RebellionRide is a transcontinental bicycle journey promoting specific solutions:
CONGRESS IS WHERE THE REBELLION BEGINS
Congress is the first and most important branch of our national government.
It is the intention of the Constitution that the House of Representatives and the Senate, working together, develop and pass legislation to govern the country.
America is a politically diverse nation, and that diversity is meant to be expressed by the 535 members of Congress.
The role of the presidency is primarily to execute the collective will of the American people as expressed through their various representatives in Congress.
When the people of America have genuine representation in a transparent, hardworking, diverse citizen Congress, the problems of the nation can be fixed.
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES, NOT PARTY CANDIDATES, WILL BE ELECTED TO CONGRESS
The Constitution of the United States was not meant to function in the context of political parties.
Although parties historically originate in order to promote certain ideas and policies, they quickly develop into organizations that place their own political power above everything. They become a disease that makes good self-governance impossible.
In his Farewell Address to the nation, George Washington cautioned against political parties.
“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations.”
“Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally… (It) is truly (government’s) worst enemy…”
Political parties, Washington warned, are the “worst enemy.”
By their nature, political parties divide and polarize the citizenry, and that is an artificial, unnatural state of affairs.
People are varied in their political views, but parties squeeze everyone into a few camps, mostly establishment Republican or Democratic. They eliminate the healthy diversity that is supposed to energize and enrich our self-governance.
Parties place a layer of control between the citizenry and what is meant to be their government.
Parties have enormous power to influence who is allowed to hold office. They provide or withhold financial and promotional support for candidates and dictate the requirements for appearing on a primary ballot or participating in a local or national debate. They conspire to thwart the will of the people.
Parties control Congress.
They meet secretly, behind closed doors, to concoct strategies for increasing their own power.
Their specialties are shallow, crafty legislation written for the purpose of attacking or embarrassing the opposing party, and bills to extort money from corporate and other wealthy interests.
Parties turn Congress into a binary tug-of-war for power rather than a collective, deliberative body that represents the American political mosaic.
MONEY WILL NO LONGER CONTROL CONGRESS
It is simple to take big money out of politics.
Money enters politics through campaigning. The average campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives costs $1.1 million, and the average cost for a Senate campaign is $4.3 million.
Corporations and people with a lot of money contribute to campaigns. In exchange, they get legislation they want. It’s a form of prostitution.
How to do it:
Social media and other communication technologies are inexpensive and can allow a candidate with no funding to spread their message throughout a congressional district or state.
Imagine a video channel similar to YouTube devoted exclusively to homemade campaign presentations. Voters will watch and listen to all the candidates in their district or state on their computer, phone, or TV.
Candidates will answer questions. Voters will ask candidates questions via email, and those questions and candidate answers will be posted on centralized websites.
Voters are currently swayed by expensive campaigning: brochures, signs, bumper stickers, mailed pamphlets, newspaper ads, and professionally produced TV ads.
Voters will reverse this by disqualifying from consideration any campaign that appears to spend significant amounts of money.
Voters have the power.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WILL SERVE ONLY ONE TERM
Power breeds corruption. Time in power will be limited.
There are immediate objections voiced:
“It takes experience to serve effectively in Congress.”
In fact, it does not. The rule book for the House of Representatives is 47 pages. A few days of study would be adequate to understand the rules. The same is true of the Senate rules.
When people speak of experience as being necessary to “get things done” in Congress, they mean that the more seniority one has in Congress, the more power one has to threaten, twist arms, extort money from lobbyists, and conspire behind closed doors with other senior members.
It has nothing to do with being able to research, write legislation, discuss, debate, and vote. Those are the legitimate activities of a member of Congress, and any responsible person with intelligence and good verbal skills can do them.
” If I have a good representative, I want to keep them in office.”
There is no shortage of good people who share your political views, whatever they might be, who would be willing to serve one term in Congress.
” It can take more than one term to complete a legislative project.”
Everything accomplished in one term can be passed along to the next representative in the form of notes and reports.
In order to run for another term, a member of Congress must raise money (prostitute for and extort from lobbyists) and campaign constantly. It leaves almost no time for real, constructive work.
Voters have the power.
