Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Congress Is The Problem

Congress has not ever been so low in public opinion, and this evaluation is fully deserved.

The recent “indictment” by the House Ethics Committee of two long-time and always previously outspoken Democratic members, Charles Rangel (NY) and Maxine Waters (CA), only underscores the chronic decline of public regard for the legislative branch of the federal government (and of regard by some elected officials for the public and its interests).

I have not previously supported the notion of term limits for members of Congress, but I am rapidly changing my mind. Most of the worst ethics offenders seem to be members who keep getting re-elected time after time in “safe” districts, and who seem to think that rules of good behavior do not apply to them. Right now, most of the “bad apples” are Democrats, but in the past, Republicans have had their share of unethical behavior. The lesson, it would appear, is not to give either party too much of a majority for too long a time.

I have been critical recently of President Obama and his policies, but there is little harm he can do, other than in foreign policy, without the support and encouragement of his large majorities in the House and Senate.

The cliche “Throw The Bums Out!” is usually a simplistic slogan for a national mid-term election, but perhaps this year is the exception that proves the rule. Congress exists to enact the laws of the land, to levy taxes and to set appropriations for foreign and domestic policies. In some cases, it provides advice and consent to executive appointments and actions. In all cases, it should set an example for the highest standards and the best impulses of a self-governing society.

The “sins” of the current Congress are not only ethical lapses. Not in memory have I observed a Congress less respectful of its own rules, and more importantly, less respectful of the those it works for, i.e., the public at large.

As the example of the recently deceased Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) illustrated one more time, there is little to be gained for society by allowing legislators to serve well into their 80’s and 90’s. It does not matter if the elected official is a Republican or a Democrat.

But we don’t currently have term limits. As the saying goes, each election serves this purpose, too, but only if voters use their power wisely and alertly.

In my adult lifetime, I have not seen an election which cries out more for the retirement of incumbents in Congress, especially of incumbents of the party which now has too much power and too little regard for the true interests and ethics of our Republic.

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