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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Restoring Balance And Harmony (Part Four)

(Editor's note:  Our multi-part series on Restoring Balance And Harmony traces in part how we have arrived at the greatest concentration of wealth disparity in American History --- and constructs a practical solution.  The previous segment discusses the solution's first component. Part Four presented here highlights the solution's second component.)

As we have seen, the founding fathers entrust the legislative branch of government as umpire with the important if not unenviable task of steering the nation’s ship by making laws to promote the general welfare of its people as a whole.  Not surprisingly then, the solution for ameliorating the greatest concentration of wealth disparity in American History targets reform at the level of the legislative branch.

Specific reform addresses the legislative process at three critical junctures: first, before the legislator is elected; second, while the legislator is serving; and third, on the back end of the legislator’s term of service.

The first critical stress point --- prior to the legislator’s election --- is the subject of the solution’s first component.  Specifically, the elimination of gerrymandered legislative districts is discussed in the previous segment.

The second critical stress point concerns proceedings while the legislator is in office.  Consequently, the solution’s second component addresses the lawmaker’s seat, once serving.  That seat must be restored to a position of public trust from the anomaly of a fully evolved individual prize.  A place of profit must be restored to a post of honour --- meaning a post of service --- as originally designed.

How can this best be accomplished?  We can start by denying the lawmaker any privilege which is not the right of every citizen --- in a broad range of issues from working conditions to compensation to health care to retirement.  A lawmaker must be barred from voting on any proposed legislation which may affect his or her family members personally.  Special interest perks must be eliminated by use of a bright line.

This component will provide more than enough incentive, urgency and assurance that any disparity which needs fixing will be fixed.  The US Congress must no longer be maintained, nor should any legislative body, as an exclusive, closed door establishment paradise for its members.

Additionally, how can we best accomplish the goal of redirecting lawmakers to conduct the people’s business, instead of just stalling?  This great question requires an analysis of the function of the two branches in the legislative scheme.

On the one hand, the House of Representatives by its populist design stokes the passions of the masses.  It is the place where the great issues are designed to be bantered about openly.  On the other hand, the Senate is designed by use of calm deliberation to cool the passions of the House of Representatives, as by analogy boiling hot tea is cooled by transfer from teapot to cup and saucer. [i]

The Senate is not designed to be a wall.  But enacted since the time of the founding fathers, the filibuster has added an “unconstitutional dimension” to the legislative process.  Through the filibuster, a senator can talk indefinitely relative to a proposed measure to keep it from ever coming to a vote, thereby hijacking the very heart of the legislative process. 

The filibuster has been described as a peculiar institution responsible in large part for Congress’ failures, “purely and simply an undemocratic technique to permit rule by a minority.”  It has delayed --- for decades in certain instances --- passage of social legislation by the House and desired by a majority of Americans. [ii]

The technique serves to transform the Senate from a moderating force into an impregnable barrier, blocking the rising demand for social justice. [iii]  The result effectively transforms a designed cooling period into a protracted ice age.  This is not how the founding fathers have intended the Senate to function.  Consequently, its unrestricted use must be abolished.

(Editor’s note:  The fifth and final segment in this multi-part series on Restoring Balance And Harmony addresses the solution’s third component --- on the back end of the legislator’s term of service.  Should a lawmaker be permitted the right to serve indefinitely, for unlimited term or duration, in many instances for life?)

-Michael D’Angelo

[i]  Caro, Master of the Senate, supra, at p. 9.

[ii]  Id., at p. 385, 446.

The quote is attributed to the liberal US Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, Jr., D-MN, upon his election to the Senate in 1948.  Humphrey would later serve as Vice President during Lyndon Johnson’s administration.

[iii]  Id., at p. 83, 92, 105.