You know the old line: Anyone who sees how sausage is made wouldn’t want to eat it. This applies especially to political “sausage” -- how bills are made. Under Obama, we’ve come to see as never before all the warts and faultlines of the Congressional political process through which our present lives and those of future generations are being engineered. Bailout, Stimulus, Cap’n’Trade, the federal budget and Healthcare Reform -- you name it; all the big bills have been poorly crafted. Besides not well serving their stated goals, they have all served to put us, our children and our children’s children in hock up to our eyeballs. By the same token [of about 115 trillion "token" dollars in federal debt and unfunded liabilities), they also threaten to throw our country into bankruptcy.
Americans like to point the finger [these days, in more ways than one!]. They look for someone to blame when things are going wrong. The latest set of culprits are the Congressional leaders, Pelosi and Reid. But 24/7 coverage of the proceedings of Congress have revealed that:
1. HOW things are done in Congress [what some media have come to call “the process“] leads to poor legislative results: The quality of the “sausage” depends primarily upon how it is made.
2. “HOW” is set by a layer-cake system of rules and procedures that the go-along/get-along culture of Congress makes adverse to change.
So, we now see and can truly say: “It’s the system, stupid!” This defines ISSUE #1 for 2010: Change the way Congress does our (We the People’s) business.! Because “the process” affects all issues. All bets are off is we don’t work to reform it. The examples of mishandling of the people’s business are legion. Let’s note some summary highlights that earn our disapproval:
1) Closed sessions of House, Senate and Conference Committees;
2) Failure of most legislators to read the bills that they vote on before they vote on them;
3) Substantial amendments, hundreds of pages long, introduced in the dead of night;
4) Shady deals cut and pork-laden earmarks provided to bribe legislators to vote for bills, including $300 million, about $100 million, $1 billion, additional “billions“ and $54 million, respectively. on behalf of Senators Landrieu (D, LA), Nelson (D, NB), Durbin (D, IL) and Reid (D, NV); and Speaker of the House Pelosi (D, CA); and…
5) Distribution of “stimulus” funds to finance payoffs and vote-buying more than to promote economic recovery or jobs’ creation and help people through the hard times. Democratic districts have raked in nearly twice as much money as GOP districts.
Add to this that:
(1) The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has closed their “inquiry” into the actions of Rep. John Murtha and two of his cronies. Now that Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and others have earned jail time in the federal slammer, Rep. Murtha has become Exhibit #1 for Congressional corruption. The OCE board includes a bipartisan group of former House members and officials. This board’s role is strictly advisory to the House Ethics Committee. In this and other ways, Congress helps itself, free from independent oversight.
(2) Congress continues to favor the big boys. The big banks that got us into trouble have continued to grow in size and market share through the interventions of TARP bailout money. The same pattern will be aided and abetted by the healthcare “reform” legislation, which favors big health insurers and “big Pharma.” The Congress has declined to remove exemption of the health insurance industry from anti-trust actions. The potential for Congressional corruptions grows and grows. Campaign finance reform has failed.
Four movements have been building to change congress in ways other than parties, nameplates and underwear: “Change Congress” [www.Change-Congress.org], “Retake Congress” [www. Retake Congress.com], “Downsize DC” (www.DownsizeDC.org) and “Kick Them All Out!” [www.KTAO.org]. These are a mix of conservatives, liberals, libertarians and independents. Those who practice the old politics -- of divide and conquer, playing people off by focusing on “third rail,” media-driven, “conservative” vs. “liberal” issues -- their time is over. The new politics focuses increasingly on how things are done. It recognizes that the Constitution calls for a people’s House, not the best Congress money can buy.
The last attempt to change the way Congress does the business of We the People was initiated from the Republican side in 1994, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich. It’s now time for a 21st Century “Contract with America” that brings both conservative and liberal voices for change together to press for real change. For the key is empowerment of the American people to counter the cancerous concentration of power in Washington. If voters want to really make a difference in 2010, they need to look for different kinds of candidates for Congress -- innovators, entrepreneurs, renegades, whistleblowers and watchdogs. Otherwise, we’ll elect the same-old/same-old, go-along/get-along guys and gals.
After all, the over-riding incentive for members of Congress is indeed “go-along/get-along.” This means bum-kissing, minding your p’s and q’s; sit tight, wait your turn, and don’t rock the boat -- a formula for no change – for the Congress as dinosaur. Any 2010 Congressional election candidate that does not offer both a strategy and a program for reform of the Congress does not deserve our support. People are not only sick of being forced to eat the same old sausage; they are tired of seeing it made the same old way.
PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., International Consulting Economist, and Independent-Conservative Candidate for Congress to represent New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District; Danville, NH, 12/26/09