Congress: The New Power Class

There is no native criminal class except Congress.
  - Mark Twain
Traditionally Americans have loved to hate their Congress. But in the last several years our country has changed. Most clear thinking Americans no longer hate our Congress -- we now fear it.

The reason for this fear is, and should be, deeply disturbing. Those who have carefully followed the bailout bills that Congress has recently passed know just how pervasive the corruption has become. But the whole story goes much deeper than mere trillions of dollars. America is losing (or has already lost) its constitutional republic.

Americans also traditionally love to hate the rich and powerful. Tales of the 19th century "robber barons" have the cultural status of epic myths in American history. Even if they were greedy and unscrupulous, the Rockefellers, Mellons, and Carnagies helped create wealth in this country. The acquisitions of their personal fortunes may have been ruthlessly pursued; but their fortunes were not solely obtained by stealing money from their fellow citizens using the power of the central government.

The robber barons became powerful because they created wealth. In that sense, these men earned their power and influence. Congress has turned this principle on its head. Our elected representatives become wealthy because they wield their political power in an unconstitutional, and often illegal, manner. The new power class in America is not productive ... it is Machiavellian.

Let's begin with a recent example. A young man is elected to the state legislature. His wife is given a make believe job as director of "community services" for a large hospital that receives state funds. The young man runs successfully for the U.S. Senate. His wife's salary is tripled because the hospital receives more federal than state funds.

The young man leaves the senate for another position. His wife no longer needs the "job" -- and the hospital decides that it no longer needs a director of "community services."

Instead of facing a criminal investigation for accepting bribes and illegal political contributions, the young man and his wife are lauded for their "service."  How bad has the venality become? How ingrained is the acceptance of this kind of fraud in our culture? Fifty two percent of America's voters recently elected this man president ... and his wife is now the first lady.

This is but one of thousands of examples. America faces "pay-to-play" extortion in its politics at unprecedented levels -- especially at the federal level.

There was a brief window of opportunity for our elected officials to stop the graft. The Republicans took the majority from the Democrats in Congress in 1994 on the heels of multiple revelations of massive fraud by the Democrats.

The Republicans had a plan and a playbook. It was called "Republican Contract with America." Here are the actual promises that were made:

FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;

SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;

THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;

FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;

FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;

SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;

SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;

EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.

The plan lasted about two years. The Republicans discovered that it was much easier to raise a million dollars by having lunch on K Street, than it was getting 10,000 of their constituents to pop for a hundred bucks each. Republicans reneged on their contract and set about strong arming K Street lobbyists. In short, the Republicans became a more traditional power class, following the historical example set by the Democrats.

The Democrats, finding themselves out of power for the first time in 50 years, had other ideas. Why not figure out a way to make pay-for-play an insiders game? The federal government spends trillions of dollars a year, why not make the organizations on the receiving end of those trillions kick back a few hundred mil?

And so the Democrats (and a few quick thinking Republicans) figured out how to take their bribes from the government itself (and from institutions that heavily rely on government funding). The Democrats already had the teachers unions on their thumb -- and there were many other plums in little Jack Horner's pie.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government or quasi-government unions like the AFGE, SEIU, AFSCME, and the NEA could all be tapped to give back a chunk of the federal government's largess.

And so they have. The Congress has created its own source of perpetual political funding. We pay taxes, the government doles out our money, and those receiving the money pay off the people who voted to send these special interests our money in the first place.

The Congress has created the perfect storm for the taxpayer and perfect weather for smooth campaign finance sailing. Republicans keep on lunching down on K Street with the lobbyists. The Democrats have rigged the bailouts (using the paybacks to the special interest groups that receive them) to free up more time for golf. Incumbents, from both parties who support this plunder, are going to remain in office for a long, long time.

All of this funding and fraud is unconstitutional. The Constitution is very specific about the powers granted to the congress. Article I, Section 8 - Powers of Congress is less than 500 words in length. Nowhere in those 500 words is there any mention of bailing out private banks or private companies, setting up government guaranteed financing of private homes, cash for Amtrak, cash for "artists," cash for education, cash for ACORN and "community services," cash for global warming research, cash for digital TVs, and on and on and on. Nor is there any verbiage in the Constitution that allows the congress to be funded by the recipients of its spending.

But most kids, who have been educated in our public school system over the last twenty years, have never read Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution. The fact is that the majority of the citizens of this once great nation of ours have no idea that they have been (and will continue to be until our economy collapses) both deceived by their political leaders ... and fleeced.

Our Congress is the new power class of America -- a robber baron pretending to be a Robin Hood.

This new power class of professional politicians has learned much from the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli is the philosopher who first laid down the principles for ruling purely from a position of power.  He said the following:

¨ I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.

¨ Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions.

¨ Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.

¨ A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.

¨ No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.

 ¨ The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all.

Machiavelli wrote the rulebook for our new "power class" in Congress. Read that list from him one more time. Think, while you are reading the list, this one word: "bailouts."

Larrey Anderson is a writer, a philosopher, and submissions editor for American Thinker. His latest award-winning novel is The Order of the Beloved. His memoir, Underground: Life and Survival in the Russian Black Market, has just been released.
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