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Fixing Congress, or: Throw the Bums Out


            Here are two of the main causes of problems with government in this country:

            First, there are those people who say there’s no point voting because it doesn’t make a difference, then complain about the politicians other people vote in.

            Second is the fact that the public’s approval rating of Congress is 10%; yet in the 2012 election, 84% of the Senate incumbents and 85% of House incumbents held onto their seats.

            The first is a product of not only frustration, but laziness. We don’t want to take the time to research the candidates and choose the best one – or the least worst one. We don’t want to support and encourage good candidates, and we don’t want to go through the meat grinder of being candidates ourselves.

            The second is more revealing, and is a variation of the “not in my back yard” argument: “Every member of Congress is worthless and criminal – except my Congressman.

This is where I usually start harassing you, dear reader, in an attempt to get out the vote. If just six more of you had come out last election, I might still be a member of the Town Council and enjoy franking privileges, the town car, the private office and assistant, the Council swimming pool and skeet shooting range …

            Well. I got a key to the municipal building, anyway.

            The town is in good hands without me, but the same can’t be said of Washington, D.C. Much as we love to criticize the President, Congress has been outrageously, stunningly awful. Part of this is due to partisan politics; part is due to a remarkable lack of common sense, which many times causes partisan politics. We call for moderation and compromise, which is fine – but if someone on one side wants to do the worst possible thing for the country, should that second person give in for the sake of compromise? Sometimes people are just plain wrong, which I’ll grant you doesn’t solve the problem of gridlock.

            You the voter need to vote, because the fewer people who vote, the less Congressmen worry about voters. The less they worry about voters, the more they can throw money at what few voters there are and not worry about anything else. There is no money, so that’s a problem.

            You the voter, if you don’t like how things are going in Congress, need to go to the polls and vote the incumbents out. All of them. Republican, Democrat, Martian, whatever, vote them out each and every time until they get the idea and work for the people again. If you don’t, we’ll continue to be stuck with people nobody likes, doing things nobody likes, with results nobody likes.

            Did you know that the Senate is required by law to pass a budget by April 15 every single year? The problem is, they haven’t. For over three years. By definition, our lawmakers are lawbreakers. Budget resolutions can pass with a simple majority, so filibusters are no excuse.

            And yet, despite having no budget, the government manages to keep on spending money. As of the moment I write this, the outstanding public debt is $16,198,734,633,000, give or take a few bucks.

            (I just checked again, before sending this in. The amount is now $16,200,034,782.837.)

            That’s sixteen trillion dollars. TRILLION.

            Congress does nothing about this outrage, and why? Because we do nothing about them. And why? Because too many of the people who bother to vote do it on the basis of, “The rest of Congress is horrible, but my congressman managed to bring in a bunch of money to our district!”

            Money that doesn’t exist. It just isn’t there. It’s a phantom, and the longer we refuse to accept that, the worse the chickens are going to bite us when they come home to roost. Or maybe they’ll lay eggs on us, whatever.

            We’re complacent in this, not only by not kicking them out but by actually approving the status quo. How many times have you heard, “Well, the program to save pregnant albino Appalachian tree frogs only costs $17 million. That’s hardly a drop in the bucket of the federal budget.”

            Good point. Now, what happens when we add up all the other $17 million dollar payouts? Suddenly we’ve got a budget.

            Seventeen million dollars is nothing? Not even worth talking about? Have we come to this? Let me do some quick calculations: Okay, at my present pay rate it would take me 4,857 years to make 17 million bucks. How is that nothing?

            In the immortal words of that drunken guy on Independence Day, “We have to stop them!” (He also said “Up yours!” which might also be appropriate.)

            Okay, I went off on a monetary tangent. My point is that the power of the President is out of control, largely because one of the other branches of government has ceded much of their power to him (or her – this is not a one-time problem).

            How do-nothing is our current Congress? What are they doing to stop our race toward the fiscal cliff, deal with various crises here and in other countries, and generally do their job? Well, on October 9th, a lawmaker gaveled the Senate into session … then gaveled it out, 25 seconds later. It was done just to make things official – most of our elected officials were off running for another election.

            So, what do we do?

            Well, we’re the employers of Congress. What do you do if your employee doesn’t show up for work, takes long breaks when he does, doesn’t accomplish the job when he is there, and to top it all off takes your money and spends it recklessly?

            Oh, I don’t know … fire them?

            Vote, people. It’s our only chance to show them who’s supposed to be in charge, and we have to start somewhere.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2012 03:08 pm (UTC)
I disagree.
Nov. 4th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
Any day when two people can disagree without one of them ending up in a gulag is a good day.
Nov. 4th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
Re: disagreeing
Yes, at least we're not Australia.
Nov. 5th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
Re: disagreeing
I've never been to Australia, but from what I understand they have one thing in common with Washington, D.C.: A high percentage of poisonous snakes and insects!
Nov. 1st, 2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
Ordinarily, I'd agree. But in the Senate my choice this go 'round is Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin. Todd "Shut That Thing Down" Akin...

