The following article was written by veteran reporter Charley Reese and originally printed in the Orlando Sentinel. There is no date of publication, but Reese references an American population of 235 million, Ronald Reagan’s deficits, Tip O ‘Neill leading a Democratic majority and US Marines in Lebanon, which puts its creation in the mid eighties. We The People are nothing if not predictably incapable of holding our “leaders” accountable for their actions, no matter how little those actions change over the years.
The 545 People Responsible For All Of Our Woes
By Charley Reese
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.
Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of the 235 million – are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.
I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.
No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.
A CONFIDENCE CONSPIRACY
Don’t you see how the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.
The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes.
O’neill is the speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.
I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.
When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.
There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.
More than twenty years later, the only thing different is the scope and the extent of the damage these 545 people have done to the Republic.
We haven’t mustered that gumption yet, Charley, but maybe if things get really bad we will finally wake up, realize we been made fools of by both democratic and republicans politicians alike and get off our dead asses for a change to mind the store.
Those 545 people may be individually responsible – most still serving from the era Reese writes about – but We The People are collectively to blame. Until American citizens decide to turnout for every single election in unprecedented numbers nothing will change for the better.
I don’t care how many Barack Obama’s we elect.
Nope, we haven’t.
Apparently the water has to get a bit hotter still. Let’s hope that the water doesn’t boil us alive before we notice the temperature.
I find it interesting that this “community” who is so concerned takes such little initiative.
Thanks for the most ironic post of the election season. (Primary petitions in many states are drawing to a close. I wonder how many even investigated the idea of finding someone to challenge their House incumbent?)
Agreed, there would have been much hardship and suffering, however, I can’t help but think we needed things to get much worse for enough Americans to “feel the pain” of this dearth of leadership.
I am baffled by the continuing notion that the primaries don’t matter. Even “thepeoplechoose” falls into the trap below – it’s always been this way and there is no way to change it because the game is rigged.
Of course, this isn’t even close to the truth when it comes to primary elections, though I would see why one might come to that conclusion based on the general.
Fact of the matter is that most primary’s have under 20% turnout and barely get to 30% on presidential election years. With so few people turning out, most in support of the incumbent, of course it is going to seem like a Hobson’s Choice come November.
The only way this trend will be changed is if more people start to understand the importance of the primary elections, which isn’t likely to happen given our current political environment where even political junkies don’t understand how to leverage the system to our needs.
Now, Jason we are in agreement! I’m also totally done with playing the finger pointing game where the faux progressives get to blame the Blue Dogs or vice versa. Don’t tell me the problem is Nebraska. Don’t tell me it’s Joe Lieberman. What did YOU do Senator Amy and Senator AL to get Ben Nelson on board or to ditch holy Joe? Nothing! So don’t come blaming Blue Dogs, Republicans, the Taliban in caves or Somali pirates for the fact that YOU DID NOT DELIVER ON HEALTHCARE!
Hold your own representatives accountable. I don’t care what they say, did they deliver? If not, vote them out. Repeat until they all figure it out.
Hold your own representatives accountable. I don’t care what they say, did they deliver? If not, vote them out. Repeat until they all figure it out.
Figure what out, bluebell? Their constituents are all over the map. The author of the original post Jason cites apparently thinks taxes are way too high. Others, like me, want their government to do a lot more stuff and want them to raise more tax revenue to build a social democratic system of the kind popular in northern Europe. I want a health care public option as a first step toward single payer. Other voters – including independents and some Democrats – are furious that Democrats like me want more government involvement in health care. It’s not like “the people” are all together, and if only we got rid of the corrupt members of Congress we could get it our national act together and get it all straightened out.
When this article was written, a case could be made that taxes were too high, but then again so was spending and it was going up.
Constituents may be “all over the map” but public sentiment will only get so diffuse before it runs into some basic human precepts that all people tend to agree on that would come out in the wash if we had 70% plus turnout for every election.
As to letting the government do more, I would be happy to as soon as they start doing what they already do correctly.
The constitutents have been played so long by corrupt politicians, it’s hard to say what they would want if they had the opportunity to hear genuine alternatives presented to them by politicians who had their interests at heart.
Bluebell: are you helping mount a primary challenge to your own incumbent this year?
My Congressman is about a far left as it gets, but in 2012 I will be happy to work for a primary challenge to Senator Amy, “universal healthcare is unrealistic” Klobuchar.
Maybe by 2012 Amy will find it a more viable possiblility. I don;t mean that sarcastically, I mean it pragmatically.
Was she wrong?
