Friday, August 5, 2011

The Congressional Reform Act of 2011

[Photo from]

Once in a blue moon I get something via email that is worth a second look.  A friend sent me a piece about amending our Constitution in such a way as to make Congress more representative of and more responsive to the needs of the people.  I do not know the author.

This is supposed to be a country of the people, by the people and for the people.  The Constitution begins with the phrase, "We the People of the United States..."

Unfortunately, we have become a country of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.  The rich and the powerful rule.  Ironically, the teapot crackpots, who supposedly represent the "common" folks are funded and directed by such as the Koch brothers who have turned the so-called tea party movement into a corporate ploy to destroy both the national and state governments in order to seek even greater riches unimpeded by nasty laws against such things as bad products and pollution of the environment!

Two disclaimers first:

1)  There is no tea party.  The teapot crackpots do not comprise a political party.  They are simply the far right wing of the Republican Party.  The fact that they exist and that a number of them were elected to Congress is an indication as to how far the Republican Party has shifted toward the right in recent years.

2)  We must reject the false equivalence of Republicans and Democrats!  During the recent wholly-contrived debt-ceiling controversy, the media has created a false equivalence between Republicans and Democrats, treating both parties as if they were equally responsible for the breakdown of responsible government.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Unfortunately, there are some Democrats in Congress who are just as crazy and stupid as the Republicans, but the Republican Party as a whole has given up on governing and exists simply to maintain and increase its power in order to use the government for its own purposes which most often means breaking down the legitimate authority of the government in order to rid corporate power of any restrictions as it amasses ever more wealth.  The Republican Party has lost its soul.  The Republican Party will do literally anything, including rewriting the Constitution to maintain and increase its power.  When the Republican Party talks about the "commonwealth," it refers not to regular folks but to the rich and powerful!   There is no "common" in the Republican commonwealth!

While the teapot crackpots and other Republicans pretend to be concerned about the financial status of the country (e.g., the deficit), that's a smokescreen.  In fact, their actions, in every case, increase the deficit.  The debt-ceiling compromise will increase the debt substantially.  The failure of the Republicans in Congress to deal with the FAA controllers will have the same result.  In the latter case, the Republicans are trying to defeat unionization.

What can be done?

Someone or some group has come up with a suggestion called the Congressional Reform Act of 2011.  I agree with most of what this act (or Constitutional amendment) would accomplish.  The verbiage and grammar have not been changed.  My comments are contained in the parentheses.

Here are the provisions:

1.  No Tenure/No Pension.  A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

[I'm not sure that Congresspersons have "tenure" as tenure is usually understood.  They are elected for a specific term and then must run for office again.  I agree with the "no pension" clause because of what follows below.]

2.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.  All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system and Congress participates with the American people.  It may not be used for any other purpose.

[Yes!  No pensions for those who serve in Congress.  All men and women in Congress are placed into the Social Security system just as regular citizens.  Especially important is the mandate that Social Security funds are never to be used for any other purpose!]

3.  Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

[Obviously, "all Americans" don't purchase their own retirement plan.  But they are responsible for planning for their own retirement.  Social Security was never intended to provide all the funds necessary for retirement.  Regular folks must see they have sufficient funds beyond what they receive from Social Security.  And so should anyone who is serving or who has served in Congress.]

4.  Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

[I wouldn't want to get into a debate here on the amount of Congressional pay raises, but I agree that members of Congress should not be able to raise their own pay, but that it should be tied to some financial index, perhaps the same as Social Security.]

5.  Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

[This is most important.  If this should pass, we would have an excellent comprehensive health plan for all Americans in no time at all!  I'm also in favor of the people voting for or against all of the other "perks" that Congress has established for its members down through the years!]

6.  Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

[I think this is true now and may be superfluous.]

7.  All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.  The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen.  Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves  Serving in Congress in an honor, not a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

[I'm a little confused by the meaning of this provision, or to which "contracts" it refers.  If it's speaking of any special favors members of Congress have voted themselves, I agree.  If it refers to lifelong pensions and health benefits for someone who served in Congress a mere two years, I agree.  From what I've seen, members of Congress are treated as kings and queens, as if they are different somehow than the rest of us with an incredible number of "perks."  All that should change!]

At the moment the Congress of the United States is out of control.  Our system of checks-and-balances is threatened.  It is frightening to note how many truly ignorant and stupid people are serving in Congress.  Many of them do not "believe" in evolution or in global warming!  My God, these things aren't up for debate!  They're not a matter of "belief"!  Many of our members of Congress are religious freaks, and operate from a religious ideology that belongs in the Dark Ages!  And these people have the power to destroy our country!  The fact that people like Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin are given any credibility at all is beyond comprehension.  In any sane world, they would be objects of ridicule!

Change is needed.  Maybe a Constitutional amendment incorporating provisions like the ones above is the way to go.

Let the debate begin!


Bob Poris said...

I wonder if there is a way to get some of the suggestions even debated by our Congress. At any rate, I found it interesting and hope someone is trying to figure a way to correct the abuses of the current system

Markus Welby said...

I know you're too chicken to publish this since I know you people don't care for facts, but here are some anyway:

Q: What about the "Congressional Reform Act of 2011"?

A: A viral e-mail calls for fixing some abuses and excesses that don’t exist, repeating misinformed claims that we’ve addressed before.

This latest rant against Congress has been circulating since the start of the year, urging passage of a "reform act" to correct abuses of power by Congress. But as we often find with these chain messages, the author doesn’t know very much about the subject.

He or she (the author is anonymous, of course) repeats a number of false claims that we have debunked before. The author:
Demands that members of Congress be forced to "participate in Social Security." But members of Congress already participate, paying Social Security payroll taxes just like nearly every other worker. Once upon a time that wasn’t true, but members of Congress were brought under Social Security way back in 1984. Yet bogus claims like this continue to circulate more than a quarter-century later, despite our best efforts.

Urges that "Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose." But as we’ve explained before, the idea that Congress has exempted itself from many of its own laws is also somewhat out of date. A law enacted in 1995 applied 13 civil rights, labor, and workplace safety and health laws to Congress, removing the basis for earlier criticisms. It’s true that members of Congress retain a degree of immunity from arrest or prosecution, but changing that require an amendment to the Constitution, which grants that immunity in Article I, Section 6. (The authors of the Constitution didn’t want any president to try what King Charles I of England had done in 1642 — sending troops to arrest his critics in Parliament.) The message is confused, at first mentioning earlier constitutional amendments, but then describing the proposal as an "act," which refers to legislation.

Recommends that "Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise." But Congress doesn’t do that now. Under current law, pay increases are determined by a cost-of-living formula, and they take effect automatically, unless Congress votes to stop them. And in fact, that’s what has happened for the past two years. Congress denied itself any pay raise in 2010 and in 2011, as we’ve reported.

Calls for stripping members of Congress of their current health care benefits and forcing them to participate "in the same health care system as the American people." But which "system"? Most Americans are covered either by employer-sponsored health insurance or by various government-sponsored programs, such as Medicare for those age 65 and over or Medicaid for lower-income persons. Currently members of Congress have the same health insurance options as millions of other federal employees and retirees and their families. The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives them a wide choice of private insurance plans. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 51 million persons in the U.S. had no health insurance at all in 2009 — just under 17 percent of the population. (The author may have been laboring under the false impression that Congress somehow "exempted" itself from the new health care law, a bit of nonsense that was based on a number of misrepresentations that we addressed last year.)


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