Saturday, December 18, 2021

Rules For Thee But Not For Me: Congressional Exemptions (Including Covid Vaccine)

Maybe it's the word "mandate" which I don't like. It conjures up images of jackboots. It sounds so finite; so authoritarian.  I've never cared for authoritarianism, especially when it comes from the government, and particularly when it involves my personal choices. I've always been a strong advocate of individual rights.  So were our Founding Fathers. They were big on individual rights and restricting government's ability to impede those rights.

So, when President Joe Biden comes out with "mandates" about vaccinations, I have an issue with that. It's not that I necessarily oppose the vaccinations. I think they are likely beneficial, particularly if you're someone with a impaired immune system such as the elderly or someone with a illness which affects their immune system. However, the government also claims natural immunity alone isn't enough even for young and healthy people, which seems odd.    

Naturally, I have some questions about the vaccines themselves and the record time they were developed and approved. Most vaccines go through a long and laborious procedure of test trials and reviews lasting years, not four months, before being receiving the FDC stamp of approval (in fact, the average process takes 10-15 years). Apparently, however, the COVID vaccines were an exception, which is a little disconcerting.

And yet, President Biden has issued a mandate requiring virtually everyone to either get vaccinated or regularly tested.  Many employers, as well as schools, however, have insisted that everyone be vaccinated or lose their job. Other employers are more "lenient".  They are opting to forego proof of vaccination and instead require weekly testing, wearing a mask, and avoiding contact with customers and other employees as much as possible. How generous, especially if your income depends on customer contact (note intended sarcasm).

One reason I italicized the word "virtually" is because this mandate, which is causing so much grief among you and I, doesn't apply to members of Congress, the President, or their immediate staff. Yelp, you read that right. President Biden, VP Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and the usual suspects are exempt from the "jab". That doesn't mean they can't get the shot if they want to. It's just means they don't have to if they don't want to. I have a problem with that.

If the various vaccines are so safe, and Covid is so contagious, then why are they exempt from the same jab we're told we have to go to work, send our children to school, or is required by all other government employees including the military?  As an aside, all four of the military branches discharged military personnel for refusing the vaccination.

We've all been told to "social distance" by at least six feet, wear a mask, and avoid social gatherings, and yet how often have we seen government leaders, such as members of Congress, huddle around a microphone or photo-op without a mask (or drop their mask as soon as they think the press is leaving)? How about members of the G7 all setting around talking mask free? Monkey see monkey don't?

I'm particularly amused...and a little miffed...to hear government leaders or the uber rich tell us wear masks indoors or to avoid contact with family, especially during the holidays; tell us to remain inside unless it's essential that we go out, and then avoid all contact and get back as soon as we can. I'm sure they're in full compliance with their own instructions...not! Vaccinations aside, all this made me wonder what else besides the Covid jab is Congress and the President exempt from but still applies to us.

One item which caught my eye immediately is FOIA, or the Freedom of Information Act. Members of Congress, and any associated committees, are not subject to FOIA, which, in effect, means they don't answer to you. The explanation given is that responding to FOIA requests could put Congressional members "under undo pressure".

What about "insider trading"? In 2012, President Obama signed into law a bill prohibiting insider trading; that is, financial information received from sources outside the normal legislative process. But some enterprising legislators left a loophole in the bill as usual. Information received in the normal conduct of legislative business, including closed briefings, is not considered insider trading. So, if you learn something in a closed briefing about, let's say, a vaccine, that's not considered to be insider trading, you might want to have your broker on speed dial.  

Whistleblower protection. Ever hear the expression "See something say something"? Well, not if you work for the legislative branch! Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1989 to encourage federal employees, including those working in the executive branch to speak up if they see or hear something that's not kosher while protecting them from retaliation, including termination (at least in theory). The Sarbanes-Oxley Act gives similar protection to workers in the private sector.

However, Congress exempted itself and those who work in the legislative branch from protection. That includes those working in the Library of Congress, the Architect of the Capitol, and other federal jobs. So, if you  suspect something you'd better keep your damn mouth shut if you know what's good for you!

Along those same lines is subpoenaing health and safety records, and the ability to conduct investigations. The Occupational and Health Safety Act permits the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct investigations and obtain records from private businesses if required. However, the Office of Compliance, which issues those subpoenas, does not have the authority to investigate or subpoena records of alleged violations from the legislative branch. Kinda handy don't you think?

Public sector unions are the largest segment of organized labor in the United States. However, in addition to the above, Congress is exempt from keeping regular workplace records such as pertaining to the Age Discrimination Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act  to name just two.

It's worth nothing that in 1997, Congress passed Congressional Accountability Act. What's that you ask? It required Congress to adopt and apply certain legislation which had previously been signed into law but which Congress has exempted itself from.

