Restore our House

When an information system breaks down, there are two fundamental ways to fix it.  The first and easiest is to simply write more code to counter the erroneous behavior.  The more this solution is used, the more complex the system becomes and the more the real problem is obfuscated.  The second way, the correct way, is to dig down into the system and locate the source code that is causing the problems.  Then, correct that code.  It takes longer in the short term, but it solves the problem permanently and keeps the system functioning efficiently, clean, easy to maintain and to understand.

Our governmental system is breaking down.  It has been for over a century.  Each time the House changes hands, more and more legislation is added to correct the problems generated by the previous generation of legislation.

Programmers like to write code, legislators like to write legislation.  To date, Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals alike keep imposing more and more legislation to fix the problems.  But it never gets solved because no one has gone back and examined what caused the deterioration in the first place.

I have now done that research.  The problem and solution follow.  It will shock you.  You will say it can’t be done.  It is just as radical today as it was over 230 years ago when it was first proposed, perhaps more so.  It has been so long that it is a new idea again.  It is so simple it is almost frightening, but it must be done.

If you are a sincere patriot who is more interested in solving our nation’s problems than in exploiting them them, please help restore our House to true Citizen Statesmen and Stateswomen.

Recipe for Tyranny

In 1911, House membership reached 435.  Two years later, in 1913, the 16th Amendment granted the Federal Government the right to tax “income” (though the exact definition of “income” remains in some dispute).  In 1929 the number of Representatives in the House was limited to 435 by a House Rule.

These events created two divergent statistics that have reached critical mass in their relationship.

The two statistics are:

1.  Per capita representation in Congress which is going down. At present, with a population of over 306,000,000 and approximately 435 members in the House of Representatives, we have 1 legislator for every 700,000 citizens. When the Constitution was written, it stated “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;”

2.  Federal revenues from income tax are going steadily up. The liberal desire to “spread the wealth” may have some merit. By one revenue chart, in 2006, 40% of the GDP of our entire nation under the unilateral and discretionary control of 535 people who are more answerable to campaign contributors and lobbyists than to their constituents.

This is a recipe for tyranny. Whether it results in an oligarchy that engages in socialism, communism or any other ism is immaterial. Losing our right to control our individual and national destiny is a problem that warrants attention and action.  Our Representative Republic is already gone.  It has already deteriorated into an oligarchy.  Until it is restored, our nation will continue to deteriorate despite the best of intentions.  Even under conservative leadership it will continue to deteriorate as we saw under the Bush administration.

The Citizen Statesman and Self-Government

The purpose of the lower house, the House of Representatives, is to ensure self government by the Citizens of the United States of America. The House was to be composed of citizen statesmen, not professional or career politicians. The term is only for 2 years for multiple reasons, to prevent too long of an interruption in the citizen statesman’s career, and also to prevent complacency and self indulgence from taking root.

This body of citizen statesmen is the only arm of the government empowered to introduce new legislation to raise revenues. Yet, our President has just this year demanded such of them, and they have complied against the will of the people they allegedly represent.

The Constitution was so designed that all laws are to originate with the people, via Congress, not the President or the Courts.

The upper house, the Senate was to be composed of longer term, career statesmen who can provide balance and guidance to the members of the House. Neither the executive branch nor the judicial branch is empowered to introduce new legislation, only Congress. And that lower house was to be composed, not of politicians, but of citizens.

With each Representative representing a constituency of over 700,000, it is no longer possible for a common citizen to communicate effectively with enough of these people to acquire a majority or plurality of votes.  Thus, in 2008, we saw the majority of incumbents in Congress, with record public disapproval ratings; retain their seats in both houses.

Only career politicians or the independently wealthy are able to run for office successfully.  People who need to work fulltime jobs are prohibited by logistics from office.  This is the greatest tragedy and the single greatest reason for the deterioration of our republic to an oligarchy.  We must reduce the ratio of citizens to representatives to a level which will enable an average working citizen to campaign and fund-raise on a part-time basis and be able to win.  If it means enlarging the House of Representatives to a full 10,000 members, to the level of 30,000 citizens per representative, then so be it.

