The Republic is in the grip of a malaise largely brought on by a Congress addicted to power. Decades of encroaching and arbitrary government power have led to exorbitant deficit spending, insolvent social welfare programs, and deference to special interest groups. In contravention to our Founding Father’s Constitutional design, actual sovereignty no longer lies in the people.
After years of great study, reasoning, and debate, the Founding Fathers created a democratic political system designed to guarantee the rights and interests of American citizens. They were well aware that people, regardless of their benevolent intentions, are fundamentally flawed and driven to pursue power. As a consequence, they established a system of checks and balances not only among the three branches of federal government, but also between the federal and state governments.
They split Congress into two chambers with the House of Representatives popularly elected every two years in order to ensure protection of local interests. Logically, the retention of representatives rested on how well they promoted the interests of their constituents. Recognizing that the House would never rise above a parochial perspective, the Founding Fathers filled the second chamber with Senators, who were elected by state senates every six years. Under this arrangement, the Senate would not only consider the broader national interests, but also guarantee the federal government did not encroach upon state interests. The capstone to separation of powers lay in the Tenth Amendment, which reserves all power, not specifically vested in the federal government, to the individuals, local governments and state governments.
Over time, Congress, chipped away at the Constitution, accumulating more power far above what the Founding Fathers intended. The passing of the 17th Amendment in 1913 permitted the election of senators through popular election rather than from the state senates. This meant that the interests and representation of states became secondary to popular appeal. The passing of the federal income tax provided Congress with more money and hence untold power than hitherto imagined. Pork barrel spending results when representatives and senators make quid pro quo deals with one another during the legislation process. This is called logrolling and explains the large omnibus bills containing hundreds of spending earmarks for constituents and special interest groups.
Logrolling drives the behavior of representatives and senators since they use it as a re-election device. Getting re-elected trumps all other motives because with long service a congressman gains power, wealth, and prestige. Re-election is like a powerful drug which few politicians can resist.
Theoretically, the President can curb spending by submitting the budget and vetoing bills laced with too much pork barrel spending. In reality, Presidents must make trade-offs with bills they want passed, accepting the wasteful spending inserted by congressmen. The landmark Presidential line item veto to cull out pork barrel spending was later overturned by Congress, so the President must either veto the whole bill or sign it into law.
The Founding Fathers also felt representatives and senators should receive a minimum salary and no other benefits while serving the Republic. The idea was to prevent self-serving individuals from gaining financially during their time in Congress. Unfortunately, over time, Congress has voted itself salaries far above the salaries of average Americans as well as enacting prodigious benefit packages. In this regard, it is shameful that so many representatives and senators have become so incredibly wealthy, powerful and even corrupt.
Congressional term limits are the most effective way to break this pernicious cycle in Congressional behavior and to return the political system to the Founding Fathers’ design. Congress will not legislate term limits because it is addicted to power. Special interest groups and political ideologues will also fight such legislation because they stand to lose influence and wealth.
Americans must help Congress heal itself by voting out incumbents after two elected terms. At the same time, citizen movements must compel Congress to convene a Constitutional Congress to amend the Constitution for term limits, repeal of the 17th Amendment, and amend the constitution limiting Congressional salaries to the national average, and abolishment of Congressional benefits (retirement, health care, insurance, etc.). In time, Congress will return to a balanced budget, lower taxes to spur economic growth in the private sector, and return more power to the states.
Returning sovereignty to the people will be incredibly difficult. Political ideologues, special interest groups, and powerful politicians will brand movements like GOOOH and the Tea Party as extremist and engage in specious arguments to sway opinions and split the ranks. With persistence and solidarity, American citizens will achieve a great victory in the November mid-term elections. But it is only the first step in a long struggle. I share the noble goal of GOOOH to return sovereignty to the people, and believe as the movement gathers strength, we citizens will be successful. If you have questions about how it works, go to GOOOH.com to learn more.