“Pork”….It’s in their DNA..

President Trump on Friday signed into law a $2 trillion relief bill aimed at saving the economy from the crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak. To paraphrase Speaker Pelosi commenting on Obamacare, “now that we passed it, we can see what’s in it.”

Let me be clear, we needed this bill.  The coronavirus pandemic is serious. When people die it can get no more serious than that.

But as we all know, the bill was held up for several days in the House by Speaker Pelosi to add funding for non-coronavirus programs. Some items included funding for refugee resettlement, Public Broadcasting Stations, National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, The Kennedy Center, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Aid for International Development and many other initiatives.  

In addition to the Congressional members themselves, we can’t forget the lobbyists. They were out in full force trying to feed from the trough.

I understand having worked in Congress as a staff member for both House and Senate members and as a staff member on the Treasury and Postal subcommittee, how “pork” works. Whenever there is a “must-pass” bill it is not uncommon to attach riders for programs which by themselves would have no chance of being funded. It is a tactic that will ensure that they get funded.

Both sides of the aisle have been doing this since Congress became an entity.

But it does beg the question: Was this the right time to do it? 

Billions of dollars were added to the bill. Don’t you think that money could be used for the coronavirus response instead of non-critical programs?  Would there ever be a time when politics and the use of “pork” would be put aside?

Are not the deaths of our citizens that time?

It’s amazing to me that members of Congress, on one hand, discuss the importance of taking care of Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic with utmost haste. And on the other, hold up the bill to add funding for programs that have nothing to do with the current crisis.

How bad do things have to get before politics takes a back seat?

On this one, I come down not on the side of any party or President, but the side of the American people. In the history of our country, there has never been a stimulus bill as large as this one. We currently have a national debt of over $23 trillion so every dollar counts. I understand the reason and rationale for “pork.” I get that sometimes it’s a tactic that is necessary to bring “gifts” back to your home district.

This is not one of those times.

I pray that we will get past this crisis quickly but if we again need to come to the aid of our fellow citizens because of the coronavirus…please Congress… no more “pork.”

I doubt that will happen because as I said…. it’s in their DNA.

I’d like to hear your thoughts…

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Visit his website: https://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

Lessons from the “Greatest Generation” ….

On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States and Congress did a good thing. A long-overdue thing. They awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the United States Merchant Marines that proudly served, fought and died in World War II. While the war to many is a distant memory and now relegated to our history books, the lessons learned are still important today.

The Merchant Marines who were the unsung heroes of the war suffered the highest casualty rates of all the branches of service during the war. One out of every twenty-six mariners were killed. They sailed the ships that brought the needed men and supplies to carry on the war and they were mercilessly hunted by German and Japanese subs. At the beginning of the war, many of our merchant vessels had no way to protect themselves and were at the complete mercy of our enemies. During the war, a total of 1,554 merchant ships were sunk and thousands of lives lost. The tales of the Merchant Marines and what they endured has a personal side to it for me.  

My dad, Joseph Monteiro was one of them.

On March 29, 1944, his ship the SS Richard Hovey was sunk by a Japanese sub designated as I-26 in the Arabian Sea. Known for its viciousness, the I-26 slammed torpedoes into the bow of the Hovey killing everyone in the forward engine room. The sub surfaced and Japanese sailors were observed using an 8mm camera to film the horror while they laughed. Not yet finished, they used their deck gun and machine-gunned the lifeboats and the men in the water. Still not through, they rammed at least one lifeboat before submerging and disappearing.

The survivors of the Hovey manned what lifeboats were still usable and found themselves over 800 miles from land. Under relentless heat and with little food and water they began to paddle and row for their lives. After 16 days at sea with many near death, my dad and his shipmates were finally rescued.  

Why is this story so important today?

Because it represents the sacrifices of the men and women of the “Greatest Generation.” Many grew up during the difficult times of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and then fought and died in the 1940’s knowing only hardship and sacrifice.

On the “home front”, Americans gladly sacrificed all that they could to support our men and women on the front lines. Just about every commodity was rationed and Americans learned to do without. 

They canvased their yards and basements and gladly turned over materials that could be helpful to the war effort. They pulled together what little funds many of them had to buy war bonds to support the efforts. Women stepped up and worked tirelessly in factories making airplanes, tanks, and other war supplies. They learned to live with just the necessities. And they did it willingly and without complaint. They did it for the greater good. They did it to bring the war to a close. And they did it to bring peace back to their lives.

