By Nathan Barton
This current crop of new congresscritturs makes us realize one of the strongest arguments for unlimited terms for them is the difficulty in getting them trained o- the-job. (Not that such an argument comes anywhere close to outweighing all of the many reasons to limit them to a single term.)
But we can quickly see (and not just in the headline-grabbing poster girls) that most of these people are totally unprepared to do the work that they are expected to do. Often, it is clear that they lack basic knowledge about such things as legislative procedures, budgeting and finance, taxation and especially a solid (or ANY) understanding of constitutional government.
It is so bad that we must ask, “did they even READ the Constitution?” Much less other key and founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, or even some of the major Supreme Court cases of the last half-century?
I realize that some of them must surely have read them, especially the Constitution. And even understood it, but simply choose to act contrary to it. (Remember the well-known 19th Century agnostic and skeptic, Robert Ingersoll He not only had read the entire Bible, but actually had memorized much of it. And clearly understood much of i. But very definitely was totally opposed to it, believing none of it.
Many of these congresscritturs ran on platforms proposing legislation clearly in violation of the Constitution. I guess I am giving them the benefit of the doubt to say this is due to ignorance, not malice. But it is a significant malaise upon even the corpse of the Republic.
It also makes little sense. We have States which require 1,500 hours of training to legally cut a customer’s hair. How can we live with a Congressman or Senator who was a comedian or a community organizer at the beginning of November and gets power the first week of January? No wonder their staffs and the bureaucrats are so powerful! Even people who have to deal with hazardous materials and wastes are required to qualify by knowledge and experience and have 40-hour training and 8 hours of annual refresher training. Miners must have at least 24 hours New Miner Training and then 8 hours every year of refresher training. And training any time they do a new task. Even people who are already licensed engineers or surveyors or other professions. With or without college degrees.
So, here is a modest proposal.
We need “Congressional Training Academy” (CTA). Someplace quiet and remote, without cellphone service or internet. Give them a week after the election to get things rolling on the transition from the old guy (or gal) to them. Let them have a couple days off for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And let military veterans have off Veterans Day. Give any who are NOT Veterans training that day on the military. But don’t let them have off New Years. And no booze.
I figure they need an hour or two of family time on Saturdays and Sundays, and time to worship on Friday/Saturday/Sunday. And maybe an hour five days a week for dealing with getting ready to take office. But otherwise, I figure they’ve got at least 30 days, at say, 12 hours a day, to learn about the Constitution and how Congress works and how the world works. I know, 360 hours of training wouldn’t be enough to make them a barber or beautician, or even a plumber or nurse’s aide. But it is a good start. And there are extra benefits to that intense period of study: wean them away from constantly calling donors to raise money, give their voice boxes a chance to heal after the campaign, and let them get caught up on sleep without travel.
Then make them do annual refresher training, or maybe even semi-annual refresher training. Let’s limit that to just one ten-hour day. (OSHA requires 10-hour training for many workers, after all.) That would include a period of honest appraisal and review of their work performance by retired congress-critturs, bureaucrats, military officers, and political commentators of ALL sides of the political diamond. When they have problems, if they are bad enough, they might need some remedial training. But it can only result in better laws and maybe (here, I realize I am pushing the hope beyond reason) a balanced budget.
Which reminds me, in that initial CTA training, they need some basic math skills. How to balance a checkbook, how to balance a budget, and how to understand the difference between a million and a billion dollars, and between investment and spending. Call it “scandal prevention.”
After all, at least the Senators are called “conscript” fathers and mothers – isn’t it time they got to learn from (and enjoy) not being masters of their own destiny?
Now, I realize the above is more than a bit aggressive and pie-in-the-sky, I can’t resist one more proposal.
Why don’t we make CANDIDATES for Congress demonstrate that they do know a little something about the job that they are trying to get us to hire them on for? After all, we require that would-be drivers pass a driving test. Would-be police officers and firefighters must pass qualification tests. That bookkeepers and even store clerks demonstrate their skill at basic tasks. Why not at a minimum test them on the most basic of basics: the US Constitution? I would suggest something real simple. Say a 50-question, multiple-choice CLOSED BOOK quiz on the Constitution? With the scores published the week before the election? Maybe even TWO quizzes: one before the primaries and one before the general election. With different questions, of course. And maybe post the scores at every voting place.
Don’t you think the quality of the candidates and congresscritturs AND the quality of their work, would go up at least a little bit?
Perhaps some readers might have some ideas about what questions can be included.