There's an email going around listing some ideas that will supposedly reform Congress. The email attributes its contents to gazillionaire investor Warren Buffet, but in actuality, Buffet only suggested the first idea in the email; the rest are by some anonymous author who evidently felt it necessary to appropriate Buffet's name.

The email, with my own arguments against what it proposes, is below. I should mention that I have no great regard for (the current) Congress, especially my current member who I regard as one of the biggest dirtbags on the planet.

Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best quotes about the debt ceiling: "I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."

It's a nice, feel-good thought, until you think about what effect it would really have. There's already a so-called "revolving door" whereby people leave Congress and go to work for corporations for whom they did favors while in office. So the money-friendly variety of Congressman wouldn't be terribly inconvenienced by this, and the people supplying the cash could always find new people to replace the old ones. Meanwhile, those few Congress members who do stick up for their constituents, the Barbara Lees and the Dennis Kuciniches, would also be gone, even if they personally didn't vote for the upper-income tax cuts and military spending that ballooned the deficit, and they're much more difficult to replace.

But let's skip down to the details of what this anonymous author is proposing:
Congressional Reform Act of 2011
1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

(Here should be a clue that Buffet did not write this. With all of his money he can surely afford a proofreader who understands that "loses" is singular and "their" is plural and that the two forms don't go together. But anyway.)

The American people typically receive health care coverage, if at all, through their employers as part compensation for doing their jobs. The job of a Congress member is Congress member. So arguably, they are already participating in the same system.

But obviously the intent of this is that Congress members should buy health coverage on the open market. This is another terrible idea. Congress is already something of a millionaire's club. It's already extremely difficult to get into Congress if you aren't wealthy and aren't sponsored by someone who is. This would take it from difficult to nigh-impossible.

What Congress should do is pass single-payer Medicare for All, to make health coverage a public service rather than a purchased commodity. Most other countries have done this, and they spend a fraction of what we do while getting better results.

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

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

See above. Of course, if something more or less worked in 1793, it must work now, because not much has changed since then, right?

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


No. No, it isn't. It really isn't. And adding more exclamation points doesn't make it more true.

Having publicly-financed elections would go a long way towards fixing Congress. If I hand my Congressman a thousand dollars to persuade him to vote my way, that's bribery, and both he and I would go to jail for it. In a sane world, supplying a thousand dollars to his campaign fund would be treated the same way. Paying for campaigns would cost the public a lot less than the money that gets wasted in order to keep the private campaign dollars rolling.

But ultimately the only solution is for people to be informed and to pay attention. This letter writer obviously wants a quick fix, rule changes that he can put in place and then walk away. There is no quick fix. We can't have any sort of meaningful democracy unless people are engaged to the point where they can cut through the wall of bullshit.

If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete. You are one of my 20+.. Please keep it going.

"If you agree with me, speak up. If you don't, shut up." Wonderful.