I don;t think she meant that SHE didn’t like the idea of it, just that she knows our aspirations are far outweighed by the corporate-financed reality.
Too often I think we misread people like Klobucher. She is just stating what has proven to be true, she doesn’t mean it as her opinion of how things should be. But when she tells you the hard truth, you want to blame her for it, not acknowledge her sincerity.
I may be wrong, but I think there are many Dems who know the same thing; there are too many powerful influences in opposition to HCR right now, and the proof is in the news every day.
True, the majority opinion should be the ultimate power in this country, but as yet, in all our history, that has been an aspiration, not a fact.
Have you considered that she is just giving you the facts, not the spin you want to hear? Like I said before, was she wrong?
I knew there were two or three things we could agree on. The idea that we need to start voting people out is one I certainly can get behind, but we need to vote in primary elections first.
Another one of those Chicken & Egg moments brought to you courtesy of the status quo – We aren’t going anywhere new but at least it’s familiar!
The Teabaggers are running their own Senate candidate against Harry Reid. (That’s right, SENATE.)
Probably the only thing that will help his reelection.
But the broader point is as follows:
The *TEABAGGERS* are running a candidate. The so-called “ignorant” teabaggers.
The left should be ashamed of themselves.
First the teabaggers were able to get bigger showings in Wash DC for their movements.
Now they are doing *exactly* as I advised just a few months ago. They are fielding candidates!
Do we know what this will do to the GOP? Yep… it’s going to move the GOP to the right, or at least entrench it.
What’s surprising to me is that the left, who is, in fact, better educated, can’t do simple things.
Do you know Nevada? Almost all the democrats as well as the majority of union labor are in Clark county…Las Vegas. And it’s the most populated county in the state – over a million and a half. The rest of the state is dark red republican and sparely populated – whole lots of little townships with populations of 1000 or less. So a Tea Bag party will siphon off republicans, thus Reid’s chances of holding his seat has been enhanced immensely.
This is a continuining disconnect in American politics as the strategy and tactics necessary to be successful in a primary challenge are 180 degrees out from those needed to win the general.
An attractive GOP candidate coming out of the primary election could certainly give Reid a run for his money if democrats let him get through to the general.
Reid holding his seat has zero to do with a Tea Party candidate’s Don Quixote bid in the republican primary.
No such thing as an attractive republican in Nevada…just look at the governor. He use to be the Representative in Congress. All the rest have excess baggage…owned by the casino industry. Democrats are the only ones looking out for the public.
We’re talking perceptions, not reality. The American voter rarely lets the former dicate the latter.
Rather, the American voter always lets their perceptions skew their understanding of reality, rather than the other way around as would make the most sense.
Jason, we’re talking about VEGAS. The rules are exceptions and the exceptions are the rule.
So this was written in 1980 ‘ish. Doesn’t look like things have improved and most probably would be judged by a majority to have gotten worse.
As for changing this I don’t see the possibility of that occurring. The choices of who we vote for are limited by the parties and a third candidate choice is very restricted by the cost of entry. Short of eliminating the political money, making all political funds public and prohibiting corporate America from playing the crucial role it does, we cannot change this. In dollar terms, the horse that corporate America backs is the one who wins. That’s been true for the last seven general elections. The recent ruling by the supremes will have made that circumstance even more certain than it was.
Voters have no legal remedy to address this very obvious corruption. We have a nation which at its head is lawless. That is the reality. And only a response of lawlessness can change this. We have proof of this. Just look at the healthcare nightmare where there was a whole lot of noise from all over the place and still the public uproar was all but completely ignored by congress. Just as one example, when we have a senator like Evan Bayh whose wife works for and is pulling down a few million a year from the healthcare industry and the senator denies its a conflict, we have a problem. This will only ever get fixed by a modern day French revolution. Our politicians have made that the only alternative. They’ve also made a farce of the two party system. The only real party is the party of money.
This is part of the problem as I see it – a resignation on the part of even the politically involved to see a way out of the general election’s Hobson’s Choice of corporate-approved candidates.
We don’t need a revolution. Who would fight it anyway? A couple million Vietname vets? Their kids who are now Iraq and Afghanistan vets? That’s enough for a good insurgency but not enough to change our system of government.
The only power we truly have is the power of our vote, twice a year every two years. Our way out of our current dilemma is clear, yet 70- to 80-percent of us fail to participate in primary elections.
Getting through the primary election is still more shoe-leather politics than corporate sponsorships.
