Let’s tell our kids the truth about Congress

Shutdown debate damages GOP

(Photo credit: nordique)

By Robert Mann

Pity the poor civics teacher who tried last week to explain our broken and dysfunctional political system to a class of seventh-graders. It can be done, of course, but just not in a way that would inspire anyone to consider the noble profession of politics.

Yet, these seventh-graders will one day run our country. In fact, it’s likely we’ll count on them to fix the financial and political chaos their parents’ generation created.

So, why not give it to them straight? Let’s rip out the textbook pages that describe Washington as some kind of dignified chess match. It’s really just the World Wrestling Federation in business suits. The sooner these young people understand that, the better.

If you really want to astonish them, there’s no better place to start than the sausage factory that is our shattered legislative process. So, as a public service to the kids, here’s a helpful revision of the trusty old guide, “How a Bill Becomes Law.”

“Legislation is handed to the clerk of the House or placed in the hopper.” Actually, legislation is often first handed to the member of Congress by a lobbyist from whom the member has accepted tens of thousands in campaign contributions.

Continue reading at NOLA.com

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9 Responses to Let’s tell our kids the truth about Congress

  1. Linda K Rewerts says:

    Really good article (however depressing).

    Linda Rewerts, Assistant Dean
    Manship School of Mass Communication
    221 Journalism Bldg.
    Baton Rouge, LA 70803


  2. Judith says:

    And the alternative to this system is?


  3. Matthew S. Walton says:

    Do you really believe that the Speaker has shut down the government??? That is simply absurd. The Senate Majority Leader has shut down the government. It is after all the Senate that has refused to pass any of the numerous CR’s that the House has passed and sent to them. Federal Employees are not all as gullible as most of your loyal readers must be. They understand that the House has worked dilligently to fund their jobs, and they understand that it is the Senate that has refused to fund them, and that the President has continually threatened to veto any CR that the Senate does muster the intestinal fortitude to pass. I live in the middle of the Kisatche National Forest, and the Federal employees here know who is keeping them at home, and it isn’t the House Republicans. I saw a quote last week that I think you need to hear, I will do my best to type it word for word from memory- “those who argue obamacare is settled law would do well to remember that so were slavery and segregation.” The House, where according to the Constitution all funding mechanisims must originate, is under no obligation to fund obamacare, and that is the bottom line. Here endeth the lesson.


    • Martin Walke says:

      Matthew – with all due respect, your reading of the Constitution is incorrect. Article I, Section 7, Clause I requires all tax legislation (revenue raising) to originate in the House of Representatives, not budget legislation. Now may be a good time for all of us to brush up on our civics.


      • Matthew S. Walton says:

        Thank you for the clarification. You make a good point. I agree that we all need to study Civics regularly.

        Here is a more simple analogy. It’s like going to the grocery store. We have a huge buggy full of groceries, everything we need, plus lots of snacks we dont. You want chocolate milk too. I don’t want any chocolate milk because we don’t need it, and can’t afford it. Remember, there is already regular milk in the buggy. So I offer to buy all the groceries except the chocolate milk. You would rather us go home and starve than buy all of the groceries we need, if you can’t also have the chocolate milk.

        We are going to starve to death over your chocolate milk.


    • COMALite J says:

      The Senate has refused to pass the House CRs for good reason: each and every one of them was laden with “poison pills” attempting to use this crisis (that the GOP and particularly the House GOP manufactured for this very reason [Google/Wiki “Shock Doctrine”]) to accomplish ultra-right-wing goals that would otherwise never pass in a democratic republic. Defunding or repealing the ACA (called “ObamaCare” even though the real ObamaCare was destroyed in the Senate and replaced by the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s Butler plan written by their then-Director of Public Policy Innovation, Distinguished Fellow Stuart M. Butler, Ph.D. and published as a paper on January 2, 1989, and expanded into book form on October 2 of the same year) is just one of many such poison pills.

      This tactic must never be allowed to succeed, by anyone, for any reason. It would destroy the very concept of a democratic republic. Not “damage” it. Not “devastate” it. Destroy it. Make it not exist any more. Ever again. As in, “You know that ‘democratic republic’ thing we used to have? Whatever happened to that?”

      Imagine if the situation were reversed, if McCain had won in 2008, and the GOP had briefly held the House and Senate for two years, with an even more brief “filibuster-proof” Senate majority that lasted a few weeks on paper.