A few of those laws (and when they were enacted) included the 1964 Title VII Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Occupation Health and Safety Act of 1970, and the Veteran's Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. Remember, these weren't formally adopted by Congress until 1997 even though they were passed into law years or decades earlier.

Then there's the topic of receiving outside money. Members of Congress receive a base salary of $174,000 (Majority and minority leaders in the Senate make a base of $193,400).  The House Speaker (that's Nancy Pelosi) makes $223,500. That doesn't include all the various perks they get such as gym membership, per diem, subsidized insurance (there's a taxpayer based fund which pays their premiums), first class seats on planes, free parking...anywhere (and no tickets!). Of course, there's always the "outside" perks which really make the job worthwhile.  

Why fly commercial when you can get a catered flight on a private airplane courtesy of a corporation or political association anywhere and at any time you want? Why live off a measly $174,000 when you can form your own personal leadership PAC to solicit mega donations which you can use to pay for all sorts of "political" related expenses? Others have set up special tax exempt foundations (funded by a "pay to play" scheme) and pay themselves in the six or seven figure range for "consulting".

You also can get speaking fees paying in the hundreds of thousands.  In 2001, Bill and Hillary gave 729 political talks averaging $210,795 each of them! After her tenure as Secretary  of State, Hillary received $22 million dollars in speaking fees. Most of the money---15.9 million---came from corporations which regularly lobby Congress.

While ordinary members of Congress may not do that well, they can still make a large chunk of change, and we're not even talking book deals or semi-regular appearances on talk shows! As an aside, bear in mind that just over 50% of Congressional members were millionaires (many are multi-millionaires) going into a job that pays $174,000.  You can bet that ain't doing it for their health or our wellbeing either.

The top 10% of Congressional members have three times the wealth as the bottom 90%, which is still far more than the average American household owns. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saw her wealth go from $41 million to $115 million since making it into that top 10% bubble. Senator Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) wealth went from a paltry $3 million dollars to over $34 million. Then again, for some it doesn't matter. Senator Kelly Loeffer (R-GA) came into the game with a net worth of over $500 million.  The game has been rigged so that only those with deep pockets can play.

On the topic of money, there is one myth I want to dispel. Members of Congress don't get their salary for life, even if they serve just one term. Members can receive a full pension only if they're 62 years old and served for a minimum of five years; 50 years old and have served 20 years; or they've served for 25 years regardless of their age.

 Also, regardless of how long they served, they cannot receive more than 80% of the salary at the time they left Congress. They must also pay 1.3% of their salary into the Federal Employees' Retirement System and 6.2% in Social Security taxes.

Many members of Congress, including key staffers, often end up on Washington's K Street as corporate lobbyists, "advisers" or "consultants" (members of Congress must legally wait 12 months before they start glad handing their former colleagues). How many are we talking about?

About 78% of former House members and 87% of former Senate members, plus key staff members, become lobbyists while most of the remainder "advise" or "consult" on a part-time basis. On average, when a Congressman becomes a lobbyist, they get a 1,452% raise over their former $174,000 salary (plus all the perquisite perks) while lobbyists spend approximately $3 billion dollars lobbying Congress and other federal agencies. Lobbyists also write the overwhelming majority of all legislation too.  Is it any wonder that we're a Corporatocracy?

On that note, I'd like to ask you dear reader if any of this sounds like "socialism" to you? I can't imagine it does. Socialism is public ownership or control. Communism is state ownership of everything. That's includes private businesses, banks, and property. That's means no Wall Street. No lobbyists. That means everything you read above couldn't and wouldn't happen under socialism, Communism or Marxism.

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the abuses and misuses of Congress, as well as the political system in general, for you. President Biden can "mandate" all he wants, but for countless Americans, it carries little or no weight, especially given that Biden and Congress have exempted themselves. But, as shown above, they've exempted themselves from many other laws too (and that's just a partial list).

The Status Quo that created the rules created the two tier legal system. Some say it's biased towards blacks, or Hispanics, or gays, or women, or the poor, and in a sense they'd be right.  Its aim is to separate us from them and us from each other. The more divided we are, the easier we are to control and manipulate. President John Kennedy said, in 1962, that "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable". That clock is about to strike midnight.

If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider subscribing. It's free!

 

Why is Congress exempt from the Biden Covid mandate?


No, President Biden's mandate for federal workers does not apply to members of Congress and their staff


Here's who paid Hillary Clinton $22 Million in Speaking Fees


Majority of Lawmakers in the 116th Congress are millionaires


When a Congressman becomes a lobbyist he get a 1,452% raise(on average)

 

Do As We Say, Congress Says, Then Does What It Wants


Perks Members Of Congress Give To Themselves

 

Laws That Do Not Apply To Congress


Congress exempt from several federal laws


How Senators May have Avoided Insider Trading Charges


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