Lt. Colonel Tim Ferner (Ret)

Newsbud Senior Analyst & Author

Tim Ferner, Newsbud Senior Analyst & Author, is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who recently finished his PhD in Political Science at the University of Otago. He was a rated officer with over 5000 hours in the C-130 Hercules, EC-130 and MC-130. While on active duty with the USAF he served 2 tours with NATO, was an exchange officer with the US Marine Corps, a visiting fellow with the Royal Australian Air Force and an exchange officer flying with the Royal Saudi Air Force. While on active duty, he had the distinction of becoming the first officer in the history of the United States Military to successfully sue a government contractor on behalf of the United States Government for fraud. He has written three books; Men of the Coin; A once Grateful Nation and Consumer Jihad. Lt. Col. Ferner currently lives on a farm in New Zealand, his wife’s home country.

Newsbud Exclusive- Why Does America Elect So Many Losers to Congress?

Americans must be gluttons for punishment. If not, then what is their rationale for re-electing the same cast of misfits and losers to office each election cycle? Regardless of the party in power, Republican or Democrat, nothing in Washington ever seems to change. Admittedly, there are a handful of new names and faces that enter the political arena under the guise of accountability and change. Sadly, despite the conviction expressed by these newly minted legislators, it seems to be “business as usual” while the graft and corruption continues unimpinged. The American people should be doing some serious reflection asking themselves why is this? Why does America keep voting these losers into positions of power and authority?

Since President Trump took office at noon on 20 January 2017, members of Congress from both parties have bombarded the American people with a wide range of innuendo and smears, hyping this as an administration headed towards a “Constitutional Crisis” (Boot, 2017). Given Congresses inability to accomplish the most rudimentary of their responsibilities, the most basic being to fund the Government and keep it open, it is difficult to give any credibility to all these congressional claims of an impending “constitutional crisis” (Vinik, 2017). Maybe, the continued inability of Congress to pass meaningful legislation or accomplish anything of real value in a competent, timely and professional manner represents the real constitutional crisis Americans face? The founding fathers established Congress as the legislative body responsible for enacting the laws that govern the American people (U.S Capitol, 2018). Legislate, supervise and fund are straightforward tasks. This was to be accomplished through meaningful debate and compromise (U.S Capitol, 2018). Congress is supposed to serve as the voice of the people (U.S Capitol, 2018). Both the House and the Senate have lost sight of their function and responsibility! They continue to fail the people who have elected them. There is no meaningful debate in Congress anymore. Debate and compromise have been replaced with attack and demonize. Words have been weaponized to the point where legitimate differences in opinion are labelled racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic. As an institution, Congress has become an increasingly dysfunctional group of losers who consistently manipulate and lie to the American people and produce nothing of substance. As an institution, they conduct themselves like spoiled children fighting over a ball on a school playground. Unfortunately, this is the standard the American people have come to expect.

Historically, the American people could rely on a strong, free and impartial press to call out the liars in government. Those days are gone! Most of the American media exhibit left wing bias (Bandler, 2017). In light of the fact that only 7% of journalists identify as Republican, no Whitehouse reporters were Republican in 2016 and 96 % of media donations during the last election went to Hillary Clinton, it would be difficult to conclude anything else (Bandler, 2017). The main stream media has become little more than a de-facto propaganda ministry for the Democratic party.

The founders of this great nation never intended for the Republic to be governed by career politicians (Glaze, 2013). In fact, they strongly believed that nothing was more essential to the preservation of the Republic than the periodic rotation of the politicians involved in its governance (Lim, 2013). The thought process for rotating the governing elite was the preservation of integrity and trust in government and to protect the people from the “dangerous ambition that all too often governs the human mind” (Lim, 2013). The founding fathers never envisioned the need to mandate congressional term limits as part of the constitution because they believed that citizens would participate in government out of love for their country (Glaze, 2013). Citizen politicians would work in government for short periods of time and then return to their civilian professions (Glaze, 2013). The forefathers predicted the eventual emergence of “Professional Politicking” stating: “there is no provision for a rotation, nor anything to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well-timed bribery, will probably be done” (Glaze, 2013). However, they never envisioned that so many politicians would enter service and become a permanent political class.

On average, 91% of the people elected to Congress run for re-election and win (Phillips, 2013). As of January 2017, the average length of service for members of the house was 9.4 years and 10.1 years for members of the Senate (Glassman & Wilhelm, 2017). Throughout the history of the United States Government, Congress had over 100 members who served more than 36 years (Mulcahy & Mackenzie, 2014). The shift in America from citizen politicians to professional politicians has turned America from a Republic into an oligarchy where services and favours are increasingly sold to the highest bidder!

Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution defines a wide variety of powers and responsibilities for the United States Congress (Staff, 2017). Congress is responsible for drafting laws, funding and oversight of government. First and foremost, the framers of the constitution understood the significance of fiscal power (Mikva, 1986). Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers that "[m]oney is, with propriety, considered as the vital principle of the body politic, as that which sustains its life and motion, and enables it to perform its most important functions (Charles Louis de Secondat, 1777).” Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 reflects Hamilton’s ideology about the “Power of the Purse”. Congress is the legislative party which is responsible for funding the government and maintains the “Power of the Purse”. Despite this being deemed as Congresses most essential job, at 12:01 AM on 20 January 2018, the federal government shut down because Congress could not fund the government. Congress was unable to effectively execute their constitutional duties in a competent, timely and professional manner. Consequently, all Americans were forced to pay the price in the form of a government shutdown.

