The U.S. is purportedly a representative democracy. We elect Congress and a president and they represent us in federal legislation. If they do not do what we want, we don’t re-elect them.
Sounds simple enough. But is it really working that way?
I have heard that the reelection rate among incumbent Congresspersons is higher than or equal to the “reelection” rate in the old Soviet Politburo. I was unable to find a solid source for that on the Net but I believe I heard it in the past from a reliable news source. I would appreciate reader recommendations of a solid source on that.
One reason for this is gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is drawing election district boundaries to ensure the district is a “safe seat” for the party that draws the boundaries. Boundaries are drawn by the party that controls the statehouse the year after the census.
Originally, gerrymandering was a bit of politician misbehavior that the public smiled at but did not consider a problem.
That was then. Gerrymandering has since become an advanced science the purpose of which is to disenfranchise voters from the other party. If the California Democrat legislature could get away with it, they would put all the likely Republican voters in the state into one or two districts leaving the other districts safe for Democrat incumbents.
In many states, general elections (the November elections where a Republican faces a Democrat) no longer matter, the Democrat primary is the real election. The person who wins that will all but automatically win in November because the Republicans who would likely vote for the Republican challenger have been gerrymandered so that they have no hope of ever getting to vote in a district general election that matters.
Only Democrats can vote in the Democrat primary and the Democrat primary is the only election that actually chooses the Congressperson.
California’s state house gridlock is caused by a combination of majority ideologue Democrat primary winners who win the Democrat primary by being more socialist than the other Democrats they compete against and Republican ideologue primary winners and a state constitution requirement that no tax increase can be passed with less than a 2/3 vote.
Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are extremely powerful in Congress.
Did you vote for either of them? Me neither. Yet they are dramatically affecting our lives.
How did that happen? There are a bunch of Congressional rules that have the effect of shifting political power from the minority party to majority party leaders. The main problem is Pelosi and the committee chairmen can determine what comes to a vote. So what was the point of you electing a Congressperson if some committee chairperson or Speaker can prevent your Congressperson from ever casting a vote on things you want?
Pelosi is the representative of a San Francisco district. Seems to me, she should have no more power than anyone else in Congress. The speaker is provided for in the Constitution—but not much. It says:
That’s it. That’s all the Constitution says about the Speaker.
There is another provision that says,
They can determine rules, but not in a way that disenfranchises voters all over America, not in a way that lets Congressional leaders like Pelosi and Reid use their extraordinary “more powerful than a normal congressperson or senator status” to win re-election, not in a way that lets these “leaders” get more pork for their districts than other people’s representatives. I am not aware of any evidence that the Founding Fathers intended for the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader to have the extraordinary power they now have—power that comes directly from reducing the power of less senior representatives and minority party representatives.
The speaker is number three in line for the presidency as a result of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.
Since 2008, Congress has repeatedly passed laws that the U.S. public opposed according to polls. We did not want TARP. But our democratically-elected officials voted for it any way. Same is true of the 2009 earmarks bill, enforcement of immigration laws, and Obamacare. You hear the phrase “rammed down our throats” again and again. How can that phrase accurately describe the behavior of our elected representatives in a democracy?
Perhaps the main manifestation of the loss of our democracy is the takeover of Congress by professional politicians. These people represent no one. They seek election to be big shots. To impress their friends and relatives, make their enemies envious, and show the girl who turned them down for he prom that she made a really big mistake.
I heard one former congressman say that what Congress wants is to get on TV. The amount of money they have to raise to get reelected is so great that they fund raise continuously. To raise the money, they sell out to the special interests who lobby them and contribute to their campaigns.
These people are our enemies. They are of Washington, DC an would rather be there than back in their district. They regard voters as a great annoyance. Their peers are their follow Congresspersons, not their constituents. If they thought they could get away with it and that it would get them reelected, they would vote to deport everyone whose first name starts with the letter M. They have no interest in right, wrong, the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, or any of that. All they care about is reelection and power within Congress or moving up to the White House.
