Over the past year the Contract From America has gotten little attention and is pretty much viewed by voters as not worth the paper to print it. An alternative is Dave’s Contract with Congress that has real teeth and could be made a binding condition of holding elected office. The author sent these suggestions along as updates to his contract that was written after years of working with the federal government and finding the experience disillusioning.
“I’ve been hearing Newt Gingrich and others talk of a new contract with America…I think that they still don’t get it. They have a contract with us and we are their employers. Dave’s Contract with Congress needs updated. I’m taking local politicians through it if they come to the door.
I think that we should pay them reasonably, cut their benefits, remove all pensions, and ban out of office elected officials from lobbying when they are done.
Term limits should be introduced limiting elected officials to two terms. For some, those terms will be one in Congress and one in jail.”
For those of you who missed it the first time it was posted, here is the text of the contract written by my brother. Please feel free to copy it and send it to your senators and representatives, friends, family and cohorts.
Dave’s Contract with Congress
Article I Once the elections are over you are not a Democrat or a Republican. You are representatives of your constituents who are of all persuasions. Your job is to go forth and represent all of your constituents with the caveat that you will do what is best for the country.
Article II You should have an orientation upon your arrival in Washington, D.C., that includes a review of the workings of government and an education on ethics. You will undergo a competency evaluation and, if found incompetent, you will be sent home and the constituency will hold a special election. The cost of special elections should prevent this from happening too many times.
Article III You will never attaché any unrelated legislation to any bill. An idea should stand on its own merits and your job is to convince your colleagues to support it. Consider this an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership abilities and encourage your constituents to re-elect you for valid reason.
Article IV You will never vote for, or against, any bill you have not read and understood in its entirety. Critics may feel this will slow the legislative process, but it will improve productivity.
Article V You will never vote for legislation without voting for the funding. If they must be separate bills they will be voted on in succession and if funding is not approved, the authorizing legislation is immediately rescinded.
Article VI Your ethics committee should include members of the public because the Congress has become unable to maintain professional standards. The public members should be elected from 12 states for two years of service, with half of them replaced each year from six new states. Since Congressional censorship has no real penalty, ethics violations should result in loss of pay and removal of voting privileges.
Article VII In each session, the budget will be given primary priority. You will not be allowed to move on to other legislation or investigations until a budget is passed.
Article VIII Because of the foolish appearance and the amount of money wasted on Congressional investigations, henceforth, you will each be given $25,000 per session that you can spend investigating. Members are free to combine their money if necessary, if you can convince your colleagues. Any funds leftover will be given to the charity of your choice within your constituency.
Article IX Since term limits have failed to pass, other methods of encouraging changeover are required. The seniority system should be eliminated. Committee assignments will be made according to interest, expertise and background. Each committee will elect its own chairman. Pension plans should be greatly reduced or removed altogether to encourage individuals to return to private life and allow other competent individuals the opportunity to participate. Once you have served in Congress you will not work as a lobbyist in any capacity.
Article X You will raise your election campaign funds exclusively from your constituents. If you cannot raise enough, consider it a message from your constituency that you should seek other work.
Article XI You will have only federal holidays off plus three weeks vacation per year. If your work is done, you may return home early, but only after publicly stating your work is completed before you go home and incur the wrath of your constituents if you do so inappropriately.
Article XII “None of the Above” should be placed on all ballots as a measure of the publics’ faith in the parties’ willingness and ability to give the voters the best choices. If “None of the Above” votes reach a certain threshold, there should be new elections with new nominees. Voters should not have to choose the least bad candidate.
Article XIII When a new administration takes office, appointments need to be approved or rejected in a timely manner – this means weeks, not months or years. Approval should be based on qualifications and ability and in no way based on politics. Making appointments is one of the spoils of the election process. Live by the rules of the game.
Article XIV You will agree that you will not accept anything of any value from any group or individual that might influence your vote on legislation. Voters can overlook gifts from family and friends on occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, but the prohibition extends to lobbyists at all times.
Consider closing the party offices until six to eight months prior to national elections. For the House and the Senate to be more functional, partisan politics need to be taken out of the picture.
If you become old, tired or infirm; suffer a stroke or other debilitating or terminal disease, go home. Your family and constituents will care for you. Like a classy athlete, go out at the top of your game and make room for other competent individuals to represent your constituency.
