Bread and Circuses

During the winter of 1777, more than 12,000 Continental soldiers were encamped on the banks of the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge. At the same time, the Second Continental Congress was on the run, abandoning Philadelphia to escape British troops. The situation was dire at Valley Forge, with starving soldiers lacking basic winter clothing and walking about leaving bloody footprints in the snow. In the words of Continental soldier Joseph Martin “in a truly forlorn condition, no clothing, no provisions, and as disheartened as need be.”  

Over 2,000 of our nation’s first soldiers would perish from disease such as typhus, smallpox, and malnutrition. General George Washington pleaded with the Continental Congress and state governors for supplies, but the troops of Valley Forge were left to fend for themselves.

In large part, infighting, egos, and mismanagement by the delegates of the Continental Congress left the young Continental Army to stand on their own two feet. However, not much has changed in 244 years. Over the past few weeks, the 116th Congress has been debating a COVID 19 “Relief Bill.” I use the term ‘debate’ loosely, because a debate is supposed to be “a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.”  We haven’t seen anything resembling a debate for a long time in our nation’s capital.

At the same time that national politicians are cutting to the head of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine, bypassing those in critical need, they have delivered upon the American landscape an almost 6000-page bill, that is the epitome of a failed, corrupt government. Disconnected from those they represent, there are those in Congress that are actually proud of this pile of pork.

As some have pointed out, if you looked at this behemoth of a relief bill, the pure volume of wasted paper, wasted money, and wasted time is disgusting. At around 5593 pages (at the time of this writing), with an average of 250 words per page, that would make this boondoggle laden monstrosity about 1,398,250 words.

It is believed that the average American reads 300 words a minute. At this point I don’t have much faith in the discipline or the intellect of the average US representative to meet that goal.  However, at 300 words, it would take approximately 4,660 minutes or around 77 hours. Does anyone really believe that any of our Congressional representatives read this relief bill before they voted on it?

Yet our own Senator Shaheen applauded this bill as “Our bipartisan, bicameral COVID relief legislation was a blueprint for assistance ……. This will deliver urgently needed help for Granite Staters and the American people”. That is what we call political drivel, disconnected from the truth, and a statement from someone who did not read the entire bill before she voted on it.

The price tag for this relief bill to “deliver urgently needed help” is $2.3 trillion dollars. It contains some funding that is needed, and scraps in the form of $600 to most Americans. There is your bribe America, the price for your capitulation, this is how much politicians like Sen. Shaheen think of you.

This was not a budget bill but was meant to be a bill solely focused on COVID relief that was supposedly needed thanks to the economy killing policies enacted by many state governments. So why does this bill contain more than a trillion dollars in spending for foreign nations, political graft, and “pet projects” for those in Congress? This is our Valley Forge, and our Congress has abandoned the American people.  Instead of relief, we are served “bread and circuses.”

Roman poet Juvenal once bemoaned about the decline of his nation with the statement “Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”

In this COVID relief bill for the American people we find $10 million dollars for “gender programs in Pakistan,” $2.5 million dollars for “internet freedom”, millions in funding of a new museum on the National Mall, $500 million for Israeli defense, $250 million in economic aid for Palestinians, $100 million to combat wildlife poaching, $193 million for HIV workers abroad to buy new cars, and funding to convince teenagers not to drink and hook up.  But that is just the beginning.

This bill also contains $4 billion dollars for the NY MTA, $15 billion to help live entertainment venues (like Broadway), a new law that makes unauthorized online streaming of movies a felony, prevents the US Postal service from delivering e-cigarettes, provides funds to correct gender inequality within US and State statutes, and one of my favorites, a bill that makes it illegal to give racehorses painkillers before a race.  What does any of this have to do with COVID relief? Nothing.

This is what Sen. Shaheen and her fellow representatives call a “blueprint for assistance.”  Sorry Senator, from our vantage point, this is a blueprint for maleficence, a slap in the face of the hard-working American people DC has long forgotten about.

We needed relief, but instead we got “bread and circuses.”

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