Pro Logica

May 7, 2011

Some Suggestions on Improving the Governance of the U.S.A. Part 1: Congress

INTRODUCTION

In an earlier post I believe that I have defended my point of view that there is nothing wrong with the U.S. Constitution as it is written, especially with regard to the complaints at that time and which seem to be still extant.  In that post, I did not consider that the current low standing of Congress in the eyes of the citizens of the U.S.A. had any bearing on its constitutional workings despite some claims to the contrary.  It is true, though, that many people in this country mistakenly believe that their two treasured ideals derived from the Declaration of Independence–inalienable rights and government of, by and for the people–are actually embedded in the language of the Constitution itself.  It is this erroneous view of the Constitution which makes some people claim that Congress somehow acts unconstitutionally .  Whatever, after a couple of hundred years of the Constitution’s use and abuse, in the name of good governance, some changes are due.  In this post, I offer my thoughts and suggestions for improving Congress so it may better serve the goals set forth in both the Preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.   Later posts will cover other areas where some improvement of government is needed.

A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

The U. S. Constitution, is only a document with words printed on it and the function of those words is to describe the basic government of the U.S.A.  It consists of a Preamble, seven Articles and 27 Amendments. By the words of the document itself, those States which have ratified the Constitution and those States which have been admitted to the Union by an established Congress as described in the Constitution owe their allegiance to the government described in the Constitution.

  • The Preamble states the reasons why the document was written and sets forth the general requirements of what is to be accomplished by the government formed using the organization principles stated in the document.
  • Article I defines the Legislative Branch (Congress), its function (to make laws, impeach officers from the other two branches and admit new States), its make-up (House and Senate) and its members (elected by states or appointed by legislatures, minimum qualifications of each one).
  • Article II defines the Executive Branch, its function (to enforce the laws), its make-up (a president and vice-president elected by an electoral college) and reasons for impeachment of executive officers.
  • Article III defines the Judicial Branch, its function (to resolve claims against the federal government), its make-up (a Supreme Court), its members (a Chief Justice chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate), its jurisdiction and reasons for impeachment of judges.
  • Article IV contains a medley of provisions concerning State sovereignty, Federal citizenship, Federal property jurisdiction, extradition, new States and the guarantee of a republican form of government in each State.
  • Article V covers the amendment process.
  • Article VI covers prior government debts,  the order of precedence (constitution, laws, federal treaties–federal over state) and requirement of oaths by all officers.
  • Article VII covers the ratification process.
  • The reader can read all the Amendments if HE (genderless) so chooses, but important ones are the Bill of Rights, abolition of slavery, suffrage of former slaves and women, establishment of an income tax and a two term limit on the presidency.  Dubious Amendments include the election of Senators (discussed in this post) and the equal protection of the laws (unnecessary with the preamble).  Of course, this evaluation is mine.

The above is but a scant enumeration of the words of the constitution but one gets an overall picture of what is written.  If one examines the current structure of the three branches, one finds that there exist all sorts entities and employees not specified in the Constitution–Congressional aides, presidential advisors, Federal departments, independent agencies, circuit courts, appellate courts and who knows what else.  These entities have their origination in Congressional law, i.e., passed by Congress and approved by a President of the United  States of America (POTUS), signed or unsigned.

POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS

The U.S. Constitution does not cover every aspect of the political process in the U.S.A.  There is no mention of political parties, campaign donations, advertising by candidates or corporate entities (corporate entities being defined in a prior post), lobbying or  the method of choosing electoral college members.  Qualifications for candidates are stated but the States can impose further qualifications.  Some States have primary elections and in many cases they are more important than the regular elections.  As I see it, most of the governing lapses envisioned by the citizens of the U.S.A. are fictions of their own inability to understand the Constitution coupled with political party prejudice and the influence of big money into the legislative process; these activities being the main cause of the current negative opinion of Congress.  Whatever the shortcomings of the current governing process, they are not the result of the Constitution but they are the result of the persons elected by the voters of the U.S.A.  No constitution, by itself, can guarantee good  government.

Before discussing any of these political aspects with a view to improving their current shortcomings, I would like to express my interpretation of what the founding fathers had in mind when they drafted the constitution.

