How Should We Reform The Senate?
May 29, 2006, 06:36 PM
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The recent aburdity of the immigration bill that passed the Senate raises the question: How should the senate be reformed? The situation has degenerated to the point the Senate is now an exclusive country club with pretenses of being a legislative body. The problem may lie in the election of senators in states-a jurisdiction so large, that it takes enormous sums to run in many of these elections. Thus, the senate is absurdly biased in favor of concentrations of wealth—as its recent immigration legislation shows. I have previously suggested that if the US had a more truly proportional election system(as endorsed by leading left figures like Dennis Kucinich and Lani Guinier) , we'd see expansion of anti-immigration sentiment in the house. The original intent of the founders of the US was the that the House represent the population "in miniature"-thus proportional representation would be utterly consistent with their intent. The purpose of the senate was in part to provide checks upon the house.

Perhaps we should simply recognized that the direct election of senators has been a mistake-and go back to election of senators by state legislatures. My Republican legislator disagrees with me on just about everything-but he's sure a lot more accessible and responsive than my Senator's staffers.

Beyond this, I think we should consider serious campaign finance reform. The average Congressman spends almost half of their time fundraising. I would suggest 100% public funding for all federal elections. The available funds could be given to a pool of citizens selected by lottery from the voting roles-who could distribute these funds to candidates of their choice. Candidates would only have to appeal to a limited pool of citizens to get funding.

We should also expect our senators to be seriously devoted to the public service. I see no reason why Senators, Presidents, Vice Presidents, Supreme Court Judges, Cabinet officials and heads of key house committees shouldn't be selected from a pool of folks that have made a lifetime commitment to public service—and be expected to actually live on their salaries and pensions. If they loose an election, the federal government is surely large enough to find meaningful employment for them someplace. The salaries of Ministers in Singapores substantially exceed those of their American counterparts—as do the penalties if they are seen taking money from anyone. We in America need leaders that are devoted to their jobs-not looking to cash out in via a book deal, corporate board membership, lobbying job or giving speeches for a cult leader(as W's father did when making six speeches for Rev. Moon at $1 Milion each).

What does this have to do with the issue of immigration? I think we need to view immigration expansion in recent years as a form of corporate welfare and electoral corruption. If we make congress more responsive to voters and less concerned with corporate money, the problem is much more likely to be solved. Those of us concerned about immigration should be willing to consider radical solutions to address this problem.