Congressional Reform Act of (fill in the year of your choice here)

The same email, titled either “The (proposed) Congressional Reform Act of 20xx” or “This Is a Good Start,” has been going around since at least 2011 and I’m so tired of responding to it that I’m posting this on my blog so I can just link to it every time I receive the same email, which will doubtless live on for years, maybe decades.  Here is the gist of it:

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

The email is mostly nonsense and in some cases is actually right wing propaganda. Congress has a defined benefit pension plan that is similar to other such plans in the public and private sectors.  It’s the same plan that all federal employees get and similar to that of most state and local workers. It is based on the number of years of service and the average of their three highest earning years.  If they only serve two years, their pension is about 4% of their two years salary or about $3480 per year.  They can begin collecting at age 50.  By law, their pension cannot exceed 80% of their salary at time of retirement, regardless of how many years they serve.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a defined benefit pension.  Rather than bitching because policemen, firemen and teachers get such pensions, EVERYONE should be pressing their employers to do provide a similar retirement security benefit.  They can be perfectly sound and economically feasible if properly managed.  One of the greatest travesties ever foisted upon working people by corporate America was the replacement of pensions with 401Ks.  Wall Street wreaked havoc on these in 2008 and Congress does the same every time they play their game of chicken with the debt ceiling.

Congress has participated in SS just like everyone else sine 1984.  It’s a right wing myth that they don’t.

Congress can’t “vote themselves a pay raise.”  They have to vote NOT to take it.  Yes, this is a crock.  However, they have voted not to take it every year since 2008.  They have voted not to accept raises in seven of the last twenty-two years.  And it’s not some arbitrary number they make up.  It’s indexed to the Employment Cost Index, which is calculated based on private sector salaries.  The last couple of increases have been 2.7% and 2.2%.

Just what is “the same health care system as the American people?”  Hey, I got mine, you can just go to hell?  Congress has the exact same health care benefit as all federal employees.  No more, no less.  Yes, it’s a travesty that 46 million people still have no insurance, and Congress SHOULD fix that, but their health insurance is essentially no different than what I got as an employee of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

And no, Congress did NOT exempt themselves from the Affordable Care ACT (aka ACA or Obamacare).  In fact, it SPECIFICALLY REQUIRED that they give up the insurance that all federal employees have and purchase instead insurance from the same exchanges that are provided by the ACA.  However, portions of whatever plan they opt to purchase are partially paid for by the government, just like those of all other federal employees and, in fact, like most private sector employees who get insurance through their employers.

I know of no law that isn’t technically applicable to Congress AND everyone else, other than they don’t have to pay postage for official business (Franking privilege).  Since almost everything is electronic now, who really gives a damn about that?  Any other laws that they manage to skirt are directly attributable to their being in positions of wealth and power, no different than, say, Wall Street Bankers or corporate CEOs.  Yes, all of those should be subject to the same legal scrutiny as the average schmo, but that’s a deficiency of our society at large, not just Congress.  The wealthy and powerful just get a better shake.  It’s something we need to correct, but it’s not exclusive to Congress.

Yes, Congress is really @#$%ed up.  Yes, the scheme for (almost) automatic pay raises is a sham.  But this email is a bunch of ill-informed, mostly right-wing hogwash  that will do nothing to improve governance.  You want to fix government?  Get corporate, lobbyist and – and yes, union – money out of politics.  Limited individual contributions only, and maybe term limits, as well.  Best fix?  Publicly funded elections. But I suggest you not hold your breath on that one.

You can read about most of this yourself here:  LINK1   LINK2  LINK3  LINK4


Voter Suppression

Pennsylvania has enacted a voter ID law that will render an estimated 750,000 of its citizens ineligible to vote.  The law is being challenged in court this week.  Interestingly, the state signed a statement as the case goes to court agreeing that there:

“have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

Additionally, the agreement states that Pennsylvania:

“will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absence of the Photo ID law.”

So then, I would ask, just what in hell is the point of the law, other than to disenfranchise three quarters of a million otherwise eligible voters?  You conservatives who support this, do you agree that you condone this blatantly unconstitutional act SOLELY on the basis that it almost certainly would deny more potential Democratic voters than Republican and therefore is nothing more than an attempt to unfairly game the upcoming election?  If so, then you can’t really claim that you support the Constitution or representative democracy.  No, you believe in dictatorship of people who think like you.


Scientists have determined that there WILL be an apocalypse, after all.  It will occur at the moment when the force of dark energy – that phenomenon that is causing all the objects in the universe to move away from each other (the expanding universe) – becomes so great that it overcomes the four fundamental forces holding everything together: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force.  When this happens, all objects in the universe, right down to the must fundamental particles, will be ripped apart in a monumental cataclysm.

Fortunately, this is expected to occur long after we have exhausted our Social Security and Medicare benefits and relocated to the other side of the grass – 16 to 22 billion years from now.  From their dungeons down in hell, where – as Dante so eloquently reported – they’re being force fed the boiling excrement of liberals and oppressed minorities for eternity, conservatives will claim it was all Obama’s fault.

And here is what most of the rest of us will be doing:

Mitt Romney – He’s Not Talking

On April 4, 2012, in remarks to the Newspaper Association of America, Mitt Romney made the following statement:

“Unlike President Obama, you don’t have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in – or what my plans are.”

Only one week later, however, Romney declined to respond to a direct question on whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides legal recourse for women who, in violation of federal law, are denied wages equal to those of men doing equal work for the same employer.  Ironically, this gaffe occurred the same week that Republicans began a feeble attempt to push back on the concept that their party was engaged in a “war on women” (LINK  LINK  LINK  LINK  LINK).

