America’s Broken Legislative System

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

495px-Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1Sometimes I feel that among our distinguished crew of guest bloggers and the prodigious output of Professor Turley, that I seem to be “The Doom and Gloom” guest blogger. It seems I’m always looking at the worst side of things, without the counterbalance of positive articles that most everyone else here produces.  This is actually a dichotomy when compared to my personal life. I happen to be one of the luckiest people you can meet and although I’ve suffered my share of life’s tragedies, my outlook is almost always optimistic. Yet when I turn my attention to the condition of this country and the way it is governed, my pessimism overwhelms me intellectually, even as I am predominantly a fairly happy person in my life and thankful for the blessings chance has bestowed upon me.

This past Wednesday I found myself filled with this pessimism, nay total skepticism, that our Country can redirect its downward spiral towards Corporate Feudalism. The catalyst of course was the vote in the Senate killing the proposed gun legislation, 54 to 46 in favor of the legislation. It is no mystery to the reader that the legislation failed, even with a majority voting in favor of it because we have all become familiar with the Senate rules which now inexplicably require 60 votes to move on any legislation. That this particular piece of legislation was defeated wasn’t that important to me. The compromise bill was so watered down as to be neutral, except as an empty gesture towards gun control, upon which in fact it wouldn’t have had any effect upon. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that those 46 who voted against the bill were predominantly Republican, with 4 Democrats. Since the bill represented nothing more than an empty gesture, their votes indicated merely that they were voting in their political interests, which most legislators today tend to do. What bothered me were both Harry Reid and President Obama for their inability to even try to attempt to break up the logjam in Congress via filibuster reform. Perhaps it is the “gloomy” side of me pondering this, but I think that the refusal to move on filibuster reform by the Democrats indicates a reality far more sinister than mere adherence to what is seen to be tradition.

“The filibuster is a powerful parliamentary device in the United States Senate, which was strengthened in 1975 [44] and in the past decade has come to mean that most major legislation (apart from budgets) requires a 60% vote to bring a bill or nomination to the floor for a vote. In recent years the majority has preferred to avoid filibusters by moving to other business when a filibuster is threatened and attempts to achieve cloture have failed.[45] Defenders call the filibuster “The Soul of the Senate.”[46] Senate rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly. According to the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Ballin (1892), changes to Senate rules could b chosen and sworn”[47] (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXIIe achieved by a simple majority, but only on the 1st day of the session in January or March. The idea is that on this first day, the rules of the new legislative session are determined afresh, and rules do not automatically continue from one session to the next. This is called the constitutional option by proponents, and the nuclear option by opponents, who insist that rules do remain in force across sessions. Under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, with two-thirds of those senators present and voting (as opposed to the normal three-fifths of those sworn) needing to vote to break the filibuster.[47] Even if a filibuster attempt is unsuccessful the procedure takes floor time.“

Before this new Congress was sworn in Harry Reid kept releasing statements to the press indicating that he was going to make significant changes in the Senate system which basically sets the majority vote at 60, rather than 51. In the first four years of Barack Obama’s first term the filibuster was used more times than the total used in all the years since the founding of this country. In essence the whole process of government on the Federal Level ground to a halt. Powers within the Republican Party openly admitted that their intention was to sabotage Barack Obama to the point that he would lose the next election. The one great Obama victory was the passage what came to be called “Obamacare”, which was a rather watered down health care bill that only mildly addressed the issue of the lack of adequate health care for tens of millions of Americans. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that “Obamacare” represented one of the Republicans main campaign issues in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The truth is that for the Republican Party, for its radically conservative base and for those very wealthy people who back them, a Federal Government unable to get anything done is exactly the kind of Federal Government they want.

My own view of President Obama is that he was indeed the lesser of two evils. He actually resembles Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton most closely from a political perspective, though as a campaigner he runs to the Left. He won his first election with the public noting his tepid opposition to the Iraq War, yet once elected he protected all of the worst features of the Bush presidency. Given the platform he ran on in this past election, he has betrayed it by putting Social Security and Medicare up for cuts as “entitlements”, when they have no part of the problems with our budget and/or national debt. In truth, Romney would do far more damage, but that does not excuse the President’s betrayal of those who voted for him. He is a corporatist of a type that I’ll reference below and yet he’s lulled a lot of people with false promises.

