We Have No Representation
We all remember the rallying cry of patriots during our War for Independence; “No taxation without representation!” For a very long time now, only the wealthiest, most influential Americans have been truly represented in Congress. The rest of us, like the revolutionary era colonists, are taxed without representation.
Each national poll taken in recent years, that measures the approval rate of Congress, has shown Americans to be completely fed up with their representatives. They are invariably in the single digits in approval rate at this point. And yet, in the last election, 96 percent of congressional incumbents were re-elected. How do we explain such a mind-boggling dichotomy? Are American voters really that stupid, so willing to return to office the elected officials that they tell pollsters they overwhelmingly disapprove of? Or are the votes simply not being counted? As I covered extensively in my book Hidden History, we have strong reasons to doubt that the electoral system is honest, and that the vote totals actually reflect the will of the people.
I am aware that the standard response to the near impossibility of an incumbent being defeated for re-election is: “Most people hate congress, but like their own representative,” or that the incumbent has a huge advantage in raising money. Neither of these excuses makes sense. Who likes their own representative? What has your congressperson done for you? Michael Grimm was re-elected to Congress in 2014 despite a twenty count criminal indictment pending against him. Alcee Hastings was impeached while serving as a judge in Florida, but has been serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993. Recently, Hastings, unashamed of his own criminal past, boldly declared that Congress deserved yet another pay raise. Do these kinds of always re-elected representatives, and many others like them, sound likable in any sense of the word?
As for an advantage in raising campaign funds, this is undoubtedly true, as is the unlimited franking privileges, which permit incumbents to flood their constituents with glossy mailings boasting about their wonderful achievements. But unless the voter is sound asleep, he or she must realize that there are no real wonderful achievements to boast about. How is the amount of money an incumbent spends stopping a voter from pulling the lever of his opponent? You might have a good case here if the incumbents were sending each potential voter a substantial amount of money, in effect buying their vote. But that obviously doesn’t happen, so other explanations will have to be devised. Incredibly, often incumbents run unopposed. So in those cases, the voter literally has no choice. The fact that a “None of the Above” campaign has garnered support tells you all you need to know about the quality of our candidates.
When the Republicans took over the House in 1994 for the first time in forty years, they promised a number of reforms, popularized by the so-called Contract With America. One of those reforms was term limits, something we’ve desperately needed for a very long time. Republicans who ran expressly on a platform advocating strict term limits for Congress later rescinded their support, once they tasted the trappings of power, and the incomparable benefit package our representatives receive. George Nethercutt was only one of these, and despite supposedly infuriating the voters with his turnabout, he was easily re-elected to two more terms. Rep. Dan Benishek is a more recent hypocrite, breaking his vow to serve only three terms by announcing plans to run again in 2016. It is impossible to imagine that he won’t still be re-elected.
The Trans Pacific Partnership, the new monstrosity of a trade deal, which I covered in more depth in a recent blog entry, was approved for so-called “Fast Track” status by the U.S. Senate recently, by a vote of 62-38. “Fast Track” simply means an absence of debate, which was already reflected in the draconian measures taken to stop those voting on it from actually reading it. Here we had “liberal” President Barack Obama joining forces with Mitch McConnell and other Republican “opponents” to ram this odious bill through without any delay. House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions both refused to acknowledge whether they’d bothered to read the massive piece of legislation, but still declared that they were going to support their alleged “opponent” Obama’s request to fast track the deal, which doesn’t bode well for the House’s chances of blocking it.
Prominent Republican Senators Marco Rubio, John Boehner and Lindsey Graham also refused to reveal if they read the documents in the “secret room” of the Capitol basement, before nevertheless feeling comfortable in voting for it. Hillary Clinton has danced around the issue, and her campaign chief, longtime insider John Podesta, was caught privately telling donors, “Can you make it go away?” Considering Hillary’s career allegiance to the global establishment, and the fact the devastating NAFTA agreement was pushed through during her husband’s administration, it should be obvious just where she really stands.
Bernie Sanders, one of the TPP’s most high-profile opponents, wrote in The Guardian, “The TPP is simply the continuation of a failed approach to trade – an approach which benefits large multinational corporations and Wall Street, but which is a disaster for working families. The TPP must be defeated.” Polls have shown that the public is strongly opposed to TPP, especially approval for any “Fast Track” status. The horrific impact that NAFTA and other trade bills have had upon American industry is obvious to everyone outside the rarefied air of the One Percent. To push through a disaster like TPP, in the worst economy this country has seen since the Great Depression, is about as wrong-headed as anything could possibly be.
But this is standard operating procedure for “our” elected representatives. Recall that, in 2008, over 90 percent of Americans were opposed to the banker bailout in all polls. And yet, every high profile leader supported it. There is a disconnect between the will of the people, and those who run this republic, that is widening each day. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose any amnesty for illegal immigrants, but this didn’t stop Barack Obama or any of his most notable “opponents” in the other party from passionately supporting it. Polls even reveal that only a small number of Americans believe that Congress listens to its constituents. I think it’s pretty clear at this stage that they don’t listen to anyone outside of powerful lobbyists and the wealthy elite.
The aforementioned Lindsey Graham, kicking off his 2016 presidential bid, outright declared that if someone was “tired of war,” then “don’t vote for me.” What an appealing campaign message! War monger extraordinaire John McCain has constructed a long career in Congress out of this same, unswerving report for foreign interventionism. The last true “peace” candidate to win anything was George McGovern, who was crushed by Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election. Either Americans really do want all war, all the time, or the two “competing” parties we have to choose from simply won’t let anyone who isn’t devoted to their war machine become a national figure. This is undoubtedly why Dennis Kucinich, for example, was always mired in that 1-2 percent range in all those endless, manipulative pre-election polls when he attempted to get the Democratic Party nomination.
