Congressional Reform Act of 2010

I received the following proposed reform bill via email.  To my knowledge, this is not a current piece of legislation.

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.

       A. Two Six year Senate terms

       B. Six Two year House terms

      C. One Six year Senate term and 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: All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can buy their own retirement plan just as all Americans.  

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.  

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people.

8. 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, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work. (After each of the above statments, this refrain was repeared.)

I support the ideas listed in the above proposed reform act.  However, for me, the motivation behind this, as stated in the email, is what the founding fathers intended. 

I agree that the founding fathers did intend that members of congress be American citizens, not the élite class of super-Americans they have become replete with special privileges.  But, has our government become so complex as to preclude a citizen legislature?

As I thought this over, I considered that our Constitution was written ~200 years ago.  It seems obvious that the founding fathers did not see the complex nature of government today.  If you look at technology alone it is far from anything I believe they intended.  Automobiles, planes, cell phones, and the internet are huge technological advances.  Did the founding fathers see this?  Could they have really written the constitution broadly enough to  encompass these new technologies and the legal rigmarole that goes along with them?  I don’t think so.

I wonder if there is room for the average American in Congress?  The economy alone is so huge and unruly as to make the smartest economist lose his or her hair.  And given the fact that our Constitution was written when our dollar was backed by gold and silver, our economy based on the most reckless and unregulated gambling house in the world, The Stock Exchange, calls much of what the founding fathers “intended” into question.  Taking this into consideration, not to mention foreign policy, social policy, education and all the other government programs, I wonder can the average American even begin to understand, much less manage this system?

The downside to a Congress with no term limits is the blatant abuse of power seen today.  Congress has sliced out of the American tax money, which we are required to pay, a very handsome benefit package.  Throw in the perks handed around by the lobbyist and you have a melting pot of corruption that ladles out a separate system of government and payouts for only a few Americans.

A Congress which has term limits is an acceptable solution to some of these problems.  Removing the handsome benefit packages would curb the “professional” politician syndrome.  I wonder, however, what would become of our government-run systems?  Without the many, many perks that being a Congressman/woman brings, would qualified Americans today see public service in the same light as the founding fathers?  Would any American, in our capitalist driven society, give up private sector wealth potential to serve for little compensation?  Is there anyone left that loves America that much?

Maybe we have gotten to the point in this society where the government is just our milkman?  We open the door and the milk is there; and once a week we leave an envelope taped to the door in payment to some illusory figure who’s only impact in our life is the product left on the doorstep? 

I will have to admit, I have no answers.  This government thing is such an unruly juggernaut at this point that it escapes my limited understanding.  However, what I can see is that Congress has separated itself and is not equal.  As a gay man who believes that any law that creates a separate and unequal status is wrong, I feel that Congress must be made equal to the rest of America.  If not, we will continue to see a growing divide between those who have much and those who have little.

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