US Congress - The World's Most Unappreciated Legislative Body
One member of the US Congress was lamenting this past session that she felt unappreciated. She said, "We have done more this past session than any Congress in the history of the world, and we are not given credit for it."
That statement inspired me to seek input from our student body representatives, faculty, and, informally, from folks about town.
I asked the same question everywhere. "Why is it a US Congress that admittedly has accomplished more than any other in history, perceives itself to be so unappreciated by the American people?"
No surprise, I heard things like, "It's the economy." AND, "The Congress didn't get our troops out of the Middle East."
However, all the fully anticipated comments aside, there was one more 'revolutionary' sentiment expressed by many of my interviewees, a sentiment that seemed to be more ominous, more basic, striking at the very foundation of the American experiment.
Without forcing the words in any way, the idea expressed ran something like:
"How would you enjoy having six hundred people working day and night, all conjuring ways of limiting freedom? That's the nightmare I see every time I look at the American Congress."
It's hard to totally disagree with such an assessment.
With an average 70,000 pages of new regulations resulting from the thousands of pages of legislation formulated by the US Congress every year, the citizens I spoke with seem to cast that body as a group of unresponsive rulers rather than as elected representatives.
So why do people re-elect these individuals again and again, with a return rate of over 90%, a rate that seems more like permanent sovereignty than a system whereby new ideas and new voices can be heard?
The interviewees seemed to believe that we must rid ourselves of the idea that the people elect members to Congress. The majority of people in the United States haven't seen a voting booth in decades, if ever, the reason being, every time they looked at their ballots, their only
choices were persons from the same moneyed political class; persons who couldn't wait to arrive in Washington to continue hacking away at what was left of the "shining city on a hill."
Of course, there are a few people in Congress who are not bound and determined to place everyone in prison. Somehow they were able to get on their party's ticket. Ron Paul and his son come to mind. So, there are some people who can report to election centers and vote for less rather than more government.
However, generally speaking, our college student body, my hometown citizens, and even my immediate family view the Congress as a group of individuals who truly believe they aren't doing their duty unless they are hammering away at what is left of freedom in America which, as a matter of fact, isn't very much.
It's pretty difficult to walk down the street in my city and not break several laws just shopping on a sunny afternoon. Badges, uniforms and guns are everywhere, and I am not talking about the youth gangs as they used to be defined.
Leading the world in citizens in prison with over three million; having one of the largest standing police forces in history; and, making practically everything illegal that was perfectly OK with the founding fathers, STILL the US Congress is amazed that they must surround themselves with some of the tightest security in the world in order to maintain a sense that they are not in physical danger from the people they govern.
With all of that, a few persons I spoke with told me that they still believe solidly in the American system. That is, they have written to the House of Representatives and Senate repeatedly, requesting things like the legalization of all medications that were in fact just fine until 1914. They have also asked Congress to dissolve the DEA, the IRS, the DoE and others. Further, they have written about meaningless wars, the police state, incarceration rates, righteously corrupt judges, and a plethora of other issues.
The result? No one in Congress seems to be listening. One gentleman I spoke with received the same form letter from two separate legislators concerning unrelated issues. (This is understandable seeing as how the Congress is so pinched for revenue. Why generate alternative letters when one will do the job of communicating to constituents exactly how responsive elected officials intend to be?)
So, what would my interviewees like to see the next Congress do? One word was used more than any other, REPEAL, REPEAL, REPEAL.
The second favorite word I heard was READ, READ, READ, by which I understood these folks to mean that no legislator should EVER vote for a piece of legislation if he or she hasn't read every word. Said differently, interviewees told me they felt it unconscionable a reality that former Congressman Ron Dellums once shared. Congressman Dellums said, "If I read every piece of legislation before voting for it, we'd never get anything done." EXACTLY!