Vote only for candidates who will pledge to serve one term.
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WILL WORK OVERTIME, FULL TIME
Members of Congress are paid about $175,000 per year.
Voters will require that candidates for a seat in Congress pledge to do genuine legislative work at least ten hours a day, six days a week, fifty weeks a year.
It takes a lot of time and work to craft good solutions to complex problems. Taxation, immigration, foreign policy, environmental policy, and many other issues must be constructively addressed if the United States of America is to have a good future.
Congress is in session only about 130 days per year, and much of that time is devoted to behind-closed-doors party meetings, concocting “gotcha” bills to embarrass and harm the other party, and passing legislation for the purpose of extorting campaign money from lobbyists.
Consider federal tax law as an example: Including statutes and regulations, it is over 9,000 pages.
To fix that problem, whatever type of taxation one advocates, will require an enormous amount of research, study, discussion, and debate. It will require a lot of time and real work.
We, as a nation, face many such complex, difficult problems that can only be solved by a real, hard working, full time Congress.
A member of Congress that works overtime, full time for one term will accomplish more constructive legislative work than a current politician in Congress does in five terms.
Voters have the power.
GOVERNMENT WILL BE TRANSPARENT
One of the most important changes we can make is to eliminate secrecy from government.
Some elements of government must, by their nature, be conducted secretly: national security matters, for example. Most government functions need not and ought not to be secret.
Secrecy is a curtain to hide bad government from the people.
Technologies exist to eliminate secrecy:
The Capitol in Washington and the auxiliary office buildings in which congressional business is conducted will be equipped with cameras and microphones. Facial and voice recognition technologies, real-time streaming to the internet, and user-friendly search capability will allow any citizen, at any time, to find their elected representatives and watch and listen to what they are doing.
All recordings will be archived and available online.
Workers in the private sector are already subject to this kind of surveillance. There is no reason that members of Congress should be privileged.
Unnecessary government secrecy will be illegal.
Doctors, lawyers, school personnel, and others are subject to laws banning the exchange of certain types of information. Investors who use insider information to profit on the stock market can be subject to felony conviction and 20 years in federal prison.
Elected representatives who conduct public business of any kind in secret with one another will be subject to criminal penalties.
Members of Congress are public employees and have no inherent right to discuss public business with one another in secret. There will be no political party or other closed door meetings.*
* There will be processes for allowing non-public meetings regarding security, intelligence, defense, etc.
EVERY BILL WILL BE READ BY EVERY MEMBER OF CONGRESS
There is a simple way to do this:
Every member of Congress will be required to report to the Capitol early each morning for the reading of pending legislation. Many Americans report to work at an early hour. There is no reason for elected officials to be privileged.
Before any bill can be voted on, it will be read aloud in a clear voice at normal speed as the assembled members of Congress listen and follow along with their own written copies. The text will also be posted on the internet.
Cameras and microphones, with appropriate facial recognition and search capability, streamed to the internet, will allow all Americans to listen to the reading, follow the text, and observe their particular representatives during the process.
Bills will become shorter: When members of Congress are required to read their own legislation, they will be motivated to shorten it.
The language of legislation will become simpler: It is a common misconception that laws must be written in complicated, hard-to-understand language. Laws are written that way intentionally so that they are hard for ordinary citizens to decipher and so that they can be interpreted in various ways.
When proposed legislation is listened to by the general public, citizens will demand simple, comprehensible language.
Pork, riders, and earmarks will be eliminated: A favorite practice in Congress is to slip into a bill some provision that has nothing to do with the bill, itself. For example, a bill to fund the construction of a new naval vessel might have hidden inside it an appropriation to give money for a railroad museum in some representative’s district. When every bill is wide open for public scrutiny, that practice will go away.
There is enough time to do this each day.
This system can be implemented by devoting about two hours per morning to it. (See MATH below.) After that, congressional members will be free to move on to the other work of the day.
Congress votes on about 900 bills per year, each bill averaging about 3,000 words. (Some bills are very long, and some are short.) 900 bills per year can be read aloud if an average of 3 bills are read on each of 300 days. That would be 9,000 words per day on average. At a normal reading rate of 2 words per second, it would take 4,500 seconds per day, which is 75 minutes.