Monday, January 08, 2007

Learning From The Past

I have been asked several times on a particular blog (Party Platform) to spell out what I mean when I refer to the values that our country was founded on. That I have been too vague. Well, I have really been struggling with this. With how to really make it nice and simple.

That is, up until today when I read an article on a website that I actually found on DannyOKC's blog (thanks again Danny). The website was The History News Network and the article was entitled "What We Can Learn From George Washington (And Need to Remember Especially Now)" and written by Harlow Giles Unger (formerly a foreign news editor for The New York Herald Tribune and a former professor of English and Journalism). I'm going to cut and paste some excerpts of this article that I felt were important. You can read it at the above website if you are interested. This article really got me in touch with the way I think the American political machine has been warped and what values we need to return to. Maybe it will help you remember the way things should be too.

".....Americans adored Washington because he worked for a living - just as they did....Washington's army service was but a temporary obligation - as it was for every soldier, and, at wars end, he returned to his family and his full-time job as a farmer. His officers, members of Congress, and other Founding Fathers did the same........
....Civilian public service was no different from military service - a temporary obligation of every citizen...Congress and state legislatures usually met only twice a year...with the dates for convening and adjournment strictly fixed in advance. Government service was a personal sacrifice, with pay seldom covering expenses......
...Like President Washington, members of Congress all had full time jobs at home and had to limit the time and scope of the legislation they enacted to matters of national interest. They had not time to sneak pork into national legislation......
...As the Constitution stated, the federal government's role was national defense, foreign relations, international trade, and interstate commerce - NOT testing elementary and high school students in reading and math or financing bridges to offshore islands and museums to honor Groundhog Day. After the First Congress finished passing law for the government to pursue its constitutionally defined objectives, it shut down and everyone went home to their full-time jobs.
....In contrast, today's elected officials are full-time politicians - working, living, eating, breathing and sometimes sleeping with other full-time politicians....they usually return home only to campaign. They earn their entire living from politics and...motivated to perpetuate and earn as much as they can from their careers...they are prey to single-interest lobbyists seeking government contracts or public moneys for local roads, bridges, industrial parks, museums, memorials......
...full-time legislators engage in excessive legislating. Paid full-time to pass laws, they do so full-time - forgetting that each new law - whether it be enabling legislation or proscriptive - necessarily restricts individual liberties.....Moreover, the willingness of full-time legislators to pass frivolous laws seduces many Americans into abandoning individual initiative in favor of government subsidies for local projects that benefit...small numbers of people. With each new law, Congress and the 50 state legislatures have gradually woven an increasingly impenetrable web of restrictions on individual initiative and individual liberty.
In 1765, George Washington complained that the government 'hath no right to put their hands in my pocket.' after Britain enacted the Stamp Act. He'd be appalled to see government hands today not only in every pocket, but every office, classroom, hospital room and store - and every room of every home, including the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
...The time may have come for federal and state constitutional amendments to restrict the scope of legislation that legislators may enact and the length of time they remain in session each year. Sharp pay cuts might then force them into full-time jobs that put them back in touch with mainstream American society."

In short, Unger is saying that in the "good ole days" that I might have been referring to when talking of the values of old, politicians were just regular people, like you and me. They had full-time jobs, did their time in Congress, passed a couple of laws and went back home to their full-time jobs. As opposed to today, where the politicians are career politicians, only serving to continue their public service career. Passing legislation only because they can, and that is their job.

How do we return to these American values of old? Simple, with strict term-limits. With Constitutional amendments restricting the time that Congress is in session. With Constitutional amendments not only restricting legislative officials from being allowed to vote on pay raises, but also, reducing the salary of these elected officials. With Constitutional amendments restricting the actions of lobbyists. There are entirely too many career politicians in our country today and quite simply these people need to find real jobs. Perhaps with fresh blood more often in Congress, some changes can be made. Perhaps with fresh blood more often we might even be able to get some people in there that have the publics interest at heart, instead of with the special interest groups.

Am I being too naive here. Is it not possible that we can return to the American government of old. As Dave (Oklahoma Lefty) asked, is it too late?


  1. Hear-Hear, hrumph hrumph... I second that motion...
    except you do know they wanted to make George "W" king of America following several failed efforts at democracy ... before they went with the two party republic thing right?
    Fortunately, he declined and was selected as President.

    I'm down with term limits... especially if it gets rid of career do-nothings like Ted hiccup Kennedy and Robert kkk Byrd and Harry Ried and John Kerry...

  2. Oddly enough, I did know that the country wanted him to be the king and he refused. Good job George!

    Yeah, I am alllll for term limits. We need to get these career politicians out of office and make them find real jobs. Course, with all the money they've swindled and stockpiled from lobbyist firms over the years, they won't have to find a job.