THE ORIGINAL IDEA

While there are sources of the debates which led up to the drafting of the constitution, one really cannot use them to evaluate the final document since that document represents a compromise of all the opposing views that were brought into the discussion; hence, one should not look outside the document itself for any of its meaning.  This method does have its problems due to ambiguous interpretations, technological advancements and changes in the meanings of words; however, in general, these don’t pose any particular problems for the topic discussed in this post.

The first thing to notice is the title of the document–“The Constitution of the United States of America”.  This title does two things: it gives the name of the institution to which the document’s provisions apply and it defines the legal special interests to whom those same provisions apply–namely States.  Since there is no Amendment which has changed the title of our country it is still “The United States of America”.  Along with the title there are numerous provisions within the constitution which refers to States while the word, ‘people’, occurs only twice;  one can only conclude that States must form a necessary and important part of the entire governing apparatus.

Moving on to the Preamble, we notice the first three words,”We, the people” , indicating that the government described in the rest of the document derives its authority from those to be governed (people) by the governmental organization described in the rest 0f the document.  This is the only place in the Constitution itself where one might conceivably recognize a slight reference to the Declaration of Independence.  This lapse of reference was partially rectified by the passage of the first ten Amendments (the Bill of Rights); even in these there is no mention of the Declaration.  As for the authority from the “people”, it is clear from the election of representatives, the ratification process and Article IV, Section 2, which states citizens of a State are citizens of the several States that this authority is transferred through the States themselves and not as general citizens of the United States of America.  In the original document, Senators were not elected but chosen by the State legislatures.  As I see it, the founders were loathe to include democratic processes in the governing of these United States; there are no ‘people’ provisions as such and all Federal decisions were and still are tempered by later decision processes.  Contrary to popular opinion and ex-Chief Justice Marshall, the Supreme Court cannot declare a law or directive unconstitutional because that act runs counter to the construction of the Constitution itself; it also admits of no further temporizing process and places those judges which declare a law to be unconstitutional subject to impeachment if Congress so chooses.  The Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS), by its latest ruling in the McCain-Feingold decision, has unequivocally stated that its rulings are not absolute and depend only upon the opinions of its members.

I have previously expounded on the separation of the Branches and present here a very short summary which I believe represents the Founders view of the workings of the Federal Government and is encoded in the written form of the Constitution itself.

  • The Legislative Branch (Congress) enacts laws with or without the approval of the POTUS and can impeach officers and judges from both the Executive and Judicial Branches. The content of enacted laws are subject to the written specifications within the Constitution.  The Preamble, being part of the Constitution, can be used as justification for the enactment of laws when State laws and/or actions might cause conflict among the States.  Immigration is the prime example.
  • The Executive Branch enforces the constitutional provisions and the laws of the Legislative Branch and the rulings of the Judicial Branch.  The Executive Branch has the power to write Directives based upon its interpretation of the above three sources.
  • The Judicial Branch resolves claims within its stated jurisdiction and in that process may advise the other two branches of its interpretation of the constitutionality of enacted laws or presidential directives.
  • The Legislative Branch with its power of impeachment is the ultimate authority on the constitutionality of enacted laws, presidential directives and judicial rulings.

It is to be noted that the Executive and Judicial Branches can each independently interpret the Constitution subject only to the impeachment process of Congress.  Of course, a smooth running government will depend upon the three branches having a coherent view of the current state of the Union and its current goals and expectations, something not always attainable and never attainable when political parties are hell-bent on their own ideology without compromise.  Especially devastating to the governmental organization written in the Constitution is the U.S.A.’s current two major parties putting their own party’s opposition to the other party above that of their ideology and putting their own ideology above that of welfare and governance of the country.  One cannot solve problems by insisting that that your own solution is the only solution or by waiting for the other party to blunder first.

SUGGESTION I:  REPEAL THE XVII AMENDMENT.