Do not tell us “I” passed legislation unless you ate it. The House and the Senate pass legislation. You may have authored, cosponsored, or signed it – we understand the difference.
Campaigning should be 90 percent informing us what you will do, not telling us why your opponent is wrong. We are tired of hearing accusations of flip-flopping. If you change your mind because of education, personal reflection or change in circumstances, your constituents might consider that positively.
If you are not educable, do not take time to ponder or consider changing circumstances, then you do not belong in Congress or any other elected position. We know the difference between pandering and thoughtful opinions.
Celebrity should be based on leadership. Many great leaders, inventors and philosophers in history had personal lives that are unusual. Neither party has any credibility when it comes to morals and values. You deserve a personal life and most of us do not care who you sleep with, but you have to do your job.
If Congress cannot agree to reduce taxes, at least simplify them. We should not have to pay someone to figure out our taxes. If it can be done by home computer then the government should supply the software as a free download.
After the results of the Gingrich-backed Contract with America that preceded Gingrich’s, and a number of other Republicans being voted out of office, is it any wonder that this half-hearted sham is gaining no headway with the public? Here are 22 citizen submitted initiatives of the Contract From America chosen in February that were to be winnowed down to 10 before the contract was to take its final form. Politicians, such as Gingrich, Political Action Committees and political power brokers sought to limit the scope of the contract and citizen input.
DEMAND A BALANCED BUDGET: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.
STOP THE TAX HIKES: Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011.
COMMIT TO REAL GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Every bill, in its final form, will be made public seven days before any vote can be taken and all government expenditures authorized by any bill will be easily accessible on the Internet before the money is spent. (Proposed by: Steve Kulik, Gonzales, Texas; and Steve Hollis, San Francisco, Calif.)
PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION: Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.
PASS REAL HEALTHCARE REFORM: Greatly improve affordability of health insurance by permitting all Americans access to all health insurance plans sold anywhere in the United States through the purchase of insurance across state lines and allow small businesses and associations to pool together across state lines to buy insurance.
ENACT FUNDAMENTAL TAX REFORM: Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the Internal Revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words — the length of the original Constitution.
END RUNAWAY GOVERNMENT SPENDING: Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.
LET US SAVE: Allow all Americans to opt out of Social Security and Medicare and instead put those same payroll taxes in a personal account they own, control, and can leave to whomever they choose.
PROTECT INTERNET FREEDOM: No regulation or tax on the Internet.
GIVE PARENTS MORE CHOICES IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN: Improve American education by reforming the broken federal role through eliminating ineffective and wasteful programs, giving parents more choices from pre-school to high school, and improving the affordability of higher education.
PASS AN ‘ALL OF THE ABOVE’ ENERGY POLICY: Authorize the exploration of proven energy reserves to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources from unstable countries and reduce regulatory barriers to all other forms of energy creation, lowering prices and creating competition.
PROTECT FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from using funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in any form, including requiring “localism” or “diversity” quotas.
RESTORE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY & CONSTITUTIONALLY LIMITED GOVERNMENT: Create a Blue Ribbon taskforce that engages in a complete audit of federal agencies and programs, assessing their Constitutionality, and identifying duplication, waste, ineffectiveness, and agencies and programs better left for the states.
PROTECT PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS: Block state and local governments that receive federal grants from exercising eminent domain over private property for the primary purpose of economic development or enhancement of tax revenues.
REJECT CAP & TRADE: Prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.
STOP THE PORK: Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the process is fully transparent, including requiring a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.
NO CZAR REGULATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION: All “lawmaking” regulations must be affirmatively approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, as the Constitution requires for all laws.
AUDIT THE FED: Begin an audit of the Federal Reserve System.
NO MORE BAILOUTS: The federal government should not bail out private companies and should immediately begin divesting itself of its stake in the private companies it owns from recent bailouts.
STOP CAREER POLITICIANS & CURB LOBBYIST POWER: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require Congressional term limits. No person shall be elected to the Senate more than twice or to the House of Representatives more than four times.
SUNSET REGULATIONS: All regulations will be “sunset” after ten years unless renewed by Congressional vote.
LET US WATCH: Broadcast all non-security meetings and votes on C-SPAN and the Internet.
Here is a link to the final watered-down version of the Contract From America and the list of candidates, Congress members and governors who signed it. Which contract do you think would make a difference?