Claire's not a great choice, but she's a better choice (in my eyes) than the alternative...
Nov. 4th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
I don't know too much about them other than what's hit the national news, but my wife comes from Missouri, and she's a fan of McCaskill. Sometimes you do, indeed, have to go with the least bad choice.
Nov. 1st, 2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
Term limits for congress would help. If a two-term limit is good enough for the POTUS, it is also good for congress.
Nov. 1st, 2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
This, 100 times this.
Nov. 4th, 2012 04:46 am (UTC)
Absolutely; it wouldn't solve every problem, but it would help against the scourge of professional lifelong politicians -- something our Founding Fathers never intended.
Nov. 1st, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
If you dont vote you can't complain.

I dont have anyone locally up for re-election.

We have a retiring Senator. I've been redistricted again, but neither congress critter is up.

Over 50% of all local elected postions are uncontested. Probably because they don't pay anything or much.

So my big vote goes for President and one Senator.

In may ways the 2008-2012 Congress and the The Pres dropped the legal ball by not getting a budget, which is required by law. It's a lack of leadership and pure bullshit laziness that they could not meet the legally demanded requirment to have a budgets, thus they kick the can down the road. What I find so odd, is the the 2008-2010 congress could have easily passed any budget, yet they did not. Now, any reasonable person might ask why. The question is why. The answer is they didn't want to have their spending reined in and nor did they want to be held responsible for a budget. It's called a dodge. Why didn't the media harp on that. The budget is required by law for a reason.

I also cannot stand the erosion in our fundamental rights. We can't breath now a days without breaking some law we don't know about.

Beleive me, I've been working to get rid of the fiscally irresponsible. I dont give a shit about social issues anymore, I am all about fiscal management because the present path leads to fail. Although I am in TX, I've been working on out of state areas that ultimately impact me because the other idiot in the other state has a vote, and they like to spend, and they are insulting.

The above is why I haven't been on LJ. I went political for a few months, but my work is over now and I can get back to LJ.

Nov. 4th, 2012 04:53 am (UTC)
"If you dont vote you can't complain." ... that's my mantra, although of course it doesn't stop people.

I ran uncontested once in my three elections for Town Council -- the job does pay here, but you definitely wouldn't take it for the amount it pays. The good news here is that most of our local offices are contested this year.

Anyway, well said, and I'm with you on fiscal management -- what do social issues matter if the entire country collapses? As for why the media hasn't harped on the issue, I'd suppose it's because they don't want to make the Annointed One, their hero Obama, look bad. When the media is controlled by liberals and liberals think there is no spending problem, it's sure to get buried.

Can't wait until this election is over ...
Nov. 1st, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
First, there are those people who say there’s no point voting because it doesn’t make a difference, then complain about the politicians other people vote in. People are stupid. I have a friend who used the excuse that they get the people to serve jury duty from election lists, so she won't vote because she doesn't want to do jury duty. *sigh* Now that they get the jury duty list from the DMV, I don't see her giving up her drivers license. *double sigh*
Nov. 4th, 2012 04:55 am (UTC)
It takes just minutes to vote ... but then, it takes some time out of surfing the internet and watching reality shows to actually educate yourself on the candidates, and who wants to waste time on something that "doesn't effect me"?
Nov. 2nd, 2012 02:08 am (UTC)
The budgetary concerns in all the Western democracies cause me great concern. I am beginning to think that the increasing disconnect between the political classes and those they purport to represent is leading us inexorably to either some form of government by bureaucrats or even oligarchy. I am frequently reminded of this quotation.

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

Alexis de Tocqueville

You only need to look to Europe and the recent replacements of elected governments in Greece and Italy with governments of technocrats to see this in action.

Still people must vote and that vote must be an informed vote.

As for reform I think term limits is a start, plus the banning of lobby groups as this enables politicians to pander to select groups and practice a divide and rule on their electorate, it also puts them in the pocket of vested interests. Of course this has always been the case so I am not sure how effective this would be and in general we are just selecting the least bad form of government. Maybe, Mandatory sunset clauses on all forms of financial legislation to encourage prudence and keep the size of the state small. Once the state employs a significant percentage of the population it becomes its own vested interest rather than a necessary evil and it will always tend to grow.

With regard to voter apathy in part this is the fact we are often talking shades of grey or even no choice at all. Unfortunately, money and the media make the cost of entry into politics so high that it encourages party funding and all that that entails. So challenging the incumbent becomes problematic. Term limits would help here plus funding transparency.

Whilst representative democracy is not ideal I am not sure the volitility inherent in participatory democracy is any better , plus you would still have the same largesse problem.
Nov. 4th, 2012 05:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, that quote by Tocqueville has been haunting me for some time now ... I'm afraid he was a very wise man.

You're so right -- which means you, like me, have no chance of being elected to high office. Still, as someone else once said, representative democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the rest.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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