Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Throw the Bums Out!

Many years ago I was Senior Writer for the World Bank, an institution both respected and reviled worldwide. The Bank, formally known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), is located blocks from the White House in Washington, DC, and every few years undergoes what is called a reorganization, a restructuring, or a staff reappraisal, depending on who is in charge. These exercises are held to further streamline the system and make it easier to work with the Bank’s 188 member countries

I went through two of these upheavals when I worked there. The general idea was that every employee from vice president on down was essentially fired (but not really) and then had to write their own job description and be re-hired again. Now you must take this sort of corporate decision with a grain of salt. The vice presidents and the department directors’ chances of being let go were slim to none, but for the rank and file, of which I was one, this was a fairly serious exercise. Many were given the option of bowing out with a fairly adequate financial package. Those whom the institution wanted out, but who would not leave, would be reassigned to often menial jobs. My favorite example was an irrigation engineer who decided to hang on and was made Parking Superintendent, which title is exactly what the job entailed.  He didn’t mind. The pay was the same with a lot fewer hassles.

I bring this up because I wonder if now is not the time to have a massive reorganization of our elected servants, particularly our largely useless corps of officials on Capitol Hill.

What I am suggesting is, basically, throw the idiots out. All of them.

Rarely in the history of this country has an elected body of public servants been so useless. Both the Senate and the House are mired in partisan issues and the overarching concern of the elected is to get re-elected. After all, this is a pretty good gravy train--long vacations, free travel, unaccountability, and a large staff to get things done. Or, actually, not get things done. Good work if you can get it, which is why so many candidates want in.

By now everyone knows the electoral process has become so flawed that any ass with enough money can get elected to one office or another. Once there, he or she will end up not so much representing the people as the corporations and lobbyist who kicked in to the election fund. This is why, for example, the National Rifle Association can prevent passage of more thorough background checks of people who buy firearms online or at gun shows. Fully 90 percent of the citizens in the country have no issue with this, but legislation is blocked by NRA threats to withhold campaign funds.

Or consider the pharmaceutical industry, which for decades has justified the high price of drugs by claiming that development costs are ruinous, which is nonsense.  Research and development are mostly tax write-offs, and much of it is done by independent research labs. But the pharm people have clout, and when allied with insurance companies, doctors’ groups and hospital conglomerates, wield so much power in Congress that any effort to regulate costs is easily defeated.

So here’s a thought. Let’s do like the World Bank and fire all of those below the rank of Vice President. The country is strong enough and has enough momentum to survive a lengthy period during which no legislation is suggested. Let’s have a special election and replace all the useless elected toadies who people Capitol Hill. Let’s do it with campaigns limited to two weeks and one million dollars in spending.

And let’s change the rules, too. One term, six years for everybody from dog-catcher to president. As it stands, House members are elected every two years, so they spend the entirety of their terms working toward reelection. Senators have six years, but if both sides of Congress had roughly the same amount of time in office, something might get accomplished. What it comes down to is letting the citizen rule again and make public servants understand the true meaning word ‘servant.’ Servant does not mean ‘person who wallows in the public trough.’   

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