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YARBROUGH: If you are feeling helpless, then re-elect nobody

Dick Yarbrough

Dick Yarbrough

Bill White, the Big Canoe Tree Czar — he is the guy you had better talk to before you pluck a pine cone in the place — told me about a bumper sticker he saw recently that sums up the frustration many of us are feeling these days.

It said: "Re-elect Nobody." So few words. So well stated.

I've been around politics a long time and never have I seen people as disgusted with what is going on in Washington as they are today.

A Newsmax poll by Atlanta-based InsiderAdvantage reports 73 percent of the respondents say they disapprove of the overall job performance of the House, Senate and the president in their efforts to raise the national debt ceiling. A CBS/New York Times poll says a record 82 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.

More than four out of five people surveyed said the debt-ceiling debate was more about gaining political advantage than doing what is best for the country.

I offer as evidence this piece of political silliness: The leader of the free world and the most powerful man in Congress were at loggerheads over whether President Obama could give a speech about a new jobs bill to a joint session of Congress this past Wednesday, which coincided with a televised Republican debate, or on Thursday, as Speaker of the House John Boehner preferred, which would run up against the opening game of the National Football League season.

"It's unfortunate the White House ignored decades -- if not centuries -- of the protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement," a Boehner spokesman said.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, ripped Boehner over suggesting the speech be moved. "Americans' top priority is creating jobs and protecting Medicare while Republicans' top priority is playing political games," Israel said.

Come on, children. If you can't agree on a date for a speech nobody is going to listen to, how will you ever get agreement on reducing the debt? You are scaring us.

Gainesville attorney Wyck Orr, usually an enthusiastic defender of all things Democratic, says he is disgusted with both parties. "I think most of us feel powerless to shape anything in Washington."

I asked Wes French, a principal in the investment firm of French, Wolf & Farr in Atlanta, if the passage of the debt ceiling bill last month would make much of a difference in the economic health of the country. Not hardly. French considered the whole debate a charade.

"Spending is our big problem," French said, "Cutting discretionary spending is meaningless because of the big entitlement programs -- Social Security and Medicare -- and they are only going to get worse if we don't so something to rein in those costs."

French says Congress and the president did manage to accomplish one thing. They further damaged the psyche of the American public. "Ironically, consumer discretionary income actually went up as well as corporate earnings but consumers are afraid to spend because of a drop in consumer confidence," French says, "and businesses are afraid to hire because of the anxiety created by the debt ceiling debates." And this is what we elect these people for?

Phil Smith is regional director of the non-partisan Concord Coalition, which includes our own former senator, Sam Nunn, as one of its directors. The coalition was formed in 1992 to educate the public about "the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits and the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs."

Smith says we can't grow our way out of this mess. Cutting waste is commendable but it doesn't have much of a financial impact. Neither does cutting foreign aid. He agrees with Wes French. It is about reining in Social Security and health care costs. Seventy-seven million baby boomers are about to swamp the system -- Smith calls it a "financial tsunami" -- and we've got a bunch of people in Washington, including the president, who are not exactly inspiring confidence by their partisan gamesmanship.

We don't have citizen-representatives in Washington as our Founding Fathers envisioned. We have created a group of aristocrats who earn more than 97 percent of all Americans, have inflation-protected pensions, can travel the world on our dime and who seem more interested in getting re-elected than fixing our problems. Like most Americans, I feel helpless and then I think of the bumper sticker: Re-elect Nobody. It may be the only way.

Email columnist Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/dickyarbrough.