We supposedly have a two party system and besides the Presidency there were at times Democratic majorities in Congress and yet nothing much of those issues considered vital in the “Liberal Canon” got accomplished. While Democrats controlled the Senate, they were paralyzed by the filibuster from even producing anything resembling the type of agenda Democrats put in their party platforms. Nonetheless, with the filibuster to blame, Democratic Senatorial Candidates could run to the “Left” without  having to legislate to the “Left”. With the House locked into Republican control due to gerrymandering, Democratic Congressman could also run to the “left” with no consequence since they could blame the Republicans for the inactivity of the legislative process.

When I think about the totality of the picture presented by a relatively inactive Congress in my mind I reach one inescapable conclusion and that is that it is all part of the “game” being run to strip Americans of their rights, leaving most of us a modern serfs. It is an open secret that once a Senator or Congressperson is elected, they must spend about one third of each day of their term soliciting funds, so that can run again in the next election. We all know where a majority of that money being solicited comes from and that is from those who make up the Corporate elite, the “0.01” percent. With a few exceptions, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for instance, we have a One Party Corporate System. The real argument that exists in the U.S. is an argument that takes place in the rarefied circles of the elite. The argument is do you rule the people without any regard for their welfare, or do you rule them with some kindness? This could be said to be the Koch Brothers vs. Warren Buffett debate. I think the Koch Brothers are winning, though slowly. However, if we are to look to “false heroes” like Warren Buffett or Mike Bloomberg to save us, we will look in vain. Money at the level those people experience it ultimately corrupts any altruistic feelings they might have via naked self-interest, as Bloomberg has proven in New York City and as Buffett in tandem with Bill Gates has proven in their support for privatized education. Call me “Mr. Doom and Gloom” but I think the American people are on their own when it comes to looking out for their general welfare and that until we the people go beyond the distractions of the “Right vs. Left” meme; we will remain on a downward slope towards a Corporate Feudal Police State. The politics and the political philosophies are the distractions to keep us from seeing how bad things have really become for the majority of our people. The issue is do we remain the peasants viewing the doings of the “Aristocracy” with chastened awe, or do we unite beyond our differences and realize that we have a common interest in our political and economic freedom. What do you think about my pessimism, am I too depressing?

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger


51 thoughts on “America’s Broken Legislative System”

  1. thank goodness we live in the The United States of America, a Constitutional Republic with Democratic processes and where elections of federal representatives guarantee that the sovereign power of the people remains with the people to ensure the strength and well being of the Country….for which it stands……

    we are the difference…..

  2. Elaine M. Should the minority rule?

    They already do…that’s why the 99% is protesting…

    It’s the difference between a Republic & a Democracy (Mobocracy)

  3. Woosty:

    I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties and hope things get better for you soon.

  4. thank you all, I appreciate the uplifting words, it is what it is and I’m all in…..just tired of the poo. Tho I suppose where there is poo, there is life….

  5. Woosty,

    Hang in there. I’ve missed your sanity, but having been there myself a few times in my life I know how disruptive it can be to deal with.

  6. Woosty, Haven’t seen you here for a while and was wondering if everything is OK- obviously not! I’m so sorry to hear you’re stuck in the middle of some s**t storm, damn. Hang in as best you can.

  7. Gene: Statistically speaking, the majority of murders (and crimes) are committed by relatively young men. By Marsalek’s logic, being young and male is a statistically provable “predispostion” to crime and murder. If we want to talk about slippery slopes, his “solution” of preemptively preventing potential crime is the most slippery of all.

    Also, in order to show incoherency in his argument, I was trying to work within his logic. If the logic is to compare the probable lives lost by one route against the probable lives lost by another, THEN I think banning assault rifles would be a no-brainer. That is not MY argument for banning assault rifles. Mine is that they, like grenade launchers or surface-to-air missiles or high explosives, they are so dangerous and so potentially lethal that they should be banned, the risks of open ownership of all those ‘tools’ ((in my mind) outweigh any conceivable benefit. That is not true (in my mind) of a handgun, rifle or other firearm.

  8. Tony,

    Statistically speaking, the number of all long guns – including rifles, shotguns and assault rifles – used in gun crime is very small. Along the lines of 4% for all long guns according to the BJS. The vast majority of gun crime is handguns and much of that recorded as “a crime” consists of suicides.

    Assault rifles are wrongly focused upon because they 1) sound scary and 2) look scary. In order to demonize gun ownership (a protected right), it requires a demon to point at from a purely propadandistic standpoint.

Comments are closed.