Congressional reforms are desperately needed, reforms of its character, an institutional attitude adjustment, so to speak. Until the illicit motives and daily practices of its members are collectively corrected, any legislation coming out of that body will be tainted and not worthy of the office and the represented people. If the current batch of representatives can’t or won’t enact these reforms, we need to elect some who will. The following list deserves a separate post for each item, but I’ll save that for another day.
- Term limits. – Time in Congress should be a term of service, not a career. Twelve years seems to be the general consensus of proponents for an appropriate stint in either house. (I think that may even be too long, but it may serve as a good compromise. It still provides for 24 years total.) The excuse, “Why send a good servant home, when he can do so much more?” I’m sure that out of a nation of 320 million people, we can find 535 quality replacements every 12 years. Unseasoned delegates, yet to become cozy with the lobbyists, the good-ol’-boy network, and “the way things are done” routines, would be less corruptible and more respectful and responsible to the folks who sent them, and will probably have fresher ideas for solving problems and leading the country. Plus, freedom from constant campaigning will free up time for them to do the job they were sent there to do.
- Reform the grossly generous salaries, benefits, and pensions given to “public servants.” – Since when does a “servant” earn way more than his master? Current pay to Congressmen (top 1% nationally) is obscene and a slap to the face of the working citizen footing the bill with his tax dollars. Besides, private sector employees can’t expect to work four or five years and then be taken care of for the rest of their lives with a generous pension and full medical benefits. Congressmen need to get over that notion. “Service” should be voluntary and from the heart, not an ambitious step up the career ladder and to the “good life.”
Those are a couple of personal reforms that need to take place. Further, many of our current “servants” need to have that smug, condescending, elitist look smacked off their faces. They need to learn who is in charge, who works for whom, and that the money belongs to the people, not the government. The only way they will take the citizenry seriously is if we stand up for ourselves to show them who pulls the strings. Following are some reforms needed in the general day-to-day workings of Congress.
- End earmarks. – “Bringing home the pork” is just wrong. They aren’t called “greedy pigs” for nothing. Fighting for pork promotes unsavory “gimme, gimme” attitudes, bad character, and an ill view of one’s neighbors. Not only is it a bribe to voters, it is unfair to the citizens of other states to be forced to pay for another state’s programs. Cut federal taxes and let each state raise the revenue to fund their own needs. Why give the money to the federal government in the first place, only to have them turn around and give it back? Why? Because it gives them power and control. Let’s keep the power and control at home where we know better how to spend it.
- Reform the amendment process. — Require every amendment to be germane to the bill being offered. If an item cannot stand on its own merit, it has no business being passed. Irrelevant tag-ons make bad legislation and holds hostage the good.
- Read the bills before voting on them. – That is what staffs are for, to read and digest the bills to adequately inform the legislators, and to bring to their attention any red flags. A three-day waiting period (including public posting) after a bill is offered would be a good measure, allowing the congressman to investigate, to hear from his constituents, and to prepare to debate and to vote. No more behind-closed-doors bartering or last minute amendments or insertions snuck in without proper examination.
- Legislate within the framework and the authorized powers granted by the Constitution. – Congress has usurped way too much power from the states. The states must “grow a set” and reclaim what is rightfully theirs (instead of cowering, afraid that their federal grants may be withheld.) The Constitution provides certain powers to the federal government. All un-enumerated powers are reserved and belong to the states. Over the past century, Congress has grossly overstepped their bounds. Voters must elect candidates who recognize this and will be willing to relinquish undeserved authority back to the states. Over-broad central government strips us of our rights and freedoms. Keeping the greater authority closer to home among an overall much larger number of legislators assures that the people will have a greater voice in their government. We need bold state governors and legislatures, as well as honest federal representatives and senators who are willing to do the right thing.
These reforms of the “character” of Congress should be taken up immediately, before bills of particular legislation are offered. Economic measures, health care reform, immigration or anything else will not be handled properly if the character of Congress is still tainted by the bad behavior or ignoble shenanigans of the members. These reforms won’t come easy. The federal government won’t easily bow to the will of the people. An intervention is needed. Power and huge sums of money are powerful opiates, addicting in time even the most altruistic newbies who go to Washington with the best of intentions. This is a drug war that we must win if we are to survive as the glorious nation that men fought and died to create, and that our military has since fought to protect.
Representation is a co-responsible form of government. Not only are the elected representatives obligated honor the interests of the citizens who sent them to the seat of power, but the citizens must take seriously the duty to inform themselves and to instruct their proxies. The people can’t sit by with a lackadaisical attitude regarding their daily lives and their future. Such disinterest has allowed a minority of progressives, over the past century, to pervert the documents of our founding, gradually stripping us of our protections, our rights, and our freedoms. Those gallant men, who struggled so valiantly to create our nation, and to protect it for perpetuity, would be rolling in their graves if they could see how we have squandered their efforts and accomplishments. I look forward to the Tea Party expanding its mission. I look forward to more honorable candidates stepping up to the challenge. I look forward to the sleeping giant awakening to assume the responsibility for the noble future that our founders envisioned.