The XVII amendment was passed in 1913 and provided for the popular election of Senators instead of their being chosen by the State legislatures.   I believe that the political parties supported its passage since they felt that the direct election of Senators would give their party, when in power, more leverage in passing their agenda; but whatever reasons gave credence to the passage of this amendment, we are currently stuck with it  and the States have lost some of their sovereign ability to govern.  Considering the present shenanigans taking place in Congress because of campaign donations, lobbying and political partisanship, Congress has its lowest rating of credibility ever in its history.  Almost ninety per cent of the people of the U.S.A. believe that Congress is not  fulfilling its Constitutional duty according to some public opinion polls.  At this point in our history it very well might be that the U.S. Congress is more corrupt than any of the State legislatures.  My contention is that the current low opinion of Congress is the culmination of processes started since the ratification of this amendment, processes that have increased the influence of political parties and big money over the States in the actual governing process.  While I agree with most of the people that Congress is, indeed, not fulfilling its Constitutional Duty, I probably disagree with most of them since I find very little  fault with Congress’ mechanics; after all, the Constitution is a essentially,only a formula.  I believe that the current Congress’ lack of fulfillment of their Constitutional duty lies in its inability to enact laws which fulfill the semantical objectives set forth in the Preamble, primarily because it members are more interested in pursuing political power for their party.

Essentially, the main reason for repealing the XVII Amendment is to reduce the influence of the above three mentioned activities on the legislative process.  I use the word , ‘reduce’, since it is probably safe to say that these activities and others like it arising in the future could probably never be eliminated–human greed and hubris with its corporate extension show no upper bound on inventiveness.  Another reason for repealing the XVII Amendment is given in the above section–the State is part of the governing apparatus and needs proper representation and the Senate is where that representation was originally placed.  Direct election of Senators actually dilutes a State’s involvement in the Federal Government.  Another good reason is the dependence of the Senator on the good will of his/her State–if the Senator does not represent the State satisfactorily or commits a no-no as far as the State’s people or legislature is concerned, that Senator, when chosen by a State Legislature, can be immediately replaced.  The State can only remove elected Senators by a recall petition which is time consuming and expensive and the length of the process could be disastrous if the State had a rogue Senator.  For those of you who think that a representative can’t be recalled, I point out that the Constitution does not prohibit recalls by the people since it says nothing about recalls and whomever can be voted in can also be voted out.

SUGGESTION II: REQUIRE THE FIRST RESOLUTION OF EACH CONGRESS TO BE A JOINT RESOLUTION OF BOTH HOUSES STATING THE GOALS TO BE ACHIEVED BY THAT CONGRESS  AND HOW THOSE GOALS FULFILL THE GOALS STATED IN THE PREAMBLE.

This is a common sense suggestion to help the voter better understand the difference between what the Congress actually does and what it  started out to do.  The enumeration of the goals themselves will contribute to an understanding of what the Congress considers to be the common welfare.  Both of these factors could help determine whether individual Congressmen get reelected.  While not absolutely essential, good governance requires that the other two branches be consulted for their expertise in implementation and judgment.

SUGGESTION III: REQUIRE THE POTUS TO EVALUATE THE CONGRESS ON THEIR PERFORMANCE IN REACHING THEIR GOALS AND THIS EVALUATION BE GIVEN IN HIS STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS.

While the typical voter would be expected to evaluate HIS Congressional representative from their own parochial view, the POTUS ‘ evaluation would be from the perspective from the whole country and give a broader view of the accomplishments of Congress or lack thereof.

SUGGESTION IV: LIMIT CONGRESSIONAL SESSIONS TO 182 DAYS (WEEKEND RECESSIONS INCLUDED) DURING THE YEAR DIVIDED INTO AT LEAST TWO SUB-SESSIONS WITH AT LEAST ONE MONTH’S RECESS BETWEEN EACH SUB-SESSION AND REQUIRING EACH CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE TO ATTEND EVERY DAY OF THE SESSION EXCEPT FOR SICKNESS AND FAMILY EMERGENCIES.

This leaves 183+ days in which each member of Congress can meet with HIS constituents, have  discussions with HIS congressional colleagues about upcoming bills, take HIS vacation, spend time with HIS family, go on fact-finding junkets, etc.  Session time needs to be for the debate and passage of bills.  Fund raising and campaign activities need to be banned during each sub-session, with no exception for short recesses.

