In The Business Of Giving You The Business

Kind of a depressing WaPo piece here about America’s House of Not So Commons and politics increasingly being a rich person’s game:

Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home ­equity.

Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.

The comparisons exclude home equity because it is not included in congressional reporting, and 1984 was chosen because it is the earliest year for which consistent wealth statistics are available.

The growing disparity between the representatives and the represented means that there is a greater distance between the economic experience of Americans and those of lawmakers.

That particular understatement could power multiple suns.  Being a career politician is, well, a very lucrative career.  Combine this with the fact that maybe 10-15% of House districts are ever truly competitive in an election by design and you start to understand just how depressing the chore of fixing Congress is.  Some 90% disapproval for the institution, majorities now saying that their own Representative needs to be tossed, but maybe 60 out of 435 seats will change hands, at most, 80.  The other 350 or so are in zero danger of losing their seat even in an election year where the House has roughly the same approval rating as breeding velociraptors down the hall from a hospital neonatal ICU.

The Senate fares no better of course and is actually in many ways far worse, but if you should still somehow be wondering why it seems like everyone with “Rep.” in front of their name has no idea how the 99% actually lives, there’s a distinct, structural reason for that.  Also, good luck ever getting these clowns to agree to term limits, which would be a vital component of any fix.

For the one percent, by the one percent.  Could you imagine more than one percent of Congress ever consisting of pipe-fitters, school teachers, auto mechanics, computer engineers, or nurses?  It might be good for America.  It would be slightly less good for people with a net worth of $725,000 or more, which is why it wouldn’t happen.

All the kvetching about the Presidency is one thing, but until we strip mine the professional grifters out of Congress, ain’t nothin’ gonna change, bro.

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115 replies
  1. 1
    c u n d gulag says:

    And, to quote Shakespeare:
    “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    Ok, maybe not “kill” them.
    But get rid of them.
    Both Houses of Congress are as infested with lawyers as rundown downtown crack houses are with roaches.

    Maybe we open up a nice “Lawyer Motel” near the Hill and offer real cheap hourly rates.
    This could work, because when a lot of them are done screwing us, they might seek some relief there with their staff – by screwing them.
    ‘Lawyers walk in – but they don’t walk out!”
    The staffers do, if they promise to quit.

    Or we could start by stopping some of the ridiculous gerrymandering that makes a farce out of what constitutes a district..
    I still like the “Lawyer Motel” idea, though…

  2. 2
    2liberal says:

    fixes: triple the number of reps , have them stay in home districts rather than meet in DC

  3. 3
    The Moar You Know says:

    Term limits is not a fix. It’s merely admitting that voters aren’t qualified to act in their own best interests.

  4. 4
    Elizabelle says:

    I think the WaPost accomplished some journalism.

    Welcome back.

  5. 5
    MattF says:

    Well, fwiw, doubling in 25 years isn’t particularly rapid growth. The problem is not so much the growth in salary, benefits, and wealth of Congressional representatives as the lack of growth in most everyone else’s salary, benefits, and wealth. Once upon a time economic growth lifted all the boats.. now it’s just the bigger boats–the little ones are sinking.

  6. 6
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @c u n d gulag: I love the smell of simplistic lawyer bashing in the morning. It smells like … crappy reasoning.

  7. 7
    Paul says:

    Term limits will solve nothing. All you do is get rid of the good with the bad. You have the usual suspects, they just turn over more rapidly. Let’s put the blame where it really belongs: on the voter. What is needed is an electorate that is capable of critical thinking, educate themselves about how our government works, what the issues, and who the players, are, are engage in public life, pay attention and vote. In other words, we are so screwed.

  8. 8
    RosiesDad says:

    The problem with “throw them all out” is that while Congress ‘enjoys’ an approval rating of about 10%, most members of Congress earn >50% approval from their constituencies. The sentiment that “my guy is okay but the rest of them really suck” makes it very difficult to envision a wholesale turnover in Congress, no matter how much we would like to see it.

  9. 9
    BO_Bill says:

    Before the Jews shoved everybody else out, Congress was largely populated with military veterans. That was pretty good.

  10. 10
    magurakurin says:

    @BO_Bill: I really don’t know if this is snark or not so the only reply I can think of is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vb3IMTJjzfo

  11. 11
    Agrippa says:

    I think that here two important factors: cticism of Congress, as a group, is not applied to their own member of Congress.
    And, professional politicians, through the apportionment process, try to see to it the most elections are not competitive. They like ‘safe seats’.

  12. 12
    Sphys says:

    Agreed with other commenters that term limits aren’t the solution. Proportional representation would be nice, but not very likely; nonpartisan redistricting, on the other hand, is conceivable. And real public funding of elections if the Supreme Court won’t allow election financing restrictions.

    Oh, and restrict Congressional investments severely. You’d have a lot fewer zillionaires in Congress if they were only allowed to park their money in a savings account (or let’s even say an index fund).

  13. 13
    Raven says:

    How bout banning this fucking BO asshole again?

  14. 14
    magurakurin says:

    The shocking stat there to me is that the median net worth of Americans is only 20,000 dollars. That seems shockingly low for, you know, the Greatest Country on Earth. But I guess since it doesn’t include home equity it is a bit higher. Then again if most people’s net worth is in fact tied up their homes the pain of the housing bubble makes even more sense. 20 large doesn’t go very far, I reckon.

  15. 15
    Laertes says:

    That bit about term limits was a jarring little throwaway line. You’re otherwise mostly making sense, but I wonder if you could explain to me how I’m better off if I’m legally forbidden to vote for Henry Waxman this fall.

