seem to come up with good ideas — and good catch phrases like this — when I come down here.

A surprising number of Goldman guys achieve clarity in this very washroom, sir. Up for another visit to Booth #8?

Lead on, McDuff. With your help, I am now Booth 8 ready.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

An Earth Day Apology

Tomorrow is Earth day. Did you notice?

The New York Times didn’t mention the fact in today’s edition of the paper. Neither did the Wall Street Journal. Nor did the Los Angeles Times, though it did have a short piece about German environmentalists and nuclear power in their country.

Come Earth Day itself, of course, some notice of the natural environment will be on view. Doubtless the Obama Administration will use the day to strike out against Republicans’ non-existent environment protecting policies. Perhaps Mr. Obama and/or Vice-President Biden will even put on a flannel shirt a la Bill Clinton and Al Gore, and do a photo opportunity in a national park.

In fairness, it must be pointed out that some specific efforts to protect the environment have, in fact, been taken by Mr. Obama and Company. As a major priority pursued aggressively, however, it seems to rank on the level of raising more campaign funds from Wall Street. Indeed, it might be ranked exactly at that level, because an emissions trading scheme that Wall Street firms love because they would be doing the emission trading deals has been this Administration’s most energetic environmental initiative.

Other things hardly worth looking forward to this coming Earth day include media coverage of school children picking up trash at local parks. Alternative energy companies will also probably sponsor fairs and kindred events that only demonstrate that this country is falling woefully behind nations like Germany and even China in effectively promoting natural, non-polluting, ever renewable energy resources.

If you’re old enough you might remember the first Earth Day in 1970, when tens of millions of Americans marched for more stringent laws to protect the environment — and national leaders hastened to respond. You might also remember that in 2000, the largest-ever gathering of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro collectively promised to make the natural environment and its protection their number one priority.

That was then. Today, more contemporary priorities are what the media chooses to highlight. Like how much the two likely presidential contenders are raising from PACs for the coming election.

And there the focus will doubtless remain. Unless a dreadful environmental disaster forces even the likes of Fox News to pay attention to the reality that we are part of the natural order.

On behalf of humanity, I hereby apologize effusively to Mother Earth. And beg Her not to respond to our selfish and utterly foolish provocations in ways we so richly deserve.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

Note To Democrats In 2012: Pick The Right People To Demonize

If Obama loses the presidency this fall, it will probably be because he ran against the wrong opponent. He ran against Mitt Romney.

Democrats used to know who and how to demonize Republicans in order to win elections. When FDR ran for reelection in 1936, he didn’t run against his official Republican opponent that year, Kansas Governor Alf Landon. He ran against Herbert Hoover. Against Hoovervilles. Against problems the New Deal had not yet fixed because the economic legacy of Herbert Hoover was too awful to fix quickly.

In 2004 the Democrats had another opportunity to demonize and triumph, but blew it that time around. The target they should have gone after that year but didn’t wasn’t sitting President George W. Bush, who, though he had gotten the country into an unpopular war in Iraq and wasn’t presiding over a booming economy, was actually a really likable guy. The demonizing target opportunity here was thus not President Bush. It was others in the Bush Administration.

The John Kerry slogan in 2004 should have been: “A president is known by the company he keeps.” And the demonizing targets should have included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld. Gale Norton and John Ashcroft, all of whom were generally disliked and distrusted by most Americans, and a few of whom were loathed by a goodly number — a vice-president and powerful cabinet members for whom the likable George W. Bush functioned as the perfect beard.

Which brings us to the current election campaign of 2012. There are early indications that the Obama campaign will focus on running against Mitt Romney, focus on Governor Romney’s own background and present nostrums to reanimate the economy.

Not an altogether bad approach, of course. Romney does come with a lot of baggage. He’s a former CEO of a Wall Street vulture fund. He changes his official views almost daily to accommodate near term political needs. And his nostrums to improve the economy, when you look closely at them, are just a formula to give more to the very rich in hopes they will give some back to everyone else.

All this, however, might not keep Mr. Obama in the White House as the Romney camp points out endlessly, and alas, quite correctly, that the economy hasn’t improved all that much since Obama took office.

What then, might this year’s Obama campaign learn from a past successful FDR campaign and a past unsuccessful Kerry campaign that might be effective in meeting the 2012 Romney challenge?

With regard to the former, endlessly demonize the eight years of George W. Bush in the White House, the massive economic disaster he left behind, and the aim of Mitt Romney to bring back these same Bush policies on an even greater scale. In other words don’t run against Romney, the would-be Obama fixer. Run against Romney the would-be Bush legacy repeater.

And with regard to the company Governor Romney keeps: Congress these days, especially the Republican dominated House of Representatives, has the lowest poll numbers in history. Demonize Romney as the man who will give this extremely unpopular Republican House of Representatives the power to impose its unpopular tax and other stances on the American people. Constantly place before voters the image of Romney the expediter of increasing unpopular Tea Party views and the views of extreme social conservatives.

