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How do we change Congress and put an end to rampant corruption?

When our founding fathers put together our plan of government at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, they spent a great deal more time hammering out the details that concern the legislative branch (Congress) than the details that describe how the other two branches are supposed to work.

This was not accidental – our founding fathers believed that the branch of government charged with making laws would play the leading role in determining the direction of the country. Though generations of presidents and judges have increased the stature and importance of their own branches of government, Congress has not diminished in importance.

It doesn’t always assert its power, but it is still our only lawmaking institution.

Unfortunately, Congress is susceptible to corruption.

Our founders did not anticipate the advent of the paid lobbying industry, which dominates the discussion in our nation’s capital at the expense of the people members of Congress are supposed to represent. Ending corruption is what respected professor Lawrence Lessig calls a “first problem”. By that he means a problem that is not necessarily more important than other problems (like the climate crisis) but one that must be solved in order for others to be solved.

We have not made much headway in solving this “first problem” of corruption. In fact, with the Corporations United ruling last year, things have only gotten worse.

Obviously, amending the Constitution to reverse Corporations United and end the practice of equating corporations as persons is of paramount importance. But what else should be done to change Congress and put an end to rampant corruption? We’re putting together a list of possibilities and we’d like reader input. What do you think? How would you like to see Congress changed?

Please share any suggestions you have in the comments.

One Comment

  1. Shelly L.
    Posted April 21st, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Permalink

    SO, I’m sure you have seen this email circulating, the question is, how do we change it from an email discussion to “action” and get it in place?
    “The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

    Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

    I’m asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

    In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

    Congressional Reform Act of 2011 (proposed)

    1. Term Limits.
    Twelve (12) years only, one of the possible options below:
    A. Two Six-year Senate terms
    B. Six Two-year House terms
    C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

    2. No Tenure / No Pension.
    A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

    3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
    All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American
    people.

    4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

    5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI (Consumer Price Index) or 3%.

    6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

    7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

    8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12.
    The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and go back to work.

    If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

    I passed this on to friends and family, and this is one of the responses I got back:I 100% agree with this and will be passing it on to many people but there is a problem, this will not go anywhere unless someone (like Tim Iman or someone with self driven initiative) will turn this into a formal petition with a bunch of signatures. Unfortunately this email is a piece of education not legislation and will be completely ignored by anyone with the authority to change it, especially sense the people that can change it are the same people that don’t want any part of changing it. Never the less this is something that the American people have been voicing for many years now and we all need to keep these ideas alive.

    I’ve always wondered one thing about this should it ever get implemented, If the politicians are forced to live under the same pay system, health care system, and retirement system that the American people have to live with will there be any incentive for people to run for office and if so what kind of leaders would this new system attract? Just a thought.

    I would like to hear your thoughts on this…
    Shelly L