Congress, as currently constituted, lacks the capacity for coming anywhere near taking the actions required to, even at a minimal level, fulfill the duties of that body relating to the affairs of this country.
I am writing this column on Nov. 28, 2017. My intent, even a couple of days ago, was to address the troubling condition of the United States Congress. A few hours ago, I saw news reports about three events that compounded my need to share some thoughts regarding Congress.
Congress, as currently constituted, lacks the capacity for coming anywhere near taking the actions required to, even at a minimal level, fulfill the duties of that body relating to the affairs of this country. Our form of government mandates that we rely on Congress for actions essential to our very survival as a nation. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution spells out congressional responsibilities in detail. The lengthy listing of responsibilities starts with the following three of 18 items:
1. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
2. To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
3. To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.
I encourage reading of Section 8. Doing so puts the tremendous failings of our current Congress in proper perspective. Looking at this list of responsibilities and authority paints a picture of failure that defies belief. Do not misunderstand – I believe there are some people in Congress who want to do what is right, what is needed for the good of America. I have never lived in Washington, D.C., but am convinced it is a culture infested with greed, love of power and self-promotion. This is a combination that yields exactly what we see in Congress – absolutely nothing of substance being done. The few who would do what is good are converted to, or overwhelmed by, this destructive and unproductive culture.
There is no reason to hope that those who are residents of the Washington political culture will rectify the situation. This is especially true of those who have been in this culture – “the swamp” – for many years. Not only will they not rectify the situation, but people across this country, and even around the world, who benefit from the failings of Congress will not push for change.
In the end, the “Silent Majority” must speak up and show up. The term Silent Majority is attributed to President Richard Nixon. He used it in a speech, Oct. 15, 1969, when addressing protests against the Vietnam War.
Sam Adams, in an article titled “Trump Champions the ‘Silent Majority,’ but What Does that Mean in 2016?” quotes descriptions of the Silent Majority given by individuals in our time. Here are some:
“The people that mind their own business, don’t depend on anyone else,” said Patty Hughes of Indianola, Iowa, when asked to describe silent majority. “(They) don’t expect anything from anybody, and they’re kind of quiet. They don’t go around bragging. They’re not activists.”
Her husband, Larry, said, “They expect a dollar work for a dollar pay. They don’t want anything free, but they don’t want stuff taken away from them either. And that’s happening to us out here in the cheap seats.”
George Davey of West Des Moines: “The silent majority is always going to be a state of mind,” he said. “It’s a feeling. It’s a feeling of dispossession. And that feeling of dispossession can come about most dramatically in times when things seem to be changing, when all that’s solid melts into air.”
I submit there are a lot of people in America who fit the overall description above. These are people who, for various reasons, seldom get involved in the political process. Clearly, many are faithful voters but shy away from any further involvement with politics. It seems to me we have come to a point of dysfunction in Congress and elsewhere in government that those in the system, and those supported by the system, will not correct. It will only happen if the Silent Majority speaks up and shows up.
The few events that I noticed on this one day, Nov. 28, merely constitute a speck on the seemingly endless list of indicators of congressional failure. From the 28th:
1. I think the case for our need of tax reform is clear. The contention that America’s corporate tax rate is so much higher than other industrialized countries that it puts us at a competitive disadvantage for attracting or keeping job-producing businesses is a fact. It also makes sense to me that if people pay less in taxes, they will spend more, resulting in more jobs, increased tax revenue and less need for government entitlement spending. Providing an avenue for American companies to pay a low tax rate on money earned overseas and being held there because of our high rates makes sense to me. With appropriate tax rates, those funds are expected to be brought home to America. By no means is this everything in what is being proposed by the House or Senate, and some of the proposals deserve additional attention. I see a process where some Republicans simply criticize what is being proposed while appearing to offer no solutions, and Democrats paint a picture of doom while offering absolutely no productive input to the process. I see this show as an indication of Congress failing to do its job.
2. Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, and Charles Schumer, Senate minority leader, were scheduled to meet with President Trump in the afternoon. Apparently, several important topics were on the agenda. Among the issues was taking action to fund basic government operations by Dec. 8 and avoiding a partial government shutdown. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted, “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!” In response, Pelosi and Schumer announced that they would not meet with Trump. This is the man who has to sign any legislation passed by Congress, but they will not meet with him. This is irresponsible behavior, treating the serious business of this country like some game played for the fun of it. Congresswoman Pelosi and Senator Schumer should read Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. This kind of behavior feeds the failure so many Americans abhor in Congress.
3. As this meeting was being boycotted by Pelosi and Schumer, the announcement came that North Korea had successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that, possibly, has the capability to reach any part of America. Concurrent with hearing this news, I was reminded that military funding is affected by the congressional action needed no later than Dec. 8. Not only has the military been adversely impacted by sequestration, it has suffered due to repeated continuing resolutions. Under a continuing resolution, funding for federal agencies remains at similar levels to what was enacted for the previous fiscal year. This does not look like conscientiously “providing for the common defence.” This is failure.
We, the people are not without some responsibility in the failings of Congress. In the midst of Congress failing miserably, we keep sending individuals to that body and allowing them to fail, but, for the most part, remain in office. It is past time to send an even stronger message of disapproval than what was sent with the election of Donald Trump. We need to send the failure producers home and replace them with people who will do what is right and needed, even at the risk of losing elections. This will only happen if the Silent Majority speaks up and shows up. Members of the political establishment and those who benefit from the failings of that establishment will not do what is required to save our nation; that is obvious.