Category Archives: fixing congress

A Different Brand of Entitlement?

United States Capitol in daylightImage via Wikipedia
I see editorials in the local paper all the time that say it is time to get rid of all career politicians and elect fresh candidates, new people. I think people hope that these “new people”, although they may be corruptible, would not have the connections to lobbyists and special interests that our career politicians have built up over time. How long would it take for the money trains to reconnect? I don’t know but it probably would not take long. Because our “new” representatives would not be as experienced as our career politicians there might be a temporary lull in the gravy train, but money is a powerful persuader.
Another problem with this seemingly satisfying approach of just throwing all the “bums” out is that the people who want to run may not have the skills that our current crop got through attending Ivy League colleges or coming up through the ranks. They may not have a broad perspective of the issues facing America, but only an individual axe to grind. Their period of on-the-job training may be prolonged and, if we go with a model that includes lots of turnover, may leave us with politicians who are always behind the curve. This situation would not seem to allow for optimum decision making and law-making any more than our current one. We would get people like some of the current crop of Republican candidates who are not trained in oratory or debate, who cannot express themselves verbally, or perhaps in writing, and this could seriously hinder their ability to legislate.
There must be some “new people” to elect who are perhaps not like some of the smooth, polished and tricky batch we have now, but who have the appropriate skills to come up to snuff pretty quickly and who have a comfortable relationship with words and public expression.
Before we simply replace politicians who have perhaps held their positions for too long and who have become too out of touch with their constituency and too in touch with the money train, we really need to do our homework and be sure who we are electing. I think this is the lesson we learned from the election of 2010 which could be labeled a backlash election. We got the Tea Partiers who felt that they had a mandate to pursue issues on their agendas that were not even part of their campaign dialogue. Will there ever be a time in politics where “what you see is what you get”? We need to and want to come closer to this goal. We also know we need to stop sending the same people back to Washington over and over again, unless we can be sure that they will never succumb to the lobbyists and special interests and will truly represent the majority wishes of their constituency, while also protecting the minority interests as much as possible. This should not be at all difficult to accomplish (ha, ha).
Did you see 60 Minutes this week? One segment talked about the strong probability that people in Congress who invest in the stock market, even when they use financial managers who handle their stock buys and sells, can’t resist using information about changes in the law that will affect the market. It appears that this particular legal variation of insider trading is making lots of congress people very rich and very defensive. When asked, they of course deny that they would ever use advance information about laws and regulations in their personal lives and that they let their financial manager control their stock portfolios without direct communication from them. You would almost have to be nuts not to use this kind of information, especially if it is not considered illegal. The information comes from a book by Peter Schweizer, called Throw the Bums Out. You can find a summary of the book at http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/11/13peter-schweizer-s-new-book-blasts-congressional-corruption.html
At the very least all this possibility/evidence of corruption and the attitudes of entitlement that our politicians feel argues for some term limits for our congress people. However, replacing trained people willy-nilly with people who have little or no experience in the public arena is probably not the best approach to nullifying the corrupting influences of power. We still need to know who we are electing. Lots to think about, but will we ever take action in the form of amendments? Aren’t there procedures for “grassroots” amendments?
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