The 28th Amendment does not exist, though there has been a proposal for one floating around for a very long time. And no, I’m not talking about the Equal Rights Amendment championed by luminaries such as Gloria Steinem and first proposed by Alice Paul in 1923. This 28th Amendment proposal has even less chance of passing because those who are most directly, and adversely, affected will never allow it to reach the floors of the Houses of Congress.
There are many different versions, but the most common, and most basic is as follows:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States".
Doesn’t sound exactly controversial, and in fact seemss like a no-brainer. Where it gets sticky is when all the other propsed sections get added to it. I’m sure you’ve seen one version or another floating around on social media websites of filling up your inbox. Many of those proposed sections are based on misinformation, half-truths and in some cases, flat out lies.
So, by a show of hands, how many would like to see the above blurb become the 28th Amendment to our Constitution? Being a blog on cyber-space, I have to tell you because you can’t see my hand, but it is definitely not in the raised position. It is actually at half-mast. It’s not that I don’t think this is a worthy and appropriate demand to be made of our elected officials; I just think there are lots of other things we should demand of politicians as well. So, I give a half raised hand to this section, but to have me reaching for the stars, we’ll have to add a few more things.
Let’s start with their pay. First, they don’t get any unless or until there is a balanced budget. Then, once they finally get it balanced, they don't get back pay. Afterall, we're dealing with a bunch of millionaries who certainly can afford to go a few weeks or even months without their government paycheck, so for this to work, their needs to be a little incentive. Even millionaires don't like working for free indefinitely.
Since we’re talking about their pay, let’s make theirs the same as what too many Americans are trying to get by on and set it at minimum wage. Of course, the first thing they would try do is raise the minimum wage, but we can count on the powerful business and labor lobbies to prevent that. If the minimum wage were significantly increased across the board, countless companies would lay people off or simply go out of business. I'm not arguing against a higher minimum wage for the average worker, just pointing out that raising it too high would have catastrophic effects on the economy, and that there are vested interests that will work to prevent this.
The biggest argument against placing elected officials pay at the minimum wage is it would lead to corruption because politicians are not going to give up the lifestyle they got elected to enjoy. I guess we're talking about other than the corruption that already exists. At least if politicians aren't getting a big, fat paycheck, if they are driving around in a luxury car, residing in multimillion dollar second homes and wearing five thousand dollar suits, we would know who is taking bribes, perks and payoffs.
Another argument against paying politicians what they are worth is that only the wealthy would then be able to afford to give up their livelihoods to fulfill a dream of public service. Each time I hear this, I want to ask someone to point out for me the last poor, working class politician that was elected.
Now, we must take care of their living arrangements, so how about housing them in any one of the many HUD developments in the greater D.C. area? Because they wouldn’t be able to fix up only their units, reference the first section, all the units would have to be brought up to livable standards. Or torn down. Of course, they would be spending considerably less time in D.C. if they didn’t have plush accommodations, but isn’t that part of the point? Make them spend more time in and amongst the population that elected them, listening to the people to whom they are supposedly answerable and less time hobbing and nobbing with the lobbyists whose interests generally run counter to those of their constituents?
Now that they will be in their home districts more frequently, or at least for longer stretches, let’s address their transportation to and from the Capitol. Since this is a government of the people, by the people and for the people, let them ride with the people. In coach. Of course, this is after they have been subject to the same security lines and TSA rules and regulations they have imposed on the rest of us.
Contrary to the opinion one might have formed from my above statements, I really don’t have anything against lobbyists or the idea of lobbying in general. It’s just the practice of the ignoble tradition with which I have issues. So, make it a crime, Federal, punishable by real jail time and not just fines, as well as prohibition from ever practicing the graft again if they spend more on a meal with a politician than the Federal per diem allows, if they give anything that may at anytime in the future be converted to a personal gain by the politician, including but not limited to advice. Granted, a few things will need to be put in place to be able to track and enforce these measures, but they really are pretty simple.
Let's start by addressing how lobbyists get access to Congress. All lobbyists must make appointments with one, central office. This office is to be staffed by government workers who make the appropriate civil servant salary. Now, we know who talked to whom, or at least when they tried to talk to whom.
Next, all politicians must divulge which lobbyists they spoke to, received advice from or are acting on the behalf of with every bill they propose, support or fight. It is said the why of things is much more important – and telling – than the what. Of course, lobbyists, being the smart people they are, will simply get the ear of one politician who will then chat up his or her fellow politicians. I can see it becoming a game of finding the cheese at the end of the maze tracking down where bills came from, figuring out which group is for or against a specific measure, but this way, there is at least some hope of transparency. The first stop would be that central booking office.
Of course, politicians being what they are, may lie about where an idea came from, why they choose to support or fight specific things, but barring hooking them all to lie detectors every time they open their mouths, I can’t figure a way to keep them from acting on their natures. The only thing we will know for sure is which are representing the people that elected them and which are being influenced by this lobby or that special interest.
Term limits are another one of those things that frequently pops up in those viral emails and social media posts about a proposed 28th Amendment. If someone wants to devote their entire life to public service, and now it would be service and not a perk, let them. As a matter of fact, with all the new transparencies and lack of perks, not many will be willing to choose being a politician as a lifelong career.
On the one hand, they would actually have to do what they are elected to do; their constituents would actually be able to know what they are doing and why in order to get re-elected. On the other hand, only those who are able and willing to forego the trappings of wealth that are currently part and parcel of being a politician would be willing to devote more than a single or even a couple terms to public service. Then, when they retire, their pension would be based on the number of terms served and at the now appropriate pay they received.
All of this, well most of this, has been tongue in cheek. My real suggestion is to pay politicians on the same scale, with the same access to housing, healthcare and retirement as we currently offer our military. If it is good enough for those who are willing to risk their lives for the ideals of this country, it certainly is more than good enough for those who make the laws of this country. Term limits should be addressed the same way as it is in the military as well. If you are doing a good job, you get to stay in the military. If you do a good job by your constituents, you get to keep your job.
One other thing comes to mind here, and that is the issue of felons in our government. Again, here we need to follow the same rules as exist in the military. If you are a felon, you can't get in. If once in you are convicted of a felony, you are booted out and can never come back. Of course, if we instituted this part right now, our Halls of Congress would be considerably less crowded. Particularly here in Illinois.