  16. 16
    Schlemizel says:

    @Raven:
    No, I think ‘ol brick head has raised a serious point! the 27 members of Congress who profess to be Jewish TOTALLY control everything. The other 98% of the House should just go home and admit they have no control or influence. How could they when they are so outnumbered?

    ETA: Oops! Make that 26 – Tony wiener left to spend more time with his cell phone camera.

  17. 17
    amk says:

    @Laertes: Power abhors vaccum. If one waxman goes, there will be others to replace him. waxman is not gonna live for ever.

    Odd out of three branches of government, only one has term limit.

  18. 18
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Raven:
    Second. Casual bigotry doesn’t belong here, and neither does the kind of person who affects it as a “joke”.

  19. 19
    Ilia says:

    Putting in term limits would, as earlier commenters pointed out, a) only mean that the same types of people are in Congress, they just leave quicker, and b) reduce what little accountability we have in Congress, since a huge number of Congresspeople would be lame ducks in any given session.

    Also, I don’t buy the whole line that the fact that most members of Congress are in the 1% IPSO FACTO means that Congress represents the 1%. Last I recall, Ted Kennedy was one of the biggest Congressional champions of the 99% over the past couple of decades, and he had more money than most representatives in the Senate combined. I think the bigger problem is that our current system of members of Congress having to constantly fundraise and become beholden to the wealthy in their district. And it will stay that way until everyone in the country has a Paypal-like account and donates money to the causes they support. Look at Nate Silver’s analysis of the politics of the 1%, one of the few big differences he found between them and the 99% is in how much they’re politically involved and donate to their candidates, rather than who they vote for in the voting booth.

  20. 20
    c u n d gulag says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Will Waldorf also be opining, or are you up there in the balcony solo today? :-)

    The lawyer stuff was a cheap gag, I’ll admit.

    The real point is the extent to which it’s the gerrymandering of each Congressional district into something so ridiculous that even a contortionist on acid couldn’t imagine it, that is one of the major problems – because it pretty much guarantees the reelection of the incumbent. And it’s been going on from almost the beginning of the republic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering

    I don’t know what state you live in, but take a look at how your districts look on a map – the links to the states is at the bottom:

    http://nationalatlas.gov/printable/congress.html

    For instance, the district in NY that I live in has been Republican for most of the last century, and gerrymandered to remain so.
    Somehow, in 2006, a Democrat won for the first time in decades. The shock almost killed us Liberals. But, he lost in the 2010 wave to a Teabagging nitwit, despite our best efforts to keep him in office. And, despite my efforts next year, and as unpopular as the House is, I’ll be shocked if she loses her seat next year.
    Voting Republican is pretty much ingrained here.

    Them’s my $0.02 on gerrymandering, and how that influences the fact that we keep reelecting the same people over and over again.

  21. 21
    Samara Morgan says:

    The rot goes a lot deeper than that, Zandar.
    heres a comment i left on DougJ’s thread.

    no. its how the freed market works.
    with abundant resources the “freed” market raises the the “boat”, growing the middle class. the overall human condition improves. with resource starvation the market turns on the middle class and cannabilizes it, and GINI and the inequality gap grow exponentially.
    __
    the “freed” market is WAI.
    at least from the perspective of the overclass.

  22. 22
    Schlemizel says:

    @Amir Khalid:
    I think the only response (although no response would probably be better) is to point and laugh. People as stupid and ugly as brick head bill need to be laughed at so that others understand the low regard such ‘thinking’ engenders.

  23. 23
    Samara Morgan says:

    @c u n d gulag: Obama wasnt on the ballot in 2010.
    2010 was just another Distributed Jesusland election.
    you know, Distributed Jesusland? the 2008 Jesusland map minus the majority/minority cities?

    the founders and framers crafted a model that favored evolutionary change over revolutionary change.
    2010 was just lag in the system.

  24. 24
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Schlemizel: the 27 only control foreign policy, vis a vis Israel.
    the specific gravity of Israel deforms nearly all foreign policy via proxy, ie sanctions on Iran.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    amk says:

    putin to protesters – fuck you.

  27. 27
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @Elizabelle:

    I think the WaPost accomplished some journalism. Welcome back.

    Like a bad case of indigestion, this too will pass.

  28. 28
    Amir Khalid says:

    This is off-topic, but too delightful not to mention here. The man who might be ultimately responsible for keeping Noot off the Virginia primary ballot is none other than Ozzie Osborne.

  29. 29
    Maude says:

    Congress has been fighting off the no more insider trading laws. They don’t want that spigot turned off. If it becomes a social no no to gain money through illicit means, that would help. OWS is important.

  30. 30
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Raven: dont believe meh?
    check this out, Old Corvid. (ekshually i think of you more as the Snowcrash style Raven)
    via HotAir.

    Hamas gains leverage from the Brotherhood’s show of solidarity over Israel and, especially, Fatah. A public spectacle like today’s is one way of signaling that future Israeli attacks on Hamas might have consequences for the Camp David accords, just in case anyone doubted it, and it can only help Hamas with Palestinian voters to be embraced by the new power next door, now the vanguard of the Arab Spring. Just within the past few hours, a Hamas spokesman not only predicted a landslide over Fatah in the next parliamentary elections but hinted that they might challenge Mahmoud Abbas by nominating their own presidential candidate. No wonder the group’s reportedly thinking of moving its headquarters from Damascus to Cairo. (Well, that and the chaos in Syria.) The grander strategy here, I take it, is to pressure western countries that are eager to domesticate the Brotherhood into granting Hamas more legitimacy as a condition of that domestication. Erdogan, the MB’s Turkish role model, has been shilling for Hamas for years but he’s not going to walk away from the west over that point of disagreement. Would the Brotherhood, especially when they’re facing electoral pressure from the Salafists to be even more hardline in their Islamism? Or will the prospect of losing sweet, sweet western foreign aid make them inch away from Hamas too?
    __
    Long story short, the choice in Egypt right now is between these nuts, a military that defends the practice of stomping women half to death in the streets, and the Wahhabist faction that wants to Talibanize the country.

