The Clark Congressional Reform Amendment
Massive debt, out-of-control spending, and bloated government... This has been the result of failed policies and poor, poor leadership from both sides of the aisle. Ultimately, it's you — the voter — that is responsible for ensuring the right people are sent to Washington. In today's climate, We the People are up against a lot though. After all, those who run for office seem to be allured by the glamour and power of the seat, and not the temporary service the position should entail. It's time we hit the "reset button" and restore the constitutional structure of our federal government.
Introduction to the CCRA
Most people agree that politicians are out of touch more often than not — and that's putting it politely. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and progressives, can both attest to that statement; however, no one seems to get off their rear end to change the status quo. Why? For those in Washington, their surroundings are too cozy. Those outside of Washington are either apathetic or complicit by their own lust to become part of the Washington elite. As a result, the culture and attitude within our government continues to run rampant.
It ends here.
I'm going to propose a needed change that most people will disapprove or even call "radical." Those that would cast such labels upon advocates for a more accountable government only show a lack of understanding the true issue within our country: the need to restore our Republic to the original Constitutional intentions. Here's the antidote: The Clark Congressional Reform Amendment or "CCRA." Yes, I'm placing my name it. Not because I wish to take credit, but rather I'm willing to take the full brunt of the attacks and defend these proposals. We must restore the purpose of our elected servants in Washington and abolish the corrupt cultural atmosphere.
There are seven main points to the CRRA:
#1 - Salary dependent on the private sector's wellbeing
Most pillars of the CCRA listed are in no particular order; however, congressional salary is arguably the biggest and thus first on my list.
Just like most public sector jobs, government salaries are seemingly immune to any economic struggle. Meaning, no matter how poorly the economy is doing (like today's climate as an example?), they'll still get a paycheck, raises, etc. Ask a small business owner if this is true for them. With small businesses employing 70 percent Americans, you'll find plenty of people who can understand my point. If the private sector must make allowances in both good and bad times of the economy, why shouldn't the government? After all, who pays for government? Taxpayers.
Let's now place our congressional servants under a magnifying glass.
Currently, the rank-and-file members of the House and Senate receive a salary of $174,000 per year. Quite the nice six-figure salary, eh? There's more. A cost-of-living-adjustment increase takes effect annually unless Congress votes to not accept it. Again, that's just the rank-and-file members. Others, like the Speaker of the House for example, pull down $223,500 a year from you and me. (Well, "you" if you pay federal income taxes.) Also factor the large staffs, Cadillac healthcare plans, pensions for qualified members, etc. Starting to get the picture? Meanwhile, the average private sector job pays $45,155 per year How can We the People be represented by someone who that makes almost four times the average salary of the private sector? Can our elected servants truly understand the struggles and needs of the lower and middles classes with such an elaborate gig?
Since the role of Congress is to represent, let's make sure they're in touch. Under the CCRA, the salary of each representative and senator will equal the average private sector salary of the previous fiscal year. As an example, take this year's average private sector salary of $45,155. Assuming this will remain the same at the end of this fiscal year, that will be Congress's salary next year. If the economy improves, so will the average salary — for everyone.
Seems like a big pay cut for Congress, right? Well, it is. That's only part of the point. The thrust of this initiative is to serve as a reminder that Congress works for We the People, not the other way around. If they're so fixated on their own wellbeing (which is true more often than not), then let this be an incentive to improve our economy and ensure the private sector can expand without the interference of those in Washington who think they know best.
#2 - Part-time legislature
With the argument of a pay reduction, comes the counterargument that Congress "needs" such a salary to commute to/from Washington and afford the high standard of living in D.C. It's a poor counterargument, but let the next CCRA pillar easily resolve such a matter: a part-time legislature.
Mark Twain once stated, "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." How true, sir. Why do we even need a full time Congress? Many states have part-time legislatures, and it works beautifully. It takes the politicians away from the epicenter of corruption and places them back home, where they belong. Don't forget that our elected servants represent us, hence our "republic" form of government. The more they're away from the lobbyists and special interest groups in Washington, the better. Have them deeply rooted in their hometowns, mingling with the people they represent and ensuring they understand their constituents' needs.
Need an emergency session? No problem. In the age of the phone, Internet, GoToMeeting.com, and other means of communication, Congress coming to session could be done within moments.
#3 - Term limits
The idea of "terms limits" make any career politician cringe. For those cozy in Washington, why would they support limiting their six-figure salary, benefits, and power? That mindset is the problem. Our Founders envisioned an average American taking time out of their busy lives to serve a term or two in office, then return back to their lives — not to become career politicians. Instead, you see life-long politicians like John Dingell (my congressman) who has been serving since 1955! Can you honestly tell me that Congressman Dingell can fully relate to his constituents — not because of his age, but rather his life-long tenure in D.C.?
