Bruce Fein, a constitutional law scholar who has testified before Congress about 200 times, calls Congress an “inkblot”. Let’s see if he exaggerates.
1. Congress has abdicated its constitutional duties and powers in favor of the President, regardless of party affiliation. Presidents start wars, recklessly spend unauthorized money, defy congressional subpoenas, illegally snoop on their citizens, and lazily enforce laws against outlawed companies flouting the status of an indifferent Congress.
2. Since 1992, Congress has allowed the Pentagon to violate a federal law requiring all federal departments to provide verifiable data for its annual budget. DOD has by far the largest operating budget in Washington, and it is littered with waste and unauditable, thanks to a weak-willed Congress.
3. To evade its responsibility under the Constitution’s declaration of war clause, Congress resorts to Foreign Emergency Operations, a slush fund for the Pentagon to fight undeclared wars with tens of billions of dollars in discretionary funds. This is the great moment of abdication!
4. Congress does not hold hearings or extensively investigate the “forever” wars of the White House to determine policy changes or to stop such wars as it ultimately did with the War of the United States. Vietnam. Then Congress simply cut the money.
5. Congress is less accessible than ever to calls, letters and emails from citizens on political issues. Yet many members of Congress and Hill employees are approaching corporate lobbyists who draft bills before taking members out for wine and dinner with campaign money flowing before and after.
6. Congress is starving the IRS budget, leaving a trillion dollars a year in uncollected taxes, according to IRS chief Charles Rettig. If collected, this money could be used to rebuild our infrastructure needs. CEOs of super-rich and giant companies are laughing at the bank. Tax evaders are feeding at the watering hole like never before, as Congress helps and encourages tax evasion.
7. Members of Congress have empowered, subsidized and personally benefited from the ravages of the energy, health and financial sectors. Billions are wasted every year, with significant loss of life and preventable property.
8. Congress froze the federal minimum wage at $ 7.25 an hour, allowed companies to plunder workers’ pensions, and perpetuated the Western world’s most anti-labor laws (for example, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947).
9. Congress, repeatedly informed and warned for decades, allows the crisis and climate disruption to worsen each year. They have known for a long time that the future must be a solarized and energy efficient society. Yet Capitol Hill remains stubbornly fossilized.
10. Perhaps the worst abdication is Congress actively allowing the vast expansion of corporate power over the constitutional sovereignty of the people. Unprecedented immunities and inexplicable harm pose the greatest peril to our posterity. No public hearings, no updating of weak federal corporate crime laws and restricting the few federal cops on the pace of corporate crime means Congress is extremely soft on corporate crime.
11. Smug and operating mostly in safe neighborhood silos, members of Congress will not reform our first branch of government. Newt Gingrich’s debilitating changes in 1995 reduced committee staff, abolished the Office of Technology Assessment, and concentrated power in the hands of the four House and Senate leaders with crippling effects that were maintained when the Democrats took power and remain in effect to this day. .
We counted on the open-mindedness of the chairmen of the House and Senate committees to conduct hearings and lay the foundations for the enactment of laws on the environment, labor and consumption, as well as on freedom of movement. information and whistleblower rights. From now on, committee chairs must obtain authorization from the main leaders of Congress. The invisible costs to the public must be borne by a large congressional press body too busy with official-source journalism.
12. No political institution has more skillfully played public confidence in public apathy. There are 535 Senators and Representatives whose names are known. They embody the most powerful legislature in the world and can remedy, reduce or prevent dozens of injustices by legislating and controlling the executive and the judiciary. Yet Congress has lowered public expectations so much, fueling cynicism and always blaming others, that people don’t realize how easy it can be to overthrow Congress and improve our society. Less than one percent of voters, supported by public opinion, can organize such decisive power for change. (See, Unlocking the power: it’s easier than you think).
People can start by protecting voting rights by organizing small congressional watchdog groups (call it a hobby) and requiring Congress to work more than three days a week between long breaks and mid-fundraising. week.
Of course I’m talking about the Congress collectively. There are good lawmakers who are honest and knowledgeable, but they are nowhere near as assertive and networked as they should be, given the extremely serious emergencies facing our country and the tormented world around it. .
Without adding to this list, it is permissible to accuse lawyer Bruce Fein of exaggeration. Congress is less than an inkblot. It is a void of usurpation that ignores the basic needs of our nation and endangers our future generations.
Ralph Nader of Winsted is a consumer advocate and former presidential candidate of the United States.
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