SUGGESTION V: ALL CONGRESSIONAL AIDES TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS REPRESENTING A STATE MUST BE EMPLOYEES AND CITIZENS OF THAT STATE.

This will allow the State to keep tabs on their members of Congress.  Need I say more.

POLITICAL PARTIES AND OTHER CORPORATE ENTITIES

The Constitution makes no mention of political parties, corporations or special interests of any kind except States.  It is not because there weren’t such entities existent at the time but because these entities were judged to be of no significance for the derivation of the authority of the Constitution; that authority came directly from the people who were citizens of the several States and was transferred through each State either by the State’s ratification of the Constitution or its acceptance by Congress.  The Preamble to the Constitution states unequivocally  that  “We the people … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.

In my post on the recent ruling by SCOTUS on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, I defined the concept of a corporate entity as a formal or informal organization consisting of two or more persons capable of having a political opinion (somewhat paraphrased) and that political parties, corporations of any kind and informal agglomerations of people with specific or general interests are all corporate entities.  By not openly referring to any of these associations the Constitution is claiming that the Federal Government with the States is the only authorized voice of the people and that any other association of people is nothing but a corporate entity or as commonly labeled, a special interest.  On the other hand, the First Amendment guarantees the right to freedom of assembly and a corporate entity  may certainly be formed from such an assembly.  Witness the current Tea Party phenomenon.  It started out as a more or less spontaneous assemblage and has spawned a few formal organizations trying to capture its spirits and ideals.  Besides these formal organizations there are Sarah Palin and her followers, Michell Bachman and the House Tea Party Caucus and other independent tea party souls and gatherings expressing various political opinions not necessarily in agreement with each other.  Each of these can be classified as a corporate entity and, as such, not a spokesman for “We the people”.

SUGGESTION VI:  STATES NEED TO ELIMINATE ALL MENTION OF POLITICAL PARTIES WITHIN THEIR GOVERNING APPARATUS.

Specifically.

  • Eliminate primary elections for political party  Congressional candidates.
  • Eliminate political party designations for all Congressional candidates.
  • Require that each Congressional candidate not be a member of any political party for two or more years prior to his/her public declaration of candidacy.

Currently, many members of Congress put party loyalty above the common good and show very little interest in compromising.  Enabling this suggestion could reduce the tendency for a member of Congress to vote on party lines when it is clear that the member would like to vote otherwise.  I know that political party fanatics will disagree with me on this point since they are firmly convinced that their party platform coincides with the common good–they have no humility.  A parliamentary system of government would suit their disposition better and I would suggest they move to a country that has that type of government.  Even there, these types would never be satisfied.  For myself, I don’t see much difference between a political fanatic and a political hack.

Another advantage would be the lessened probability of party loyalty preventing the impeachment and/or conviction of a U.S. executive officer or judge.

SUGGESTION VII: STATES NEED TO LIMIT  ITS CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES TO TWO TERMS.

For those who believe that the Constitution doesn’t permit this, I suggest reading Article I, Section 2.  There are two reasons for implementing this suggestion: it avoids the tendency for senior members of Congress to wield undue influence on its junior members and it opens up the second term of that member, should HE be so lucky, to vote for laws more conducive to the general welfare instead of putting HIS reelection to the forefront.

