THE PROBLEM WITH CONGRESS

Too many people believe we will get better government by making sure no one in congress gets to stay there for a long time. I don’t know why inexperience would mean better government. In what other field do we prefer raw recruits to veterans? Would you want an inexperienced surgeon? A lawyer fresh out of law school?

Why do you want amateurs making your laws?

Our founding fathers specifically excluded term limits. Their experience under the Articles of Confederation (the document that preceded The Constitution) showed them that good people are not interested in temp jobs for lousy pay in a distant city. Those elected to office walked away from their positions — or never took them up in the first place. There was no future in it.

congress in session

When the Constitution was written, its authors wanted to tempt the best and the brightest into government service. They wanted candidates who would make it a career. They weren’t interested in amateurs or part-timers. Learning the business of governing takes years.

The Articles of Confederation contained exactly the ideas people are promulgating today. It failed. Miserably. Do we need to learn the same lesson again?

The absence of term limits in the Constitution is not an oversight. The writers of the Constitution thought long and hard about this problem.

A little more history

Under the Articles of Confederation, our country fell apart. Elected representatives came to the capital (New York), hung around awhile, then went home. Why stay? The job had no future and their salaries didn’t pay enough to cover their costs, much less support families. That’s why term limits were rejected by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Their aim was to encourage professionals to enter government service.

Term limits remove any hope of building a career in government. It morphs into a hard temp job without a future.

Myth Busting 101: Congress isn’t overpaid

They are paid more than you and me, but compared to what they could be earning elsewhere, they are paid poorly. “What?” you cry, “How can that be?”

Most members of congress are lawyers. The 2011-2012 salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate was $174,000 per year. A third year associate at a good law firm will do that well and after six to twelve years (1 – 2 senate terms), a competent attorney in a good market makes much more.

Senators and representatives have to maintain two residences, one in their native state, the other in DC. If you think $174,000 will support two houses and send the kids to college, you are living in a fantasy world. Which is why many members of congress have other income streams.

Our Founding Fathers expected congressmen, especially senators, to be men of means. They felt only wealthy people would be able to afford government service. And they would be less susceptible to bribery. On the whole, they were right.

Skill and experience matter

Writing a law that can stand up to scrutiny by courts and other members of congress takes a long time. You don’t waltz in from Anywhere, USA and start writing laws. Moreover, great legislators are rare in any generation. A sane electorate doesn’t throw them away.

We are not suffering from an entrenched group of old pols stopping the legislative process. We are suffering a dearth of experienced lawmakers who understand how the system works, know how to compromise. Can work with an opposition party. It’s every pol for him/herself these days … and that means no one is there for us. You know. The people.

Experienced old-timers got old. They retired. Or died. And were replaced by imbeciles.

Above and beyond the skill it takes to write legislation, it takes even longer to gain seniority and respect. Frank Capra notwithstanding, Mr. Smith doesn’t go to Washington and work miracles. Newly elected members of congress hope to build a career in politics. With luck, some will become great legislators, another Tip O’Neill, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bob DoleTed Kennedy or another of the giants. Anyone you name connected to important legislation was a multi (many) term representative or senator.

Term limits eliminate any chance of finding great legislators

Term limits guarantee a bunch of amateurs — or worse — fumbling their way around congress. As soon as they figure out where the toilets are and get reasonably good at their jobs, they’ll be gone. Does that make sense? Really?

Garry and Tip O’Neill

If you think your congressman or senator is doing a crappy job, replace him or her with someone you believe will do better.

If you don’t elect them, they won’t be there

We have term limits. These are called elections. Throw the bums out. Vote for the other guy. Term limits were an awful idea in 1788 and they haven’t improved with time. Among the biggest concerns Democrats had about Barack Obama in 2008 was he didn’t have enough experience, hadn’t been in the senate long enough. With term limits, no one would ever have enough experience. Where would we get candidates to run for President? Look at some of the bozos who are trying to run right now. Not exactly the best and the brightest.

We don’t need term limits. We need better candidates.

The President doesn’t run the country

Congress writes legislation and votes it into law. Ultimately, it’s you, me, our friends and neighbors who choose the people to make laws, pass budgets, approve cabinet members and Supreme Court justices.

Whatever is wrong with Congress, it’s OUR fault

The 535 members of congress are chosen by us and if you don’t like one, don’t vote for him or her. If someone gets re-elected over and over, you have to figure that a lot of people vote for that candidate. You may not like him, but other people do. That’s what elections are about. It doesn’t necessarily work out the way you want, but changing the rules won’t solve the problems. Make the job more — not less — attractive so better people will want to go into government. Otherwise, you’re creating a job no one wants.

Ultimately, it’s all about America. Partisanship, special interests, regional issues, party politics and personal agendas need to take a back seat to the good of the nation … and we need to agree what that means . Term limits won’t fix the problem. Because that’s not what’s broken.


POSTSCRIPT: FROM GARRY ARMSTRONG. WHO WAS THERE AND KNOWS HOW IT WORKS. really.

I read all the comments before jumping into the fray.

