Regardless of who you’re supporting this election, there is one area on which we can all agree – too many politicians that have spent their lives as politicians. Because of these career congressmen, the whole system has become infested with corruption, including those behind the scenes. To fix the political machine, we must address more than just the congressional cogs. We have to expose all of the inner workings of the entire engine.
From day one, the machine begins and pressure is coming from all sides. Lawmakers going to office with pure, patriotic motives and goals often find themselves quickly chained to the evils of politics as usual. They are quickly faced with the option of working with the establishment and making some difference or sticking to principles and fighting an uphill battle.
When a junior congressman arrives in Washington, they are like the scared little pimple-faced freshmen entering the enormous high school for the very first time. They have no friends or connections. They have no idea where their classrooms are. They’re not even sure where to go to get a cup of coffee. Many turn to a senior congressman, often from their own state.
Seasoned Congressmen, whether in the House or Senate, happily extend a hand of friendship to their new colleagues. Openly building a bridge of trust, many secretly are weaving a web of exploitation.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) invited Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) into the Gang of 8 immigration bill upon his arrival to DC. A Tea Party favorite, Rubio naively thought McCain was being sincere. Rubio honestly believed they wanted his input. He was convinced his presence in the committee would ensure Tea Party concerns were addressed. It never occurred to Rubio that the establishment was just using him for their own purposes. As a result, participation in the establishment bill may have actually cost Rubio the Republican primary this year.
Ousting powerful career politicians, such as Eric Cantor or John Boehner, removes the symptoms, but the disease goes merrily on. Despite the fact that congressman change, the staff and aides remain in Washington. Most of these employees are career congressional staff workers. As politicians come and go, congressional personnel continue on. They are permanent “beltway insiders”. So when fresh-faced boy scout Mr. Smith goes to Washington, not only is Sen. Paine watching his every move, so are all the staff members.
These career congressional staff employees are the glue that holds Washington’s inner workings together. They, like the senior congressmen, are happy to show the freshmen the ropes and become trusted confidants to the new lawmakers.
Seasoned politicians will often lend a staff member to a new freshman knowing that employee can be influential to the unsuspecting recipient. It is also a way for the senior congressman to get an ear into the office of the new lawmaker to discover their plans and focus. So not only have Tea Party congressmen had to fight their party’s elite, they have often been sabotaged from inside the staff.
Congressmen propose, argue and vote on thousands of pages of legislation, but rarely do they read or even write them themselves. They rely on their staff to read, research, dissect and understand the proposed bills, especially since so much is written in legalese. The staff then summarizes the bill and often suggests to the congressman how they should vote on the legislation. If the staff is not completely on board with the Congressman’s politics, or has an agenda of their own, then bad advice can easily be given.
When working on a bill, the congressman primarily directs the content. In reality, staff members actually write the legislation. Which is how we end up with 1000 page bills of pork, unrelated requirements, hidden agendas and special favors.
Many issues regarding congressmen and staff can be remedied with one amendment – single subject bills. Each piece of legislation should focus on one subject only. Pork is eliminated. Secret regulations and special favors are annihilated. Furthermore, not only can congressmen review the document beforehand, the bill can easily be read to the whole chamber prior to the Congressional vote.
Staff members want to keep their jobs just as much as congressmen do. They want to be rehired when their current boss leaves town. Because of this, many fall in line with the establishment leadership to stay in the party’s good graces. A good recommendation from senior congressmen can go a long way for future positions. However, this practice impedes any steps of change the American voters are taking.
Restraining Congressional power by enforcing term limits would help relieve the stronghold they have on staff. But there is more that can be done. With today’s technology, a virtual Congress would also reduce the death grip Washington has on the American people. Congressmen would be forced to find local staff members as opposed to grabbing from the congressional pool in DC. The power of the beltway insiders would disintegrate while the power of the people would flourish.
Regardless of who becomes president, they will not solve the problems of Washington. Until “We the People” educate ourselves and decide to become the solution, the corruption that permeates our capital will continue to control the nation.
The future of America is our responsibility. We know the problems. We have the solutions. The question is, do we still have the will to save the country, or have we become complacent? I guess we’ll find out starting November 9th.
But that’s just my 2 cents.