I think not.
Opponents to term limits will attempt to make the argument that the "good guys" won't be able to continue their good work after x amount of years. Personally, I know a few (not many) elected servants that do great work. They're honorable people with their hearts in the right place. That said, I don't buy into the notion that they're the "only ones" for the job. Let me illustrate my point another way. There are 535 total members serving in Congress (435 in the House, 100 in the Senate) and more than 314,325,000 people in that United States. I think you'll agree with me that not every member is a "good guy." Let's do some quick math. So you're telling me that we have less than 0.000170206% of the country doing the good work or could do the good work? Nonsense. My 11 year-old cousin could serve We the People better than some currently in Washington.
The CCRA proposes a two-term limit for the United States Senate (12 years) and a four-term limit for the House (8 years).
#4 - No pensions
Why do we even have pensions for Congress? Our Founders never designed the elected offices to be careers, let alone pension-including careers on the backs of the taxpayers. With a part-time legislature and term limits, lobbying for pensions would be pointless; more-so than now.
#5 - Forbid insider trading
"Insider trading is already illegal, right Matt?" If you're John Doe trading in the stock market, then yes; however, if you're a member of Congress, then very much "no!" Knowing this now, it should come as a shock that several members of Congress are richer after they leave office than when they arrived... and not because of their $174K salary (plus benefits). Would you be surprised to know that the collective net worth of all of the members of Congress increased by 25% between 2008 and 2010? Right in the heart of the '08 financial collapse aftermath, the Congressional net worth increased.
"Just a coincidence?" Think again.
There have been some efforts within Congress to stop insider trading, but haven't been completely successful. (Not surprising.) The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK) has been introduced into committee, but hasn't been passed into law. According to Breitbart, "Reid indicated that he may simply accept the watered down version of the STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act passed by the House instead of sending the bill to a conference committee to hammer out the significant differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill."
If Harry Reid would only consider a "watered down" version of STOCK, I wonder how he would feel about the full brunt of the CCRA?
#6 - Obamacare
This one requires very little explanation. Congress must drop their gold-plated, Cadillac healthcare plans and embrace the Obamacare package as their own. If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is so great, they shouldn't be exempt from it.
#7 - Repeal the 17th Amendment
Perhaps the most "radical" part of the CCRA is the need to repeal the 17th Amendment. This may be a hard concept for many to understand, especially if you're unfamiliar with the initial purpose of the U.S. Senate before the passing of the 17th Amendment. Fellow conservative friends of mine have debated me on this issue, so it's controversial across the political spectrum. Before I begin to dismantle the argument for the 17th Amendment, let's go through a quick Government 101 course.
There are two parts of Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The purpose of the House is to directly represent the We the People — hence the name, "House of Representatives." The number of representatives per state is proportional to the population. The more people in a given state, the more representatives from that state. In the other chamber of Congress, each state sends two senators to the Senate, regardless of their population. The layout was simple. The people/population would be represented through the House. The states would have their say in federal matters through the Senate. The Founder's logic in all of the above was brilliant. Unfortunately, the genius of our Founder's would be overridden in 1913.
Let's expand upon the initial role of the Senate a bit more. As mentioned, the House is designed to represent the people. Meaning, your direct input should be channelled through your representative who (in theory) represents you, the constituent. The Senate's role was to bring the state governments to the federal table. With 50 state governments now, how do the states have a say in federal government? Prior to the 17th Amendment, state governments would appoint U.S. Senators to represent them. Now, such representation doesn't exist. The states have no direct say in federal matters. The 17th Amendment establishes direct election of Senators by the people, thus eliminating state appointments. You may be saying, "Well now I can directly vote for my senator, what's wrong with that?" Today, we essentially have two "Houses" running Congress — the exact opposite of the republic our Founders designed.
The abolition of the 17th Amendment would restore states' rights to the Senate.
I challenge one - just one - representative or senator to take up this amendment — event a portion — to their respective chambers and get the amendment process rolling. Wishful thinking, I know. It won't happen. Not one member will take even one point listed above to committee. "Why?" you may be asking? Two reasons: power and greed. The focal point of Congress today rests on power and greed — the very reason for this proposition.
If you want to restore honor and prosperity to this great nation, you must restore the Republic to her foundational roots.
The Clarkcast's September 2, 2012 broadcast featured this very topic. You can listen to this segment here.