Many decades ago when I was a teenager, I could run and jump and do all sorts of things. I even set a record in my division and league for cross-country. Today, I mow my front lawn and the next day the back yard, for it just takes too much out of me to do them both in the same day. Which means, like everyone else, I’m growing old.
My prayers go out to Sen. John McCain and his family. But John, like the rest of us is getting old, which bring me to my point. Our government is getting old and will not retire.
The average age in the U.S. Senate is 62 years old and you only need to be 30 years old to be in the Senate and there are only 100 members. John McCain is 82 years old. Diane Feinstein, 84 years old. Orin Hatch, 84 years old. Chuck Grassley, 84 years old, and the list goes on.
The same applies to the House of Representatives. The average age of the 435 members is 56 years old and yet you only need to be 25 years old to be in the House. There is one congressman from Michigan who is 86!
These are people who have been in government for 30-plus years and will not retire, for they simply enjoy the perks and privilege of being in power. This is why nothing is ever accomplished in the Congress, for it is an exclusive club and its members may bitch and complain among themselves, but when push comes to shove, they circle the wagons and support one another.
It isn’t that the Democrats are monsters or that the Republicans are; it’s just that these people play games with the American public to maintain their status quo. If something suits both parties, then it’s a “Big Deal” of bipartisanship and nobody’s place in the Congress is challenged.
The hoopla that has just taken place over health care is a classic example of the Protective Society of Congress. Up until last year the House proposed on the Republican side 61 bills to repeal and replace Obamacare, knowing full well that these bills were unlikely to make it through the Senate, let alone on the desk of the president to veto.
Now, members of the House and the Senate on the Republican side both voted for this bill, but it went nowhere and they knew it. It was a “charade” pure and simple to the American people. “Look at me,” the members of Congress were saying, “I’m standing up for YOU,” knowing full well that the bill would go nowhere. Today, we have a Republican president who is ready to sign the repeal-and-replace legislation, but what happened? All those members who put on this show of solidarity to the party have faded back into the shadows of the halls of Congress. For to do otherwise, just might put their place in this Society of Congress in jeopardy and their membership out the window.
What most people do not understand is that over the centuries since the signing of our Constitution in 1787, the rules which govern the members of Congress have changed to suit their needs and not the needs of the American people. The average American on the street has been too busy trying to make a living and keep their heads above water and the Congress knows that and so they have put rider upon rider into the rules that govern both Houses to benefit themselves.
About 51 percent of the Congress are millionaires, 47 percent make over $500,000 a year and the remaining 2 percent make over $250,000 a year. The average wage across America is $34,000 to $56,000 a year. Now ask yourself this; when is the last time YOU voted to give these people a raise? Last year or the year before, Social Security got a 2 percent cost-of-living increase whereas Congress got a 13 percent.
In 1960, Congressional retirements came into vogue and the Millionaires Club was founded. These people were able to move portions of their retirement funds into other venues with the help of 7,000 lobbyists who haunt the hallowed halls of Congress, and that in time increased their retirement package. That is why you have people with 23 years of public service in the Congress receiving retirements of $120,000 a year. All of this was finally exposed by Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” about 10 years ago and the entire Congress circled the wagons and put up a defense line. Nancy Pelosi made $100,000 in one day trading stocks and Sen. John Kerry made $70,000 in one day trading medical devices. When questioned over these practices both the speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate replied; “We’ve done nothing wrong, for there within the rules of the House and the Senate.”
These people were able to take away from the public, without the public’s knowledge, initial public offerings before any of these offerings went to bid. These are stocks, bonds and other devices that major companiespurchase to put in their portfolios, which eventually wind up in retirement accounts for employees. Since then, this practice has changed and now members of Congress must declare anything over $10,000 to the public on their tax returns. So in order to keep the status quo, a new approach had to be taken. So instead of Lobbyist X taking out Senator X or Congressperson X, they now took out the secretary or the aide de camp to wine and dine and pass on certain information concerning stocks and such, providing they passed legislation that would benefit their companies. So instead of “First Hand Knowledge” of something going on, Senator X and Congressperson X could claim ignorance of any transaction.
Until we have a Constitutional Convention of all 50 states and review and re-write the rules which govern members of Congress — which would include term limits, age limits, salary caps and perks and privilege — we will be stuck with the same old dog and pony show and the old folks home called the Congress of the United States.
The Constitution in general does not need to be changed, but some of the rules which at that time were pertinent to the 18th century, when our Constitution was written, do need to change to keep up with the times of the 21st century.
Jim Garvey is a resident of Kalispell.