Though official filings have yet to be released, a CBS News correspondent estimates a substantial tab for the US Congressional delegation's presence at the recent Copenhagen Climate Summit. The bipartisan group, including family members and staffers, is estimated to have required 3 military jets, 321 hotel bookings at a five-star outfit, dozens of commercial flights, and tens of thousands of dollars more in fancy meals. When asked about the monolithic presence, not a single member of the congressional delegation would respond on camera. Very telling.
The news reporter is careful to point out that few Americans would have objected to a US presence at the historic climate summit. However, she claims that most would have objected to the gargantuan, estimated cost to ailing taxpayers. Steve Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense, did not object to US participation in the climate change discussion, but added, "Every penny counts. Congress should be shaking the couch cushions looking for change, rather than spending cash for everybody to go to Copenhagen."
Ellis makes a legitimate point. The US Congress, largely responsible for the nation's purse strings, is running $1.4 trillion budget deficits, raising the debt ceiling to $12.4 trillion, and bailing out Wall St firms with trillions of dollars. Meanwhile, the nation is suffering under 10% unemployment (17.3% if you include those who have quit looking and those who work part-time but want full-time work), a punishing housing market collapse, a commercial real estate bust, a 25% depreciation in the stock market from its 2007 record high, and a barrage of consumer & business bankruptcies. Yet, Congress lavishes itself with only the finest hotels and extravagant feasts at a global conference that accomplished virtually nothing, while a staggering 1 out of 8 Americans now receives food stamps to feed their families.
There's an environmental aspect to story as well. For a governmental delegation highly concerned about the deleterious effects of carbon dioxide emissions, its travels are estimated to have produced enough CO2 to fill 10,000 olympic swimming pools. Much of the environmental impact could have been easily blunted via teleconference calls.
Simply put, Washington DC is completely disconnected from reality. Much like ancient aristocrats, our leaders, from both parties, banquet and feast while the common folk suffer. While ordinary Americans labor under the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, DC enjoys robust employment, lavish dinners, first-rate hotels, and unlimited budgets.
Such a glaring disconnect is becoming increasingly evident these days, and if Congress isn't careful, this disconnect could transform into an angry, nationwide grassroots movement that exacts its revenge at the polls in 2010 and 2012. Some believe such a movement has already commenced. Like years past, the populace will only tolerate such hypocrisy and extravagance for so long before taking drastic action to enact major social, political, and economic reform. If history serves as any lesson, our political leadership would do well to change its ways, and fast.