At any given moment, there are no more than a handful of decent representatives in Congress. Ron Paul is gone now, and so are Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich. The growing discontent in the country really has no voice in Congress. Elizabeth Warren says some nice things, but she voted against auditing the Federal Reserve. Exactly how does that equate with being anti-Wall Street? Bernie Sanders voted to make key provisions of the Patriot Act permanent and supported Bill Clinton’s pointless bombing of Kosovo. Rand Paul was courageous in filibustering against the extension of some key provisions of the Patriot Act recently, but he appears to be playing politics too much for my liking, and hardly sounds like his father much of the time. Warren, Sanders, and Paul, like all other political leaders, avoid any “conspiracy theory” like the plague. Thus, all of them buy the official story of 9/11, which is solely responsible for this endless “war on terror” that they frequently criticize.
Why are American politicians so willingly accepted as laughingstocks? Recall all the jokes about them, from the time of Mark Twain, to Will Rogers, to the nightly monologues we hear on present-day talk shows. John T. Flynn wrote a book excoriating them in 1944, called Meet Your Congress. If you watch the proceedings of Congress on C-SPAN, it’s often embarrassing to consider that these are our leaders, and the people we depend upon to guard our liberty and security. They will inject absurd, long-winded statements into the record, lauding a local sports team in their area, for instance, as if such trivialities have any place in a representative body.
Congress could, all by itself, solve many of the most difficult problems we face in America. They could hold hearings on crucial issues like the true nature of our fractional banking system, and expose it for the deadly, counterfeit fraud it is. They could hold hearings on the epidemic of police brutality across this country, grilling the police officials who have refused to punish even the most blatant offending officers. They could launch an independent investigation into the events of 9/11, and expose the official narrative for the fairy tale it is. And they could, simply by exerting their constitutional authority, prevent any imperial presidency or activist judiciary, instead of abrogating their role under the separation of powers.
As has been observed, the people are never safe while Congress is in session. Fortunately, they give themselves a good deal of time off. The fact that most legislation makes matters even worse for the majority of Americans probably goes a long way in explaining the popularity of libertarians and even anarchists. That’s the prevailing opinion among all the non-voters out there, whose apathy is largely the result of political corruption and ineptitude. It’s a pretty sad reflection on our leadership, that despite all the problems that cry out for solutions, often our best option is simply to hope that the two parties block each other from doing any more harm. That could be a catchy slogan; “Leave us alone- inaction now and forever!” Bring back Calvin Coolidge.
We really ought to have much higher expectations in terms of political leadership. Does anyone really believe that Barack Obama, any Bush, any Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Sheila Jackson Lee, Luis Gutierrez and countless others are the best we can do? That they are the most qualified, the best and the brightest among us?
No matter how “mad as hell” the voters allegedly are, or how many term-limit campaigns, or “Clean House and Senate, Too” type of slogans are devised, the reality is Congressional representatives are virtually unbeatable, if they choose to run for re-election. Whether this is because of widespread voter ignorance or systematic voting fraud, it is a reality. And considering the kind of “representation” we receive from them, it is a frightening thought to ponder. In 1988, a typical election year, the turnover rate for Congress was less than that of the Soviet Union’s Politburo. That is something every American ought to be utterly ashamed of.
At this point, I can’t urge anyone to vote. As the old saying goes, “Don’t vote- it only encourages them.” But I usually do. The fact that we can’t even get a Third Party, let alone a multitude of choices politically, is a reflection of just how narrow the parameters of political discourse are in America. One good suggestion, which I originally saw in The People’s Almanac decades ago, is to change the House of Representatives to a lottery system, in which random citizens would be selected to serve a single two year term. That would at least ensure real diversity, and that all Americans were truly represented in Congress. But such radical proposals only seem attractive because of the glaring reality that those who are firmly entrenched in Congress are by and large simply awful excuses for leaders.
Not only are we ill-served by these “representatives,” once they retire we provide them with the most lucrative pensions imaginable. There’s an irony for you; taxpayers, an increasing number of whom have zero pensions outside Social Security, providing for the warmth and security of career political hacks whose almost every move was in diametrical opposition to the interests of their constituents. And whose only answer to the Social Security crisis, as can be seen by recent comments from various politicians, is to keep raising the retirement age. Let me know when you hear one of them talk about strict means testing for Social Security recipients, or for taxing all income, not just the first $100,000, as is done under the terribly regressive present system.
I don’t have an answer to this problem. Obviously, we should vote all the bums out, but either the majority of the people just can’t bring themselves to do that, or our votes aren’t being counted. At least we can focus on the overt deficiencies of these politicians masquerading as statesmen, and stop encouraging them. Do any of them really deserve your applause? We can also educate ourselves about voting fraud, which began well before the 2000 election, as illustrated by the late Collier brothers wonderful book Votescam.
If you truly do like your congressional representative, I’d love to hear from you. None of mine have ever been responsive to me, and most of the votes they’ve cast have supported war, senseless trade agreements, and restrictions on our liberties. If John F. Kennedy was alive today, and wanted to update his Profiles in Courage with new examples, he certainly couldn’t find any in the halls of Congress.
It would impossible to find any cross-section of Americans, regardless of their educational level, who couldn’t do a better job of leading us. The state of Congress, like the state of our union, is a disgrace, and it’s time we at least started admitting it. Perhaps the sad truth is that “None of the Above” is the best we can hope for.