Antidote to Tyranny

  1. Repeal the House Rule that restricts membership to the House to 435 members.
  2. Split each district 7 ways to achieve a ratio of 1 Representative for every 100,000 citizens.
    1. The redistricting could be done all at once, or gradually, first splitting a district in half and double membership, and one or two terms later, split the new districts again until the designated ratio is achieved.
  3. The Representatives for each supra-district would elect from among themselves a Speaker of the District, who would represent the District in Washington.
    1. Each district could determine the frequency of rotating the position of Speaker for the District.  It could be every 6 months, annually, or for the duration of each 2-year term.
    2. The pay/salary for Representatives could be significantly reduced, and the Speaker for each district could be issued a per diem and/or expense account to cover the costs of residing in Washington.
  4. All other Representatives would office in their home districts and participate in voting and debates electronically.
  5. When a roll is called, each home district representative would submit his vote to the Speaker for the District, and upon being called, the District Speaker would call the number of Ayes, Nays and Abstentions.

Benefits:

1.  Restore the concept of the citizen statesman.  At present it is nearly impossible for an average citizen to successfully communicate with 700,000 voters to achieve a majority.  Only the independently wealthy and/or career politicians can mount a successful campaign thus logistically prohibiting the participation of true citizen statesmen and women in the House.

2.  Eliminate the abuses of lobbying.  With the entire membership of the House in Washington, D.C. for most of the year, constituents have very little access to their representatives, but they are all in one place where lobbyists have nearly exclusive and cost effective access to the Representatives of the people.  By distributing the vast majority, 6 out of 7 Representatives per supra-district, throughout the nation evenly, it would be cost prohibitive for lobbyists to exert influence over our Representatives.

3.  Eliminate back-room deals.  It would become nearly impossible for the administration or any group to successfully create voting blocs as the Speakers for the Districts would have no control over the voting of the local Representatives.

4.  Effective communication between Representatives and their constituents.  All citizens would be within 1-2 hours drive of their representative and could visit them easily to communicate their concerns and wishes regarding current legislation.

5.  Pre-empt the need for term limits.

This is a rough outline of how we can restore our representative republic with the smallest and most dramatic change possible.  The details can be worked out by the House once it is again composed of true citizen statesmen and women.  There are many Representatives right now who do meet that description despite the odds, but with the existing structure, corrupted nearly a century ago, they remain under chronic, heavy assault by special interests and inaccessible to their constituents despite their best efforts.

Please think these thoughts through.  Perhaps this general program can be refined and improved.  The goal is simply a representative republic, with the lower House populated by true citizen statesmen and women.

The true beauty of this solution is that all that is required to make it happen is the revocation of a single house rule.  We don’t need to amend the Constitution or engage in extreme or complex legislation.  Repeal that rule.  Restore the Republic.

11 Comments

Filed under Conservatism, Conservative Action Plan, Constitution, Patriotism, Tea Party

11 responses to “Restore our House

  1. Many people do not realize the very first amendment proposed in the Bill of Rights document was intended to ensure we had congressional districts no larger than 50,000 people. This is explained in section 3 of “Taking Back Our Republic” which can be downloaded from this page: http://goo.gl/xUWy7 . That pamphlet also explains why over-sized districts subvert representative democracy. Also read “Freedom and Legislative District Sizes” at http://thirty-thousand-org.blogspot.com/2009/10/freedom-and-legislative-district-sizes.html.

  2. Scott Gordon

    Wow. So simple. So powerful. So spot on. Good investigation. I really do believe you are onto something here!

  3. Freesmith

    This structural change has to be done in gradual steps and it also must be part and parcel of an overall reform movement to reduce the scope and authority of the federal government. That is the only way it will be achieved – incrementally.

    Progressives know that truth. It is up to politically astute conservatives to learn the lessons taught by the politically successful of the 20th Century.

    Its funny, but the smaller the legislative body, the bigger their ideas for government. Compare the size of California’s legislature and New Hampshire’s; then compare the grandiose plans of the former with the down-to-earth concerns of the latter.

