Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Constitution Needs a New Amendment
By Alan Caruba
The last Amendment to the Constitution took effect in 1992. The 27th said, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
I assume this means they cannot vote themselves a raise until a new group of Representatives has been seated (the House being the only chamber that can initiate financial bills.)
What is really needed is a 28th Amendment and a text has been suggested.
“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
Amidst the debate over healthcare “reform” the one thing that Congress did not and does not want the public to know is that they exempted themselves from both the House and Senate versions.
Little wonder Congress regards itself as a special and elite class of citizens when you consider that lawmakers have a choice of ten healthcare plans. This is in sharp contrast to the 85% of private companies offering health coverage with one plan, take it or leave it. Anywhere from three-quarters to one-third of the cost of the plans available to those in Congress is subsidized by taxpayers.
In addition, lawmakers are entitled to special treatment at Washington’s federal medical facilities and, for a few hundred a month, access to their own pharmacy, as well as doctors, nurses and medical technicians in an office located between the House and Senate chambers.
Federal health coverage far surpasses the plans available in the private sector and, of course, the millions who are under-insured and at financial risk in the event of a major health problem. For federal employees there is no such thing as a pre-existing condition that keeps many from securing insurance.
In 2000, the National Taxpayers Union published a report on “Congressional Perks: How the Trappings of Office Trap Taxpayers.” It is well worth reading.
Briefly, Senators and Representatives receive “comfortable” salaries and they receive pension benefits that are “two to three times more generous than those offered in the private sector” for similarly salaried executives. Taxpayers “directly cover at least 80 percent of this costly plan.” The pensions, moreover, are inflation-protected, a feature that fewer than 1 in 10 private plans offer.
Most people are aware of the “junkets” that Senators and Representatives take for “fact finding” purposes. The cost of flying Speaker Pelosi and her fellow lawmakers to Copenhagen to attend the recent UN Climate Change Conference was set at more than one million dollars. A bit of research would not doubt reveal that millions of taxpayer dollars are spent to provide lawmakers with the equivalent of paid vacations.
Nor do lawmakers pick up the cost of postage to reply to their constituents as they have long enjoyed “franking” privileges to the tune of millions from the public coffer. They send out newsletters to inform constituents of all the money they have diverted to their district or state. It is regarded by many as an unfair electioneering tool. The public also pays for their office staffs.
There is a raft of exemptions and immunities from tax, pension, and other laws that burden private citizens. I would be remiss if I did not also point out that unionized federal and state workers enjoy 34% higher wages and 70% more benefits than private sector counterparts.
You can be sure that the Founding Fathers feared the growth of government and its blandishments as much as any other abuse of power.
In plain terms, it is an abuse of office and a raid on public funding. It is fundamentally un-American.
It is time for a new Amendment, though it is the least likely to ever be passed by the kindergartners presently running the nation into historical debt and possible collapse.