    AllahP engages in spin here.
    For one thing, Hamas was founded as the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, Erdogan has been vigorously lobbying for Palestinian statehood in defiance of American goals, the USA is currently funding SCAF to “stomp women half to death” just like we funded Mubarak for 30 years to make nice with Israel.

    its all about Israel all the time in MENA.

  31. 31
    Poopyman says:

    @Amir Khalid: Oh foo! That O.O. was something of a letdown.

  32. 32
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Samara Morgan: Generally, if you are defending the same point of view as BoB, you may want to take a good, hard look at your position and strongly consider rethinking it.

  33. 33
    MariedeGournay says:

    @c u n d gulag: Absolutely. I respect the profession, but at bottom these men and women are trained to argue their case facts be damned. We need some damn physicists, engineers, chefs, poets, construction workers, painters, dog trainers up in there. You know, people who MAKE things.

  34. 34
    amk says:

    @Amir Khalid: karma, sweet and all that. But the law is change is good. So…

  35. 35
  36. 36
    4tehlulz says:

    @Amir Khalid: Ironic, considering Newt’s the conductor of the GOP crazy train.

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MariedeGournay: I will make this one last point and then drop the subject. Lawyers do not “argue their case facts be damned.” In popular perception, maybe. In reality, lawyer make the best case for their clients permitted by the facts. The point that Congress should be representative of the country is not a bad one, but it is representation by the 1% that is the problem not the legal profession.

    Also too, dog trainers make things?

  38. 38
    RosiesDad says:

    @MariedeGournay:

    We need some damn…dog trainers up in there.

    “Cantor! Boehner! Off! Kennel! Good dogs.”

    True.

  39. 39
    ice weasel says:

    Lots of bad here.

    Term limits? What exactly do they “fix”?

    It’s absolutely legitimate and appropriate to point out how non-representational out representatives are. It’s vital to point out that congress is now a very lucrative career (which it shouldn’t be).

    We need proportional representation. We need to eliminate geographic districting. We desperately need more than two parties in the system.

    We need to eliminate lobbyists.

    We really need much better, more educated, more consistently involved, voters.

    Oh, and all that shit about pipefitters and whatnot, come on, grow up. That leads us to “joe the plumber” and that whole parade of “regular” folks. I want brilliant, civic minded people in government, I don’t care where they came from. And yes, one symptom of dysfunction is that such a high percentage are attorneys but that doesn’t make attorneys bad, not by definition. Like any profession, it’s what the people involved have done with it. And while I realize anecdotal isn’t data, I know some great attorneys.

    Good luck with any of this shit.

  40. 40
    RosiesDad says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: No. It is representation FOR the 1% that is the problem.

  41. 41
    Zach Hensel says:

    Agree with everything except term limits. There are structural reforms to elections and election funding (that would require amending the constitution, but so would term limits) that don’t get rid of the advantages of unlimited terms. Mainly, congressman, especially in the House, specialize in a few things and they (and their offices) work over many terms to accomplish something. Recent accomplishments in health care, arms control, etc would’ve been harder to come by if congress turned over more frequently. It’s also good that some congressmen are so popular that they rarely have to defend their seats (as opposed to having it easy because their state or district is way right or left). The permanent campaign is a nightmare.

  42. 42
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: wallah.
    what i said is TRUE.
    Israel shapes ALL AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN MENA.
    Not just the 27 jewish congressmen, but the pre-trib and eratz-israel CHRISTIAN congress critters.
    Did you know Eric Cantor IS JEWISH?

    Reaching out to the Muslim world may help in creating an environment for peace in the Middle East, but we must insist as Americans that our policies be firmly grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded.

  43. 43
    Joey Maloney says:

    @c u n d gulag: I really hate when that quote is misused. In context, it’s a warning against destroying the rule of law, not a prescription for good government.

  44. 44
    Samara Morgan says:

    @ice weasel: luff your name.
    anton checkov, right?

    Love is like a wild troika ride over the snow….until the sleigh flips over, pinning you underneath….and then the ice weasels come.

  45. 45
    ppcli says:

    @c u n d gulag: If you look at the context of that quote, the character in whose mouth Shakespeare puts the words is an evil guy who is conspiring to seize power. Eliminating the lawyers is a necessary first step, because knowledge of, respect for and attention to the laws would hinder the conspirators in what they want to do. So quoting Shakespeare on this supports exactly the opposite position from the one you are arguing for. Thanks for playing.

  46. 46
    Joey Maloney says:

    @amk: Refreshing honesty, at least.

  47. 47
    MariedeGournay says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: They make good dogs. ;) Good point. Yeah it was reductive, but I’ve always been disturbed by how much one profession is overrepresented in legislatures to the point where lawyer equals political career. Overtime I think state houses/senates and Congress have become fixed and determined by the arcanery of that profession. Having representatives from different professional backgrounds not only is more, well, representative of the country, but also brings other mindsets and language stances.

  48. 48
    rikyrah says:

    one of the bloggers at BooMan pointed out, that the weasel Cantor, while blocking the ‘Congress shouldn’t do insider trading’ bill, saw his net worth, in the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression QUADRUPLE over the last 3 years.

  49. 49
    rlrr says:

    @c u n d gulag:

    The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

    People should really go back and read that quote in context. It does mean what most people think it means.

