I have been getting emails to pass on showing my support for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Now there are Facebook groups supporting this “proposed” 28th Amendment. I’ve gotten several invitations for those, too. I delete chain mail, no matter how glurgy and heartrending on the one hand or politically outraged on the other. But this is one of those viral ideas that needs some sense slapped into it.
The good people at snopes.com have tried, but as I found when I looked at the discussion boards of one of these Facebook groups, they can’t be trusted because, in the words of one poster, “Snopes is run by a couple who are left-leaning Obama supporters. Not legitimate. Depends on what side of the issue you would like to believe is accurate.”
Now I seriously doubt that anyone who knows me or who has read anything I’ve written would call me left-leaning or an Obama supporter. But what I do know is that there are conservatives that assume any fact that does not support their agenda is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. The sad fact is that our side has it’s own share of idiots. There are as many people swayed by the flag-waving and anti-government rhetoric as there are those who think everyone ought to be forced to pay for the less fortunate and save the polar bears.
Now let’s just look at this “proposed” amendment:
Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.
When I first read this, I realised immediately that the language was so vague as to be unenforceable. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Despite the Facebook group saying, “It avoids all the 18th century formal and ‘legalize’ language, and is simple to understand and straight forward,” it is neither simple to understand nor strightforward, despite the lack of “legalize” language. However, it does appear popular with those who lack the ability to write using proper vocabulary and grammar. Not a good sign.
With all the justification for this amendment that has been sent out with it, it appears that the motivation for it is the idea that members of Congress exempt themselves from legislation that applies to everyone else. This includes the myths that Congresspersons get their congressional salaries for life, that they don’t pay social security tax, and that they are “exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment”. Of course the thing that spurred this into motion was that they exempted themselves from the provisions of the health care reform bill.
None of these things are true. I find the strangest of these to be the exemption from fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment. This implies that not only are Congresspersons somehow more prone to sexual harrasment than other people, but that they wanted to make sure they were free to do so. Beyond these patently ridiculous propositions, no one is prosecuted for sexual harrasment. It is a civil matter. People are sued for sexual harrasment. Congresscritters could already be sued for sexual harrasment as a tort before the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. Now there is a specific statutory right to sue.
Some of the ranting and raving in the Facebook group is funny, if sad. One man said, “So snopes is making this mostly false. What kind of answer is that? It is a fact that Congress does pay themselves after they leave office.” Sorry, snopes didn’t make it false. They just showed how it was false. Most companies have a pension plan so that people get paid after they leave their employment. There are provisions for the pensions of all federal employees, just like there are for state employees. And just like other pension plans, they contribute to it out of their salary and if they don’t stay on the job very long, they don’t get a very big pension.
The same person said, “Poli means many and tics are blood suckers it may sound stupid but it is reality.” No, it is not reality, but he is right, it does sound stupid. About as stupid as a woman on the same thread who said, “We as a mostly nieve and willlingly uneducated ppl have let this situation creep up on us.” I don’t know if I would attribute that to everyone else, but she did provide evidence that the uneducated bit applies to her.
But back to our proposed amendment. . . The last clause is the more useless. “Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives” unless it applies equally to everyone else. Does this mean that when they set the salaries for members of Congress, they have to give everyone else in the country the same salary? Since Congresspeople can participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System, they have to let every citizen join the FERS?
Where it really gets silly is the bit about “no law that applies to . . . all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.” So when the Secret Service is authorised by law to protect the President and other member of the Executive Branch and certain members of their families, does this mean that every citizen is entitled to Secret Service protection? Or when the law says that the Department of Agriculture must inspect meat, does this mean that every citizen can (or perhaps must) inspect all meat produced? Or since the US Treasury is authorised by law to print currency, is every citizen authorised to print currency? Or how about the Department of State, which is the part of the executive branch charged with carrying out foreign policy and representing the United States to foreign governments. Is everyone entitled to negoitate with foreign governments on behalf of the American people? There are an infinite number of examples of how ridiculous this is.
So no, we don’t need a 28th Amendment to limit Congress, especially one as useless a current viral proposition. The biggest limit on Congress is already in the Constitution. They are elected. Don’t like a particular member? Don’t vote for them. What usually happens is the people want to limit somebody else’s Congressman. You know what? They don’t represent you. If people in another state or another district make a bad decision, too bad. It is the nature of representative democracy.