I have an acquaintance who’s a Democratic activist. He’s quite involved in Vermont politics, and occasionally dabbles in New Hampshire matters. We often needle each other about our political preferences.
Recently, he commented on a New Hampshire congressional race. My friend said that he was quite impressed with Anne Kuster, the Democratic nominee for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District (which is where I happen to live). He said he was quite impressed with her, and had recently done some phone work for her campaign.
Then he went for the needle. “You know who she’s running against, right? Charlie Bass. He had that seat for twelve years, and was the biggest do-nothing on Capitol Hill.”
That’s when I knew that my friend really, really didn’t grasp the way I see things.
“Bass was a do-nothing congressman? Pal, you just convinced me. Now I HAVE to vote for the guy!”
As the old saying goes, “no man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” To me, being called a “do-nothing congressman” by a liberal is a badge of honor. It means that the representative doesn’t try to find any excuse to pass a new law or regulation.
We need more “do-nothing” legislators. Not an entire Congress of do-nothings, but we certainly have too many “active” lawmakers.
I like to brag about New Hampshire, and our political climate. (Not so much the recent blue tint, but that seems to be fading.) We have a very laissez-faire set of laws, as well as being the only state with absolutely no sales or income taxes. For example, we have no mandatory seat belt or motorcycle helmet laws (for adults — we’re not anarchists or barbarians). How do we manage that?
I’ve long held the belief that part of the reason is the way we have set up our legislature.
New Hampshire’s General Court is the fourth-largest English-speaking legislative body in the world, with 24 Senators and 400 Representatives. Considering that the state only has about 1.2 million people, that means each representative only has about 3,000 constituents on average. That means that there’s a halfway decent chance that a citizen knows his or her representative personally. That means that when the rep goes off the reservation, they can count on getting an earful from their constituents at the soonest opportunity.
Further, nobody goes to Concord for the money. The annual pay for a legislator in New Hampshire? $100.00. That’s no typo — one hundred dollars a year. (Plus mileage to and from Concord, of course.) That means that we don’t have “professional lawmakers” on the public payroll.
I’ve seen it in other states, especially Massachusetts. Being a legislator is a full-time job there — the starting pay is almost $50,000 a year. If you have a bunch of people who think of their job is to pass laws, then they’re going to pass laws to show that they deserve their pay. So they pass laws, and taxes to pay for those laws, and more laws, so they can show their bosses — the people who pay their salary that they use to support themselves and their families — that they’re worth all that money.
Here in New Hampshire, ain’t nobody living off their legislative pay. Being a legislator is only for those who have the time to spare, and have alternate means of support. So we end up with a State House filled with housewives, retirees, independently wealthy folks, professionals, students, and the like — all of whom don’t need the money.
So we end up with a legislature that doesn’t “look like New Hampshire” — but I don’t give a rat’s ass about that. Instead, we got a legislature that sees it not as a job, but a duty. That either don’t have the time to spare to raise taxes and spending, or realizes that most of those taxes will be hitting themselves. That actually have lives outside of public service.
That’s kind of gone astray in the past four years, since the Democrats swept New Hampshire. In the first year we went blue, the state budget went up by over 16% in one year alone — and it has kept going up ever since.
It’s swinging back now. A lot of my fellow Granite Staters got drunk on the promises of the liberals, and seriously drunk. Now, though, we’re dealing with the hangover — and come November, I think it’s the Democrats in New Hampshire who will be feeling the headache and enjoying the dry heaves.
They certainly have earned it, having been on a spending bender for four years.
And if, as part of the repudiation of the Democrats, New Hampshire returns “do-nothing” Charlie Bass to Congress… well, at least he’ll represent the physician’s rule of “first, do no harm.”