Taming America’s ‘Problem Child’
Most everyone agrees Washington is over-run with lobbyists and completely disconnected from the rest of the nation. So then why continue to allow our government to operate from there full-time? In this day and age of Skype, web-conferencing and so forth, what good reason is there for our elected leaders to spend as much time as they do in this graveyard of noble intentions and common decency?
What if instead, we brought our representatives home and made them live in the communities they’ve forsaken for the false realities that have been erected and perpetuated inside the bubble of Washington?
Congress has long been dysfunctional, but it is now also historically unproductive. Yet the only time most constituents ever see their representative is at campaign rallies or the occasional public event…often just a campaign stop in disguise. So despite an abundance of time thanks to lack of job performance – and frequent claims of love and fealty notwithstanding – today most lawmakers associate with the average voter less than ever. What are they doing with their time instead? Fundraising!
Elected officials spend an obscene amount of time dialing for dollars and attending fundraisers – estimated to be as high as 70 percent of ‘working’ hours in some cases! With more than 20 fundraisers taking place every day in Washington, and regular travel to New York, Los Angeles or wherever else the big money resides, the money chase has become quite the time-consuming endeavor for lawmakers.
Money is the lifeblood of politics, and its pursuit at the expense of virtually everything else is the obligation of every modern successful politician.
It is high time we free our ‘leaders’ from this obligation. By bringing Congress home, they get to see the effects their policies have on actual constituents, rather than just accepting the distorted and biased viewpoints of lobbyists or campaign contributors as fact.
Maybe we can’t stop the flow of money, but we can ensure those representing us are too occupied doing our business to waste disgusting amounts of time fundraising. Requiring each member of Congress to open up his or her schedule for one-on-one meetings with constituents (excluding lobbyists, elected officials and staff, etc.) to the tune of 500 hours a year (approx. 2 hours a workday) would better fill that time. Ultimately, fewer fundraisers and more time spent meeting with constituents would result in a government more attuned to the needs of the people it purports to represent.
Congress could easily handle all normal business online, renaming post offices and such from offices located within their districts. Committee meetings could be handled via web conferencing, leading to a better permanent record anyway. Congress would still convene, but only for short sessions centered on specific (and singular) major issues, allowing for greater media and public scrutiny. The increased sunlight would help expose lobbyists lurking in the shadows, eager to remind lawmakers where their bread is buttered. Frankly, it’s high time voters did some reminding of their own, and this change would give them a foothold by which to do so.
While we’re making our government more genuinely representative, it is imperative we also shrink our bloated legislative districts. Simply cutting in half (at a minimum) the number of people represented per district from the approximately 600,000 where it currently resides, to a number closer to 300,000, would make it much more difficult for special interests to buy elections in House races. As it stands now, most candidates are handpicked by special interests in legislative districts too large for anyone to have the clout necessary to challenge those with such an enormous fundraising advantage. This would change that dynamic, as local leaders and luminaries with a base of support independent of big-moneyed interests would stand a much better chance against the shills representing either corporate or union interests.
Of course it would also double the size of the House from 435 to 870 members (approximately), which would almost certainly be portrayed by some as a negative – appealing to people’s sense of tradition, hostility towards an increasingly corrupt government and fear of change. The real outcome however, would likely be positive, and voters would be receptive to this idea if it were adequately propagated. Doubling the number of House members means doubling the chance that outside viewpoints not simply echoing special interest viewpoints might find their way into office.
Like-minded coalitions would help break up gridlock, meaning fewer instances of sides breaking into hardened camps as happens too often now. Lone voices would become a small chorus with real power to affect outcomes. Even if it were no better than the status quo, could it possibly be worse? Add in the benefit of a representative more tied to local communities, and it is a net gain no matter how you add it up.
The vast amount of time Congress currently spends soliciting campaign contributions while neglecting the nation’s affairs is akin to a child failing in school while spending untold hours playing video games. Just in case it’s unclear, voters are the parent in this analogy.
So what are we going to do about our ‘problem child’ America? Maybe it’s time to bring them home and exert some much-needed parental influence. It’s not a cure-all, but could be a solid first step in reasserting the proper role of voters in our republic.