  50. 50
    ppcli says:

    “Also, good luck ever getting these clowns to agree to term limits, which would be a vital component of any fix.”

    Michigan put in term limits back when it was a right-wing obsession du jour, and I can tell you it makes things 100 times worse. Everyone is in congress is forced to think of their next job (which will typically be a comfortable post with a think tank or lobbying firm – i.e. paid by the same people who are currently lusting after legislative changes in front of those same Congresseurs.) Nobody is around long enough to figure out how things work, nobody has an incentive to compromise in order not to get themselves frozen out in the long haul, because there is no long haul for them. Everybody has a powerful incentive to kick the can down the road, when it won’t be a problem for them. As a result, the state budget is in a near-meltdown crisis situation, as a result of ten or fifteen years of eating the seed corn. And the state ends up paying twice or three times as many generous lifetime health benefit and retirement packages as before.

    Setting ideology aside, look at the empirical facts. Term limits for congresspeople has proven to be a horrible idea.

  51. 51
    c u n d gulag says:

    @ppcli:
    Thank you, and @jJoey Maloney, but already I know that.

    I’ve already said that it was a failed attempt at humor.

    My point about gerrymandering being a large part of the problem, which looks like a throw-away line in my initial comment, is better made in my 2nd one, and was my main point.

    Gerrymandering does far more harm than having an over abundance of attorney’s in Congress. At least in the House, since a state is a state, so Senators seats are obviously exempted from the practice.

    It is one of many problems that we have regarding Congress.

    One of which, as someone above said very well, is not the fact that the people in Congress are part of the 1%, it’s that they vote in favor of the 1%. And, since they’re part of that exclusive group, obviously help themselves along with the others.

    Take the money out of politics, and we’ll have a Congress that will be more likely to represent the people that they’re supposed to, and not the people who are paying for their elections and reelections.

  52. 52
    rlrr says:

    @rlrr:

    Oops!

    People should really go back and read that quote in context. It does not mean what most people think it means

  53. 53
    ice weasel says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Actually, the Matt Groenig version. See “Life In Hell” circa 1983.

    And thank you.

  54. 54
    ppcli says:

    @rlrr: It means what most people think it means, sure, but it is spoken by, and endorsed by evil characters, which makes it clear that the audience is to draw the opposite conclusion. Unless you think that hanging a clerk just because he knows how to read and write is something Shakespeare means to endorse:

    SMITH
    The clerk of Chatham: he can write and read and
    cast accompt.

    CADE
    O monstrous!

    SMITH
    We took him setting of boys’ copies.

    CADE
    Here’s a villain!

    SMITH
    Has a book in his pocket with red letters in’t.

    CADE
    Nay, then, he is a conjurer.

    DICK
    Nay, he can make obligations, and write court-hand.

    CADE
    I am sorry for’t: the man is a proper man, of mine
    honour; unless I find him guilty, he shall not die.
    Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee: what is thy name?

    Clerk
    Emmanuel.

    DICK
    They use to write it on the top of letters: ’twill
    go hard with you.

    CADE
    Let me alone. Dost thou use to write thy name? or
    hast thou a mark to thyself, like an honest
    plain-dealing man?

    CLERK
    Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up
    that I can write my name.

    ALL
    He hath confessed: away with him! he’s a villain
    and a traitor.

    CADE
    Away with him, I say! hang him with his pen and
    ink-horn about his neck.

    Exit one with the Clerk

  55. 55
    Schlemizel says:

    @rlrr:
    Yeah “kill the lawyers” is one of the most misused quotes in the US. The person proposing it actually wants to overthrow the orderly world.

    The other one that drives me nuts is “There are no second acts in America lives” from Fitzgerald. It does not mean that there are no encores, no repeat performances or no comebacks. The idea comes from theater where the second act is where the story is developed, the protagonist has to struggle and seems likely to fail. Its in the second act where the characters develop.

  56. 56

    @Samara Morgan: #27

    the 27 [Jewish representatives] only control foreign policy, vis a vis Israel.

    While I agree that the US relationship with Israel distorts our relationships with several other countries, I think the problem lies not so much with reps practicing Judaism but with many of those practicing Christianity [or what Christianity seems to have become]. In other words, I think these distortions are caused by Christian Zionists.

    ETA:
    “specific gravity of Israel” :-)

  57. 57

    Oops. Should have directed the above comment to Samara at #25. Sorry.

  58. 58
    rlrr says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    She also warned us about George W. Bush…

  59. 59
    Keith G says:

    @c u n d gulag: Certainly a randomizing map drawing program (for Congressional districts) can be/has been developed based on census tracts and existing polity boundaries. Throw in a few rules regarding consistent radii length and keeping informal social groupings together (eg 5th Ward Houston), and I think that Gerrymandering and term limits issues can be addressed as well as having a better chance of Congresspeople being a bit more like the folks they represent.

  60. 60
    Samara Morgan says:

    @Linda Featheringill: can we split the difference and call them all Zionists?

    anti-Israel != racism.
    genetic jews like genetic arabs are ALL semites.
    semite is a racial category, jew is a religio/ethnic category.

  61. 61
    Samara Morgan says:

    @rlrr: actually i did, once i got educated. ;)
    you shuld look at my old schiavo and escr posts.
    it wasnt until i started studying evolutionary biology and the Quran that i understood what a horrorshow bush and the “freedom agenda” actually were.

  62. 62
    flounder says:

    This became guaranteed the moment the number of Representatives was fixed and not expanding with the popultaion.