The sacrifices in blood, sweat, tears, and toil of our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles during World War II led them to be named the “Greatest Generation.”

And I agree.

Hopefully, as we find ourselves amid our own war in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, we can learn something from the greatest generation. We can reach out to our neighbors in need and buy only what we need. We can be mindful and helpful to the elderly and infirmed. We can do all we can to keep the disease from spreading, particularly to those most vulnerable. We can make the sacrifices that need to be made without complaint. We can look to the greater good and not ourselves.

And we can learn to live without.

My wish is that I could be half as good a person as the men and women of the greatest generation.  But I know I have a long way to go….

So, thank you, Mr. President, and thank you Congress for this wonderful act of recognition for the men and women of the United States Merchant Marines who fought and died so that we can be free. And thank you to the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” that taught us what sacrifice is all about.

I hope we will not forget.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments. You can follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/stevemonteiro10

A Heartfelt Thanks….

When I was a young police officer I was called to the scene of a fire at a residential home. While directing traffic around the fire trucks a young boy approached me. He was breathing heavily and difficult to understand. After calming him down he managed to tell me that another house was on fire around the corner from the first fire. I asked him to show me and we both ran to the house. By the time I arrived the entire back of the home was engulfed. My sergeant soon arrived and we learned that an elderly woman lived in the house alone. It was late at night and she was certain to be home. We banged on the front door and the back door and had neighbors call her all to no avail. We realized if anyone was home, they would not last much longer due to the intensity of the fire. With time running out we kicked in the front door. We were immediately met by heavy toxic smoke that drove us back. Getting our composure back we pushed through the smoke and found her in the kitchen. We dragged her out of the house to a waiting ambulance. I was later told she survived. Our detectives did a great job and arrested the pyromaniac responsible for the fires. He got his thrills by burning down homes in the middle of the night with people inside.

A few days after the fires, I was told to report to my Lieutenant’s office. He wanted to talk to me about what later became known as the Rollins Street arson case. With my chest puffed out and generally happy with what we had done, I reported to his office and told him what happened that night.

“Ok Steve, I just wanted to get your side of the story since the woman you saved sent us a bill for the door you kicked in. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t trying to hose us.  That’s it, you can go.”

I stood there for a moment dumfounded and dejected. My puffed out chest soon deflated.

“A bill, we saved this woman’s life and we get a bill,” I thought to myself. Young and naïve, I walked away in somewhat disbelief. Halfway down the hall, my Lieutenant called out.

“Officer Monteiro”

“Yes, Sir” I replied.

“Welcome to police work!  Never expect thanks for what you do. That’s not why we do it.”

I learned a lesson that night.

We never got a thank you from that lovely elderly woman or her family…just a bill. But that’s ok because we don’t do it for the thanks or the medals or any of that. We do it because we want to…we do it because it’s our job. Many of us raised our right hands and took an oath to do our duty no matter what−even at the cost of our own lives. Unfortunately, we see far too many lives lost these days. My little story pales in comparison to those who have given their last full measure.  The real heroes. They are all in my prayers. 

It’s been many years since the Rollins Street fires and I’ve long retired. But I still hold affection and admiration for all my brothers and sisters who chose a life of service.

So that being said, with all the craziness surrounding us with the Coronavirus, I dedicate this blog to all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, nursing home and health care workers, dispatchers and everyone else on the front lines, caring for and protecting us every day and say thank you. Thank you for working double shifts. Thank you for putting yourselves and your families at risk to take care of ours. Thank you for working 24/7. Thank you for doing this for not much money. Thank you for caring for the sick and the infirmed. And thank you for risking your lives to save the lives of perfect strangers.

I find it amazing the adulation given to sports stars and movie stars and the like. I am amused at the endless award shows where they slap themselves on the back for a job well done. And I sometimes marvel at the amount of money they make. But that’s ok. Because no amount of money can ever take the place of the look on someone’s face that you helped through one of the most difficult times of their lives. So even though they don’t expect anything from us… it is ok to say thanks. So, the next time you see a health care worker, paramedic, policeman, fireman, nurse or doctor or anyone else on the front lines…say thanks. And if you are unable to, can’t or won’t, that’s ok too; they will still be there to help you… because that’s what they do.

Stephen Phillip Monteiro is a law enforcement, security and intelligence consultant. He’s held senior leadership positions with consulting firms in Washington, DC and is a retired Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Visit his website: http://www.thegoodamerica.com to leave your comments.