Earlier today, my friend Ed from high school and I had a discussion on twitter about the gender of committee chairs of the U.S. Congress.
What appears to be a twitter bot sent us a tweet, asking us to sign a petition.
The title of the petition?
Increase Government Productivity
Apparently, this petition has three parts. Here they are, with my thoughts.
Part one: All members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be limited to one four-year term. The term elections will be staggered every two years just as they are now. Upon the end of their term, they will be allowed to serve for one additional year in order to help the incoming Congress person with their transition into the job.
This would require significant amending of the Constitution, since it sets the terms of both bodies membership and the length of term. This plan basically calls for the elimination of a bicameral legislature as we know it and makes the bodies very similar. While it isn’t clear what “serving one additional year” would entail, it imposes term limits — which I generally think are a bad idea since voters have the opportunity to impose their own term limits on members every two years for House members and every six for Senators.
While the Senate has become more and more like the House (bad), it still serves a purpose in divided government. The changes you propose, in my opinion, undermine this. I don’t think this is a good idea.
Part two: Once elected, each member of Congress will enjoy the same benefits package that they have right now. The American public will be allowed to vote on changes to their current benefits package. Once they are no longer serving, all of their benefits will become unavailable to them. The purpose of this is to ensure that while they are serving their term in office, they will understand that they will be held accountable to the same laws and standards as the rest of us are once they are out of office. This means that their choices while in office will have consequences in their own lives once they are no longer serving. This will give them skin in the game.
I don’t want to delve into this again into detail, but I’ll just say in short that the “benefits” for our federally elected officials are generally no different than that of any federal employee. The petition later states that once they’re out of Congress, they don’t get any benefits. How do you rectify this with “will enjoy the same benefits package they have right now”? This involves Thrift Savings, Pensions, etc. Does the petition mean that their paid benefits are unavailable to them once they’re gone?
Since there is no mechanism for “The American public” to vote on things — like ballot initiatives at the State level — it is unclear on how you plan on accomplishing this objective. If the plan proposes allowing federal ballot initiatives, why even bother having a Congress?
Further, I don’t understand how denying lawmakers a pension they pay into for 10, 20, or even 30 years will “ensure … they will be held accountable to the same laws and standard as the rest of us.”
Part three: All income received outside of their compensation and benefits package provided by the United States government from any corporation, organization or private entity will be taxed at 100%. Income can be defined as money, items of value, services or anything that can be construed as a tool used to lobby for their vote on any particular issue. This taxation will exist for the five years that they are allowed to serve in Congress. Any value added income not reported will be punishable by one year in federal prison for each count and a dollar for dollar repayment of said value to the United States government.
So, I take this to mean that any money a potential future elected official invested in stock, 401(k)s, or pensions is money that is taxed at 100%? Since we don’t know the answer to whether their four years of federal pension / TSP investments are available to them, this is a bad deal. What about people who have family owned businesses? Who would want to do this?
It’s also worth knowing that there are already limitations that apply — though the limitations aren’t perfect.
I think your petition is designed to try and put a limit the stupidity of voters — who collectively elect the members who represent us. Why not work to better educate voters? Seems to me that’s a better solution.
TL:DR — Your petition leaves me with more questions than answers, so I won’t be signing it.