  63. 63
    liberal says:

    @Ilia:

    Also, I don’t buy the whole line that the fact that most members of Congress are in the 1% IPSO FACTO means that Congress represents the 1%. Last I recall, Ted Kennedy was one of the biggest Congressional champions of the 99% over the past couple of decades, and he had more money than most representatives in the Senate combined. I think the bigger problem is that our current system of members of Congress having to constantly fundraise and become beholden to the wealthy in their district.

    I agree, with these differences:
    (1) I don’t think wealthy backers are necessarily within-district
    (2) Aside from fundraising, another problem is Congresscritters becoming lobbyists etc after they depart

  64. 64

    Term limits were dreamed up by the R’s to get entrenched D’s out of their seats. Which is why they don’t carry on about it once they get in there.

    Term limits are a terrible idea, as is the whole concept g the “citizen legislator.” So many are lawyers because one of their jobs is supposed to be writing good laws. Republican attempts to do so illustrate why dog trainers are not necessarily qualified.

  65. 65
    liberal says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    While I agree that the US relationship with Israel distorts our relationships with several other countries, I think the problem lies not so much with reps practicing Judaism but with many of those practicing Christianity [or what Christianity seems to have become]. In other words, I think these distortions are caused by Christian Zionists.

    I agree and disagree.

    First, it’s certainly true that the influence of the Israeli lobby (AIPAC etc) is not at all tied to individual congresspeople being Jewish.

    Second, the whole “it’s all the crazy rapture-ists fault” is highly exaggerated. Sure, it makes everything that much worse, but the Israel lobby would still lock up this aspect of US foreign policy even without the Christian nutjobs on the watch. (I’m saying that as an empirical claim.)

    Third, and not in contradiction to point 1, it is interesting to ask yourself, “which fairly or even very liberal members of Congress voted for the Iraq AUMF in 2002?”

    I write all this as a self-hating Jew, of course.

  66. 66
    gene108 says:

    I don’t get what the big deal is?

    We have a system of government, where personal wealth is a prerequisite to running for office and has been for centuries.

    If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you can’t take time off to campaign for a seat, like House Rep or U.S. Senator.

    It’s not like members of Congress saw increase in wealth via outright extorting money from people.

    For example, your business would benefit from a reduction on import duties on widgets. In order to get your Congressman’s attention, you need to pay them $250,000. I’m not talking campaign contributions. I’m talking about some new Lamborghini money, for their personal use.

    Other than public financing of political campaigns, there’s not much to do about the rich holding elected office in this country.

    On the bright side, folks not born rich have risen up the political ladder.

  67. 67
    liberal says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    Israel shapes ALL AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY IN MENA.

    IMHO Israel has undue influence on our foreign policy, and we should stop giving Israel foreign aid, but Israel’s influence isn’t dependent on any Jews being in Congress.

  68. 68

    @Samara Morgan:

    “Zionists” is probably a more accurate term.

  69. 69
    liberal says:

    @WereBear (itouch):

    Which is why they don’t carry on about it once they get in there.

    Yeah, I laughed when the election after the one in which the R’s used it to success, it was suddenly not a big deal anymore.

    If the R’s win the presidency, we’ll see the same thing re budget deficits.

  70. 70
    Cain says:

    @liberal:

    IMHO Israel has undue influence on our foreign policy, and we should stop giving Israel foreign aid, but Israel’s influence isn’t dependent on any Jews being in Congress.

    Israel is going off the deep end. I was hearing a report on the BBC about ultra conservatives demanding that women and men be segregated. Women have to sit in the back of the bus, and men in the front. They are even spitting on little girls going to school. What. The. Fuck. Has it really come to this now? This is what you get when you coddle the crazies. Fucking Lukud party. The Israeli experiment is going down in flames.

    It’s no wonder that today’s young Jews seem to have no connection to Israel. AIPAC’s influence is going to fade over time until of course they use fear mongering or something…

  71. 71
    Laertes says:

    @amk:

    There’s no reason to expect that creating term-limits will redistribute the available power to other congresscritters. Seems more likely that much of it will end up in the hands of lobbyists since they’ll be the ones who last for decades while generation after generation of greenhorn reps come and go.

  72. 72
    Roy G. says:

    Look at Michele Bachmann’s district in MN for a fine example of gerrymandering. Funny how it starts way east of the Twin Cities, and wraps all the way around the metro area to the northwest to include St. Cloud, which is not coincidentally, Ground Zero for anti-abortion zealots and fundie nuts.

  73. 73
    Jeff Fecke says:

    I think a better fix than term limits (which, while understandably tempting, are inherently anti-democratic) is a radical increase in the size of the House. I’m talking quintupling or more.

    This seems counter-intuitive — wouldn’t increasing the size of the House to 3,000 reps make things worse? Well, maybe not. Because

    1. It would bring reps closer to their people. Right now, the average Rep represents 700,000 people. Cutting that down to 150,000 people would reduce their power, and make it easier for middle-class people to mount a campaign for office.

    2. It would increase the percentage of unsafe seats, as it’s harder to gerrymander 25 districts than it is 5.

    3. It would give third parties the opportunity to win seats that are now out of reach. There’s no reason the Greens couldn’t win a seat in Chicago, or the Libertarians couldn’t win 4th Wyoming.

    3. It would have the salient benefit of reducing the power of small states in the Electoral College.

    There’s no reason the House can’t increase in size — its cap has been based on the number of desks that fit in the chamber, but there’s no reason that every member has to be able to sit in a desk on the floor all the time (indeed, they rarely do). Yes, it would require some rules as to who has access to the floor when, but if Parliament manages, we can too.

  74. 74
    Davis X. Machina says:

    No one, or nearly so, is in Congress for the salary. Wealth is the problem. It wouldn’t be full of millionaires otherwise.