    Also, Americans will automatically balk at the idea of a “bigger” Congress, believing they will just be getting a larger privileged class of parasites in Washington, unless it is clearly and repetitively explained over time how “more” in this instance will mean “less.”

    Your ideas have been part of a quiet movement for some time. Please see http://www.thirty-thousand.org for additional arguments in favor of a more representative government.

    • gspurlock

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments and the link to the thirty-thousand site!

      I do agree with everything you said, except for one. This dilemma was created by a simple House Rule to limit the membership of Congress. The very first thing to do is revoke that rule. It does not require any legislation at all. Every 10 years the House is responsible for apportioning house seats. Now would be a splendid time to revoke that rule and maybe, if they are feeling brave, encourage our Representatives to increase membership a little bit.

      That would open up the debate and we have a decade to argue the matter before the next census.

      • freesmith

        You’re exactly right on 2 counts – it is strictly a House rule, not a Constitutional mandate, and now is the time to broach the subject, perhaps by revoking the rule.

        The ostensible reason given in the 1920s for the limitation was – I kid you not – the lack of available office space in Washington DC.

        But making rule changes in Congress is always controversial. The potential change in the Senate’s filibuster rule is a good example. And with the reform we are contemplating here the ground has simply not been prepared for something that would be easy to misunderstand and easy to ridicule.

        Imagine as well the Democrat-driven media attacks which would ask why the GOP was wasting time on 30-K instead of “creating jobs” or cutting spending. Believe me, they would not let the rule revocation pass without mockery. Progressives understand what is at stake – the diminution of their centralized power.

        “Progressivism: The sophisticated, nuanced political philosophy that maintains that only progressives should ever be in charge.”

        This systemic change requires long-term education of the public by the conservative commentariet. I look forward to reading your contributions to this worthwhile effort.

        And about GOOOH – the less attention, the better.

  4. Dave Henderson

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful article.

    However, it is my belief that the greatest damage done to the United States was the diminution of the concept of republic. Most of the evils that have been perpetrated on us was made possible by the increased centralization of government. Increasing democratization of our system would not be a mechanism for decentralization.

    The framers clearly believed that the best way to preserve individual liberty was to limit the power of a centralized government. States and localities were designed be the seat of the majority of power governing our day to day lives. The constraints of enumerated powers and seperation of authority were to be the chains that bound the central government. In 1913 the steel that guaranteed our republic was damaged with the passage of the 17th Amendment.

    How many unfunded mandates would have been approved by a Senate that was one step removed from the body politic? We now have Senators who owe loyalty to political parties rather than to the states and citizens of the states they represent. Powers that belong in state capitals are wrenched to Washington with neither party offering any resistance.

    There were real problems that developed both prior and subsequent to the Civil War regarding politically divided states not agreeing on Senators to send to Washington, but those problems pale when compared to Senators who are Democrats before Californians, or Republicans before Arizonans. What Senator would have voted for the Obamacare if their state did not get the kickbacks and exemptions granted to other states?

    I am not sure I agree that a House with 1000’s of members would be any more productive or responsive, but I’d be willing to give it a partial trial if I knew that my Senator was a representive of my state rather than the represenitive of a political party. I would willingly give up the direct vote to return power to the Republic.

    Would there be a Department of Education ripping authority from local school districts if the Senators were beholden to their state legislatures? I doubt it. The same is true of the Department of Energy and many others. The EPA would not be able to implement Cap and Trade as is now being attempted if Senators had rejected the idea of centralizing powers that more properly resided with the states. Would the government have been able to acquire ownership of such large tracks of land if Senators answered to state legislatures?

    I know there would be problems repealing the 17th Amendment, and I know it might cause an entirely different set of problems, but I think it would slowdown the demise of the Unitied States.

    As is stands now what is the purpose of state governments? Misuse of the Commerce Clause and federal preemtion now make most actions still residing with states minimal. All that is now done in state capitals could be done in counties, cities and towns.

    If we are to save the United States of America, we must decentralize power.

