Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tea Party Redux

The TEA Party, named after the Boston Tea Party, the forerunner to the American Revolution that began in 1773, is nothing less than a Citizen rebellion against a government felt to be dictatorial and unfair.
That first revolution began on December 16th 1773, and soon spawned all out war against government that did not end until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris recognized the sovereignty of the United States. 
But make no mistake, the revolution was war against the citizen’s own government - -  British citizens, “Colonists,” living in British America, against a British government, a government that had grown ever more hungry for tax revenue and ever less responsive to citizens. Thus the famous phrase: No Taxation Without Representation.
Today we have a similar struggle: The Government has grown ever more hungry for citizens' wealth and ever less responsive to those paying taxes. Taxes for unpopular wars; for bloated and needless bureaucracies; for overpaid government employees; for unpopular entitlements; for outrageous government employee pensions; etc., etc. When taxes could not be raised to fund these unpopular adventures and entitlements, the money was simply “borrowed.” Borrowed without the approval of the citizenry and expended primarily for constituents’ of powerful lobbies, in return for political support -- i.e. the sale and purchase of votes.
When the Constitution was originally conceived, the House of Representatives was designed to allow for a single Representative to “represent” 30,000 citizens - a population, in today’s terms, of a small American town.
Over the years the number of citizens represented by each Representative has grown from that reasonable figure of 30,000, to now 750,000+ folks. How does a Representative represent nearly a million people (750,000+/-)? Well they don’t. They represent a few special interests. This huge number of 750,000+ citizens has turned Representatives into a kind of “short-term” Senator, but free of State accountability. Members of the House have grown very powerful, commandeering huge entourages, enjoying foreign junkets, and even providing some with private government-paid-for jetliners, wherein they travel like kings and queens!
Article. I.
Section 2.
Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (See Note 2) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, ………”

Perhaps it’s time to return to the original concept of “representation” as spelled-out in the Constitution. With modern technology there is no need for Representatives to congregate in D.C., a computer at a home town office will do just fine. With electronic conferencing and voting and with direct input to and from constituents a more perfect union could be had.

Here’s the problem with the current Representative arrangement:
1) Anonymity. A small town Mayor or a County Sherriff has much greater accountability to the voters. They are widely known as are their views, and they nearly always reflect the character and political position of their electorate. Representatives, having an electorate of 750,000+ souls can take just about any position they chose!
2) Arrogance. Representatives somehow feel that they are elected to exercise their own views, totally contrary to the actual reason for their existence, which is to represent the political views, within the framework of the Constitution, of their immediate electorate. They are not elected to represent a position that they think is best, the arrogant elitist position – “I know what’s best for …you!” No, this is not their job. And lastly,
3) Corruption. When Representatives vote for positions paid for by lobbyists they have become corrupt. When they “trade” votes to satisfy a fellow Representative, in return for who knows what, they are corrupt. Their job, their only job, is to vote the will of their immediate electorate -- again, within the framework of the Constitution.

In 2012 there will be another TEA Party “wave.” As a matter of fact there may be a succession “waves” until Representatives “get it.” I fear they will never get it until the system is fixed. The best way to largely fix all of the above is to:
1) Cap the number of constituents within a congressional district to 30,000. Representatives will then have to answer to a small group and will be out the first time they fail to represent the views of their constituents. In this past cycle, Representatives voted in direct opposition to the wishes of the majority of voters, from deficit spending to entitlement broadening to health care. They ignored the voter’s wishes to effect tort reform which would reduce the cost of virtually everything, change health insurance company operating rules, thus making their product more competitive, and eliminating State Mandates that force  insurance companies to cover idiocy like sex change, and a plethora of other issues.
2) Remain in their home districts. They do not have to be in DC. If there are hearings held, Committees can be assembled to hear testimony. Interested house members and the public can view them via TV or on the Net.
3) Term limits. Serving is an honor… not a career. Serve, do you job and get out of the way.

I think we should go back to the original percentage of Representatives spelled-out in the Constitution --one per 30,000. No assembly in Washington; the new Representative, one of 10,000, would vote with computers from Representatives’ home offices. Then a citizen will truly have representation. Representatives should never have become potentates. Today, just as in 1773, there is once again Taxtation Without Representation. One Representative per 750,000+ people is no representation at all, and allows Representatives to act capriciously without care of citizens' wants. Not good. Let them be locals, and answer directly to their hometown constituents.

Cheers, Mel