    Legislative pay as an issue is a red herring, to draw the hounds off the election-funding scent. The usual reflex response is ‘Cut their pay and send them home’. Lamar Alexander in ’96 figured he could ride to the White House, and Perry flirted with it — the problem wasn’t the slogan though, but the salesmen.

    That’s guaranteed to make things worse, not better, which is why it’s popular on the right — making things worse is after all their political platform.

    I’ve seen it echoed on the left too, there’s a persistent drumbeat for an unpaid legislature in some corners of Democratic Underground, e.g.

    The House should be increased in size dramatically, and then have their pay raised to the minimum MLB salary. Any rep is worth more than a third catcher.

    We’ve all read Larry Lessig on the topic, right?

    (I’m dyin’ here. I can’t give homework for another week, and it’s killing me.)

  75. 75
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @liberal: Duh. Mena is where the Clintons shape the international drug traffic.

    Unless I have the wrong Mena….

  76. 76
    sherifffruitfly says:

    I acknowledge the problem, but I reject solutions of the form: “Let’s have the government limit who the electorate can and cannot vote for”.

  77. 77
    Samara Morgan says:

    @liberal: its dependent on zionists being in congress. How many of the 26 are zionists, i cant say.
    @Davis X. Machina: Middle East North Africa

  78. 78
    Jennifer says:

    Term limits are a horrible idea. What you end up with is a body full of freshmen who are never around long enough to really learn the ropes, leaving them even more suseptible to the tender mercies of the lobbyist hordes. At the same time, it would likely worsen the whole “owned congressman” phenom – the guy who knows he’s only allowed to stick around for 3 terms has less time to earn his nut, so he’s going to be hoovering up whatever cash is around while he can. A congressman who’s owned for 3 terms before he leaves office isn’t materially an improvement over one who’s owned for 10 terms before he leaves office, particularly if his successor is likely to be owned for his 3 terms as well. The length of time in office isn’t the problem; the ownership is the problem. To address that, you’ve got to address campaign funding law.

    I don’t see it happening without constitutional amendment. I’d like to see something that says only citizens eligible to vote may contribute to organized campaigns for candidates or issues, and then only up to a certain rather low limit. That would knock out all the non-human “persons” who currently call the shots. Yes, it would knock out unions as well, but we could live with that. All these non-human persons would still retain the right to express their opinion, and as often as they like, but would only be allowed to do so by using their existing legal name. No “Americans for Prosperity” masquerading for the Koch brothers – they could run ads advancing their opinion, but they’d have to use their existing legally-recognized names. Same for corporations. That gets around all the hoo-ha about restricting First Amendment rights – you can say whatever you like within very broad limits without government reprisal, but you have no First Amendment right to do so anonymously.

    Just those two simple provisions would fix most of what’s broken with our politics.

  79. 79
    liberal says:

    @Jeff Fecke:

    It would give third parties the opportunity to win seats that are now out of reach.

    IMHO a better way of doing htat would be proportional representation.

  80. 80
    liberal says:

    @Cain:
    Well, there’s two pieces to that.

    I don’t know that much about Israel, haven’t lived there, etc, but my impression is that in terms of domestic Israeli politics, things definitely are getting worse, to the extent that you have to wonder if the place is going to be full-on fascist/other authoritarian in the next couple of decades.

    OTOH, in terms of foreign relations and coexistence with the Palestinians, I don’t think things have changed much. AFAICT the Labor Party was as much in favor of slowly annexing parts of the Occupied Territories as the crazy right-wingers, maybe not as loud-mouthed about it.

    I did have me thinking this morning about the US going authoritarian, vs Israel. Maybe being bigger slows things down a bit. (Not that I don’t find trends here disturbing.)

  81. 81
    liberal says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    @liberal: its dependent on zionists being in congress. How many of the 26 are zionists, i cant say.

    How’s that relevant?

    The issue is nothing more and nothing less than what the US’s relation to Israel should be. There’s a large spectrum of opinion on that. One’s ethnic or religious background in no way determines what one’s attitude on such political questions should be, with some exceptions, e.g. the ultra-religious Jewish group who for whatever reasons thinks that the founding of Israel runs counter to their interpretation of Jewish law.

  82. 82
    liberal says:

    @Davis X. Machina:
    IMHO pay should be jacked up a lot, accompanied by draconian rules on as much of the legalized bribery stuff as is constitutionally possible.

  83. 83
    liberal says:

    @Jeff Fecke:

    It would bring reps closer to their people. Right now, the average Rep represents 700,000 people. Cutting that down to 150,000 people would reduce their power, and make it easier for middle-class people to mount a campaign for office.

    I’m not very sympathetic to this “closer to the people” stuff.

    That theory would have one believe that state legislatures are “closer to the people,” but AFAICT they’re more in the pocket of the ruling business elite than the federal ones are.

    Or take city councils, planning boards, etc—almost all the ones I’ve seen are in the pockets of the local developers.

    Far more important IMHO is (a) transparency, and (b) visibility. If someone is pretty “local,” but the process is harder to read and no one pays attention, results aren’t going to be good.

  84. 84
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    Ummmmmmmmm…

    Yes indeed… and therine lies the reason so many Congresscritters, Repub OR Dem, are so friggin’ reluctant to raise taxes…

    They’d be raising taxes on THEMSELVES

    And apparently the mere thought is enough to give them the vapors…

    Or set them to foaming at the mouth…

    Or rend their undergarments… w/ their bare hands…

  85. 85
    Mnemosyne says:

    I live in California, and I can speak from experience: term limits are a fucking disaster that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

  86. 86
    carpeduum says:

    That is why I love Canada so much. You don’t need money to get elected. Last election 3 university students got elected including 1 that is only 19. Also a 27yo bartender and some other interesting people. Right away the knives came out from the rich establishment people and the media but the public was having NONE of it and they got nowhere!