    • gspurlock

      Good points all. I believe that having most representatives residing and voting from their home districts would be a great step toward decentralizing government.

      One of the things that led me to this as an initial step in restoring our republic is that the population is about 20% liberal and 40% conservative. How does the minority get such a huge majority in government, education and most areas of culture? It is because they no longer represent we the people. If we can get the House of Representatives to the same proportion of liberals and conservatives that are reflective of the public, then I believe that group will initiate all of the corrections that you list. They would, at our request initiate legislation to repeal the 17th Amendment. You are absolutely correct that was a critical demarcation point between central government and decentralized, state and local government. Ditto with the 16th Amendment permitting income taxes. Prior to that, Congress could only levy “proportional” taxes on the states.

      The central point to my suggestion is that we only need to change a single House rule to re-establish the balance of representation in the House. I would be hesitant to start looking at amendments to the Constitution until that balance is restored.

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments, I agree with every one of them and would simply like to interject this new idea into the public discourse and have it vetted by lots of people like yourself.

  5. I’m tickled pink to see a well thought out solution to the legislative problem. I’m not sure you are correct in your assumptions and plans, but I’m damn sure that this is one way to get a dialogue going to correct a problem that is or should be obvious to even the most dullard of our citizens. Well, maybe not the most dullard because they always vote for the handouts that they are promised (but seldom delivered in the way they thought).

    My own solution is a bit less complicated. Change the entire congress each term for a minimum of two complete terms for the House of Representatives and 6 years for the Senate as the senate has a 1/3 of their members running every two years. With two complete changeovers, anyone running would understand that they work for us, not the other way around.

    Secondly, all laws must have a sunset date of either 5 or 10 years (or other statutory limit) and all older laws will be reviewed by an appointed group to see whether or not that law should be continued. Also, with the exception of the Military establishment all organizations such as the Departments of Education, HHS, DHS etc, also be limited to 5 years and then re-approved ONLY by a national plebiscite.

    The government must work for the citizens, not the other way around.

    Great article.

    • gspurlock

      Thanks for your kind words. I like all of your ideas.

      It was originally a very simple idea. 1. Repeal the House Rule limiting membership. 2. Require the House to assume the responsibility it abdicated in 1929: “The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; ”

      All of the detail was added in response to challenges. Basically, all of the challenges can be addressed, but it will ultimately be up to the House Members to develop the strategy and meand. They abdicated their responsibility back in 1929, and now it has really gotten out of hand.

      The driving principle behind this strategy is that we have already strayed so far from the Constitution and original intent. I believe we should try rolling back to that original Constitution first. If that works, then we can return to laissez faire government and citizenship. If we have to constantly monitor everything they do, and cannot trust our own government at all, it is a crisis and we must attend and be excessively diligent. If we need to commit an inordinate amount of time to babysitting our government, that is just as much slavery as their taking our income. If it doesn’t, then it is time to review changes or amendments.

      Keep the faith and keep imposing your will upon the government.

  6. VERY INTERESTING AND WHERE TO BEGIN?

  7. Albert Thompson

    This is an idea I have believed in for a while. First Walter Williams and now gspurlock have written clear explanations. Kudos! Two points to add. First this will make elections cheaper. Candidates for the house will be able to run mostly volunteer door to door campaigns. This will be because -with an average turnout of 50%, and the percentage of a district that would be underage or non-citizen- the actually number of votes to compete over will be between 40-70k. A majority would require only 20-35k votes on average. This would eliminate the need for large amounts of cash to win election.

    Second, this will be a boon to national security. By having the majority of the house outside of Washington, DC proper, the Federal Government would more easily survive a catastrophic attack on the capital. A new House could be convened to elect a speaker who would automatically become president should the Cabinet lack a member to succeed, and the Governors could appoint a new Senate. Continuity of government without a cabal.

    The only caveats are achieving a constitutional quroum in the House with members outside of DC, and the constitutional requirement that the House and Senate meet in the same place. Those provisions could be managed by having central meeting locations in the states designated as federal property and non-contiguous parts of Washington, DC.

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