Over “The Hill”
by Lyla Blake Ward
Let’s face it—As a senior citizen, I’m not too happy about the prospect of having my “entitlements” cut. Medicare may have its faults, but I wouldn’t want to have had my gallbladder out without it. So putting Medicare on the chopping block would not be to our benefit. I had to find a better way to cut government spending. The new Pew showing Congress at a less than 10% approval rating was the answer to my prayers Most of the people (over 65) love Medicare; 91% of the people do not love Congress. Why don’t we keep Medicare and get rid of Congress?
Drastic? A little, but the truth is, in addition to being unpopular, Congress is just no longer cost effective. We’re spending over 94 million of our hard earned tax dollars for salaries, plus benefits, and staff salaries plus benefits and entitlements for 535 people who only work on average 140 days a year. Travel is extra. It’s not enough for them to talk to a general when he comes back to this country; they feel more authentic talking to the general when he’s in his tent in Iraq or Afghanistan, $20,000 dollars away.
Well, we just can’t afford it. Even when they are in session, those three and a half months worth of days each year, where are they? As anyone who watches the televised sessions of Congress knows, they’re never in their seats. We see a Senator or a Representative waxing eloquent on a plan to save the earth, and he’s talking to a practically empty chamber. If they’re in the lobby talking to lobbyists, they sometimes don’t make it back in time to press the “no” button.
But sometimes they’re far away campaigning for office. Remember 2008? Six or seven Senators were able to take off one to two years , without penalty, to run for a Presidential nomination. It begs the question: who’s minding the store? And does it really make any difference whether a Congress person is actually at his job or whether he’s out to lunch--possibly for a year or two? This group has given a new meaning to being a Washington “outsider.”
Sad to say, Congress has outlived its usefulness. We have all the laws we need. Women have the vote, blacks have equality, immigration is on the decline, (who wants to leave Brazil now?) they repealed Prohibition and Congress is no longer needed to declare war. It doesn’t seem likely if we left Congress in place, we would get any more expansive a health care bill, and maybe if we threw the Congressional budget into the hopper, it would free up some money to rescue Social Security.
So what’s the downside? Would we be losing our cherished system of checks and balances? Not really. What has become increasingly clear in the last decade is: the Supreme Court likes the constitution just the way the Founding Fathers wrote it with their quill pens. So any laws Congress makes has to pass the litmus test of whether or not Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the other boys would have approved. And if anything not specifically mentioned in that revered document, comes up they can usually find a link with that revered document. It’said theCourt made its decision in favor of a corporation being considered a “person” for purposes of political contribution, when Justice Scalia found an “inc” spot after John Hancock’s name.
As far as the President goes, he should stay, if only to communicate with foreign countries, participate in summits and see that the laws made by the recently departed Congress are followed. The advantages to the President would be huge. He/she could talk directly to “The American People,” invite them one by one into the White House if he/she liked; and without having to deal with Congress, could at last spend his/her time solving our country’s problems.
It’s not surprising that during the recent budget negotiations, when all options were supposed to be on the table, this idea of eliminating Congress , was never even discussed. After all, no prisoner was ever asked to chop off his own head. Still, one can only hope, with so many realists now in Congress pledged to solve our economic problems without raising taxes, they will bite the bullet (even though they will no longer be covered for dental care) and ask the question many of us are asking now: how much do you think the Sam Raeburn Office Building would go for on the open market?