Living in DC gives you an incredible view of the nonsense that goes on in Congress. It also overrides many of your thoughts as Congress tends to set the tone for business in DC. That’s not necessarily a scientific statement, but when Congress is in recess it’s dead all over town-even here in the think tank. It’s always interesting, then, to see what others more removed think about the goings-on just down the street. My father is one of the smartest people I know. He is one of those people that waits to make judgments until he has fully grasped the issue at hand. When he said he had a fix for Congress, I was intrigued. His legislative band-aid? A three part procedure that turned out to be more like a major surgery: 1. strip federal healthcare and make members buy like their constituents, 2. term limits, and 3. eliminate the ability to raise their pay. Now, since I respect him so much, I think that he hasn’t accessed information properly, so I’m addressing the issues he raised.
Let me start by saying we have to start somewhere and since fixing the media (a la Newsroom) seems highly unlikely, why not begin in Congress? Now for why my dad thinks these three things would cure congress: in one (3) fell swoop(s) it would take away any perks that professional politicians gain from a lifetime of elected office. Being a member would become much similar to a volunteer position that someone takes up because they care about the country and their state-kind of how the US Congress was set up to work. Now that outcome is highly desirable. The funny thing is, Congress has already started to work on introducing legislation to stop the automatic raises that are so unpopular with the public. Both houses have similar bills and while the subtleties differ, especially when it comes to federal civil servant pay freezes, the fact is that they are working on this issue.
Professional Politicians have long been considered hurtful to true representation. The idea of term limits isn’t necessarily a bad one, and I don’t have much to say here, perhaps it is a key to correcting congressional misbehavior. I don’t think it is necessarily the key, but it’s not a bad idea.
Now on to the argument for stripping healthcare for Congress. I have pretty great health insurance through my employer. It stands to reason that we want great health insurance for the people that serve us as our elected leaders (and our civil servants). Fact is, Congress has great healthcare, but it’s not “free” and it doesn’t extend to every person they know forever and ever. I have a hard time buying the argument that stripping them of federal healthcare will alter the partisan attitudes that pervade the Capitol.
So what can “fix” Congress? In my earlier post, The Internet Age and Politics, the divisions are incurred by people seeking their own facts. If you keep your ears and eyes open, however, you’ll see lots of groups calling for productive debate among their elected representatives. As Congress digresses and continues displeasing their constituency, they will be held accountable. I think it’s a promising sign that Congress is considering freezing it’s automatic pay raises and taking legitimate steps towards rectifying the relationship with the American public. If I see any sort of “fix” for our representative bodies, it’s that, one day, they will make constituents angry enough to work together-so that they can.