Congress

As a result of my appealing to several members of Congress for help, and not getting any, I have done a little research and this has led to my including a little information that shows how and why our country is in such a moribund state and corrupted to the point where Congress can no longer serve the people.

The situation is so absurd that over $2 billion dollars was just spent on the recent presidential election alone. Who could either president serve when they receive this much money of special interest groups?

Lobbyists pay each member of Congress $6.5 million dollars per year. The average Congressperson spends 30-70% of his or her time getting re-elected.

Remember—21st century America is a place where elections are bought and paid for by huge money, where presidents of both parties ignore the basic tenets of the Constitution, where the lifetime-appointed judiciary spends much of its time helping Big Business tilt the law against the population, and where the major parties resemble each other on most policies.

In the past two decades members of Congress have developed a fearsome dependency, campaign cash. The total amount spent on campaigns by all candidates for Congress in 2010 was $1.8 billion dollars. Fundraising has become a way of life, and extravagant giving has been institutionalized.

Report: While American Families Lost a Ton of Wealth in the Crash, Members of
Congress Did Just Fine

October 9, 2012

The Washington Post has a new multi-part investigation into the wealth of Congressmembers, including an in-depth look at how legislators personally benefit from laws that they pass. They dug into financial disclosure forms from all 535 members of the Senate and House of Representatives, looking at how many millionaires there are on Capitol Hill, who made money and who lost it during their time in office, and much, much more.

One of the key findings was that while Americans saw their median net worth fall a full 39 percent during the crisis years of 2007-2010, the median wealth of members of Congress rose 5 percent in that time, and the wealthiest third saw their riches increase by 14 percent.

Interestingly, the 253 millionaires in the current session of Congress, the Post noted, is the smallest group in eight years—though “The numbers are likely to be underestimated because lawmakers are not required to list their homes among their assets.” That may be a result of an influx of Tea Party freshmen in 2010 – many of them "outsiders" who bested more established candidates. Seventy-two of those members may have doubled their estimated wealth between 2004 and 2010, though the Post's estimates are inexact because members of Congress don't have to report exact details. Eleven of them, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, may have added more than $10 million to their net worth. (The Post has statements by spokespeople for many of the members called out by name in the piece; Pelosi's explained that, “San Francisco is one of the places where the market has skyrocketed in terms of price per square foot and has been fairly insulated in terms of the 2008 financial crisis.”)

But leadership positions aren't a guarantee of stability. Steny Hoyer was the Dems' majority leader in 2007, but the Post estimates his wealth declined some 90 percent between 2004 and 2010. And at least one member of Congress declared bankruptcy after the financial crisis. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas) had guaranteed a loan for his family's business and wound up responsible for millions in debts—the largest of them to Wells Fargo, the bank that had gotten billions in taxpayer bailout dollars.

Some 73 members of Congress have helped push legislation that could benefit their family businesses or investments, the Post noted. And yet these apparent conflicts appear not to violate any of Congress' ethics rules. In some cases, the public interest in a bill is obvious—for example, in the GOP's last round of attacks on public broadcasting, Rep. William L. Owens, a New York Democrat, was one of those who fought back, speaking on the House floor about his position and disclosing the fact that his wife is an executive at an upstate New York public TV station.

In other cases, members of Congress took advantage of laws after they passed them. Dennis Cardoza, a Democratic Representative from California, was instrumental in putting a provision into the farm bill that saved racehorse owners money in taxes on their horses. The next year, he purchased seven racehorses —and then, according to the Post, joined the Congressional Horse Caucus and started holding fundraisers at racetracks. (Cardoza resigned from Congress this summer, citing family issues, and joined up with a “law-and-lobbying” firm, according to the Fresno Bee [3 ], although he's prohibited by ethics rules from actually lobbying for a year.)

Many of the members who personally benefited from legislation they passed have financial interests that are close to those of their district. Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, makes big bucks from timberland, and timber production is, the Post notes, one of his state's largest industries. So his efforts to “revamp” and “reform” the tax laws (Republican-ese for tax cuts) pass ethics rules, which are pretty flexible. According to the Post, the rules “allow lawmakers to take actions that benefit themselves or their families except when they are the lone beneficiaries.” They also don't have to identify potential conflicts at the time that they take actions that might “intersect or overlap” with their financial interests.

