Please take this as a well-meant warning. We are entering that time of the political cycle when all sorts of absurdities will be emanating from Capitol Hill, with associated effluvia.

The reason I’m warning you is that it’s quite possible you might die laughing if you don’t get sick first.

We’re now in that mad rush time in the two-year election cycle that really marks the last time before November that anything can get done on the Hill. The mad rush is in full swing between now and the beginning of July, at which point those of our esteemed representatives running for office start chowing down at every picnic they can get an invite to, picking up every baby within reach and uttering those cooing, soothing mews that invariably translate into “Send me back to Washington.”

This year, what I call the silly season will undoubtedly be even sillier than usual because there’s so much discontent around the country and our representatives feel it from their disgruntled constituents every time they go back to their home districts.

First, Republican representatives and senators in many parts of the country are verging on panic because President Bush is so widely unpopular in every single poll taken outside the confines of Crawford, Texas. That he has essentially been the Republican Party for five years makes it that much more difficult for them to distance themselves from him.

Second, gasoline prices that have accelerated faster than a Maserati really have our politicians going on all cylinders. So those folks on Capitol Hill, not to mention the White House, who have been super friendly to Big Oil are feeling the heat, so to speak.

And it was here that we got the first real belly laugh of the silly season. You remember that idea that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist floated for a $100 rebate check to practically every man, woman and child in the country, whether they drove or not.

Rarely has an idea having to do with giving money to the public been scuttled with such speed. But so much ridicule was heaped on it by constituents across the country who were annoyed by the transparency of the pandering and the implication wrapped inside it that they could be bought off so easily. Politicians don’t react well to scorn and so the idea sunk faster than a balloon filled with lead (or diesel fuel).

Another sure bet for the silly season is that proponents will also try again to push for permanent repeal of the estate tax. This will be done to “embarrass” those politicians who oppose it.

For sheer gall this is unequaled and I have yet to figure out why opponents just don’t start screaming the facts about the estate tax. Once people know the truth about the so-called “death tax” and how incredibly few people are actually affected, they sure don’t favor repealing it. So, why do opponents run for cover on this issue? Let the truth be known.

What’s not so funny is that in the silly season, measures that are truly important and needed can–and do–get lost in an avalanche of electioneering and posturing. The life insurance business has many such items on the table and it behooves the industry leaders to keep a sharp eye out for these while the rest of us are trying to keep our sides from splitting.

Steve Piontek

Editor-in-Chief