TWO U.S. SENATE pages and a staff person in 1976 gather just off the Senate floor in front of the Democrat cloakroom’s water cooler before pouring some bottled water for a senator who is about to speak. Tim Lyke photo
TWO U.S. SENATE pages and a staff person in 1976 gather just off the Senate floor in front of the Democrat cloakroom’s water cooler before pouring some bottled water for a senator who is about to speak. Tim Lyke photo

     “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”
— President Donald Trump, Jan. 20, 2017


     Forty-one years ago next month I began working in Washington, D.C. as a U.S. Senate page.

     This 16-year-old had his eyes widened by much that he witnessed in “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Topping the list was this: the water cooler in the Democrat Senate cloakroom. (Yes, Republicans and Democrats have their own cloakrooms. Who knew you needed a partisan space just to hang up your coat?)

    In that water cooler were five brands of bottled water. This was in 1975, when normal people drank their clear liquid out of the tap. But these weren’t regular folk. U.S. senators not only sipped government-purchased H2O the rest of us drank for free, Majority Whip Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, had his own, personal bottled water shipped in from Charleston, at taxpayer expense.

    Little did I know at that early age I was gazing upon the swamp a future president would condemn; it was filled with Perrier.

     This Ripon lad also wondered why U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for college students to operate elevators that required no more skill than the ability to press a button. Or why citizens paid the wages of people who did nothing but stand on the roof of the U.S. Capitol, continually raising and lowering American flags for members of Congress give away to suck up to constituents on their birthdays. Or why lawmakers had their own elevators, dining rooms, gyms, subway cars, generous pensions and health care, and other perks unavailable to the lowly public for whom they worked.  

     Petty musings of a fellow just four years into his teens? Sure.

     But as I’ve matured and wisened, I’ve seen a government that is, on a much bigger scale, increasingly insular, cowardly, irresponsible and corrupt.  

     President Trump observed in his inaugural address that “the establishment [has] protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.” Perhaps this is why Americans voted for a man who, despite his obvious psychological instability, understood the populist fever that has gripped our nation.   

     Our leaders first run for office as well-meaning, hard-working public servants. Post election, they morph into political psychopaths, hell-bent on retaining their elective offices by falling in line with a system ingrained in traditions the public knows are corrupt.

     * Special interests bankroll their re-election ...;

     * They gerrymander their congressional districts to make it more difficult for their opponents;

     * They enjoy relaxed insider-trading rules and possess investments that gain value when they vote ...;

     * They do the people’s business out of earshot of the people. ...;

     * They do nothing to reign in America’s out-of-control spending. ...;

     * Their principles ebb and flow with whomever is in power. With Obama’s Solyndra and Trump’s Carrier, government picked winners and losers. Each party decried the other’s crony capitalism ...  

     So unaware are they of their arrogance that they will do anything to get elected. Ripon’s own congressman, Rep. Glenn Grothman, moved from West Bend to Glenbeulah three years ago to represent a district in which he had not been living. ...Grothman is a career politician. He opposes term limits, which means he rejects the notion that citizen lawmakers might exercise greater common sense, frugality and statesmanship than folk like him who the public has paid to govern for almost a quarter century.

     Trump has promised to champion caps of six years for House members and 12 for senators.

     This would go a long way toward draining a swamp right now filled with people floating in Aquafina as they cling to power rather than principle.   
                                     — Tim Lyke

     To read the entire editorial, see the Jan. 26, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.