Bring It On!

The Real Reason Our Government Is Broken, And How YOU Can Help Fix It

March 26th, 2007 | by Ken Grandlund |

Take away the executive branch lies, the political cronyism, and the attempt to politicize the American judiciary system (all egregious manipulations of the public trust, if not the law itself), and the Attorneygate scandal still exposes a democracy that is rotting from the inside out. A bigger, but much less talked about, is the “previously unnoticed” provision in the Patriot Act renewal that allowed the executive branch to circumvent the congress’ constitutional duty to consent to presidential appointments of federal officials. How, one may ask, does anything get “unnoticed” in a bill so important as the Patriot Act? And if the congress isn’t paying attention to the really important bills, how much other stuff gets through our ‘public representatives?’

Okay- who am I kidding? We who dwell in the political realm are already pretty jaded citizens. But the expectation of underhandedness from elected officials is more the norm than not, even among the general public. And the cycle seems to be self-perpetuating. As the voters become more cynical they pay less attention. As they pay less attention, politicians lose sight of what their job is supposed to be about. Their duty morphs from public service to self-service where re-election is more important than crafting good public law or administering the public trusts. And so they pander and party, and then vote on whatever the party leaders direct them to vote for. Sure, there are a few “mavericks” who try to do the right thing because it is the right thing, but they are few and far between.

But back to that “unnoticed provision” I mentioned earlier. One would liek to think that our elected officials actually read the things they vote on, understand those words, and are making an informed decision when they vote in our names. Sadly, that is not usually true. Due to a multitude of organizational rules in Congress, a great number of the bills submitted for vote rival War & Peace for page count. Even “short” bills can run into a hundred pages. Imagine having several bills come up on the same day and having to be prepared for them all. Think you could read and understand every nuance of legalese before you had to vote? Didn’t think so. Even a speed reader with superhero-like memorization skills would have a tough time.

Part of the reason these bills are such engorged wastes of paper is that they conbine multiple unrelated pieces of legislation to a hot political issue in order to garner votes and secure passage of them all. Such ‘bill-stuffing’ hardly serves the general public, but also is of little interest to those members who didn’t inject them in the first place. Again, it becomes a vote-trading parlor game where the majority wins, and wins big. Even the losers win a little, but the American public gets a big shaft time and time again.

Another part of the problem rests in the fact that our elected officials don’t actually craft the legislation they propose, but often delegate it out to staffers operating on vague guidelines (and who may have their own agendas to inject) or worse yet, to lobbyist groups or private business interests. In any case, having never actually written (or directed the writing) and probably never having thoroughly read any of the bills up for a vote, it becomes easy to see how a provision can become “unnoticed.”

And let me tell you, the Patriot Act is chock full of these “unnoticed” provisions. But to be fair, so are a whole lot of other laws on the books.

So the bad news is that our government is simply not being maintained. And like a fine-tuned race car that has been left in the garage for a decade or two, we’re not firing on all cylinders anymore. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. And if someone as jaded as me can see a chance at renewal, surely you could join me in the quest.

In the title to this post, I mentioned that there is a way you can help fix this clusterf*#k of a system. And there is. For last last few years, I have been a supporter of a group called Downsize DC. This web-based, grass roots, lobbying effort has a simple philosophy: Get Congress to read the bills they vote on and to write the bills they vote on. And they go one more to complete the trifecta with their “One Bill At A Time” campaign.
Started with a few bucks and a big idea, namely that America’s government should be responsible to the American people, Downsize DC has seen tremendous growth recently. Some of their proposed bills have gained limited support from elected officials, but the reticence to give up the easy life is runs deep in the halls of American government. Slowly though, their voice is growing.

You can help their voice grow louder. Give a small donation to support their work. Write a sort letter about them to your paper or on your blog. Tell a friend. Tell your elected officials.

I know that it may seem contradictory to denounce lobbyists who write legislation and then ask you to support one that does just that. I am aware of the awkwardness of the situation. But to most rules there are exceptions, and the gravity of an ever aloof government has been met with a grand idea, so for this I claim the exception. I hope you will too.

If we can make Congress adopt into law, not just as rules of engagement, that all legislation be read before voting (meaning plenty of time or succint enough to comprehend in a short time), that all legislation be written or directly supervised by an elected official, and that most (if not all) legislation be limited to a single issue, we might actually get a government that is accountable, aware, and focused on solving real problems.

[tag]government, DownsizeDC, making+laws, democracy, politics, congress[/tag]

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  1. 3 Responses to “The Real Reason Our Government Is Broken, And How YOU Can Help Fix It”

  2. By Tom Baker on Mar 26, 2007 | Reply

    Ken don’t worry, there is a fundamental difference between corporate lobbyists and grass roots lobbying. People need to be able to petition the government. Companies do not need to be able to buy it. 

  3. By Jersey McJones on Mar 26, 2007 | Reply

    Unfortunately, many Americans are too stupid to see the fnudamental difference between grass roots peoples’-lobbying and corporate shill-lobbying.  When scumbags like Hannity or Limbaugh refer to “special interests,” they are referring to interets like afforable healthcare, family time, education, etc.

    JMJ

  4. By Liberal Jarhead on Mar 26, 2007 | Reply

    Thanks, Ken!

    I will definitely write to the editors of our two local mainstream papers and a couple of the alternative papers here and try to get the word out about this, and I’ll pass it to my local friends who take an interest in progressive politics.

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