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politic.....ghter.html

  87. 87
    Zandar says:

    So if I read the commentariat right, fuck term limits, fuck having average people in Congress, and what we need is a smarter electorate limited to the better among us.

    Right then.

  88. 88
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Zandar: Why would I want average people in Congress? I want extraordinary people. Right now, ‘extraordinary’ means ‘passes the wallet biopsy’. That’s the problem.

    If you really want ‘average people’, you have your legislature chosen by sortition. It’s a solution, certainly.

  89. 89
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Zandar:

    Hell, yeah, fuck term limits. Term limits are a complete disaster that absolutely guarantee bad outcomes.

    Take a look at the real-world results of term limits in the many states that have implemented them. We’re supposed to be the reality-based community here. Look at the evidence.

  90. 90
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Zandar:

    Also, too, the size of the House of Representatives hasn’t changed in over 100 years, and yet our population has exploded. How can the same number of legislators fairly represent 300 million people as represented 100 million people?

    Having a proportional legislature is more important than doubling down on the already proven disastrous term limits.

  91. 91
    Mnemosyne says:

    Linky before I run my errands:

    http://www.thirty-thousand.org/

    The Constitution specifies that a Congressional district cannot have fewer than 30,000 people. Right now, the average Congressional district represents 700,000 people. That means that some congresscritters represent more people than the governors of some states.

  92. 92

    Because I ran for Congress (far-fetchedly) I had to take an actual look at what winning would mean. A slight overall economic improvement thanks to 2 household living and travel from my rather lower middle incomme. The distressing point is the process of running.

    If you work for a living even a Primary is counter to earing an income. I could not have put the time into it if I had not had the ability to put some responsibilities onto my crew and sleep and work on politics at work. Yes, I do mean sleep in the job trailer on site. No matter what you do, you will spend your own money on the process and lose income – in my case paying people to do work I ordinarily would do, and lose the best hand on the site (me).

    The outcome of winning means that whatever career you had outside politics or the influence of politics is at best put on hold or, more likely, ended. Just two years of “sabatical” is an eternity much less more. It doesn’t matter all that much if you’re a construction contractor or an engineer or whatever outside politics. You have to have the means to do just that – quit your line of work.

  93. 93

    @Mnemosyne:

    Having a proportional legislature is more important

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? The House is, the Senate is not. All CDs are roughly the same population though the geographical area varies considerably. My CD is larger in area than any state east of the Mississippi River but population wise roughly equal to NYC’s.

    Yes, a State is guaranteed one Rep.

  94. 94
    Bill Arnold says:

    @carpeduum:

    That is why I love Canada so much. You dont need money to get elected.

    OK, I’ll bite. Why don’t you need money to get elected in Canada?

  95. 95
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Having smaller Congressional districts and therefore more representatives in the House of Representatives is more important than instituting federal term limits, which have already proven to be disastrous in the states that have them.

    Basically, our “proportional” system has more and more people represented by a single congresscritter every year, and that’s no way to run a country. When you have almost three-quarters of a million voters represented by a single person, that’s a recipe for corruption, IMO.

  96. 96
    Cain says:

    Yes, I thinkh aving more congress people representing us sounds more ideal. It will also make it less interesting to the press. Smaller districts meean a more finally tuned representative. I suspect that it will make Washington D.C. a lot more interesting..

    I still think though that we need to do something about how much elections cost. It’s hard for an extraordinary person to run without help from rich folks…

  97. 97

    @Mnemosyne:
    Then pick words that mean something other than what the House actually is – proportional representation versus the Senate which is not at all. You don’t like the size is something other than the mechanics of proportional representation.

    Halving the size of my CD would make running in it a hell of a lot easier from the aspect of travel, urban CDs on the other hand … not so difficult. As for it being more representative, um – not sure on that aspect since it again falls on where the lines are drawn.

    If you reduce the size too damn much thenvery narrow parochial interests are going to clog the works badly. They already do clog things rather badly and you’re talking about seriously increasing that inclination.

  98. 98
    Yutsano says:

    @Bill Arnold: Canada has public financing. It still gave Harper a majority.

  99. 99

    @Cain:

    It’s hard for an extraordinary person to run without help from rich folks…

    You’re neglecting the realities I tried to present about the fact of running at all or winning without any consideration of electioneering costs. It isn’t a thing to do if you depend on working for a living and can’t afford to lose that.

  100. 100
    Nora says:

    c u n d gulag — you live in NY 19 also?

    Our previous representative lasted for two terms. Prior to that, for over 20 years, we’d had the same Republican representative, who was utterly useless. Now we have a Tea Party idiot, whom I will move heaven and earth to unseat, but, given the size and shape of the district, it’s going to be difficult, and of course that’s the point of gerrymandering.

  101. 101
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    You don’t like the size is something other than the mechanics of proportional representation.

    I think we’re arguing semantics here — my argument is that having one person represent 700,000 people is pretty much the antithesis of what proportional representation in the House should be. The House is supposed to represent the smallest practical number of citizens. That practical number may be 100,000 rather than the Founders’ vision of 30,000, but I think we can both agree that 700,000:1 puts way too much power into the hands of too few people.

    As some of the links I used pointed out, having too few Representatives concentrates power in the hands of the less populated states, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Congress right now is tilted heavily in favor of smaller states in both houses, and that is not the way it was set up to be.

    If you reduce the size too damn much thenvery narrow parochial interests are going to clog the works badly. They already do clog things rather badly and you’re talking about seriously increasing that inclination.

