Pay, Power, Privilege, Perquisites, Prestige, and Pensions
The US Constitution established 3 branches of government – the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The President, the Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate), and the Supreme Court, each have limited powers under the Constitution.
In our experience, all 3 branches have exceeded the limits of their powers, but the greatest abuse has been by Congress, a failure of its duty to legislate. Instead of passing laws that clearly define obligations, Congress writes general laws and devolves its authority to the Federal bureaucracy, the so-called “Fourth Branch of Government.” This bureaucracy has 2,000 agencies, departments, offices, and sub-offices – no one knows exactly how many – staffed by 2.6 million unelected and unaccountable civilian employees, protected by their unions and paid double (yes, with benefits, double!) the average compensation of non-government workers.
Congress has abandoned its duty and responsibility by devolving its powers to this huge bureaucracy, with phrases in laws such as in Obamacare “The Secretary (of HHS) shall…” – and she did! This is how the horrible 2,800 page Obamacare law has spawned thousands of pages of regulations. Worse yet, these regulations have the force of law!
Congress is directly responsible for the growth of Federal regulations to over 80,000 pages that govern our lives. Congress is also responsible for the 75,000 pages of the Internal Revenue Code – a mass of tangled rules and regulations that even the best accountants cannot understand. This horrendous code costs our businesses hundreds of billions to deal with, and adds to the cost of everything we buy and everything we export. Congress is directly responsible for the punitive 35% business income tax – the highest in the world. It’s over 40% when State taxes are added!
We often blame Presidents for the skyrocketing $20 trillion national debt, but that too is the fault of Congress. They spend like fools and waste billions on grants and other handouts every year.
Another huge problem is the rules Congress makes for itself. Many rules are for procedure and order, but some are for the benefit of the Members, to help them keep their membership in the club. One of the worst is the amendment process.
Amendments can be attached to legislation even if they are only marginally related to the purpose of a Bill. This allows Members to vote for or against a Bill and claim credit no matter what was the primary purpose of a Bill. The solution? No amendments – each Bill should stand alone on its merits. This would mean many more Bills, but each vote would have a clear meaning.
Another problem is the Senate rule that allows unlimited debate, allowing a minority to stall any legislation, no matter how important.
What can be done to force Congress to reform? Most Members when first elected have a sincere desire to serve honorably, but before they’ve been there long they learn that the most important goal is reelection. The rewards are great – pay, power, privilege, perquisites, prestige, and pensions. Few can resist the desire for reelection, but when it becomes the major goal, it’s not a good thing. Much time an effort spent on political posturing and campaigning would be better spent working on good legislation – or on killing the bad!
This brings us to the subject of “Term Limits.” The President is term-limited to two terms – why not Congress? Term Limits would allow each Congressperson to serve without making it a lifetime career. Our Founders and the Framers of the Constitution envisioned a government by citizens, not by professional politicians.