      Then some new ultra-radical movement forms within the Democrats, spurred by insane fear and loathing of Sarah Palin. Since the Democrats are currently split into Yellow and Blue Dogs, and such a group would even be more yellow, let’s call them the Fluorescent Chartreuse Dogs (FCDs). They stage protests and gain a following because of media attention far beyond what their actual numbers justify. In 2010, FCD candidates pretty much sweep the House elections and narrow the GOP’s majority in the Senate. The previous GOP House Speaker is ousted and a new FCD-approved Speaker installed.

      McCain barely passes some legislation that the FCDs are absolutely outraged over, even though Democrats had originally created it. Let’s say that it’s some sort of anti-abortion legislation, defining “Personhood” as beginning at conception. The Democractic-controlled House tries at least a dozen times to repeal it, but it never gets past the Senate. A case comes before the Supreme Court to try to have it declared unconstitutional, but by a narrow 5–4 decision it’s upheld with a minor re-conceptualizing. So, they try a few more times to repeal it.

      Then it comes time to enact a budget and authorize spending for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins October 1, 2013. Thus they have until September 30 to enact at least a continuing resolution to keep the government functioning in the absence of a proper budget (which the FCDs absolutely would not allow to pass, then blamed on the GOP and McCain and their hated Palin).

      The deadline passes and the shutdown happens. Now an even bigger deadline is approaching: the debt ceiling, which must be raised to pay already existing obligations (contrary to your grocery store analogy below, it is not about new spending, but about paying the existing bills — more on that in a bit).

      The FCDs see this (and had planned for it all along, dating back to at least January) as a golden opportunity to not only repeal the abortion / Personhood law, but also get many of their other goals accomplished that they know good and well could never fly in a democratic republic. So, each CR they send to the GOP-controlled House contains “poison pills” such as a new Constitutional Amendment to do unto the Second Amendment as the Twenty-First did unto the Eighteenth, extend the Medicare qualification age to birth (or even conception in mockery of the Personhood law), outlaw all public expression of religion or religious faith of any kind, outlaw the concept of corporations and nationalize all industries, nationalize all State and local governments, raise taxes back to 1950s levels (91% Top Marginal Rate), etc. etc. etc.

      You would rightly see that as holding the fiscal solvency of the nation itself hostage to their unconscionable demands that they know good and well could never even get the time of day in a normally functioning democratic republic.

      This is the situation we’re facing now, only with the Teabaggers (yes, that’s the proper name — ask me why if you dare [“Tea Party” was already taken years before they came along]) as the FCDs, and swapping GOP and Democrats. Just as you would bitterly oppose the scenario I just posted (and rightly so), so too is it just as wrong when done by your side. Hostage-taking is hostage-taking, no matter who does it, and any negotiations or compromises with hostage-takers only shows them that the tactic works, and they’ll just do it again and again, to get even more extremist policies passed.

      This is why the tactic must never be permitted to succeed, to any degree, by any Party.

      As for your grocery store analogy, no. It’s more like the store has its own credit cards, and you’ve long ago maxed out yours. They say that you must pay at least the minimum payments in order to be permitted to check out any purchases, but you tell them that you’ve already reached your debt ceiling and thus cannot make any more payments on any debts.


  4. Carolyn Dupre' says:

    You don’t have to worry about the “poor civics teacher”. He/She’s a COACH of some sport, which is more important than teaching the kids anything other than that next game!!! It’s pathetic that the only way a Social Studies teacher can get hired is if they coach a major sport!! Tell me, are there really that many parents out there that believe that Jr. will get a spot on a pro team and be set for life? Or that their little princess will land a prime spot on a pro cheerleading group and lad a rich jock for a hubby?? No wonder our country is in trouble!! The people we’re dumb enough to elect to office haven’t a clue as to what they’re truly expected to do when they get there, because we’ve become a bunch of “fans” and abdicated our government to the leftovers that didn’t make a pro team or a cheer team!!!


  5. G. V. Foreman says:

    You mean civics is still being taught? Could have fooled me. I thought the subject had gone the way of geography, cursive, and spelling. After all, the general consensus among most educational systems, including Louisiana, is if the subject matter will not be part of the achievement test evaluating students performance, then we, meaning the school systems, don’t need to teach it. The education of children in today’s schools revolves around and in large part determined by the subject matter being tested. So, in a nut shell, if the subject matter is not part of the test…we ain’t gonna teach it.


  6. Stephen Winham says:

    To paraphrase Jack Nicholson (“A Few Good Men”), they can’t handle the truth. What is going on in Washington right now is so outrageous it is hard for any of us to handle.


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