SUGGESTION VIII:   CAMPAIGN FUNDS

  • CANDIDATE’S FUND RAISING ACTIVITIES MUST OCCUR ONLY IN HIS/HER DISTRICT  AND NO FUND RAISER SHALL HAVE A PRESET DONATION FOR ADMITTANCE.
  • ALL OF A CANDIDATES CAMPAIGN FUNDS MUST ORIGINATE IN-STATE.
  • PERSONAL DONORS (A CANDIDATE IS A PERSONAL DONOR), MUST HAVE THEIR ADDRESSES RECORDED ALONG WITH THEIR DONATION AMOUNT–EACH PERSON’S TOTAL DONATION  MUST HAVE A LIMIT LOW ENOUGH TO DISCOURAGE UNDUE INFLUENCE BY ANY PERSON OR ENTITY ON A CANDIDATE.
  • CORPORATE ENTITIES NOT INCORPORATED IN THE STATE CANNOT DONATE TO THAT STATE’S CANDIDATES–FOR THOSE THAT ARE, THEY MAY BE TREATED AS PERSONS BUT ALL THEIR MEMBERS MUST BE CITIZENS OF THE STATE AND THE CANDIDATE MAY NOT ACCEPT A PERSONAL DONATION FROM A MEMBER OF SUCH CORPORATE ENTITY UNLESS THAT CORPORATE ENTITY GIVES NO MONEY FOR HIS CAMPAIGN (EMPLOYEES OF A CORPORATE ENTITY ARE MEMBERS OF A CORPORATE ENTITY).
  • CANDIDATES MUST BE PROHIBITED FROM COLLECTING CAMPAIGN DONATIONS UNTIL AFTER THEIR CANDIDACY HAS BEEN FORMALLY ACCEPTED BY THE STATE.
  • CAMPAIGN FUNDS MUST BE KEPT SEPARATE FROM A CANDIDATE’S ORDINARY PERSONAL EXPENSES.
  • UNSPENT CAMPAIGN FUNDS MUST EITHER BE RETURNED TO THE DONORS OR GIVEN TO CHARITY BY THIRTY DAYS AFTER THE VOTE COUNTING HAS BEEN DECLARED FINAL.

These are all common sense suggestions and stem from the Constitution itself or the definition of campaign and representative.

  1. Members of Congress represent the people of their State or district within the State, not the people of other States or districts and not any corporate entity.
  2. Campaign funds are for campaigning, nothing else.
  3. There is no campaigning after an election, there should be no campaign funds left over.
  4. A corollary to 1 and 2, no single person or corporate entity should be able influence the candidate should HE be elected.
  5. The people who vote for a candidate should know who and what they are voting for.

SUGGESTION IX: LIMIT FUND RAISING AND CAMPAIGNING TO SIXTY OR NINETY DAYS BEFORE THE ELECTION.

Anyone inept enough that he/she couldn’t get their message out to the voters in sixty days probably shouldn’t be elected representative.

SUGGESTION X:  BAN ALL PAID TELEVISION, RADIO, NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE, MAIL AND INTERNET ADVERTISING WHICH, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, REFERS TO ANY CANDIDATE OF A CONGRESSIONAL SEAT.

This still leaves campaign stumping, commentator endorsements in all the same media, letters to the editor, internet sites, printed brochures, lawn endorsements and campaign news coverage while eliminating multiple and exorbitant advertising costs affordable only to corporate entities and wealthy citizens.

SUGGESTION XI: AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO REQUIRE ALL BILLS TO INCLUDE AN EXPIRATION DATE.

While many laws do have expiration dates, others do not.  No law should be exempt from periodic review.

DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES

Today, if one were to look up the definition of a democracy, one would probably get as the main definition something like:

“government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”

In one of the lesser definitions, especially in an American dictionary, one would, more than likely, find:

a government like that of the United States of America

It is interesting to note what Benjamin Franklin’s reply to this question was as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention,  “Sir, what kind of government did you fellows come up with?”

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

I really can’t vouch for the quotes since they were hearsay on my part but the answer points to the realization that the founders did not fashion a democracy, at least not in the classical definition of a democracy.  The italicized part of the definition did not become part of the definition until the latter half of the twentieth century, and so the correct classification for the government of the U.S.A. is that of a republic, which is simply a government which has some elected agents do the governing.  (The use of the word ‘democracy’ to mean a republic is now so ubiquitous that the original classical definition will probably fade from the language and be relegated to a strictly legal definition needed to understand older political tracts.)  As originally designed, members of the House, the President and Vice-president are the U.S.A.’s only elected agents with the President and Vice-president being elected in a very indirect manner.  The XVII Amendment added Senators to that category which, I believe, has diluted the sovereign States role in the governance of the U.S.A.

‘Democratic’, an adjective meaning ‘of or pertaining to a democracy’, has an extended usage in which it does not necessarily refer to ‘democracy, the government’; instead, it may be used to render a sense of involvement by the people as in, “Electing officers is a democratic process”.  Certainly, voting in a free election is a democratic process and that a republican government does use the democratic process of voting.  Staged elections cannot be classified as a democratic process.  While I do prefer the form of our republic as formulated in the Constitution–it is better than a parliamentary system or a constitutional monarchy (the most popular republics currently in use across the world)–it does seem that citizens could play a somewhat larger role in the legislative process.

