Viewpoint: Rip offs and Take offs

Viewpoint: Rip offs and Take offs

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

A couple of months back, Mr. Manzullo and his colleagues in the good ol’ boys club, down there in the House of Representatives in Washington, quietly voted themselves a $3,800 raise. They said nothing about it, just upped it to hand themselves an annual package of 145,100 greenbacks.

You’d think that would be more than enough, but no, these fellas and gals have been bitten by the greed bug. Now they’re trying to sneake through an add-on. They want $165 a day, just for showin’ up at their jobs. Doesn’t that make you feel great while you’re trying to figure out how you can make your mortgage payment and meet the taxes these swell folks lay on you? How would you like to get that kind of money just for appearing at your office or work station in the factory?

That’s about another $25,000 a year in tax-free income. The nice thing about it for Mr. Manzullo and all the others is he doesn’t have to go on record on the issue with a vote to start pocketing this tax-free raise. All that has to happen is for the House Administration Committee—that’s some of Mr. Manzullo’s fellow receivers of this tax-free windfall—to say all the good ol’ boys are eligible to get it. And get it they will, but maybe not right away.

It seems somebody leaked word of the sneaky deed, and protests from taxpayers are beginning to roll into the capitol, and they’re making some of the House leaders nervous. Because of that, the poor fellas may have to delay action on this early Christmas present. Folks like Dennis Hastert and Richard Gephardt don’t like their constituents learning too much about what they’re doing because they’re apt to complain and

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agitate and mess up the detail.

A bunch of them are working at doing just that. They are firing off letters and e-mails telling them the working people of this country are damn sick and tired of these bozos voting themselves hefty pay raises while the rest of us are scratchin’ hard, just trying to get the basics covered. They never seem to learn down there in Washington what the real world is about. Some people call it the District of Criminals.

These troublemakers invite you and me to join them in letting our representatives (ours?) know we are not amused.

Here’s what they suggest you say to all the “honorables” in dear old D.C.:

Dear Congressman:

After hearing that you just received a $3,800 raise, I am dismayed to hear that you are considering giving yourself an additional $25,000 per year tax-free raise in the form of a “per diem allowance.” It’s hard to understand the congressional move to enact only modest tax cuts for the average taxpayer, while bumping your own pay nearly $30,000 in a single year (not even considering the effective income created by not paying taxes on the “per diem” portion).

Congressmen already enjoy a pension nearly three times more generous than similar positions in the private sector, a $3,000 second-residence tax deduction, and a wide array of additional perks. I urge you in the strongest possible terms to oppose and vote against this “per diem” boondoggle. Sincerely, (Joe Taxpayer)

I can almost hear them now: “Aw, gee whiz, fellas, as they used to say in service: ‘If you can’t take a joke, why sign up?” It sure must be fun down there in Washington.

Flying off the handle

Well, the chickens have come home to roost. As of June, we will have no passenger service at Greater Rockford Airport. It’s hardly a surprise. Even as Northwest Airlines was denying it had any intention of leaving this market, rumors were rampant at our airport that AirLink was pulling out. The reason: not enough volume…too few passengers.

Ironically, they gave us all the word just when our local delegation returned from Washington, where they made a pitch to get more passenger service in here. While they were away from the nest , the only egg they had not only hatched but the bird flew away.

And just after Gov. George Ryan opined out loud that maybe it would be all right if Rockford was allowed to help take some of the pressure off Chicago’s O’Hare Field, up pops hizzoner Mayor Daley and says no, he wants all the revenue for his town.

There used to be an actor on the radio many years ago, whose name was William Bendix. He starred in a radio show called The Life of Riley. His character’s tag line seems to fit this situation right about here. Riley used to say, when he was frustrated at a turn of events, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Now that we have no service to promote, we come out with a slick marketing brochure touting the virtues of our airport. Where was it last year when AirLink was struggling for more business? Remember that pilot for Mesaba Airlines, the operators of the Rockford-to-Detroit service? He faulted our local airport and business community for failure to promote and support the flights offered. We can’t’ blame the airline in this case.

We might have had even more service had there been any effort to go after the regional jets Mesaba flies. They serve more than 100 cities, according to that pilot. As it is, we have what’s left when an excited bird drops its calling card on your palm and wings away.

Perhaps there is still some hope for improvement. Perhaps we should send a delegation to hizzoner in Chicago and see if we can persuade him that Rockford can offer some temporary relief for the dilemma that has him by the horns.

Instead of expending all sorts of time, energy and money on building surface roads that are unwanted and unnecessary, let’s put some of that effort into grabbing some skyways to other parts of the country and begin unleashing the economic power of our airport that now lies slumbering like a giant parking lot.

The opportunity is golden today. Tomorrow it will be gone.

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