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Michael Wolfstone

Director of Technology, Wolfstone and Associates

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A constitutional amendment relating to politics and politicians in Congress

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay once they are 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, so Congress will participate with the American people. Social Security trust fund may not be used for any purpose other than that granted in its originating law.

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 either the CPI or 3% which ever is lower.

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. Congress is not exempt from any law. Congress cannot pass any law which applies only to themselves giving them privileges unavailable to the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

8. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), set by limit, then go home and go back to work.

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    Sep 26 2011: This is not original with me, but it seems a very good idea. It might even contribute to the reduction of Congressional Gridlock.
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    Oct 10 2011: Is congress supposed to vote for this? :P
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    Oct 9 2011: It is not about oppressive bureaucracy. It is about gridlocked, ineffective bureaucracy. One longer term with no re-election option should cause a turn toward benefitting the country and not having dominant political power as a motive. No cushy retirement plan and no special medical insurance should help them understand the plight of many Americans. Remove the perks and we might get a more altruistic Congress. All we have to do is pass a constitutional amendment and get it ratified. Simple, huh?
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    Sep 29 2011: Nice idea, certainly. How to enforce?

    I've often thought it would be interesting to try a 'no uniforms" law in a tester town, city, state, etc. Hard to have an oppressive bureaucracy without the homogeneity of uniformed masses.
  • Sep 26 2011: @Mike
    It is part of the electoral college system. Here is a wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_College_%28United_States%29

    It is actually possible to win the popular vote and still lose the election! It is complex and controversial, but I am sure I can not explain it in 2000 words!
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      Sep 26 2011: Complex would be an understatement.

      Ok lets use the state of washington. It elects 12 electors. Is the state divided into further sub groups? Or does the entire state vote on the same members, and then whoever gets the majority of those votes receives all of the electoral nominations? Or does the state get broken down further into ridings or districts. Where you vote for one electoral, while another area of the state votes for a different electoral... Then if one party wins 7 of the 12 smaller elections, they over rule the other 5, and win the entire state?
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        Oct 9 2011: Actually, some states (Colorado, I think) now have proportional electoral votes in whole electors.
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    Sep 26 2011: Regarding No. 2, since 1982 members of Congress have been participating in the Social Security program like the rest of us. Not sure requiring all their retirement funds be moved to SS makes sense given that SS is a very different program from a DB or DC plan.

    The bigger target we need to focus our collective attention upon, in my humble view, is the overall system itself and not so much members of Congress themselves, though of course they are a major component and need to be subject to as much transparency and accountability as any aspect of the system.

    By "overall system" I mean the election cycle and the de facto requirement for endless fundraising, with particular emphasis on corporate and organizational money that is largely unregulated and unrestricted. Until we clean that up, minor details like Congressional health benefits are akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
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    Sep 26 2011: Wow. This is an impressive list and seems logical. Taking down a good ol' boy network is almost impossible though. Need to find the weakest link in the loop and start from there. Wonder what that would be.
  • Sep 26 2011: Proposed additions:
    9X. No campaigning allowed until a month before the election.
    10X. Start or continue to monitor all campaign contributions over $1000 and limit individual and corporate contributions. Force all contributions to get GAO approval and be made public.
    11X. Any contact or communication with a lobbyist must be documented, recorded and made public.
    12X. Congress members are subject to the rules of Civil Service and Military Justice for criminal activity. The rules should be amended to permit political activity.
    13X. The public should have an opportunity to have a non-binding vote on all house votes. The results should be made public and compared to a Congressman’s voting record. If the results differ by more than 50% within a term, a term limit for than congressman gets invoked.
    14X. There should be a basic competency test given to all perspective campaigners on Congressional proceedings, the government, law, reading comprehension, and similar subjects relevant to working in congress.
    15X. Failure to pass a budget within the allotted time immediately invokes:
    a. Lifetime term limits for both houses.
    b. Loss in staff office space and parking privileges.
    c. Loss of travel privileges
    d. Loss of free communications privileges.
    e. Loss of all social and health amenities that come with the office.
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      Sep 26 2011: @11. Don't contributions already need to be made public? Or are you saying to change the amount at which they need to be made public.

      @13. That sounds extremely expensive, and also very hard to actually implement. It's great in theory, but practically I suspect it would be a huge failure.

      @14. The fact that politicians need to be tested on their knowledge of their own career path... Well frankly it scares me. But it's a great idea so I shall add that it should be done in a public venue, to prevent cheating. Sell tickets to an auditorium, so that the public can view the potential candidates as they write the test. Preferably the test should be done electronically, similar to how new drivers need to take an electronic knowledge test. You get one shot at the answer. Right or wrong, the computer moves on to the next question.
      • Sep 26 2011: @11-I tried to clear it up. I want to limit the amount that gets spent. Rather see the same amount of money go to education, medical research, or technology research. All that money is spent on media hype, and look at the product! I would limit amount to be commensurate with no more than a month of campaigning.

        @!3-I thought it might be done on line. Congressional Districts are not that large. My target is to cut back on partisan politics. This would keep voting close to the will of the people and cut back on the rigidity of party lines for those willing to compromise, politics theoretically being the art of compromise!

        @14- Not all politicians come start out in politics.If they are popular but ignorant of what is needed for success as a politician, then they waste time and money by not being ready for the job. The process does a pretty good job of preventing unqualified people, but if we start removing them more frequently with term limits, we will need a bigger pool of people.
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          Sep 26 2011: Perhaps you could answer this for me... Why do federal politics, win entire states? All it does is force a two party system, in which all the politics is about what separates the two sides. There is never any need or drive to work together.

          In Canada we have it riding by riding. If you win one riding, you have one member of parliament. I can only imagine that if we changed our system to be won province by province (or territory), then it would become east vs west vs quebec. The political landscape would most likely never shift, and just further increase tensions between groups. With our current system of multiple parties, those parties are forced to work together, because if they don't the voters will shift to a different party which is similar to the first, but not quite as different as the third or fourth.