What do you pay for that is free to members of Congress, their spouses, driving age kids and other selected VIP public servants? One of the hot items of the moment is a parking space. Lots of them.
Our government runs several big park-and-pay, taxpayer-supported, services locally. The way it works is they park, you pay.
President Carter has declared war on some people who get special subsidized arking privileges in government. Fortunately for the ruling classes, only the usual suspects-bureaucrats-are being rounded up. It is war. But not total war.
The President plans to eliminate cheapie federal employe parking. Fess now pay $5 to $15 per month for carpool slots that would cost $30 to $65 elsewhere. Carter says it is not fair. He is probably correct.
The biggest, most costly VIP parking ripoff is immune from Carter's pay-your-way crusade. That is the tax-payer-funded parking and auto-babysitting service, virtually anywhere in Washington, for congressional cars.
Ever wonder why congested National Airport (government-owned) is so popular despite the nightmare of parking? A big reason for the costly, frustrating hassle at National is that Congress, which controls it, does not know there is a problem. Parking is a breeze, a treat, and a total, unlimited a freebie for elected officials. And diplomats and Supreme Court justices. And families.
There are 4,100 parking spaces at National and usually about 30 million cars a year trying to get into them. In the midst of all that bumper-to-bumper madness, there is a guarded, free oasis, with 101 beautiful slots. They are close to both terminals, and reserved exclusively for our nation's elected, or appointed elite. Those who elected or appointed them are arrested if they get too close.
In addition to the free, guarded spaces-one for every 4.5 members of Congress-the government also has an arrangement for Capitol Hill leaders who cannot get into the freebie, reserved lot. Park in the regular lots, show your Congressional ID at one of the ticket-collecting booths and you are waved through-free.
Fitting into one of the 3,284 public spaces at Dulles is much easier, and cheaper than National. It is even easier for members of Congress who pay nothing for the three rows of parking reserved closet to the terminal entrance. It is guarded to make sure that no interlopers, i.e. ordinary folks, park there.
Last week, mid-week, the "Reserved Congressional Parking, Tow-Away Area" was interesting. Only one bona fide car with congressional tags, a foreign model, yet, with Colorado tags, was there. There were lots of diplomatic tags, and a couple of wildly painted vans that presumably belong to congressional children no doubt on some urgent national mission for mom or dad. In winter, at either airport, youthful types can be seen emerging from cars with congressional tags, lugging skis and luggage. Since dad loaned them the car, they can and do park for days or weeks, free. One even left the key with guards with orders for them to start it and not let the battery die in his absence.
Free congressional parking is not limited of course, to the two taxpayer-financed local airports. There is Capitol Hill, where an unknown number-well into the thousands-of spaces are reserved for members and workers. The argument, of course, is that people up there work late without overtime pay so we owe them a parking space. It is cheaper for us. In fact, we are darned lucky they take such abuse and long hours for only one parking space.
Capitol Hill police daily patrol the area around the Senate office buildings, shooing away the unwashed. They hold spots for the Mercedes, Lincolns and lesser-models driven by senators who like a brisk walk-of about 22 feet-from car to office.
Underground parking on Capitol Hill is also a benefit for members who do not like to get too much sun or rain on the car. It also makes a nice spot to stow boats, and it is also a lot cheaper than a marina.
Finally, the streets of Washington are a giant congressional parking lot. How many have you noticed, blocking traffic in front of office buildings, stores, at apartments or anywhere they damn well choose to park? The Denver boots are marching through Washington. But have you ever seen one on an MC, or USS, car. Probably not.
Rank, of course, has its privilege. And it is clear that elected public servants get and deserve the most privileges, else how could they continue to serve us so tirelessly?
Meantime, let us sock it to the Grade 5 secretary who is taking up a whole parking space near some government building. Why should she get a special break? Who does she think she is, anyhow? Somebody important?