1,194 words. Estimated reading time: 4-7 minutes
Do you want to see a better and more productive congress? That’s very likely to be a highly rhetorical question for most of you. Nonetheless, I’m supposing you answered in the affirmative. I thought so… me too. So, how do we get from where we are at a near average 28% approval rating to a point where at least 50% of our country thinks congress is doing a decent job?
Before we get to that answer, let me briefly describe what I consider to be a “better and more productive congress”.
Such a congress would ONLY take up legislation authorized by the constitution and these issues revolve around national defense as well as interstate and international commerce. That is it. The rest is up to the States.
This congress, for a time, would repeal more legislation than it produces. That position is the exact inverse of what many analysts consider “productive”. In their minds the more bills passed, the better! Our founding fathers knew this folly all too well.
James Madison and Alexander Hamilton asserted in the Federalist No. 62 in 1788:
“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”
How many federal laws do we actually have? No one knows for sure because they are, in fact, so myriad. Michael Cottone, writing in the Tennesse Law Review estimates the number of criminal offenses between 3,600 and 4,500. Matt Vespa writing at Townhall.com states the number at over 5,000. This doesn’t include, according to congressional testimony the federal regulatory violations carrying criminal penalties that exceed over 300,000. According to the Heritage Foundation research congress criminalizes, on average, one new activity every week all year-long.
We cannot be a nation of laws, one that respects the rule of law, if it is absolutely impossible to know if you are actually breaking the law.
Further, a productive congress would repeal burdensome regulations that are not able to pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. A shining example our national congress could follow is that of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s Red Tape Reduction initiative. So far this initiative has resulted in the elimination of 147 regulations with 117 more targeted for repeal, 156 have been amended and 361 more targeted for amendment. This effort, combined with active recruitment efforts has resulted in over 21,200 new jobs in Kentucky at 342 new or expanded facilities with an investment of over $5 billion. That is good news for Kentuckians and an example Congress can follow.
Now, very few people (the majority in fact) seem to be happy with Congress these days and I count myself among them.
Why do we seem to continually find less than capable and corrupt people in government?
The political environment we have created is so noxious, so repulsive, so hostile that truly good and capable people do not wish to subject themselves to the level of vitriol and disdain directed at them when running for public office. This is also nothing new. Alexis de Tocqueville discusses this very issue at length in his classic literary work, “Democracy in America”. The most capable, the most desirous, those of the greatest virtue, the best suited for the job, those people among us largely want nothing to do with being a public servant.
Can you blame them?
Would YOU be willing to subject yourself to the level of scrutiny and continual hate and disdain these people endure?
Only the most power-hungry and “any ends justify the means” type people, save the rare exception, will endure what it takes to ascend to the national level of the body politic.
We, as a society, scrutinize EVERYTHING that a current or potential politician does and if there is even the slightest hint of something we disagree with it is a travesty of unparalleled proportions and virtue signaling outrage ensues. Yes, a high level of scrutiny and accountability is necessary, but we have taken it to the utmost extremes. Who among of could really cast the first stone?
We should also exercise better restraint as a society and wait for the facts to fully materialize. We respond to headlines and take things out of context without seriously looking into how things actually are. We are SO very quick to cast damning judgment without giving politicians or policies a real chance to prove their merit or effectiveness.
How do we fix this?
We get better ourselves. We demand more of ourselves. We resolve to control our tongues. We resolve not to fall for click-bait headlines. We refrain from sharing disparaging memes with no basis in reality whatsoever. We hold to our respective areas of actual knowledge when choosing to engage others online and in actual dialogue. I’m not going to comment on subjects of which I know nothing about. We must exercise better judgment in knowing the difference between an uniformed opinion and expert testimony. We must demand better and we must, as a society, become more virtuous.
James Monroe, our fifth president, in his inaugural address prognosticated:
“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt,
when they degenerate into a populace,
that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty.
Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found.
The people themselves become the willing instruments
of their own debasement and ruin..”
Essentially, when we devolve as a society in knowledge and mores, we elect those among us that are equally lacking in principle and capability, thereby undermining our freedom and the degrading the state of our country.
James Madison, one of my favorite founders and our 4th President, eloquently describes the situation in which we find ourselves today along with the remedy just described.
“But I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks–no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. If there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them.” at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 20, 1788.
Since we all desire better representation it is essential that we elevate the level of virtue, the level of principle, the level of discourse, the level of kindness, the level of compassion, the level of knowledge and the level of love in our society. It starts with each of us. It can be done. For the sake of our country and future generations. We must.