Congressional Reform Act of 2011 Ignites Grassroots But Ignores the 86% Problem

Have you received an email regarding the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” ?

Emails were swirling when the 112th Congress was sworn in January encouraging people to contact their Members of Congress to support a proposed Amendment to the Constitution based on the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011“.
Reading the proposal, I saw some factual errors but since Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-08) promised an open, Committee-lead House under his “Pillars of a New Majority” program, I decided that “it’s a new year … let’s judge them based on accomplishments not promises” … and filed the email in my e-trash can.

Then Warren Buffet appeared on CNBC June 7th broadcast discussing Congress and the deficit. Buffett gave a humorous quick solution saying, “I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there’s a deficit of more than three percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Yeah, yeah, now you’ve got the incentives in the right place, right?”
Quickly, Buffet’s comment was quickly inserted into the text as support for the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” and new emails were launched once again encouraging recipients to forward the plea for “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” to twenty friends.
FactCheck.Org has reviewed the original email and addresses the factual errors … but what FactCheck, SNOPES or TruthOrFiction did not assess was the passion expressed by the chain letter forwarders.

That’s a real story … if there is one thing that people ranging from TEA Party Supporters to OccupyWallStreet supporters seem to agree on, is that Congress is failing.

A Time/Abt/SRBI poll provides some overwhelming data :
— Wall Street and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington – 86%
— The gap between the rich and poor in the US is too large – 79%
— The disconnect between politicians in Washington and Americans across the country continues; three in five (60%) Americans believe the political debate in Washington and the media does not represent the concerns they discuss in their own communities. Fully, 35% say neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party represents their views. However, nearly double say the Democratic Party (30%) represents their views compared to the Republican Party (17%).

The original “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” email pushed term limits and pay and benefits … the follow-up one had pretty much the same objectives with less focus on term limits (and no corrections to the misinformation presented regarding pay increases, health insurance, Social Security participation, etc.) (see below for the 7-bullet points)

As well-meaning as the chain-letter-writers may be, they miss two key points :
#1. In 2009, the median wealth of a U.S. House member stood at $765,010, up from $645,503 in 2008. The median wealth of a U.S. senator was nearly $2.38 million, up from $2.27 million in 2008.(source)
Do you really think that they are working for the $174,000 annual salary ?
IF they lose an election, don’t you think that there will be a friendly lobbying firm that will hire them … or they can simply “retire“. Admittedly, the fact that a Member of Congress can begin collecting pensions as early as age 50, while working Americans cannot collect full Social Security benefits until age 66 seems unfair, yet it should not be the central element of reform.
#2. The current Member of Congress just holds the chair for a variety of special interests … that’s what needs to be addressed. It does not matter if the special interest is a labor union or a business group or both … it’s that influence that the 86% of poll respondents cite is the problem – Wall Street and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington.
The “Congressional Reform Act of 2011” does not address that.

The 112th Congress has risen to the top of “DoNothing Congress” rankings, and the influence of lobbyists and Member’s focus on fundraising is the problem.

Here’s my suggestion … limit the amount of money that a candidate can spend on a Congressional seat and enact a tax on Political Action Committees (PAC). Set the amount as no more than 25% above what was spent in the previous election or no more than the national average for all similar races (in other words, if in 2010, $ 1 billion was spent, then in 2012, no more than $1.25 billion could be spent over 435 House contests and 33 Senate contests. Presently, with the filibuster rules in the Senate, the acquisition of any Senate seat is “priceless“, so a candidate for Senate in Connecticut can spend $50 million dollars while her opponent spends a tenth of that … money does not always change the outcome, but when the outside money helps it can dwarf what is being spent through constituent’s contributions.

Now, some may believe that “Corporations are People” and that “Corporations have Freedom of Speech rights”, but can anyone argue that “People pay taxes”, so for every dollar that is paid to a lobbyist, PAC, or to a 501.c or 527 organization, then a tax will be collected.

By setting a limit on how much may be spent by the candidate’s campaign and taxing the influence of special interests, may be just the type of reform that will address the 86% question.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
The e-mail :
*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*_
1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when out of office.
2. 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 rest of the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans can.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with the members of Congress. 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 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.
THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on to at least 20 others.. Please keep it going.