SUGGESTION XII: REQUIRE ALL CONGRESSIONAL BILLS SENT TO THE POTUS HAVE A MINIMUM PUBLIC DISCUSSION PERIOD OF THIRTY DAYS PRIOR TO THE POTUS’S DECISION TO PASS OR VETO THE BILL, THE POTUS’ DECISION INCLUDING A SUMMARY AND EVALUATION OF THE PEOPLE’S COMMENTS.

Clearly, some bills, like acts of war, will necessarily require a very short discussion period which could be set by a near unanimous vote of the Congress, but that doesn’t mean there should be no discussion period at all.

MAJORITY RULE

As a concept, ‘majority rule’, meaning ‘more than one half’, is associated with voting and is usually considered to be the quintessence of democratic processes.  However, as I see it, the practice of using this concept as a governing tool is highly suspect, since any law or ruling passed by just a few votes (especially one) can be overturned later by just a few votes expressing a change of opinion for whatever reason and bribery could be one of those reasons.  Witness the latest 5-4 McCain-Feingold decision of SCOTUS which overturned an earlier 5-4 decision ruling on the same law; those two separate rulings convinced me that the law itself could not be unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court should do only what the Constitution authorizes it to do which is to resolve claims and disputes.   (Tis a sad fact that this country has been governed for two hundred years by the legacy of an egotistical judge who got pissed off (to use the vernacular) because his constitutional job wasn’t important enough for his ego.  This could have been prevented by that judge’s timely impeachment which would have reasserted Congress’ constitutional authority to enact laws.  Afterall, declaring a law unconstitutional is a legislative act.)

Simple majority rule can result in actions by the governed which would be considered legal at one time to be illegal at a later time and then legal again at even some later time; definitely not a situation where the ‘Rule of Law’ could be said to prevail.  Simple majority rule can also result in tyranny by a small majority.  It is  precisely these bad governing practices which led to the discrediting of classical democracy as a governing system over two thousand years ago.

SUGGESTION XIII: AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO REQUIRE THAT ALL BILLS SENT TO THE POTUS FOR PASSAGE REQUIRE A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE FROM EACH HOUSE.

There are provisions in the Constitution and in many state constitutions as well which require more than a simple majority before a bill can be considered proper, so there is plenty of precedent, and this suggestion should limit some bad effects of democracy with regard to constitutional law .

Duverger’s Law, which is quite empirical, states that systems which function by simple majority vote, eventually lead to the domination of the system by two political parties and it does seem to hold, witness the U.S.A. for one.  My personal observation tells me that this law pertains mainly to large organizations where  entrenched interests of some members clash with different entrenched interests of other members; eventually the members separate into two groups wherein the primary motivation of each group is the control of the organization.  Many rural electric co-operatives seem to escape the consequences of Duverger’s Law simply because the objective of the co-operative is very limited in scope and practically universal among its members, a situation unattainable in a nation.  For small organizations whose actions bear little effect politically, Duverger’s Law simply would lead to the creation of another organization.

SUGGESTION XIV:  EACH STATE MUST REQUIRE A CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE TO OBTAIN AT LEAST SIXTY PER CENT OF THE LAWFUL VOTES IN HIS/HER ELECTION.

This would help blunt Duverger’s Law.  Besides, I, personally, find it very difficult to vote for any of the two main party candidates, since I judge the candidates, and the parties they belong to, against the Declaration’s dictum–government of the people, by the people and for the people.  I can’t complain about ‘of the people’ since the acceptance of the Constitution by the peoples of the included States satisfies that part,  but the other two???  Many of our Congressional representatives are in the very-well-to-do class and could care less about the concerns of the middling and lower classes, while most of the others try to smother the lowest classes with goodies in the manner best fitted to ensure their own well to do status.  Both of the main political parties are more concerned about extreme individualism than general welfare, and party representatives have a tendency to kowtow to their party leaders.  In short, both parties are morally corrupt; no wonder the low opinion of Congress by the U.S. public.  Today, there are very few, if any, Congressional representatives who present themselves as independent from party loyalty.