First, this is a cogent and thoughtful post. That’s the old reporter not your husband speaking. Second, as the old reporter, I’ve had first hand, up close and often personal time with members of Congress and folks who’ve occupied the White House.

Former “Speakers” John McCormack and Tip O’Neil shared stories about the business of working both sides of the house to get things done. Party affiliation was put aside as veteran “pols”, guys who knew each other, brokered deals to get bills passed that helped their constituents. Younger pols, clearly just looking to make their bona fides and move on, were muzzled. These were the “term limit” people so many seem to want today.

Senators Ted Kennedy, Bob Dole, and others often talked about the lengthy but focused verbal card games played to avoid grid lock and, again, get the job done.

Garry and Marilyn at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s VineyardI’ve had the good fortune to spend time with Presidents from JFK through Bill Clinton. The brokering stories were repeated, regardless of party affiliation. Even Richard Nixon, in rare and calm moments, shared his beliefs about how to get the job done, using experience, collected favors and insight on what was important with the clock ticking.

I think my favorite pol was LBJ. I spent some very interesting personal time with Johnson, including a stint in Vietnam where he shared “off the record” insight into the job of running the country and assuming responsibility even if it would eventually cost him his job. (And it did cost him his job.)

So, you’ll have to forgive me if I have little patience with folks who spout opinion with little knowledge of how government and politics work.

Yes, we truly could use some people who really understand public service, have the desire to devote themselves to the demands and collateral damage of the job and want to help their constituents.

Enough of the sound and fury signifying nothing. Back to sports.

LIPS THAT TOUCH LIQUOR

Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States.

The separate (but closely related)  Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition, including the definition of “intoxicating liquor” — for anyone who needed an explanation.

VotedDry
Prohibition headline

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor. Or you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before. Whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive, and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

prohibition-6

Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class based on rum running.

There are no fewer gay people because we make their lives difficult, any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people.

Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want? How is that better or more moral?

This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. As often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before.

Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.
If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since.

The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.

The Constitution of the United States

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

constitution_1_of_4_630

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

For those who have never read the Constitution — and for we who may need a refresher (it being a long time since school days), here is a link to a transcript of the Constitution by which ALL Americans are sworn to abide.

Regardless of party. Regardless of whether or not we like the President. We are a nation of laws, not extortion.

We are all supposed to care about this country. We can disagree, but holding the government for ransom and putting it in harm’s way — for ANY reason — is wrong. Unethical, immoral and unpatriotic. Maybe worse. We have laws for a reason.

Democracy is a slow, frustrating form of government. Totalitarianism is far more efficient. Is that what we want?

Rent “Seven Days in May” or find it on Netflix. Either version. Consider its message. Consider what message we are sending to the world right now. Shame on us.

See on www.archives.gov

LIPS THAT TOUCH LIQUOR

Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States. The separate Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition including defining “intoxicating liquor” for anyone who needed an explanation.

VotedDry

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor or if you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before and whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

prohibition-6

Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class.

There are no fewer gay people because we made their lives difficult any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people. Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want?

How is that better or more moral? This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. And as often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before. Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.
If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcoh...
Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since! The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.

Daily Prompt: To pledge allegiance and mean it

I promise to love my country and no one has to force me to do it. I will love the United States regardless, but like a child, I won’t always approve of her behavior.

Flag on our Library

One of the things I love best about this nation is exactly that we are allowed to say we don’t care for what she is doing, what her leaders are doing. There’s no Hell to pay for it. No one comes in the middle of the night to arrest me for saying — or publishing — what I think. You can disagree with me. The government can disagree with me. Everyone can send me strongly worded messages opposing whatever it is they find objectionable in what I say, do or publish … but that’s as far as it goes. At least so far.

75-GloryHPCR-5

We may not be nice to one another, but we don’t have concentration camps — not anymore — and we’ve managed to make some progress towards equality in the past 60 years. Okay, we aren’t there yet, but at least we seem to be trying to go in the right direction.

Not Flags of War

Even when historically, we derail for a while, we equally historically find our way back to the good path, though it may take more time than we like. Ours may not be the best form of government on earth … but if it isn’t, please show me the better one? Because I haven’t found it. And I have looked. However imperfectly this government functions, there is none better. Maybe there are a few just as good — arguably, anyhow — but not superior.

75-FlagHighNIK_88

Does that make me a patriot? I think it does. I think the Constitution is a brilliant, if flawed, document that has shown itself to be flexible enough to grow with the changes in the world. If only mens’ minds were equally flexible.

Ghoul Soldier

I believe we are strong enough to survive hard times, bad presidents, well-intentioned but wrong presidents, bad legislation, bad legislators, scandal, corruption and stupid wars. And still be a good people. If that isn’t patriotism, then I don’t know what is. I am not always proud of this country, but I always love it.

Daily Prompt: You’ve Got the Power – And I plan to keep it!

The never-ending election of 2012 gave me a lot to think about. Laws, God, faith, and freedom were suddenly no longer personal issues, but matters of public policy. I have always felt threatened by zealots. I am not zealous about matters of religion. What I believe is a moving target. I think about faith and religion a lot and I’m open to ideas, circumstance and experience. The result is that I don’t have any set of rigid beliefs or principles about faith or God. I was — am — of the opinion that I am not obliged to make a choice on this issue. It’s personal. It’s private. If I feel like sharing it with you, that’s up to me and if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. I do not require the world to be made in my image or the image of my beliefs.