As I reported last December [4 ], some of the richest members of Congress represent districts where their constituents are seriously struggling. Darrell Issa, the richest member of Congress, represents a California district where 14 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Issa took some hits during the financial crisis, but rebounded—somewhat amazingly:

Issa appeared to lose about $90 million in 2008, but his portfolio regained an estimated $197 million within two years of the financial meltdown. The rises were fueled by his commercial real estate ventures in San Diego and successful investments in mutual funds, bonds and other securities. Eric Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times [5 ] last summer, noted, “In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.”

The real problem is that, while most Americans struggle, members of the body that purports to represent them remain largely separated from the problems of the general population. While millions of Americans face foreclosure, search for work, or labor in low-wage, zero-benefit jobs, a member of Congress's $174,000- a-year salary (plus excellent benefits) is out of reach enough; let alone a financial portfolio capable of dropping $90 million and then regaining more than twice that. It's easy for Sessions and others to argue that their personal interests dovetail with those of their state, but what happens when we're increasingly represented by a political class financially insulated from the consequences of so many of their actions—and able to make laws that make sure that stays the case?

A few more benefits realized by members of Congress, that taxpayers are paying for, are children of Congressional members do not have to repay student loans. Do you realize how expensive a college education is these days? What a struggle it is for middle class families to finance higher education? The members of Congress are seriously overpaid and now they can even escape paying for this huge cost as well.

Fortunately for them, members of Congress have free time on there hands as well and can indulge in sexual harassment. Did you know that they are exempt from prosecution for sexual harassment? How much time and money was spent for the members of Congress to be able to enjoy this exemption?

Thanks to McKinsey “insider trading” has become another avenue for corrupting members of Congress. “Insider trading” is completely illegal; it violates every law from the Constitution to the Securities and Exchange Act, and the Sherman Anti- Trust Act. Martha Stewart spent a few months in jail, paid for courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, for indulging in “insider trading”- something that Congress members do on a regular basis. “Insider trading” severely damages the integrity of the whole financial system.

Periodically some member of Congress, like Louise Slaughter, will introduce a bill to curtail “insider trading”. It cost taxpayers money to pay for this bill and the bill should not even be necessary. The bill gets put in a shelf and business as usual continues.

Nancy Pelosi just got insider information and managed to pick up $10 million dollars.

Not everyone in Congress participates in “insider trading”, but they are all enticed by the opportunity.

The American taxpayers were just fleeced out of a tremendous amount of money for the Dodd-Frank Bill. This bill is approximately 170,000 pages. It mostly languishes on the same shelf with the “insider trading” prohibition. Remember Chris Dodd and Barney Frank were good friends of Angelo Mozilo and Andrew Cuomo; they both had benefited tremendously in the past from preferential treatment.

The situation is so bad that a member of Congress, like Chris Dodd, can run and hide and still obtain a cushy job as a lobbyist, where he is able to continue to inject cancer into the system.

Members of Congress must obey the SEC Act, the Constitution, the Glass- Steagall Act, and any and all laws that the rest of us have to obey. The income of the top 1 percent of Americans increased by 256 percent between 1979 and 2006, while the lowest quintile saw its income rise an average of just 11 percent during the same period. As the Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted, this same 1 percent now enjoys almost “a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent…Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”

There are many good individuals working in Congress, unfortunately, Congress itself is so badly eroded that the good gets lost in the shuffle.

We Americans must recognize that the corrupting influence of money, from big corporations, is the major problem confronting the nation.

Obviously two solutions have been discussed for a great deal of time these are: imposing term limits and removing big money from politics.

Warren Buffet proposes:

Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best quotes about the debt ceiling:

"I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 - before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took one (1) year or less to become the law of the land - all because of public pressure. Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2012

  1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
  2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
  3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
  4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
  7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Don't you think it's time?

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!