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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 22, 2006 / 24 Shevat, 5766

Reform Congress, Not Lobbyists

By Jonathan Tobin



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‘Ethics’ legislation will only make the system less democratic


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Every now and then, a passion to reform the way Congress does business sweeps the land. Fueling this is usually a particular scandal and hunger on the part of the opposition party to embarrass the corruption of the majority.


It's been 12 years since the Savonarolas of the House Republican caucus roasted the Democratic leadership over their peccadilloes (does anyone remember the House banking scandal?), and then swept into power. The only real difference between then and now is that today, it's Republican blood in the water, with the Democrats trying to pick off their foes' leaders, such as former House majority leader Tom Delay.


The poster child for this current rage for reform is Jack Abramoff, an egregious Republican lobbyist. Though his scams are little understood by the public — and likely to be repeated in the future by more careful Washington grifters — all most people know is that he hosted some leaders (including DeLay) on a Scottish golfing junket.


Despite the fact that the ocean of money that flows in and out of the Treasury has more to do with the hardball politics of Congress than with minor perks like travel, the self-styled forces of righteousness are currently busy planning reforms to forestall the possibility that Delay's successors will ever get to tee off at St. Andrews.


But like most such reforms, it remains highly unlikely that such a ban will make what humorist P.J. O'Rourke once aptly titled America's "parliament of whores" more honest.

SEEING IS BELIEVING
Opposing any measure presented as ethical — no matter how ultimately pointless or even counterproductive it might be — is generally a fool's errand. But it is precisely onto this perilous ground some are prepared to tread.


In particular, pro-Israel groups that have spent the last few decades schlepping American leaders to Israel to see the situation in the Middle East up close and personal are worried about the ban.


That's a risky position for Jewish groups who are always, and often justifiably, concerned about being singled out as too powerful by anti-Semites and other Israel-haters. The success of the pro-Israel community in educating Washington about the justice of Israel's cause — coupled with the fact that aiding Israel is very much in America's interest — has made it very unpopular in some quarters.


In addition, some Jews are loathe to label the reform legislation as bogus because of Abramoff's public identity as an Orthodox Jew, though that had nothing to do with his crimes and doesn't distinguish him from other rogues who professed other faiths.


But the answer here is that these proposals are not only wrong-headed on the specifics, but that scapegoating lobbying is itself a misunderstanding of the real problems afflicting our government.


As for the travel issue, congressional junkets, like congressional salaries, remain a sore point for most voters. Most of us can't stand the idea of the country being run by career politicians who never held an honest job in their lives living high off the hog on our tax checks. But there are couple of problems with this impulse.


One is that — at least as far as the travel ban is concerned — there's nothing noble about having a Congress that knows little about the world managing foreign-policy expenditures. Seeing the facts on the ground makes a difference. A lawmaker with the chutzpah to speak on or vote about what Israel should or shouldn't do ought to see the size of the country before being asked to compromise on its security measures. A travel ban would make it much harder for that to happen.

DOUBLE OR NOTHING
But wouldn't such a ban make it more difficult for corrupters like Abramoff to operate?


Don't be ridiculous! Such people are rolling the dice for big payoffs on government expenditures in which trips to Scotland are chump change.


The real bribery isn't in the form of plane tickets and hotel rooms, but in the looting of the Treasury in the form of legal expenditures that involved Congress trading cash for votes.


For all of the sound and fury that is expended on the question of congressional travel, it's just a blip on the screen of the Capitol's real business: the ability of individual Senate and House members to direct large sums of money to their states and districts.


Through an arcane trick of the trade called an "earmark" members can attach financing for every form of local project imaginable onto major spending bills. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the number of earmarks in 2005 amounted to 15,877 different items that cost the taxpayers $47.4 billion. That is double the amount spent on earmarks the year the Democrats were routed from office in 1994.


Earmarks can be for good causes or ridiculous ones, but whether wise or foolish, they feather the beds of senators and representatives who use them to prove to voters that they're bringing home the bacon.


We would all probably be better off if the government didn't confiscate so much of our income in the first place which forces us to wait for politicians to throw us back some crumbs. But pending a real reform of earmarks, what can any of us do but lobby?


We like to portray all lobbyists as rapacious Huns in the Abramoff mode. But most are merely the representatives of vast numbers of citizens who are individually too poor or lacking in influence to compete for the favor of the House and the Senate.


The problem isn't that an army of these lobbyists lays siege to Congress; the problem is a system that allows Congress to pit groups against each other and reward those it favors with billions. Earmarks turn everyone into members of special-interest groups who compete for a small percentage of the money government took from us in the first place.


Like the spectacularly ill-conceived campaign-finance legislation that has been imposed on the nation, the proposals for lobbying reform will not make the system more democratic. They would make it less so, since lobbying by groups is one of the few ways citizens have of getting any attention from legislators.


The right to petition Congress ought to be treated as being as sacred as the right of free speech. But somehow, the ethics crowd — and partisans of both major parties who seek to manipulate the issue — has managed to make both those rights seem illegitimate.


That's why Jewish groups — and anybody else who has the temerity to say the ethics emperors have no clothes — would be in the right to oppose the anti-lobbying craze. And for Jews to shrink from advocacy on this measure out of fear of being singled out only highlights the illegitimacy of any cause that seeks to make it harder to speak out on public issues.


It's just plain wrong to restrict a citizen's ability to talk with those in power. If there is anything that needs reformation, it is the way the government uses the power it has given itself.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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