Not Funny

Today Stephen Colbert testified, in character, before a congressional subcommittee on immigration.  He said things like “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican” and the answer to needing illegal immigrants to pick our fruits and vegetables is to stop eating fruits and vegetables.

I’m sure Colbert thought it was a great opportunity to enhance his “brand.”  He got to take his act to Capitol Hill and get some free publicity “testifying” before an honest-to-God congressional panel.  I’m sure the Democratic Representative who is the chair of the subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren, thought it was a great way to get her subcommittee some air time.  Others, however, didn’t think it was very funny.

I fall into the latter camp.  What is the point of having a comedian testify, in character, about a serious issue like immigration?  I think it just makes Congress and congressional processes seem like even more of a joke, and it certainly suggests that Congress thinks that immigration isn’t worth much serious attention.  In an era when public respect for Congress is scraping the bottom of the barrel, why would Representative Lofgren think such a stunt was a good idea?

Taxpayer-Subsidized Political Contributions

General Motors recently filed documents with the Federal Election Commission disclosing that GM contributed some $90,000 to political candidates.  The GM spokesman quoted in the linked article seemed irked that anyone would think there was a problem with this, saying that GM isn’t going to “sit on the sidelines” while other companies shovel cash at political candidates in an attempt to influence policy.  So, GM will make contributions to candidates who support “a strong auto industry.”

The problem, of course, is that the federal government (that is, U.S. taxpayers) own 61 percent of GM and are subsidizing its operations.  While that is the case, GM shouldn’t spend one penny toward political contributions of any kind.  Any money GM earns should be devoted to paying off its debt to taxpayers and making the company more attractive to investors when GM tries to make a public offering in the near future.

It also is problematic that GM is, in effect, using taxpayer money to pick and choose candidates to support, with the inevitable acid test being whether they support “a strong auto industry” — meaning, of course, candidates who supported the GM bailout and continue to think we should do whatever is necessary to prop up the sagging, poorly managed, uncompetitive domestic auto industry.  In short, even though public opinion polls show that Americans now strongly oppose the bailout culture, our tax dollars are perversely being spent by GM to encourage the continuation of that culture.  It’s just another reason to make a change in how things are being done in Washington, D.C., and in Detroit.