Most excellent, Jason! I’ve slowly come to the conclusion the problem with republicans is their sheer lack of concern for the public welfare on policy issues. They give in too easy for the quick and dirty play that looks good, but is shallow and is without substance. On the other hand, democrats are too unsure of themselves and the policies they stand for, and have no idea how to create legislation that isn’t full of potholes of compromises that renders the legislation a useless effort. But it’s not so much the legislators as it is the money interests that are on their heels looking to influence policy at the publics expense for the betterment of the business sector. You can replace all of them on election day, but the money corruption will still be there so the game plan doesn’t change – just the players.
For those who are interested, here’s the url for the article
I think the key is massive and overwhelming turnout for primary elections.
Anything short of that paradigm shift leads us to a Lesser of Two Evils general election that leaves us with more of the same failed leadership and compromised legislation.
Until politicians fear We The People will fire their asses for status quo “performance” I suspect we will see very little actual change in the way Washington operates.
The Groundhog Day nature of American politics is proof enough of that for me.
But it’s not the Senators and representatives that are the key to the problem…it’s the moneyed interest that buy political policy for their clients and industry. Technically speaking, you have to clean out all the moneyed parasites crawling in the woodwork and make the facility pest-free before you tackle the issue of politicians on the take. If you succeed at the first level – removing the pests, there very well may be a mass exodus of incumbent politicians looking for the nearest exit and opening the halls of Congress to a new breed of politicians ready to work for the people instead of the moneyed interest.
I don’t think you can get rid of influence before getting rid of incumbents, which is why the primary elections are so important. They remain our last, best hope for changing this country.
“I think the key is massive and overwhelming turnout for primary elections.”
Hard to argue with that concept. Funny how we are expected to file a tax return form every year, but we aren’t required to vote.
Would that suggest they want our money but not our opinion?
I never knew that the several thousand STATE LEGISLATORS were completely blameless………
Perhaps they should all resign and go home?
This blog is about the 545 people responsible for the problems with the federal government.
That isn’t to absolve all the various and sundry state and local legislators who are screwing things up for their citizens more directly, though the solution to both is the same.
Vote in every single election like clockwork, turning out incumbents who fail to improve government and earn their pay.
That would be a great idea here in Indiana.
Just wanted to be sure that there is a TON of blame to spread around. 😀 😀
And, of course, I think the article author should have added the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the residents of K Street to the mix as well.
Your theory about primaries is interesting, but our experience hasn’t supported your basic tenet.
Many good candidates have run, only to have the DLC or the DSSC come in and whomp them out with funds. It’s how we ended up with Ken Salazar as our Senator, plus many more. I can’t remember all the House candidates, but that’s because my memory is so crappy.
I know you’ve attempted to anser this before, but I don’t think the answer satisfied me.
Plus, I’m sure you know that some states have open primaries, some do not; each have their points in favor, but it can complicate primary results, depending on which parties have or don’t have challengers.
If less than 20% turnout for primaries during the midterms and we barely crack 30% for presidential election years, I am not sure when we have tried the methods I advocate in the time since universal voting was instituted in 1964.
The existing political machines rely on low voter turnout to maintain control of the system. They also rely on those voters who do turnout to be blindly partisan in their choices. This is how we get Less of Two Evils in the general election.
That a journalist was highlighting this simple fact more than twenty years ago tells me our biggest problem remains ourselves.
The ultimate responsibility rests with the citizens of the nation. We continue to elect representatives who promise us everything and expect little. What are the chances that a pol can get elected by promising to raise our taxes and cut our benefits? Perhaps Plato’s republic was much closer to the founders view of democracy but everything went to hell when they elected Andrew Jackson.
The vast majority of citizens treat politics like a communicable disease. Or jury duty.
Having been guilty of the same for years, I understand what a daunting problem this national habit of civic lethargy represents. It goes beyond a Chicken & Egg dilemma as the answer of which comes first has already been answered.
Either through action or inaction, the primogenitor is us. We The People come first.
Perhaps things will get so bad that the average American wakes up to their responsibilities as citizens again. We have a history of being in our representative’s faces, well before most of us could vote, than we seem able to muster today.
We are a nation of pseudo-citizens, which is appropriate given the way many live our lives.
What, no Wall Street culprits?
Would there be any logic in this simple equation? Wall Street = K Street = the medium for corruption of those 545 public “servants.”
Blaming the puppets for the puppetmasters’ mischief is kind of like blaming Howdy Doody for what Cowboy Bob did. Or blaming Kermit for what Jim Henson did.
Until we sever those strings, the blame really goes to the behind-the-scenes malignant manipulators.
