by John Spritzler
August 2, 2011
Americans neither like nor trust Congress. A survey by ABC NewsWashington Post, May 19-23, 1989 found that 79% of Americans agreed that "most members of Congress will tell lies if they feel the truth will hurt them politically," 75% agreed that they "care more about special interests than they care about people like [themselves]", 71% that they "make campaign promises they have no intention of fulfilling," 66% that they "care more about keeping power than they do about the best interests of the nation" and 57% that they "make a lot of money using public office improperly." Does anybody think the reputation of Congress has risen since then?
This is why every now and then some people get enthusiastic about a proposal to reform Congress in some manner, such as denying members of Congress their special perks (like their superb health insurance) and their large salaries, or imposing term limits, or limiting the size of campaign donations, or providing public funds for election campaigns. (I have copied the latest such proposal below.) These reforms are all proposed as a way to make the politicians truly represent ordinary people whom they theoretically represent, rather than serve wealthy special interests or their own greedy selves.
But the problem is bigger than any of these reforms can solve. All of these reforms can be enacted (some already have been) but the problem will remain. The root of the problem is the extreme inequality that puts the real power in society in the hands of billionaires. National politicians cannot win elections without the support of the mass media, which are owned by the upper class plutocracy. This--not salary and benefit perks or any of the other things that the proposed reforms address--is why Congressional politicians serve the upper class instead of ordinary Americans. Their salary and perks are merely a symptom of the problem but not the cause. In fact, plenty of the politicians in Congress are independently wealthy and don’t need their salary or the health coverage perks. Forty-four percent of members of Congress are millionaires.
Very big problems require very big solutions. How do we solve the problem that our society is based on class inequality, one-dollar-one vote? How do we solve the problem that the mass media and all of the other key institutions in our society, including not only the corporations but the schools, labor unions, churches and foundations as well, are owned and controlled by the very wealthy? How do we solve the problem that politicians can only get elected by doing what the very wealthy want them to do?
The big solution that is required is a fundamental social revolution to remove power from the ruling plutocracy and create a society based on equality.
Small solutions like the recent proposed one circulating on the internet without any formal status as a real bill in Congress, and making some claims that are factually untrue, will not solve the big problem. This proposal (in italics) is copied below verbatim as I received it on the internet:
Congressional Reform Act of 2011 (Amendment 28 of the U.S. Constitution)
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