Happy New Year to my three readers! While on a quick hiatus from the OO I discovered that there are a lot of questions about Congress, political rumors, and more. If you would like one of these political rumors or myths dispelled, please post it in the response. While Mr. Silence Dogood is not an expert in all specific areas of political and legislative advocacy, he can always dig up a few answers or responses! Now on with the show…
If you’re like me, during your family and social events over the holidays people just grill you about your profession. This is especially true for those of us working in the political arena, as everyone thinks we have some “insider” information (well, I do, otherwise why are you reading this post?). Yet, for some reason my family and friends think my occupation gives them license to ask about all sorts of crazy political ideas. These two came up more than once in conversation; I think you’ll enjoy the response:
1. As it would appear, a group of (imbeciles, morons, activist?) have started a campaign to pass and ratify a proposed “28th Amendment to the Constitution.” The proposal says:
“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
Why is this so moronic, stupid, and idiotic, you ask?
Well let’s start with the fact it’s already law in this country. In case this group of . . . lets call them “activists” . . . wasn’t aware, our government is a Government for the people, by the people. What this actually means is that citizens run the government through our democratically elected representatives — none of whom are above the law and all laws apply to everyone equally. My best guess is this was another radical attempt to make sure members of Congress have the same health coverage as the average person under the proposed health care reform bills. Speaking as a former employee of the House of Representatives, the public option would have been better than the coverage I had then. Once again, all bills signed into law effect Members of Congress as equally as you and I. In fact, because of the nature of the job, there are more laws placed on office holders than there are on your average citizen.
Consider the commonality between former Representatives Tom Delay, Bob Ney, William Jefferson, Jim Traficant, and, my favorite, Randy “Duke” Cunningham. All were elected to the House of Representatives; all served their country for years; and all of them are now (or have) served at least four years in jail! That’s right, all of them abused the power of the office and all went to jail. If you want further proof, read the Constitution! Article 1 Section 3; Article 2 Section 4; and Article 3 Section 1 all establish that if you serve in the government, the laws apply to you! The Founders made it very clear.
The notion that American citizens view elected officials as “above the law” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Elected officials usually enter office with the best of intentions. It’s when their constituents stop scrutinizing them that elected officials start believing it too. That is why Congress, the President, and state officials all have ethics committees and civilian oversight boards. Elementary principle at work here: checks and balances.
Want to learn more? Here’s a reading suggestion: The Federalist Papers.
2. “Every Member of Congress and every Senator should be voted out of office in the 2010 elections. Let’s start over with a freshly elected Congress.”
Let me state it clearly: the less experience an officeholder has, the more likely things are going to get mangled up.
For example, let’s take the California. There was something of a “fresh start” in 2003, when Governor Grey Davis was recalled over budget issues and replaced by Ah-nold. And then there’s the continual turnover in the California’s Legislature due to its term limits. The Golden State’s Assembly can only serve three two-year terms and the Senators are limited to two four-year terms.
Hey, Californians . . . how’s that working out?
Instead of a solid fix to the budget’s fundamental problems, since 2003, California Legislators have voted for band-aid after band-aid, which have resulted in continually worsening deficits. One of the leading factors contributing to this problem is that inexperienced Legislature.
The group of political leaders in California that negotiates the budget terms, known as the “Big 5″, comprises the Assembly Speaker and Minority Leader along with the Senate Pro Tem and Minority Leader and the Governor. In the period since 2003, there have been four different Assembly Speakers! The point is that an inexperienced Legislature can not fully understand the complexities of major issues in a short period of time.
To make matters worse, the U.S. Congress is even more complex. Congress has the job of making the most difficult decisions against the backdrop of knowing they’ll always dissatisfy someone in their constituency. This is all a derivative of the deliberative process established by Founding Fathers. Congress was not intended to easily pass legislation because of the tyrannical nature of the King. It’s why our government was the most revolutionary form of government when established.
Currently, we live and operate in a 24-hour news cycle filled with sensationalism and the constant need to prove our usefulness. With the media operating in this paradigm, it forces the political parties and pundits to constantly be on both the offensive and defensive to show a “hard stance” on the issues. In turn, the public starts to feel that if Congress deliberates on something and does not solve problems over night, they are then useless.
This is a major problem America! Congress can not be tasked with knee-jerk responses to problems. The President has the ability to take rapid action, but only by limited means. Imagine if the 9/11 Commission rushed through their investigation? Or worse, what if the healthcare debate was pushed through simply because it “appeared” that Congress wasn’t responding? Congress is not a production line. This is why it takes two years to make instant rice. If Congress burns the rice, nobody eats. Its better to make sure it’s cooked properly.
The reality is Congress relies on a certain level of on-the-job expertise and experience that can’t be rushed. Otherwise, Congressional staffers would be the true people making the decisions (they are, in fact, largely what officeholders in the Legislature have come to depend on for information . . .another topic for another day.
In closing, to those who think starting over with a fresh Congress will accomplish more than current or past office holders, please think again. And take some Ritalin.