INTRODUCTION : What follows are two letters sent to 70 newly elected Members of Congress. They were drafted to excite their interest in joining a congressional caucus that does not yet exist in a Congress exemplary for its corruption, low productivity, dysfunction and historically high rates of disapproval. It is, moreover, an institution that has proven unable to reform itself. The proposed name of the caucus, therefore, follows the suggestion of Carl Domino (R, FL 18). It is FIX CONGRESS FIRST!
LETTER 1 >: DEAR NEW U.S.REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT: Thank you for your reply to the telephone message I left for you on Nov.20th. CONGRATULATIONS on your victory! Your aide followed up with me. Here is more for both him and you.
I’m Peter Bearse, Chairman of A People’s and Citizens’ Congress [APaCC]. We’re a group working with others to generate a Congress that both truly represents and empowers “We the People.” We selected and endorsed 24 candidates to support for election. 10 of them (nearly 42%) were elected. Some have expressed interest in forming what does not yet exist but which is sorely needed in a Congress that has proven unable to reform itself – a caucus to FIX CONGRESS! See our brochure, attached, for more.
As you know, a large majority of American voters views ISSUE #1 as the urgent need to fix what is wrong with the Congress. Without some progress on this front, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to solve any of the big, topical, media-headline problems we face as a nation, including those you highlighted in your campaign.
By ourselves, none of us can realistically hope to reform or transform the Congress as an institution. Joining together with others we can hardly fail. So please consider helping to inaugurate a Fix Congress! Caucus. You know the old saying: “We either hang together or we'll hang separately.”
Let us hear from you. Your participation in such a group would demonstrate leadership straight out of the gate and earn you great credit towards re-election two years from now.
If you'd like to have some help in this area, please call or write us. Meanwhile, look for some additional information to come to you from us [no spam, unless it's in a can that you can use to make sandwiches]. To start, please see our brochure, attached.
Legally organized as a 501(c)(4), we are a cooperative source of help, support and information. You can contact us via email to:
email@example.com or telephone to 603-835-3924 (office) or 603-560-4223 (cell). Please let us know your interest or questions ASAP.
Sincerely, PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., Chairman of APaCC, International Consulting Economist, and former candidate for Congress
December 18, 2014
I hope that you've seen the letter sent to you last month. The purpose of this letter is to provide more information, as promised, so you can better assess the great potential of a caucus to be devoted to "Fix Congress".
The current debate on the approximately $1 Trillion [with a "T"] budget bill illustrates part of what is at stake. It shows the dangers of one of Congress' common practices -- decorating a "must" or "sure to pass" bills with some of its Members favorite ornaments -- so that an already big bill becomes an even bigger "Christmas Tree". Too often, then the tree becomes overloaded with "special interest" goodies akin to "earmarks" that the Congress had supposedly done away with. The provision to de-regulate derivatives' trading by big banks is but one example.
So, what we see here is an example -- one fixin' of the way Congress conducts "We the People"'s business -- by either eliminating or limiting the tendency to build Christmas trees [even when Christmas is not in season]. This is included in a partial list of other institutional reforms or innovations, appended. A much longer list has been compiled from dozens of previous evaluations of what's wrong with Congress, including some recommended by former Members such as Mickey Edwards (D, Kansas).
There are no quick fixes. You're looking an opportunity, during the 114th Congress, to get started on addressing a great need -- for a long-term agenda of change so that "a government of the people, by the people and for the people does not perish from the earth."
We're fortunate to be living in a renewed age of entrepreneurship and innovation. And what a great opportunity you have to play these roles in the 114th Congress! Now is the time to be a political entrepreneur and institutional innovator. Congress' dysfunction and historically low approval rating are not just problems. They present great opportunities for you and other fellow members of your congressional freshman class. See the attached "op-ed" piece for more.
You're not alone. We endorsed 24 candidates, 10 of whom also won their races – more than enough to start a Fix Congress Caucus [FCC] in the 114th Congress. How about you? Would you like to sign-on as a founding member of the Caucus?
You're also not alone for backup. We've got you covered. Realize that we're a resource to help. Of course, only you and your congressional colleagues can set priorities for actions that might be pursued by the FCC [not to be confused with the Federal Communications Commission – suggest a new name!] or the Congress at-large. To start, we provide a preliminary list of congressional reform propositions. Then we stand ready to answer questions and provide additional information or other help.
Thus, please reply to this letter ASAP by telling us what you would like to do: >> YES; I would like to join a caucus devoted to fixing Congress;
>> NO; count me out; OR...
>> I have questions or wish to know more; let's discuss.
If you checked any other than “NO”, please also return the best way to follow up with you.
With many thanks for your winning campaign, your time, consideration and service, and with best wishes for a joyful Christmas season & the New Year, I am...
Sincerely,PETER [a.k.a. Peter Bearse, Ph.D., Chairman of ApaCC, International Consulting Economist and former (3-time)candidate for Congress]. Reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Bringing Congress into the 21st Century may be the work of a lifetime -- in an age where “the only thing that does not change is the will to change,” and resolution of long-term problems has long been avoided. The work, moreover, does not fall solely to those within Congress. It must, of necessity, involve the great American majority, those typically on the outside. We’ll never get a Congress better at serving the American people without a better politics to engage more Americans in the process of solving our common problems.
So the suggestions to follow imply a larger spectrum of changes that can only be brought about by a high energy democracy peopled by a broader spectrum of engaged citizens. Changing Congress and generating such a democracy go together. Like love and marriage in the old song, “We can’t have one without the other.”
Another perspective is obvious: Only members of the “Fix Congress” caucus in formation can set priorities among the suggestions. They can also expand or shorten the list. These tasks could be aided considerably by seeking input from former Members of Congress. Thus, the first suggestion is that the caucus-in-formation sponsor a survey of the latter, perhaps facilitated by the Association of Former Members of Congress.
Other Suggestions (partial and preliminary): Seek to –
-Revamp Congressional Committee structure(s) to better enable handling of high-priority issues that: (a) have major long-term consequences, and (b) crosscut conventional or existing committee jurisdictions.
-Reduce the influence of congressional hierarchy and seniority in order to increase the influence of the congressional rank-and-file; e.g., in the selection of committee chairs.
-Diminish the influence of party politics in congressional procedures [for example, following some of the ideas of former Member Mickey Edwards in his book THE PARTIES vs. THE PEOPLE].
-Introduce amendments to the Constitution that would make it far easier to break “gridlock”; e.g., giving either the President or the Congress the ability to call for new elections as in parliamentary systems.
-Propose new law or support existing bills that would both reduce the influence of major donors in campaign finance and close the “revolving door” between Congress, the Executive branch and the lobbying industry.
-Call for and establish independent citizen committees to:
Handle congressional redistricting following decennial censuses, and
-Advise Members on key issues (and so reduce or eliminate reliance upon lobbyists for information).
Eliminate or limit the “Christmas Tree” practice of adding unrelated bills to “must pass” legislation (such as budget authorizations). Let separable bills be assessed and voted on their own merit(s).