We desperately need a new way of selecting our representatives.” See my article on choosing Congress from the phone book for my serious recommendation on how we can finally have a responsible Congress that will do the right thing with no regard for politics.
In civics class, we were taught that we elect representatives and they pass laws. That’s only step one. Step two is paying for the laws.
In civics class, they taught us that Congress also passes tax laws to raise the money to pay for the other laws like Social Security and so on.
That was true decades ago, but not any more. Nowadays, they pass laws like Obamacare but refuse to pass tax laws to pay for Obamacare.
So where does the money come from to pay for Obamacare? From borrowing. The U.S. government borrows by selling U.S. government bonds called Treasuries.
Does anyone have to buy those bonds?
Are there any indications that the bond buyers are not going to buy those bonds?
Yes. China and other countries have been complaining about the levels of U.S. debt and deficit spending. Moody’s bond rating service has threatened to downgrade U.S. bonds below their AAA rating for the first time since World War I. China, our second biggest foreign bond buyer after Japan, has been buying commodities like gold and oil instead of U.S. bonds. Many countries have complained that we need a new world reserve currency other than the dollar.
So when our elected representatives enact Obamacare does that mean we get Obamacare? No. It means we then go hat in hand to the world bond market and beg them to lend us the money to pay for Obamacare. If they say yes, then and only then do we get Obamacare.
A democracy that lives within its means is a democracy. A democracy that spends more than it takes in in tax revenue is a nation of beggar and debtors.
We currently spend $7 trillion: about $3.25 trillion on refinancing maturing U.S. government bonds and about $3.6 trillion on government entitlements and operations.
Not only are we not living within our means, we are spending 3.5 times our means!
We are totally dependent upon the bond market to continue operating the way we plan to.
If the bond market stopped buying our bonds tomorrow, it would force us to either “print” money to pay our bills, which would cause hyperinflation, or we would have to default on the bonds maturing this year and cut U.S. government spending 40% across the board. That means 40% of federal government employees would be instantly fired—both civilian and military, and all entitlement checks like Social Security and federal pensions would instantly be cut 40%.
Hyperinflation means the U.S. dollar would become utterly worthless. Your life savings would still be in your bank account, but you could not even buy a McDonalds’s “Value Meal” plain cheeseburger (no Coke or fries) with all your money.
You say that cannot possibly happen? I suggest you talk to someone from Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Zimbabwe, Weimar Republic Germany (1922-1923), or dozens of other countries.
Only countries that live within their means can be democracies. A country that lives on borrowed money like the U.S. cannot control its own destiny. That is in the hands of the worldwide bond market.
We can vote to go to war with Iran—only if the bond market will lend us the money to do so.
We can vote to help Haiti deal with their earthquake—only if the bond market will lend us the money to do so.
We can vote to lend money to Greece with a bailout package—only if the bond market will lend us the money to do so.
We can vote to help people living on the Gulf of Mexico deal with the oil spill—only if the bond market will lend us the money to do so.
We can vote to pay Social Security benefits—only if the bond market will lend us the money to do so.
We are the most powerful nation on earth—only if the bond market will lend us the money to be so.
We are no longer a democracy. We are now a bondocracy—like teenagers who have to kow tow to their parents to get the keys to the family car on Saturday night.
China has started to throw its weight as our creditor around raising hell about Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama and about our selling weapons to Taiwan. At first, Obama refused to meet with the Dalai Lama—the first U.S. president to do that. To his belated credit, he later met with him and sold the weapons to Taiwan. But it was a glimpse of things to come in our new role as world’s biggest debtor.
If and when China alone says do X or we will sell all our U.S. bonds and stop buying new ones, it would probably force us to default on the national debt immediately if we did not succumb to the temptation to “print” money instead. Again, “printing” money would cause hyperinflation which would cause the dollar to become worthless at which point everyone on earth would sell U.S. bonds and refuse to buy any more of them.
Then we would have no choice but to live within our $2-trillion-a-year means because our “credit cards” would all be canceled.
If we finally did that, we would again be a democracy and the most powerful nation in the world.
John T. Reed