Constitution, Current Events, Federalism, Just musing

Straddling the Walls of Versailles

Henry the VIII, unhappy with the rules of the Catholic Church regarding divorce, simply usurped the commands of the Vatican, instituted the Church of England and called himself Supreme Head of the new agency. There, all better. No more threats of excommunication from Rome. When one in power doesn’t get his way, he may change the rules.

Even my hero, Thomas Jefferson, wasn’t above changing the rules to fit a personal “feel good”. When he authorized the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon Bonaparte he was questioned on the Constitutional authority of doing so. While acknowledging the Constitution should have been first amended to allow the acquisition of new lands, Mr. Jefferson felt the urgency to just get on with it. Later, in recollecting the decision, he wrote, “It is the case of a guardian, investing the money of his ward in purchasing an important adjacent territory; & saying to him when of age, I did this for your good…” So even he wasn’t above acting parental when given the means to do so. And I don’t think the American government has quite recovered from being any less fatherly on a regular basis.

We may look back on taking advantage of the Hero of Toulon and accept that the breach of power was wise. I say we, understanding that this only applies to members of the original thirteen colonies and those who benefited their Westward Ho. But if you are a descendant of any of the Native American Tribes, well, maybe not so much. But I digress.

Government is made up of people who get to tell other people (the governed) what to do. Politics is, by definition, the study and implementation on “how a society should be”. Those holding government appointments can choose to do the will of the people, letting the people guide their votes. Or they can declare that they were elected because they know best. And with that, set out to “better” the people as they see fit. This later group falls in a time and land of kings and dictators who rule by decree. And, these appointments, if you will, are for life. America was born out of that and steered away, into the group that chose to declare there were Natural Rights and no authority of any kind could remove them (except for punishment when said Rights are abused).

So it is that in the United States, in this Constitutional Republic, politicians hold seats for a small period of time, perform a civic duty, then return home to pursue a private life of…

And that’s where we can all LOL. None of them go home. They just keep getting re-elected. Or jumping from city to state to federal and then governor or judge all the while, staying in the public service. That term, “Public Service” is such a misnomer. I’ve yet to meet one of them (save for the Paul Family) who pursued those positions because they felt the need to keep people free. Powerful positions attract people who want power.

On November 21, 2013, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada), one who has held an esteemed political seat of one house or another since 1968, moved to change the rules of the Senate. The rule changed so that a Filibuster could no longer be used to block judicial and executive branch nominees (same for Supreme Court nominees). At the moment, this favors the Democrats, who are ahead in the Senate in numbers. What this effectively achieves is to allow the majority more leverage to practice arbitrary, unchecked power. Harry Reid, like prior kings needing a good pair of short-sighted glasses, doesn’t seem to understand that should the tables turn and the Republicans find themselves on top, they can use it to their advantage. The checks and balances are reduced. Even President Obama and Vice-President Biden agree with the Nuclear Option, showing a childish sense of instant gratification. The Filibuster was designed to give the minority a voice. Now…gone. It’s a winner take all game that’s afoot.

The Nuclear Option is another in a long line of abuses for short term privileges. It’s also another sign that those who have the power to change the rules, tend to.

Right now, it is the minor party, the GOP, up in arms over this change. But during the George W. Bush administration (2000 – 2008) when the GOP power grabbed, it went unchallenged from within. The War on Drugs, the push to amend the Constitution to disallow gay marriage, the PATRIOT Act, and so on ALL had majority GOP support with majority Democrat dissent.

Before Bush, we had eight years of Democrat rule. Under William Jefferson Clinton, the Rapist-in-Chief, got away with bombing indiscriminately, most offensively the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan as a distraction over Monica Lewinsky’s testimony. We got banks into reporting your transactions, snooping with Know Your Customer. We got more censorship with chips in our televisions. Ad Infinitum. Yet the best the Republican Party could do was Impeach Mr. Clinton on lying to a Grand Jury over an extra-marital affair for if they went after him for anything else, they knew they were just as complicit. Just as guilty of a bloated federal budget, just as guilty of inflating federal reach and trampling of State rights. Just as guilty of increase in government power all around, except, in lying to a Grand Jury (for now). No, the GOP didn’t go after President Clinton for an over reach of executive power, they went after him for the only thing they could without getting a finger pointed at themselves in a big, “Well you do too”.

Each major party has abused the system when they’ve been at the controls. When the Republicans have the gear shift, we go fast and when the Democrats have the wheel, we steer off the cliff. In either case, the stale oldies, non-goodies are increasingly becoming obsolete…unless.

In two previous articles here and here, I noted where the Republican Party could come back. (I have no hope for the Democrats who have no base in personal liberty). I noted how the GOP could differentiate themselves from the Big Government party. The last thing that needs to be done is institute a way to end career politicians. Make these positions part-time. Without the incentive of being in a privileged position of round-the-clock security (only to pass laws restricting everyone outside the castle walls from choosing their mode of self protection), being privileged to have their own chauffeur, being catered to with meals and vacations and housing and frickin’ privilege, these positions would end up attracting only those who wish to operate and then get back home to regular jobs like lawyers, doctors, farmers, dog catchers. These would be community service jobs, ones worth noting on a resume but considered less of an achievement. What I’m talking about, is Term Limits.

And these Limits should not be limited to how long the congressman or otherwise can run for and hold office. This should apply to those benefits that go on even after they leave office. For instance, end Secret Service protection and pensions for ex-presidents. You leave office, you become a serf again. End retirement packages for all positions. Someone putting in ten or less years in congress is not a career anymore than a teenager putting in about the same amount of time in the food service business from high school through college. Benjamin Franklin suggested no payment at all while serving. Maybe that would be a good idea too. And for crying out loud, how do we let them get away with voting for pay raises for themselves? How isn’t this something put on the ballots instead? When these guys leave “service” they hardly return to regular lives, which is why many can’t and why few ever give up and we have more incumbents than newbies.

Again, strip the royalty, strip the privilege, strip it down to the community service position it was meant to be and we’ll get less decrees from the emperor. We’ll get less laws passed against the masses because the one holding the office would be acutely aware that soon, they’d have to live under that same law. They wouldn’t be able to stay for long behind the fortress of milk and honey, remaining as inept as King Louis the XVI in addressing the needs of the governed, running up a debt crisis and promising failing reforms. Surely, everyone has learned the lesson of Maximilien Robespierre as well?

It should be reminded that Thomas Jefferson didn’t seem to feel that holding the office of Secretary of State, Vice and President Actual were important. He instructed that only three things be put on his tombstone: Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia. I suspect that, at least to him, being a federal office holder was secondary to a real achievement. Being a politician was to be temporary, a service rendered, and then to return to a civilian life.

Term Limits for position and benefits. And shall I add, a part-time congress. Let them meet, perhaps once or twice a year to discuss federal business. Then go back home and sleep in the beds they make from the capital. It works rather well for some State governments. I’m looking at you New Hampshire…Dakota One and Two.

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