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Thursday, April 6, 2006

Turned Off from Politics, Again

I’ll admit it. I don’t read the front page enough. I only catch CNN while on the bike at the gym. And 1776 has been on my book shelf (unread) for far too long.

I’d like to know more about our world, and truly understand our government. I’m not even talking about grasping the intricacies of Iraq, or whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, or who controls our ports. I’d like to get to that point, but for now I can accept that it takes more informed people to offer worthwhile opinions on such things.

But every now and then I’m reminded of why I haven’t taken more interest in worldly events on a daily basis. These reminders tend to come in the form of the easily defined wrongs taking place in government that everyone basically ignores.

The local section of Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer reported that PA State Representative Mark Cohen has bought $28,200 worth of books . . . all on the taxpayers.

Over the last two years, the state has reimbursed the veteran legislator $28,200 on bookstore spending sprees, a review of expense records shows. He spent $1,118 in September alone, making nine trips to bookstores. . . .

Cohen's book bill for 2004 and 2005 is more than what the Philadelphia School District spent to stock library shelves at the two high schools and two middle schools in his legislative district. The four schools, which have a combined enrollment of 5,000 students, spent $21,600 on books and periodicals in that two-year period, officials said.

Many of Cohen's fellow House members don't ask the state to pay for books they read, and for those who do, it's typically just a few a year, records show.

Cohen defended making taxpayers foot the bill, saying that the books - nearly all of them works of nonfiction - make him a better legislator.

"I try very hard to be informed on current events. I'm holding myself to standards of excellence," said Cohen. "I'm interested in knowing whatever I can about national issues. National issues affect Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania is part of the nation."

As much as I’d love to have Cohen shop from home at Royal Steele Books, it’s mind boggling to me that we’ve reached the point where no one really gives a damn about stuff like this any more. Cohen, quoted later in the same story, offers no apologies.

“This is all reality-based. I'm a very reality-based legislator," he said. "I want to understand, at the best of my ability, the general trends that are impacting on our jobs as state legislators."

Does this sound like a guy who was caught ripping off taxpayers? It’s just a pompass, out-of-touch politician rubbing salt in the wound.

This is just dead wrong, and it’s sluffed off like it’s nothing. Earlier in the week a Google blog search of "mark cohen"+books revealed about 3 posts referring to Cohen on this issue. I couldn’t find much more on it at either.

Why isn’t anyone calling for this man’s job? Better yet, why isn’t there some sort of mechanism in our government that would already have him searching Career Builder? At the very least, why isn’t Cohen, now that he’s been caught, writing a check to repay what he’s stolen?

No doubt the answer lies somewhere in there being too much bureaucracy. I’m guessing that, technically, he hasn’t done anything wrong, and somehow whatever idiotic law or rule which makes this the case can’t (or won’t) be changed.

So, guy’s like me give up. Because, we figure, if we can’t boot local crooks from office — without waiting for the next election — there’s nothing we could do about Iraq even if we made the effort to be informed.

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