The Hightower Report

Nearly 1,900 free trips were enjoyed by the lawmakers in 2013

When I heard that our Congress critters were taking an extended vacation for all of August and part of September, I had two incongruous reactions: anger ... and gratitude.

Gratitude, because their vacation gives us a five-week break from the spectacle of right-wing mad dogs in the House yapping, foaming at the mouth, and running around in circles. "Kill the minimum wage," they howl, "repeal Obamacare, deport immigrant children, re-invade Iraq, impeach Obama" ... and yadda yadda yadda.

Yet, nutty as they are, it's also infuriating that these pampered politicos feel entitled to such a vacation. It's another sign of their total disconnect from the hard realities of the workaday majority they're supposed to serve. EARTH TO CONGRESS CRITTERS: Most Ameri­can families are being hosed out of the middle class, having to work harder and longer for less pay, no benefits, and not even two weeks off, much less a five-week getaway.

In the spirit of fairness, though, I should concede that the current do-nothing House has been setting an eight-year performance record in one category of congressional activity: junketeering. Yes, not only does this bunch love to vacation, but it also tiptoes around the ethics rules so lobbyists can pay for their trips. Not since the sleazy days of pay-to-play überlobbyist Jack Abramoff have House members taken as many junkets, financed by corporate interests.

Oh, excuse me, they're called "fact-finding missions," not junkets. By whatever name, nearly 1,900 of the free trips were enjoyed last year by lawmakers, their spouses, and staff – paid for by private entities seeking legislative favors.

Adding to the disgust, House leaders very quietly axed an ethics requirement this year that lawmakers must disclose these travel freebies in their personal financial disclosure forms. Yet they wonder why their public approval ratings are in the ditch.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Hightower Report, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, lobbyists, junkets

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