After a lifetime of pondering and reading, thinking and debating I reached a simple conclusion: I don’t know what The Truth is — and neither do you.

BillOfRights

We already have the very best law we could write. It’s the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In this amendment, the Constitution explicitly prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

This law was adopted on December 15, 1791 as the first of ten amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights. We don’t need a new law. We merely need to honor the ones we already have. In the spirit of that law, I will let my conscience be my guide and everyone else should do the same.

Americans balk at being told what to do, much less what to think or believe. It’s our national bottom line: to believe, think and feel as we choose. And talk about it, argue about it, write about it, preach about it. And it’s okay because the right to believe is accompanied by the right to proclaim your beliefs to the world. What is not protected — and is explicitly prohibited — is your right to impose those beliefs or force anyone else follow them.

We are a nation of laws and there are so many. We are obligated to obey them or deal with the consequences.

Traffic rules, tax laws, zoning laws. Laws pertaining to education and ownership of property. Registration of vehicles, licenses to practice our professions. We have laws within laws: national laws, state law, local law. Laws of our county, town and village. Laws against crossing the street against a red light or dropping trash on the sidewalk. Rules about where you can go, where you can ride, drive or walk, bring your dog or your children. There are laws about where you can consume food and beverages as well as what food and beverages you can consume and at what age you have the right to consume them. Laws about when we can play music, hold a parade, or smoke a cigarette. There are rules governing every aspect of our lives … except in matters of faith, conscience and personal belief.

We have the right think and believe whatever we choose, and to talk about it without fear of prosecution or persecution.

This is not a Christian country. We have no national religion. We have more Christians — alleged Christians — than any other defined religious group, but that does not give them any special rights under the law. Personally, I came close to accepting Christianity until the bullies of the Christian right decided to try and take all my freedoms away. That was a deal-breaker for me. I might have come to it on my own, but I will not be bullied. I can be convinced, but I will not be coerced.

Flag on our Library

The Constitution of the United States is a brilliant document. It is — as all good legal documents are — subject to change and interpretation based on the realities of the world. The courts and the people have added amendments and altered how its provisions are enforced and applied.

Against all odds, that first amendment has stood the test of time. There’s a reason why it’s up there at the top. It’s the foundation of what we believe as a people, a beautiful thing. We should honor it. In doing so, we also honor ourselves, our country, our Founding Fathers and show that we have faith in our nation’s ability to recognize what is right. Instead of looking for new laws and rules, let’s try following what we’ve got and see how that works out.

– – –

Constitution of the United States – Official

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News

The work of many minds, the U. S. Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.

The US Government maintains a number of sites that have wonderful resources for anyone who really would like to now what this nation is about. If you have never read the constitution … the whole thing, you should. People are always quoting pieces of it out of context, but it is so much  more — and so much better — than that.

English: This is a high-resolution image of th...
This is a high-resolution image of the United States Declaration of Independence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are the three foundation documents of our nation and every citizen should be thoroughly acquainted with them. Lacking that, everyone who lives here and wants to live here should at least read them, the original, not what someone else says they are. The originals speak for themselves. Most people, most politicians, newscasters, pundits, and regular citizens misquote these documents or take sections out of context that change or distort their intent. Read them yourself. They aren’t long, they aren’t hard to understand.

The "Committee of Five" that drafted...
The “Committee of Five” who drafted the Declaration of Independence. Photo: Wikipedia

We had a remarkable group of people who wrote these documents with a single intent: to make this nation in which we live a good and safe place. They did an amazing job especially considering the times in which they lived and that no one had ever done this before. To craft a nation and a functional government from the ground up (so to speak) was no small achievement. Ours is the original, the first, and in the opinion of many scholars, the best such document ever written. It has proved itself legally sound and adaptable to changing conditions.

These days, everyone and their uncle  Bob seems to think they know better than our founding fathers, those remarkable men who crafted a document that would make us a nation. I doubt these would-be hijackers know much of anything.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

Our Constitution is a brilliant and well balanced document. It allows change to adjust to historical alterations in the world while preventing any one segment of the population or political structure to take over the government. The Constitution protects us from those who would rewrite our laws based on their own biases and agendas. On many levels, it saves us from ourselves.

Madison, Jefferson, Adams and the rest of this remarkable group avoided using  fancy and complicated legalese to produce a document that would be understandable to everyone — with no special training required. Anyone can (and no doubt will) quibble of the precise meaning of this sentence or that, but the overall intent of the document is clear.

To all those who don’t like our Constitution, but claim to be true patriots as opposed to those who want to retain the freedoms we were given on its creation: consider the implications of your own rhetoric. Who is the patriot and who is talking treason? Those who would rewrite the fundamental principles on which our nation and laws are built or those figure we should stick with the Constitution?

The U. S. Constitution was written to be accessible to any average citizen, even a child. Please read it. I am sure you will like it! Don’t miss the Declaration of Independence either. It is pure poetry!

See on www.archives.gov