15 March 2011

How to Fix Congress

Below is the content of an email I received today. I'm not certain exactly what I think of it except that I think it represents an overly simplistic point of view.

I have put some questions at the end... What do you think?
The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took  only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified!  Why?  Simple!  The people demanded it. That was in 1971...before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

I'm asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.  This is one idea that really should be passed around.

 Congressional Reform Act of 2011
  1. Term Limits
    12 years only, one of the possible options below
    Two Six-year Senate terms
    Six Two-year House terms
    One Six-year Senate term & three Two-Year House terms
  2. No Tenure / No Pension
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
  3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
  4. 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.
  5. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
  6. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
    Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  7. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  8. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
  9. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is 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.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message.

Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

You are one of my 20+.  Please keep it going.
My questions for anyone interesting in discussing this:
  1. What, if any, are the benefits from not having term limits on congress?
  2. What, if any, are the downsides from not having term limits on congress?
  3. What, other than the length of time served by individuals, would be different if we had term limits for congress?
  4.  Would there be a financial advantage or benefit if the retirement/Social Security/health insurance changes suggested here came to pass?
  5. I'm curious - does anyone think any amendment limiting congress in these ways would actually have a chance? 
It is - and rightly so - a difficult process to adopt amendments to the constitution. The constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by a joint proposal by the congress (with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate) or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures (none of the 27 amendments to the constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention).
  1. The congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution which is forwarded directly to National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register for processing and publication. 
  2. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it.
  3. The archivist submits the proposed amendment to the states for their consideration by sending a letter of notification to each governor along with the informational material prepared by the OFR.
  4. The governors then formally submit the amendment to their state legislatures.
  5. A proposed amendment becomes part of the constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 states).  
It seems to me that no congress is going to promote an amendment with these kinds of changes the emailer is proposing. And I'm not certain that we'd ever get 33 or 34 state legislatures to call a constitutional convention... for this or any other amendment. The payback - on this one especially - might be a bitch.

I also think that for the most part these kinds of changes - whether by law (statutory, case or regulatory) or by amendment - are suggested when there would be a marked advantage to one party or the other (remember that the Republicans were all for term limits during FDR's presidency, but wanting to eliminate them when Reagan was in office, and I'm sure there's a equally appalling example for the Democrats too, but I just cannot think of one right now). And that sort of pisses me off - I don't like it when it's assumed that I won't see the hidden agendas...

So my last questions are:
  1. Who is this benefiting? Or maybe, more importantly, who would think it would benefit them?
  2. With whom do you think this email originated? Not actual people, of course, but what political views, economic status, et cetera... do you think might inform their opinions and motivation?

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