Saturday, October 29, 2011

…tagged an Internet hoax but promising

By kay.e.strong

The other day I received in my email box an Internet chain letter described as the "Congressional Reform Act of 2011." Billionaire Warren Buffett is quoted early in such a way as to suggest his support.

Initially, I read it and dismissed it.  But upon further reflection, I find some provisions promising, perhaps, even complementing ideas emerging from the 99% movement.  I have modified the text slightly in some places, added Fact Checks and commentary.

1. TERM limit of twelve years congressional service in total

The practice of “homesteading” and “perpetuity in office” in Congress creates an environment which American Statesman Richard Henry Lee described as "most highly and dangerously oligarchic."

George Mason, the Father of the Bill of Rights, argued that "nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation."

Known as the Conscience of the American Revolution, Mercy Otis Warren chided the founding fathers for the lack of term limits stating that "there is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done...."

Fact CheckAs they pertain to Congress, these laws are no longer enforceable, however, as in 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned congressional term limits, ruling that state governments cannot limit the terms of members of the national government.

A provision for term limits exists in 15 states. Some states have bans on consecutive limits, others on lifetime bans.  <Source:>

Churning the membership rolls of Congress is an obvious way to assure that the cupboard gets restocked with a mixture more diverse and authentically representative of the American demographic landscape than its current stock of white, aged cans. Churning holds open the possibility of a deeper, more inclusive examination of complex issues which typically involve niche communities.   Churning is probably the only way to breathe new life into the marketplace of ideas and stamp-out self-interested cronyism.

2. A congressman/ woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
Fact CheckThe current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the
         House and Senate is $174,000 per year which clearly, is more than
         sufficient to meet basic needs.  Current compensation:

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. As such Congressional pay should be set at the national average of salaries in other honorable career services such as public school teaching ($47,100 to $51,180), police ($51,410) and fire ($44,260) protection.  (Occupational Outlook Handbook-BLS)

The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their terms, then go home and back to work.

3.  CONGRESS (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

        Fact CheckMembers elected since 1984 are covered by the
        Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS). Those elected prior
        to 1984 were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System
        (CSRS). In 1984 all members were given the option of remaining
        with CSRS or switching to FERS.

As it is for all other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants' contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3 percent of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2 percent of their salary in Social Security taxes.
The average annual pension of retired members of Congress ranged between $35,952 and $60,972 as of 2006, according to the CRS.  Members of Congress are eligible for full retirement after twenty years of service, a provision marked similar to that of military.

4. CONGRESSIONAL pay rises in tandem with Social Security cost of living adjustments.

         Fact CheckIn December 2010, 43.8 million people received Old Age
         Survivors Insurance benefits. A 3.6% increase becomes effective
         January 2012.

5. CONGRESS participates in the same health care system as the American people.

          Fact Check: Members of Congress are allowed to purchase private
          health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health
          Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal
          employees, retires and their families.

6. CONGRESS must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

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

The first provision concerning term limits holds promise as an effective tool at unleveraging the positive feedback loop between power and money influence.

The original email encouraged each recipient to pass the letter along to at least twenty other recipients as a means to “fix Congress.”

So, what do you think?

[In case you are interested in an unadulterated version, viewed it at]

Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail:

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