The 2012 slogan of choice here: “Mitt Romney is known by the company he keeps in Congress, and the company he joined with on the road to his nomination.” Get the focus off the man. Get it on his unpopular associates.

Republicans have mastered the demonize and triumph technique. It’s not nice but it works. Democrats would benefit from playing the same game only better.


To learn more about a quirky novel (and a very unusual book of verse) from the author of this piece, hit one of these icons:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

Offshore Tax Shelters (A Nod And Wink Poem)

Federal officials have announced they are now making serious efforts to crack down on people who avoid paying U.S. taxes by banking overseas. Maybe, maybe not…

Offshore Tax Shelters (A Nod And A Wink Poem)

The Nod
My firm is big on patriotism
On ev’ry desk’s a yellow ribbon
The boss can quote both Burke and Gibbon
We pay our taxes, that’s a given.

The Wink
(Taxes are a real hooter
When you pay them in Bermuda.)

The Nod
We’re sticklers when it comes to law
All crooks and cheaters we deplore
Our legal staffers make quite sure
With U.S. regs we’re cool offshore.

The Wink
(There’s a lot you gotta learnsy
When you set up shop in Guernsey)

The Nod
If Congress seeks to trim our pile
And says with Sam we’ve got to file
Our lobbyists employ their guile
To show this plan just ain’t our style.

The Wink
(Ev’ry real corporate diva
Does his banking in Geneva.)

The Nod
There’s no need for retribution
Prosecution’s no solution
We achieve our absolution
With a campaign contribution.

The Wink?
Want a better bottom line
Get your mail in Liechtenstein.)


To learn more about a quirky novel from the author of this piece hit:

Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, art by Kay Wood ©2012              A Dyspeptic's Guide To Contemporary American Politics (In Verse) ©2012

A New Role For The Democratic Party — Comic Relief

Watching elected Democrats in the White House and Congress in the last couple of weeks was like watching a skinny little blowhard getting thrown out of a bar. Lying on the sidewalk he rails at the bouncer who sent him flying, while the bouncer, arms folded, merely smirks as the beaten little guy vents before slouching off.

The Republicans are Washington’s political bouncers these days. They have the measure of the Democrats down perfectly. We won’t compromise, they say, and the Democrats’ response is that if they won’t compromise we must. And like the bar bouncer, the Republicans let the beaten little guy lying on the sidewalk vent because…well, because the scene amuses them.

But why should the Republicans have all the fun? Why shouldn’t the rest of us not share in their amusement — especially those of us foolish enough to have believed the change and hope blather of that articulate Obama fellow, and the twaddle of congressional Democrats that they were actually up to governing effectively? Because once you get over disappointment with the Democrats’ ineptitude, and the shame in yourself for ever having trusted them to advance your interests, these folks are really quite a hoot.

Consider, for example, the amazing misunderstanding of Democratic policy advisers who actually believe that the “compromise” they went along with will give an extra boost to the present “recovery,” and position Democrats to keep the White House in 2012. Forgetting for the moment that this compromise was really a cave in, and the recovery ostensibly going on since June 2009 is a numbers game played by economists with few close links to Main Street reality, even a better economy in 2012 won’t work to the advantage of the President and his party.

Why? Because the Republicans have pulled off a political master stroke. They constrained the Democrats while the latter supposedly controlled all the elected power pieces in Washington, then ran the table during the lame duck session now coming to an end, and will set the agenda completely starting in January. Thus, they will be able to take credit in 2012 for a real recovery if by some miracle one occurs. But if it doesn’t, they will point to Democrats’ numerical control in the Senate and ownership of the White House and again blame the Democrats for economic failure.

Real political power with the option of taking credit for success and avoiding blame for failure. A master stroke. And the Democrats don’t have a clue.

Now ain’t that a hoot? Another great example of Democratic comic relief.

And then there’s the White House’s just initiated attempt to heal things with the liberal wing of its own party. Or the sanctimonious, purist, ungrateful liberal wing of the party as the Obama team likes to say, while folks like James Carville, that well known moderate Democratic strategist, refers to these liberals “gnats.”

Can you just see the meetings between the Obama team and these dissed progressives? The Obama gang desperately trying to triangulate, to appear friendly to the left without looking too friendly because the president’s best-and-brightest advisers are telling him this will turn off independent voters, while the progressives in the room are wondering if they can secret away some of the excellent pastries on the table so they come out of these meetings with at least something of value.

The hoots keep coming. And there’s plenty more to come.

Attention liberals, progressives, lefties, purists, gnats and whatever else they want to call us. We no longer have a dog in this fight. But there’s more to life than politics. A lot more. It’s time to really move on, to focus our energies in non-political realms, and to give our support to people who are worthy of receiving it.
Oh yes. And to read The Times and watch news on Public Television for laughs.