Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future

It's coincidental that on the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future in Back To The Future Part II, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan wants to take the position of Speaker of the House back to a simpler--and some would say more effective--time.  In his list of conditions for accepting the Speaker role, Ryan wants to still be able to spend his weekends at home with his wife and kids, go hunting during deer season and attend Badgers and Packers games.  In other words, live a life outside of Washington.

This is not a new or even that radical an idea.  For the first 150-years of our Republic, serving in Congress wasn't really a full time job.  The Founding Fathers continued to oversee plantations and farms, practice law in court and run businesses.  Congress would meet for just a few weeks a year because travel to New York and then Washington DC was arduous and time-consuming enough.  Even as it got easier to travel across the country, Congress still spent months away from the Capitol because in all honesty, there really wasn't much to do--and the pay wasn't all that great.

It wasn't until President Franklin Roosevelt grew the scope of the Federal Government with his New Deal initiatives and dozens of new agencies that being in Congress became a full-time job.  Suddenly, there was a lot more oversight to be done--and a lot more money to spend.  The growth of Congress continued in the 1960's when Lyndon Johnson further expanded entitlement programs in Washington.  Suddenly, those on Capitol Hill needed larger, full-time staffs and there were more committees and sub-committees created all the time to, again, provide proper oversight for everything Government was trying to do.

With the explosion of campaign spending in the 1990's and the 2000's, members of Congress found themselves not just needing to be on Capitol Hill more often--but also meeting with lobbyists on K Street and Third Party Issue Groups in Texas and donation bundlers in California.  Those with serious political ambitions could go the vast majority of a year without returning to their home district--except of course to campaign for re-election every two or six years.

Imagine what life would be like if we made an effort to shrink Government and make serving in Congress the part-time job it was intended to be.  There would be no Benghazi Committee, there would be no 12,000 page Affordable Care Act to pass without reading, there would be no government shutdown threat because of differences over funding Planned Parenthood and there would be no 25-million dollar campaigns for the Senate.  There wouldn't be all of that because those responsible for the layer upon layer upon layer of Government would be too busy living their own lives to try and exert greater control upon ours.

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