    I disagree. I think one of the reasons that parochial interests are clogging up the works is that less populated states have a greater share of power than they should, which is why their parochial interests are able to clog up the system. If the House was more representative of the population as a whole rather than over-representing less-populated rural areas, I think some of the parochialism could be mitigated. But YMMV, of course.

  102. 102
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Cain:

    I still think though that we need to do something about how much elections cost.

    Election cost is related to the size of the population of a district. Local town elections don’t cost $1000000 (outside big cities like NY. :-)

  103. 103
    Ruckus says:

    Many people say that term limits are bad. Term limits are not a panacea, they are part of the process of bringing back government for all of us. Term limits, non partisan redistricting, campaign financing, better informed voters.
    I’m for reasonable term limits. 16-20 yrs in the house, 18-24 yrs in the senate.
    This gives people time to do good and then move on. Yes we may lose some of the best as they move on to other things. We also get rid of the bad. Remember congress affects all of us even though none of us voted for more than 3 members. Yes some will say as they stay they can become more professional. I say that is a large part of the problem.
    This can never be a country of, by and for the people if our reps are not. And right now most(all?) are not.
    We did not have term limits on the president until we had a president be elected more than twice. But we made the change and it seems to me that it was a necessary and good change. Why is this different?

  104. 104

    @Mnemosyne:

    I think one of the reasons that parochial interests are clogging up the works is that less populated states have a greater share of power than they should

    This is just plain silly, OR’s delegation would double as would NY’s, 5/29 to 10/58 and this dilutes OR’s influence exactly how? If you’re trying to make a case about the Senate you have something to talk about but while your point about smaller being more representative of our population’s interests I’ll only make the point that lines are more determinative of that. It would certainly dilute the influence of any one Rep. but that is already at 1/435 and would seem more dependent on the person than the CD itself.

    Franly, it sounds as though you think some place like NYC is under-represented with a couple CDs verus OR with 5 and I’m having a difficult time working that one out.

  105. 105

    @Chuck Butcher:
    In point of fact, if you halve the size of CDs the rural influence in states like OR or approaching it in population centers would increase because the 435 number means folding in quite a bit of rural area into population centers. This would also be true in up-state NY or VA.

  106. 106

    @Chuck Butcher:
    Here is the implication in OR with its 5 increasing to 10, you would keep the 4D that you have and maybe pick up one more, the R would make up the difference so from 4D/1R you’d get 5D/5R. You might think that would moderate the GOP but certainly not in OR – our GOP is quite as sick as any other, maybe a tad less racist.

  107. 107
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Actually, New York lost two seats after the latest Census — they now have 27 seats instead of 29. Florida, which has about 500K fewer residents than New York, now has the same number of seats (27).

    Because there are only 435 seats, some states lose representation while others gain, and those losses can be quite significant. Given that Southern and Southwestern states were the big winners in the latest federal redistricting, do you still want to argue that they don’t have outsized influence?

  108. 108
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    If we go with my modest proposal to change representation to 100,000:1 instead of 700,000:1, New York would have 194 Reps and Florida would have 188 Reps instead of the equal numbers they have now.

    It wouldn’t make much difference in smaller states like Oregon, but it would make a major difference in larger states. Which is what my point was all along.

  109. 109

    @Mnemosyne:
    See their population! THAT is proportional representation. NY would have lost versus the states you’re on about regardless.

    You’re talking about FL with 27 CDs and a 500K pop difference in total? You’re looking at 18.5K/CD difference to claim FL has outsized representation.

    You want results you aren’t going to get with your scheme. You miss entirely what unfolding rural areas would mean in its impact. I’m not suggesting that 435 is the be-all end-all, but you’re ignoring what happens to the electoral map in your scheme.

    Let me repeat that OR would be 5/5 rather than 4/1 and that isn’t even a bit localized to my state, it is a feature of way more than half the states.

  110. 110

    @Mnemosyne:
    You’re talking about 6 reps out of 382 total 2 states? Six may impress you but I’m about completely underwhelmed. At 100K the results in OR would be catastrophic for Ds. The Reps would go to 38 and the lion’s share would be R in that case and the results elsewhere would be about as bad or worse.

    If you think politics is unhinged at this point…

  111. 111

    @Mnemosyne:
    We could argue all night about an ideal size CD, what you need to keep in mind is that with something bigger the Rep is forced to at least pretend to represent a fairly diversified constituency. At 100K that starts to disappear pretty damn quickly. You are now talking about a full participation winning vote of 50,001 when the reality is quite a bit smaller. At 70% turnout 35,001 wins.

    That doesn’t begin to reflect about 2800 nimrods in one building getting a damn thing done when 435 don’t either when you have a Senate.

  112. 112
    pattonbt says:

    While term limits can be appealing on the surface, they, for me, go against the grain of the constitution (sorry, TEH CONSTATUSHUN!ll11!). The candidate requirements for federal office are laid out and I should be able to vote for whomever I want who fits those requirements and if that person gets the most votes (electoral college elections withstanding) so be it. Obviously, a constituational ammendment would change that, but it seems to be counter to what our system is based on.

    The people get what they vote for and they hold the responsibility for the actions of those they put in office. And while humans suck and continually put scumbags in office, it is what it is.

    My way of trying to address these weaknesses is fixing gerrymandering, taking private money out of elections (along with strong civics courses in schools), strongly regulating lobbying and reducing “perks” of elected office (no benefits that the “common man” doesnt get – i.e. health care, insider trading, etc.). Obviously that is much easier said than done, but thats where I put my effort.

  113. 113
    xian says:

    Why would OR go 5/5? Rural areas have smaller populations. For every new rural district you’d hae several more in each urban center.

  114. 114

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