We Seem To Have Lost Our Democracy


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I know. We are not really a Democracy; we are a Constitutional Republic, but, I wonder what the Founding Fathers would think about what is going on in D.C. ?  We no longer seem to have representation for “We the People.” We have basically two parties, fighting for control. I am no fan of the Tea Party but I understand their concerns. All parties have something to contribute, but it seems the main purpose of the major players is keeping their party (and themselves) in power and not doing the work they promised when they campaigned. If the Tea Party win more seats in future elections, I am sure they will soon act just like the Democrats and Republicans. Their main job will be – to get reelected. Something must happen to one’s psyche after winning an election; they become drunk with power and believe their own publicity. I guess its easy when they are surrounded by people who tell them how great they are – all day long.

The laws need to be changed when it comes to how long one can serve in public office; I mean jumping from one political office to another. Government leaders need to briefly serve and then go back to the private sector, and I don’t mean working as a lobbyist. Fifty-percent of those who do leave public office, work as a lobbyist, influencing politicians. For some its a revolving door,  jumping form public office to lobbyist and back to politics. They need to live under the same laws they created for all of us. The majority of them have no idea what its like to live in the world (laws) they created for you and me.

 

For example, take a look at Dianne Feinstein — I like her and I have voted for her, but I think its time for her to move on. We need new people with fresh ideas, and there are plenty of 3rd party candidates (who are not as extreme as the Tea Party) who have a lot to contribute, but don’t even get an invite to the debates. That is not by accident. The game is rigged, and let’s be honest, to them its one big game.

So back to Ms. Feinstein; she was elected in a special election on November 3, 1992, as a Democrat to the United States Senate, to fill the term left vacant by the resignation of Pete Wilson. She was reelected in 1994, 2000, 2006, and again in 2012 for the term ending January 3, 2019. Don’t forget, she was mayor of San Francisco (1978-1988).

There are no term limits for U.S. Senators. She could run as often as she wants, and even if she lost to someone else, she could run for other public office and essentially be in the political system forever.

Here’s another example: “After 40 years in Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is calling it quits. He won’t run again in 2016.” He served 40 years! And this is his reason for finally leaving:

“It’s not as much fun in that we’re so consumed with other things. Here’s what I mean: we used to have a Senate Dining Room that was only for senators. We’d go down there and sit around there, and Joe Biden and Fritz Hollings and Dale Bumpers and Ted Stevens and Strom Thurmond and a bunch of us—Democrats and Republicans. We’d have lunch and joke and tell stories, a great camaraderie. That dining room doesn’t exist any longer because people quit going there. Why did they quit going? Well, we’re not there on Monday, and we’re not there on Friday. Tuesday we have our party caucuses. That leaves Wednesday and Thursday—and guess what people are doing then? They’re out raising money.”

Senators receive $174,000 annual pay, plus perks, like (excellent) healthcare, personnel, expense allowances, etc. They are also eligible for pensions.  Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible or a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.  I discovered that nearly one in five members of Congress get at least two pensions. And those of us who will end up living off social security are called moochers! No wonder these guys want to stay in office as long as possible.

The Republican party complains that pensions are a drain to tax payers, but don’t want to talk about collecting their own. Somehow they believe they earned their “entitlements” while the rest of us did not. 

Lets take a look at Texas Republican John Cornyn, who claims to be a deficit hawk; the “Daily Beast” reported earlier this year that he currently collects three pensions — a total of $239,383 paid by the taxpayers.  Cornyn collects $48,807 from the Judicial Retirement System of Texas, after he sat on the Supreme court from 1991 to 1997.  He also gets $10,132 in retirement benefits from the pension fund for state elected officials and workers, after serving as Texas attorney general from 1999 to 2002. Cornyn also reported a $6,444 retirement distribution from the Texas County and District Retirement System. He was a state district judge from 1985 to 1989. He has been in the Senate since 2002. When he retires, he will eligible for yet another pension.

 Can anyone see the hypocrisy? He isn’t the only one doing this. Its perfectly legal and let’s be honest.– how many of us wouldn’t do the same. Its legal, so it must be ok. After all, that money was earned. Right?  Creating laws and enforcing them is hard work! So who creates the pension models? Our lawmakers.

I discovered that nearly one in five members of congress get at least two pensions, including Ms. Feinstein, who was paid $54,925 in pension payments for her time as mayor of San Francisco, according to CRP and a recent investigation in the National Journal.  Feinstein has received about $850,000 in retirement benefits over the past two decades. She is ranked the second-wealthiest member of Congress to collect a pension in 2012. Her net worth is estimated somewhere between $42.8 million and $98.7 million.  Meanwhile, those of us who will end up living off social security (and maybe a 401k, if Wall Street doesn’t gamble it away, or the retiree finds out there were hidden fees adding up to 25% of their total retirement earnings) are the moochers! Remember the House always wins, whether its Vegas, Washington or Wall Street.

And while I’m on the subject of hard work, Senator Harkin already told us how many hours a week they work. But according to the media, they seem to take a lot of vacations. So how much time are they required to spend in Washington? The Constitution doesn’t really spell out how much time Congress needs to spend in Washington, in session, doing congressional things.  Article I, Section 4, in the Constitution said that Congress had to meet at least once a year, with the meeting on the first Monday in December. (That was a date that synced up with state legislatures and it was a better fit for politicians who needed to be at home for the harvest season.) God knows, they need to be home to supervise the harvest!  Oh, wait, that’s Monsanto’s job. In reality, congressional supporters say the job entails long hours at unexpected times, with lots of energy devoted to fundraising and talking to constituents back home. My guess is the constituents they are meeting with, are really big business — remember — corporations are now people.

 Once elected, officials are looking to their future and keeping their seat. That means fundraising is job number one. Both parties are guilty of this. Both parties receive money from the same corporations. Corporations don’t care which party is in office, as long their needs are met; like tax loop holes and exemptions. In addition to the money candidates raise for their own campaigns, they often get help from their party’s fundraising committees.  Now with the rise of Super PACS, we don’t know who is giving money to whom.  We don’t hear a peep about fixing that anymore, do we? Why should they? Its a sweet deal for all involved.

The same goes for redistricting right here in Orange County and the big fight going on with Anaheim City Council. Why would these guys want anyone else at their table? They like things just the way they are. The problem is systemic and runs from Washington to local districts.  

Yes, our government is a mess and it looks like no end in sight until we change it. That means taking the power away from those who abused it and giving it back to “We the People.”   Lawrence Lessig, author of , Lesterland: The Corruption of Congress and How to End It, gives a “Ted Talk” that addresses this topic better than me and he has some ideas how to fix it.

 

 


About Inge

Cancer survivor. Healthy organic food coach. Public speaker. If you have a story you want told, contact me at iscott.orangejuiceblog@gmail.com/