by Brendan Jennings
Second in a series of editorials focusing on our mission statement.
Our founding fathers designed the federal government to take into account human weaknesses and foibles that have hounded man since the beginning of time. These foundational leaders wrote extensively about the importance of selecting the right people to represent them in government. They knew the people were the ultimate guarantors of liberty by the careful selection of those who would lead us.
What would they think about many of the people in Congress today, particularly those in positions of leadership? It would seem as if a perfect storm of human deficiencies swept across the Capitol and took control of their beloved country. Not that our founders didn’t have their share of weaknesses, like everyone. But recent legislative classes seem set on establishing increasingly lower standards of behavior, complete with FBI investigations, indictments and convictions.
At the same time, Washington politicians have become increasingly separated from the people they’re supposed to represent, partly thanks to the virtual parallel universe created by the Washington statist-media industrial complex. By recent fiscal and statutory actions, Congress seems to have beamed over to another universe, their actions increasingly divorced from the ever grimmer reality here at home.
For example, the Speaker of the House demands limited Air Force resources to be available every weekend at her short-notice beck and call. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is being investigated for tax evasion, having not paid taxes for a variety of real estate properties he owns in New York and the Caribbean. One Louisiana Democrat was recently convicted of felony bribery, having tens of thousands of dollars found stored in his freezer, while a California Republican was similarly convicted in 2006 before the Republicans lost the House and Senate. How did these ethically-challenged characters get elected in the first place?
Our representatives and senators have refused to balance the budget for most of the past 30 years, as the self-supporting system they’ve built to keep themselves in perpetual power provides few incentives for responsible, disciplined lawmaking. In the past year alone, Congress spent $1.4 trillion more than the government received in revenues. Another trillion dollars will likely be added over the next few years from the so-called health care “reform” scheme being constructed, mostly behind closed doors. What rational mind would contemplate adding another costly entitlement program in the midst of the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression?
The cap and trade bill may further strain the wallets of all Americans as we watch our energy costs skyrocket over a contested theory of global warming – which is now called “global climate change.” And Congress continues to support a central bank while providing virtually no oversight, as the dollar has lost 95% of its purchasing power since 1913, when the Federal Reserve was created.
As the Congressional Budget Office forecasts trillion dollar deficits for each year in the next decade, it is time we, the people, take each of our representatives and senators forcefully by their lapels and tell them in no uncertain terms to snap out of it! The unfortunate truth is that the only incentive those who govern us have to be honest, faithful representatives is the ever declining threat of voting them out of power. We, the people, must work together to change the incentives in Washington to make it more attractive for legislators to do the right thing.
We should start with their compensation package. Currently, members of the House of Representatives make more than three times the median income of the average American. Salaries should be cut to that of average citizens, not only to keep them more humble, but to help ensure members of Congress don’t make a career out of serving in the same seat for more than two terms. This approach also subtly enforces deeper thinking about more productive ways to help raise the standard of living of average Americans, rather than expecting those Americans to continue to pony up to indulge Congress’s every whim.
Senators, since they serve the whole state, should receive their pay directly from that state, leaving it to state legislatures to determine the appropriate compensation and helping make senators more answerable to their states. Pensions should be eliminated, further encouraging members not to serve for more than a few years. Members should be successful in private endeavors before serving and can return to them after serving. This further serves to reunite our representatives with the more prosaic concerns of everyday life in America and will enable them to better appreciate those who help make the free market work.
An insidious self-congratulatory practice – naming public buildings and facilities after serving member of Congress – should be outlawed. No federal facility should be named after a living American. (See the video linked at the end of this article for an example of this out-of-control practice.) It should be unacceptable for those who seek to represent the people to satisfy their self-aggrandizing tendencies by such abuse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
We should also remove from Congress the power to investigate themselves for ethics complaints. Recent investigations and convictions demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Congress policing its own behavior. Instead, the ethics committees should consist of former members mixed with a random selection of citizens, just as juries are selected. This approach should serve to reduce the self-serving protection racket that the ethics committees in the House and Senate have become.
These are just a few ideas to get started with reforming Congress to better serve the people. Undoubtedly you have a few good ideas of your own to add to the mix (see our Facebook page and submit your ideas on The Wall). The bottom line is that we must work together to make sure we elect representatives with a real fire for reform in their bellies before we go into that voting booth. After all, if someone is stealing from your children, what should you do about it? Our representatives are stealing from future generations and condemning them to living in a nation that is less prosperous and influential than we have enjoyed over the past 60 years. We must commit to each other, and to God, that we will not – that we cannot – continue to allow that to happen.
For a more entertaining view of the perverted incentives in Washington, watch this video from Bill Wittle of PJTV.