On Service to the Country
On Service to the Country
The 2020 election season is fully underway, and as usual, politicians are paying lip service to… well… service. They want you to believe that they’re running to serve the nation. They want you to believe they have your best interests at heart.
Ya know what? I don’t believe them.
Most of them are in it for the money, the prestige, or the power that comes with the ability to legislate away our freedoms while sanctimoniously puffing their chests out about how they’re improving the nation as a whole. Congressional representatives earn $174,000 per year, not including decent federal benefits, and despite being at the top 3 percent of earners in the United States, they complain about not getting enough. The vast majority of them don’t know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, to live in a place where one can hear gun shots at night, or to have to scrape through other people’s trash for furniture, clothing, or toys.
And members of Congress keep multiplying their wealth at a pace much higher than that of the people they represent. Although I’ll never be one to begrudge folks profits made honorably, I would submit that government service should not be a vehicle for wealth or power.
It should be a means to provide a service for the people who elected you – who trusted you to represent them fairly and abide by the Constitution – the law of the land.
But instead, after decades of sucking at the government teat, representatives leave congress to earn significantly more as lobbyists, using their access and knowledge of the bureaucracy to cash in.
“It’s kind of a scarlet letter that you wear around if you’re a lobbyist,” said former Representative Jim Moran of Virginia, a Democrat who joined the D.C. firm McDermott, Will & Emery after retiring from the House in 2014. Ex-lawmakers can cash in on their policy expertise and friendships in the Capitol, earning two or three times their $174,000 base salary as a member of Congress.
Many who get themselves elected to Congress are already well off and looking to increase their wealth through their idea of “service.” In previous years, roughly 40 percent of House and Senate members were millionaires, according to Roll Call. The 2019 Congressional freshman class is less wealthy than the normal lot of politicians that infests Capitol Hill, but if you think they’re going to remain that way, I have this bridge to sell you…
“The prospect of a lucrative post-government career can create warped incentives while a member is still in office,” [Brendan] Fischer [director of the Campaign Legal Center’s federal and FEC reform program] wrote in an email. “[A] current member’s position on an issue may not be motivated by what’s best for their constituents or the country, but based on what’s going to curry favor with a future employer. More broadly, the revolving door helps contribute to a permanent political class that creates distance between the people who run the government and the people they are supposed to serve.”
This is when service is no longer service – at least not service to one’s constituents. It’s service to prospective employers. It’s paving the way for one’s eventual career after leaving politics. It’s certainly not service to the people who gave these politicians their vote and their trust to do right, to defend their rights, and to abide by and support and defend the US Constitution.
What we need is politicians who serve because service to one’s country is, in and of itself an honor and a duty.
On Veterans Day I wrote that my understanding of the meaning of “service” changed thanks to my experiences in the US Army. People who have dedicated their entire lives to service, such as Virginia Delegate Nick Freitas, the former Green Beret who has recently announced he is running for Congress and New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc, the highly decorated retired Brigadier General and Special Forces veteran who is running for the US Senate, know and understand the meaning of “service.”
We reached out to Nick Freitas about his views on service, and here’s what he said:
Service, and specifically the concept of servant leadership, is a dedication to a mission or a set of ideals combined with the expectation that your efforts to accomplish that mission will require personal sacrifice for a greater good. It is the recognition that the goal itself and the people you are working with are more important than your own professional ambitions.
Do we have people like this whose goal is service? Does the current crop of politicians want to serve or want to control?
Do they promise safety, security, and prosperity if you just give them a little more of your earnings and give up just a bit more of your rights?
Do they implement laws to portray themselves as caring and proactive at the expense of others’ rights?
Let’s talk gun control for a moment. More gun control isn’t really going to impact most of the Congressional representatives in Washington. They work in one of the most secure buildings in the world, protected by armed men and women. Most of them live in communities that are safe, where shootings are uncommon, and their kids can walk the streets secure in the knowledge that they most likely will not get murdered in a drug deal or raped in a dark alley. They see no need for those who elected them to defend themselves, even though chances are the people they are supposed to represent probably live in conditions that are less safe and probably can’t afford a home in a gated community with armed security. And yet, they pretend to care so much about their constituents, that they are willing to sit in their ideological box, genuflect before special interest groups whose only mission is to promote disarmament and rake in millions of dollars doing it, and disarm them ostensibly “for their own safety.”
Why are they doing this?
Are they really so stupid that they don’t see the pure evil of taking away the right of the people to defend themselves and their families – the very same people who sent them to Washington to represent them?
Some may be. Hank “Guam is going to capsize” Johnson certainly is not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I believe the vast majority understand that what they’re doing is unethical, that disarming innocent, law-abiding people and infringing on their right and personal responsibility to defend themselves and their families against armed aggressors is morally repugnant, and that it is the people who sent them to Washington whom they serve.
But to them, service is more about show than it is about serving their constituents. Many of them are too busy paving the way for their next career and showing themselves as “caring” enough to take action – any action – to understand the meaning of public service and live that value.
I don’t want to ascribe evil intent to the politicians in Washington, but I will say it’s hard to do when they work to use government force to take away yet more of my earnings and chip away at yet more of my rights, without so much as a thought to the decades of effort I have spent to earn what I have and the freedoms that have allowed me to do so – to climb out of the gutter as an indigent immigrant and become a successful American.
I would submit that an aspiring politician’s definition of “service” should be one of the fundamental factors that determines their suitability to represent us in local, state, and national legislatures.
Unfortunately I doubt too many of them give much thought to real service, and finding another Nick Freitas or Don Bolduc, let alone several hundred of them, will be too difficult a task to accomplish.
Featured photo is part of Victory Girls private collection.