LOBBYING

Lobbying is probably the toughest problem to counteract in a representative legislative body since it is both legal and essential to good republican government.  Any citizen or corporate entity has the right to petition their State’s representative but does not have any right to petition another State’s representative though that representative may listen if HE so chooses.  While there is nothing to prevent a Congressional representative from listening to a lobbyist, that act alone provides opportunities for the lobbyist to offer favors to the representative hoping that that particular representative will then vote more favorably for the lobbyist’s interest.  Pure and simple this is bribery and today’s representatives take all they can get, another moral failing.  Bribery is, of course, illegal but today’s lobbyists are experts in offering bribes that may not be technically illegal.  An honest person would presume that anyone who offers a bribe has something to gain by that act, an act which is probably not connected to the general welfare of the people of the U.S.A.  By this reckoning I would venture to say that currently there are no honest Congressional representatives.

SUGGESTION XV: EACH STATE NEEDS TO REQUIRE ITS REPRESENTATIVES TO REPORT ALL CONTACTS WITH LOBBYISTS.

A couple of earlier suggestions do deal with aspects of lobbying–secret meetings and campaign funds–but there are other aspects that need to be dealt with.

SUGGESTION XVI:  ELIMINATE PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEES.

Bills would tend to be much simpler and if something comes up which engenders much discussion with differing opinions, an ad hoc  committee can than be formed to  work out the compromises necessary to come up with a functioning bill.  Subcommittees have become too powerful and subcommittee members, being fixed, become special targets for lobbyists.  And, to quote some earlier bribers, every person has HIS price.

SUGGESTION XVII: ALL CONTRACT LOBBYISTS REPRESENTING CORPORATE ENTITIES FROM MORE THAN ONE STATE NEED TO BE  BARRED FROM CONTACTING INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATIVES

Corporate entities from individual States and contract lobbyists representing corporate entities from a single State can always contact their State’s representative.  Individual state chapters of nation-wide organizations can also contact their State’s representative but the national organization itself should be powerless in this regard.  This does not bar them (the lobbyists) from giving testimony in open hearings when requested and any representative from any state can request such testimony.

SUGGESTION XVIII: CONGRESS NEEDS TO SET UP A TRAVEL BUDGET WHICH WILL PAY FOR ANY MEMBERS JUNKET (FACT-FINDING TRAVEL).  EACH JUNKET NEEDS TO BE INDIVIDUALLY APPROVED BY VOTE OF ITS MEMBERS.  JUNKETS, EITHER SPONSORED OR PAID BY LOBBYISTS, ARE TO BE BANNED.

Just to prevent any suspicion of bribery.

CLOSING REMARKS

The above suggestions have been offered on my belief that the founding fathers could not see the unintended consequences of two major political parties vying for power to control the people of the U.S.A.  Our current two party system is a direct antithesis to the principle stated in the Declaration: that government should be of, by and for the people; instead we have government of the people but by and for special interests, those that have plenty of money.  States, while being the only special interest approved by the Constitution, are primarily given lip service when Congress is discussing  bills, after all the States do not contribute to their campaigns.  Each of the two main parties may have different special interests as their base but many will support both parties depending on which one seems to be in power.  The entire drawback of this current system is the dearth of legislation that is directed to the good of the country.

These suggestions are not offered as the only solution to our current Congressional inadequacy; there is always more than one way to accomplish the same objectives.  If one were to ask me what the chances are of getting the government back to the Declaration’s dictum stated above, I would answer ‘nil in the immediate future’.  It took at least a hundred years to get here politically and that cannot be undone in a few moments.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] See the original post here: Some Suggestions on Improving the Governance of the U.S.A. Part 1 … […]

    Pingback by Some Suggestions on Improving the Governance of the U.S.A. Part 1 … « Politics And Funds — June 6, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  2. […] See the article here: Some Suggestions on Improving the Governance of the U.S.A. Part 1 … […]

    Pingback by Some Suggestions on Improving the Governance of the U.S.A. Part 1 … « Harrington Fundraising — June 6, 2011 @ 1:46 pm


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