More recently, Romney has stumbled badly trying to explain his criticism of the president’s recent order halting deportations of immigrants illegally brought to this country as children, many of whom have become model citizens.  Curiously, the candidate says only that he will put “something” long term in place which will be “better,” but spells out few details other than that those who serve in the military will get special treatment and that he will complete the border fence.  How’s that for being clear about what he believes in and what his plans are?

Romney HAS said SOME things he wants to do as president.  He’s said he wants to cut taxes even more, eliminate the deficit and increase military spending.  Okay, everyone already knows (don’t you?) that we’re running a deficit on the order of $1.3 trillion, which means that we’re spending that much more than we’re collecting in taxes.

To anyone with more than a first grade sense of arithmetic, then, quickly comes the question: Just what are you going to cut in order to reduce taxes even more, increase already bloated military spending AND eliminate the deficit?  Hey, food stamps, foreign aid and health insurance for poor kids won’t get you even 10% of the way there.  So what’s it gonna be? Social Security?  Medicare?  Your home mortgage interest deduction on your income tax? Employers’ tax deductions for providing insurance to their workers?

Those are the biggies, the only ones (other than defense) that you can cut that will make a big enough difference to come close to what Romney SAYS he wants.  Well, wait.  You COULD cut 100% of Medicaid.  But most of that goes for two things: (1) the elderly and (2) the disabled.  More than half of all nursing home patients are covered by Medicaid (no, Medicare DOESN’T cover that, Medicaid does and only for people with no money and no assets).  It also covers many people on critical life support (remember Terri Shiavo?).

So, is he going to unplug grandpa and toss granny out into the street?  No?  Then what IS he going to cut?  You guessed it.  He won’t say what his plans are.  Guess you’ll just have to wait until after the election.

Elect Republicans and Cut Taxes

That’s what those of you intending to vote Republican are going for, right?  HERE is an interview with one of your gurus, Rand Paul (R-KY), who wants to do just that.  Now, I know you guys have WAY too short of attention spans to read all that, so let me just cut to the operative quote for you:

“Democrats think working with us on Social Security will bring a compromise. They think we want changes to Social Security and we will agree to bring taxes up. This is wrong-headed. We are not jumping up and down to reform entitlements; we want to fix them because they are broken.”

And by “fix them,” he clearly means “cut them,” because, as he says, any notion that Republicans will “agree to bring taxes up” in order to accomplish that is “wrong-headed.”

Now, you guys understand, right, that there are two big “entitlements,” Social Security and Medicare?  According to the Washington Post, Paul’s plan would:

“… cut the average Social Security recipient’s benefits by nearly 40 percent, reduce defense spending by nearly $100 billion below a level the Pentagon calls “devastating,” and end the current Medicare program in two years — even for current recipients, according to the Senate Budget Committee staff. It would eliminate the education, energy, housing and commerce departments, decimate homeland security, eviscerate programs for the poor, and give the wealthy a bonanza by reducing tax rates to 17 percent and eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends.”

Now, I know all of you can take a 40% hit in Social Security.  And you do understand, right, that your existing medical insurance reverts to a “Medicare supplemental” policy at age 65, which only covers the 20% that Medicare doesn’t?  And, of course, you can live with that when “Medicare is ended in two years,” right?  And nobody really cares if Housing, Commerce, Education and Energy are eliminated or whether Defense and Homeland Security are “devastated,” much less whether programs for the poor are “eviscerated” or the rich get even MORE tax cuts, but COME ON – have mercy on those of use who can’t take that 40% SS cut, will ya?

I have only two other comments:

Be damn careful what you wish for.  You just might get it.


You don’t always get the government you NEED, but you almost always DO get the government you DESERVE.


The Obama Economy

So, you buy Mitt Romney’s argument that Obama has messed up the economy?  Made it worse?  By what measure do you come to that conclusion?  Yes, employment is still around 8% and it SEEMS like we’re still in a recession.  But the fact is that the economy is actually growing.  No, not as fast as we’d like it to, but growing nonetheless.  Of course, if you look at the actual data, the top 1% is getting almost all the benefit of this growth while the rest of us just get by.

Now, Republicans and their presumptive nominee want to institute programs of severe austerity, cutting government, laying off workers and lowering taxes on the wealthy.  They say that such measures will stimulate growth and create jobs, but will it actually?  Well, George W. Bush tried half of that (lowering taxes while increasing government spending and employment) and we see where that got us.  And, if you look at Europe, they’re actually trying the OTHER half (laying off government employees and slashing spending) and THAT’S not working either.

Now note the graph below.  The blue line shows GDP growth for the Euro zone – those countries that use the Euro as their currency – and the red line does the same for the UK – which still uses the pound.  Neither of these economies has matched U.S. economic growth (yellow line) since Obama took office.

Now, look at the UK line in particular.  Following the onset of the Great Recession (2008-2009), its economic recovery was seemingly underway … until about 2010.  What happened then?  Why the current conservative government of David Cameron took office and began a program of severe austerity, slashing programs and laying off hundreds of thousands of government employees.  Since then, their economy has faltered, actually CONTRACTING for the last two quarters, which – by textbook definition – means that Cameron’s conservative policies have RETURNED Britain to an economic condition of recession.

So, you’re saying you might actually be considering voting for the proponents of policies that not only almost led to worldwide Economic Armageddon in 2001-2008 but also aren’t working now in Europe?  How many times do you have to touch the hot stove before you finally learn that doing so will burn the absolute SHIT out of you?