Submitted by Michael Collins on Thu, 2010-10-07 18:53 Congress
By Michael Collins
Part II of III (Part I)
Members of Congress are different. They get to retire at age 62 with lifetime pensions and health benefits. To qualify, they need just five years of service. They get free phone, mail, and other communications plus paid domestic and foreign travel.
Supposedly, they're not allowed to take gifts but the list of exceptions offers plenty of room for luxurious appreciation.
The biggest gift of all - a six to seven figure job with a major corporation or lobbying firm right after retirement - is still fair game for any member. The revolving door never stops.
But supposedly Congress passes laws for the public benefit. They come to power based on contributions from their patrons, usually large donors. Then members resolutely deny that these contributions translate into legislation favorable to the donors. If pressed, members state that the contributions merely buy access not votes.
In fact, members routinely vote the interests of their largest patrons. Thus, the contributions are a form of legalized bribery ("a favor or promise given to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust.").
The financial industry contributed hundreds of millions to current members. When Wall Street was about to fail in late 2008, they called in their markers and got an immediate bailout of $700 billion and "total potential Federal Government support (that) could reach up to $23.7 trillion" from the Federal Reserve and other government sources. This was in the midst of the 2008 federal election cycle when members solicited funds from the very people they bailed out.
Would this have happened without years of contributions by the financial industry?
What other incentives were involved that were not revealed?
The people face a health care crisis of epic proportions, losing insurance, under coverage for life threatening conditions. They have to delay or cease medication due to ever rising costs. Health care is unaffordable to many.
Congress addressed the problem much like they did the financial crisis. A bill was passed that left health insurance companies at the center of health care taking a handsome profit for doing little to nothing. Prior to passage of the health bill, the insurers raised rates shamelessly and did so again after the legislation was enacted, using the very health reform passed for the people to gouge the people for more money.
In the midst of total unemployment at about 20%, with the poverty on the rise, what has Congress done? The vast majority of citizens get little or no attention while those who cause the financial meltdown are handsomely rewarded. Members of Congress fret that they simply can't get the votes to help the people. But we know different.
It's planned failure that serves their wealthy donors. That's not a system of laws. It's an oligarchy with a strong dose of kleptocracy.
Congress routinely ignores the Constitution. Article I outlines "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress." Section 8 of the article lists this power: "To declare War." When presidents make war without congressional authorization, Congress passes legislation that negates its war making powers in order to legitimize the illegal act by the executive branch.
These wars are funded by Congress even when a war was found to be based on lies, as was the case in Iraq. Congress continues to fund the efforts claiming it is necessary to protect the troops. They fail to acknowledge that the absence of illegal wars harmful to the nation is the best troop protection available.
With the illegal wars underway, Congress passes legislation to address the problems created by the illegal wars in the name of national security. As they do this, the real issues of national security, the legal rights of citizens and the economic well being of the nation, are violated or ignored.
A key function of Congress is oversight and investigation. When the nation was attacked on 9/11, the hapless response by the executive branch was on full display. A 2002 House - Senate Joint Committee detailed the extensive government knowledge of the emerging plot over years without effective executive action to stop it.
Nothing came of the report. It is as though it never occurred.
When the 9/11 Commission was finally established, Congress allowed a former Bush administration insider to serve as the executive director and appointed co-chairmen who thought that the executive director was just fine. It came as no surprise when a thoroughly inadequate report was produced with key sections blacked out.
Illegal wars, the stripping of fundamental rights like habeas corpus, the declaration that presidents have the right to assassinate U.S. citizens by executive order, the rendering of charges without having to specify those charges were all ratified by Congress. It must be legal. Didn't Congress pass a law?
But they couldn't do this without the full cooperation of the judicial branch of government. Surely, our Supreme Court and federal judiciary are the last bastion of the law that is to protect us all.
Even if that were the case, the sheer weight of executive and legislative lawlessness presents an overwhelming tide that is irresistible to those in power. The seamless system of self-supporting lawlessness is an efficient structure denying citizen rights by mocking the laws of the nation.