It isn’t behind the scenes at all. As the author identified twenty years ago, the same people are being given influence for favors. They aren’t taking it from unwilling participants.
It is right in our face and we still don’t vote the scoundrels out.
Metaphors only carry us so far and the notion of “puppet-masters” takes all the power out of our hands. There are no puppets in America, only willing participants and unwitting victims.
The only power We The People have – and it took nearly two hundred years to achieve for everyone equally – is the power to vote twice a year, every two years.
Any other argument seems to be sublimation at best, capitulation at worst.
Cut those strings, and the chances for a real democracy improve. I can’t think of anything more important of immediately effective for our legislators to legislate, than the severing of those strings.
I wish it was a metaphor, Jason. I meant it literally.
Mandatory voting would help end this trap.
That’s the problem, JEP, the only mandatory voting we will ever get in the current environment is of the self-imposed variety.
The only strings that exist are the ones we have created via our own hands with the twin looms of disinterest and rationalization.
We are our own worst enemy.
I’m inclined to agree with you Jason. There is though the issue of the difference between collective blame and individual blame. People tend to blame Congress as a COLLECTIVE for all that is going wrong, and tend to exhonerate their own representative as an INDIVIDUAL – as a good person doing his or her best for the constituents within a broken system. People LIKE THEIR OWN GUY OR GAL… it’s always the other ones who are the corrupt pols.
That is at least the theory: (serious) primary challenges are rare because individual incumbents are popular amongst members of their own party within their own district. Granted, I don’t have the numbers on
– the approval rate of Dem reps among their Dem constituents,
– the approval rate of GOP reps among their GOP constituents,
Especially district-by-district data. If anyone has these figures, it would be great to see them.
I’m not trying to play the wet blanket here, but is there any sign that there is a significant chunk of Republicans who feel poorly represented? OTHER than the Tea Party people, that is…
Is there really a significant chunk of unhappy Dems? Obama is still hugely popular amongst party-members (though you wouldn’t know it from hanging around here). It’s not really the kind of situation conducive to finding ambitious pols willing to take on the Party leadership – which is what is what a Primary insurgency amounts to.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be great if everyone became high-information active participants in intra-party politics, and it is also clear that many people are unhappy with how things are going. But the structural aspects of the issue are really important imo. MAYBE, just MAYBE people don’t vote in primaries because they dont find their incumbent Reps seriously objectionable. It’s got to be worth their time, and people don’t necessarily see their own reps as the problem. The question then is how to harness, direct or focus the widespread frustration that is out there. Maybe more issue-based social movements that span across party-lines or other ways to exploit pressure points in this sclerotic system. I don’t know… But just shouting ‘GO VOTE!’ from the rooftops isn’t going to get us anywhere…
But just shouting ‘GO VOTE!’ from the rooftops isn’t going to get us anywhere…
Can’t disagree more with that statement, Obey.
Especially in the primary process.
Finding new voters is still, and I believe always will be, a giant leap for mankind. And the visibility and contagious enthusiasm of that project tends to inspire the kinds of changes you prefer.
All Americans turning out to vote in all elections and doing so with metronomic regularity would be a great start. Democrat, republican or independent matters less than simply showing up and making a decision since the only ones that do so now are the party faithful you mention.
Interest and enthusiasm will of necessity follow from the simple act of getting involved. I made it my personal mission in 2004 to talk about this to everyone I know and to inspire at least one person previously indifferent to the primary elections to start paying attention.
I have met with success each of the last three election cycles, so I am convinced a more strategic effort could work wonders where miracles are required.
Now here’s a thought. The middle of the road republicans all nearly all jumped ship some time ago.
Now the middle of the road democrats are leaving as well.
And what does this leave us ? The far left and the far right who would rather see each other burn in hell for all eternity rather than agree on any legislation.
For those that know how to read tea leaves, there was a mini coup d’etate in Indiana this morning with Evan Bayh announcing he won’t be running for reelection.
This is 1 day before the primary petition deadline.
He didn’t even call Sen Majority Leader Reid first.
What does this mean?
It means that Bayh prevented a primary for his seat… at least a realistic primary because no one will have time to file.
As a result, the state party will fill the seat with someone of their choice (according to IN Dem Party rules). In other words, power was wrested from the people.
While Bayh was hardly a Dem that could be counted on, the method of his exit is driven by pure politics. That he didn’t call Reid is an indication to me this isn’t about staying ahead of scandal, because that would have been an easy thing — and the correct protocol thing — to do.