Saturday, September 4, 2010

Keep them away from D.C.

It would require a constitutional amendment but it's long past time for the US Congress to join the rest of us in the twenty-first century. The constitution requires that both houses of the Congress meet every year in the same place. It doesn't say what place. Of course, communication in 1787 was a little different than it is now. It was either done by face to face conversation, the verbal delivery of messages, or written notes and letters. For legislative business to be transacted with any degree of efficiency it was a necessity that the members of Congress be in the same place. This is no longer true. Even while our elected representatives and their immense, unelected staffs, are sequestered along the Potomac during the legislative season, they now communicate just as the general public does, on the telephone, with email and by fax. Today there is no justifiable reason, from the point of view of the citizenry, for these 535 solons and their assistants to gather together to accomplish their ends. Indeed, there are many reasons why they should not. Foremost is that once elected these people literally make their home in the D.C. area. They are no longer easily available to their constituents and are physically removed from the obvious and subtle day-to-day concerns and conditions of the people they represent. Secondly, instead of being exposed to a daily stream of local voters with their own requests, the legislator in Washington is preened, petted, cajoled and flattered by a legion of paid lobbyists that move from one office to the next, one table at a gourmet dining spot to another. The members of the two legislative houses are a willing and happy captive audience for a huge lobbying industry made up of friends, relatives and former legislators that are able to congregate in this unlikely spot to concentrate their efforts. Far better it would be if the lobbying effort were forced to diffuse across the country, its effects diluted by target dispersal.

This is a proposed constitutional amendment that needs to be inserted into the congressional agenda regularly until the population is able to recognize its worth and act accordingly.

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