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Congressional corruption

By Henry Lamb
web posted September 22, 2008

Congress was an ingenious, perhaps even inspired, compromise.  It was conceived to be the place where elected representatives of the people could meet to discuss and debate ideas in conflict, and shape and smooth and polish those ideas into public policies for the benefit of the people who elected them.

Congress has become corrupt.  "Public policies for the benefit of the people" is no longer the purpose, nor even the goal of Congress.   The first purpose of Congress is to gain and retain the control of congressional power.  No issue or public need takes precedence over this purpose.

Congress has devised rules and procedures that are used to avoid debate and prevent opposing views and ideas.  A perfect example of this corruption is the current gridlock over the issue of energy.

No domestic issue is more urgent than the skyrocketing price of energy.  The nation must have a reliable supply of affordable energy.  Rather than confronting this obvious need and welcoming all ideas for discussion and debate, those people currently in control of power gather their partisans in private to plot strategies to advance their own solutions.  They have no interest in hearing the ideas of the minority party, who represent nearly half of the people.  They have no interest is finding a solution to the problem.  They are only interested in prevailing, and appearing to "do something" before the election.

Whatever their plan turns out to be, they will likely attach it to an omnibus appropriations bill so that a vote against the bill can be ridiculed as an effort to shut down the government.  This gamesmanship with the public trust is the worst kind of corruption.  It is precisely what the current leadership condemned when the Republicans were in power. 

Were Congress populated with statesmen, rather than self-serving politicians, all ideas relating to the energy crisis would be welcomed.  Each idea would be discussed and debated and eliminated or advanced by a public vote in full view of the electorate. Eventually, only the best ideas would survive, and the best possible solution would be adopted.  This is what Congress is supposed to do.

Congress, though, is a reflection of the population at large.  It is unrealistic to expect Congress to be any better than the people who elect them.  Elections are driven by public relations campaigns, sound bites, and activist organizations. Character, political philosophy, and positions on issues are rarely a part of the decision process for most voters.  To most voters, candidates are the product presented in the media.  This is why candidates spend millions on polishing their image rather than on explaining their positions on the great issues of the day.

The energy crisis comes to rest at the feet of the Democrats.  For more than 30 years, the Democrats have used whatever rules and procedures necessary to block or prevent the energy industry from keeping up with the growing demand.  Democrats have prevented the construction of a single nuclear plant, or a single oil refinery, and the development of our domestic energy resources.  It is the Democrats that are now preventing even a reasoned debate.

The solution to the energy crisis is not that hard.  The nation is importing nearly 60% of its petroleum energy from abroad – mostly from nations that would like to do us harm.  This situation is shameful when there is enough petroleum under American soil to last at least 60 years.  There is no valid reason to deprive the nation of this energy. 

Of course, the nation must continue to develop alternative energy sources.  The notion that this development will be expedited by locking up existing energy sources is ridiculous, if not sadistic.  This situation is similar to having a storehouse full of food, but not being allowed to use it; but instead, being forced to plant a garden and hope for a plentiful harvest in the future.  A sensible person would eat the stored food while growing a new garden.  But then very little about Congress is sensible.

Regardless of what this Congress does about the energy crisis before it adjourns on September 26, the crisis will not be solved.  The next several weeks are the only time Congress-critters really need ordinary people.  It is the only time they will even listen to ordinary people. 

At every campaign event, every candidate should be forced to state publicly whether he will vote to open all domestic reserves, or explain why he will not.  Candidates who will not declare that they will vote to use all domestic resources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil should be turned out of office. 

It's possible that the only way to end the corruption in Congress is to start all over again with a whole new crop. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.






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