Americans work long hours but their success is not measured by the amount of effort they expel in the workplace. Their success and ability to stay employed is contingent upon producing results. The average American works 34.4 hours a week (Isidore & Tami, 2015). Those Americans working full time average 47 hours a week with nearly 4 in 10 workers working more than 50 hours a week (Isidore & Tami, 2015). Despite working these long hours, the median American household only earn $50,000 in income and benefits per year (Vo, 2012).

In comparison, members of the House of Representatives have averaged 138 “legislative days” while the Senate has averaged 162 days (Murse, 2017). That averages to about 18 hours of work each week (Murse, 2017). Rank and File members of Congress earn $174,000 per year, Senate and house leadership make $193,400 per year and the Speaker of the House makes $223,500 per year (Longley, 2018). That equates to about $608 dollars per hour.

What do taxpayers get in return for this very generous compensation to Congress? Fundraising remains the top priority for legislators and it is not uncommon for rank and file members of Congress to spend 6-8 hours a day raising money for their party (Selleck, 2016). Coincidently, the American taxpayers are paying legislators for their time spent fundraising (Selleck, 2016). Don’t the American people deserve more for the $608 spent on its congressional representatives (Bolton, 2014)? Can members of Congress really claim with a straight face they work hard for the American people? Americans are expected to produce results while at work, so why doesn’t the same standard apply to its politicians?

In addition to their salary, members of Congress receive millions of dollars in allowances “intended to defray expenses related to carrying out their congressional duties, including official office expenses, staff, mail, travel between a Member's district or state and Washington, DC, and other goods and services (Longley, 2018). Members of Congress may also retain their private careers and other business interests so long as the income earned outside of government is less than 15% of the congressional basic pay (Longley, 2018). All in all, these are some very good benefits that are not available to the average American.

The people who are elected to the US Congress are wealthy (Choma, 2015). The combined net worth of the entire US Congress was $4.3 Billion in 2013 (Choma, 2015). The average net worth for members of the US Congress was just over $1 million in 2013, or 18 times the wealth of the Americans who elected them (Luhby, 2015). 51% of the US Congress are millionaires (Choma, 2015).The richest member of Congress is Representative Greg Gianforte with a net worth of $315 million (Wikipedia, 2017). Representative David Valadao is the least wealthy member of Congress with a net worth of -$25 Million (Choma, 2015). In addition to Valadao, there are 2 dozen members of Congress who are also in the minus column with regards to their net worth (Choma, 2015). These figures clearly demonstrate an incongruent range of incomes that do not reflect that of most Americans. Given the fact that numerous members of the US Congress are literally millions of dollars in debt and unable to budget money in their personal lives, is it really surprising the government can’t pass a budget?

Americans are sick and tired of the dysfunction in Washington. A recent poll in The Economist showed only 9% of respondents had a favourable view of Congress (RealClear Politics, 2018). Curiously, Republican and Democratic politicians appear oblivious to the sentiment and are out of touch with many of their constituents concerns. When members of Congress are confronted about their inability to produce anything of substance they seem shocked and surprised. During an NPR interview, Representative Jim Moran lamented: “Americans should know that their members of Congress, as the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world, are underpaid” (Holloran, 2014). Given the fact that over 90% of American citizens have a highly unfavourable view of Congress, ‘grossly out of touch’ would be an apt description of Representative Morans comments (Statista, 2017). Equally, Representative Moran should recognize that if Congress was indeed a board of directors representing the American people, each and every member would have been fired and/or ousted from their job for substandard performance. Stock holders in the private sector compensate their board of directors based upon the results they produce. Polling results clearly show that the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing a bunch of dysfunctional, prima donnas (Snyder, 2014). Americans firmly believe that neither party represents the people. Considering the amount of money members of Congress are paid, Americans deserve to see more results because results are what matter and Congress continually comes up short!

Rich people aren’t the only people interested in becoming career politicians in the United States. Congress also has its fair share of members who are ethically challenged. The legislative body responsible for writing the laws that govern conduct in America also seem to be very good at violating them. Since the 1990s, congressional crime victims have secretly been paid more than $17 million to quietly settle a wide variety of criminal complaints (Lee, Serfaty, & Summers, 2017). Congress polices itself so information concerning these complaints are not readily available to the public. Most of the complaints concern sexual harassment (Lee, Serfaty, & Summers, 2017). Lawmakers and staff claim sexual harassment is “rampant” and even the members of Congress have no idea how bad the problem really is (Lee, Serfaty, & Summers, 2017).

Ethically challenged might be a generous description of some members behaviour, criminal and perverted would probably best describe others. In 2006, Representative Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned amid accusations that he had sent sexually explicit messages to several young men who had been Congressional pages (Stolberg, 2011). More recently, Representative Anthony Weiner plead guilty to texting lewd pictures of himself to underage girls and is now serving a 21-month prison sentence (Weiser, 2017). In the history of Congress, only 68 members of the House and Senate have been convicted of crimes while in office (Bump, 2013) Since 1980, more than two dozen members of Congress have been indicted for criminal activity (Hunter, 2015). The majority of accusations revolve around bribery, racketeering and other activities where preferential treatment was given in exchange for money (Hunter, 2015). Inexplicably, there is no formal process to remove a member of Congress following the conviction of a crime allowing the member to serve even while in prison (Stein, 2017)! Congresswoman Corrine Brown was recently sentenced to 5 years in prison for fraud committed while in office (Jaeger, 2017). Are these really the types of people America needs running the country? Doesn’t she deserve better?

Since the Government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats continue to point fingers at each other over the shutdown. On 20 January 2018, Senator Charles Schumer dubbed it the “Trump Shutdown (Schwartz, 2018)”. The Constitution provides very general guidance concerning the responsibility of the President and Congress concerning the budget (Staff, 2017). Each share different responsibilities in establishing the budget (Staff, 2017). The President is responsible for proposing an annual budget while Congress is responsible for approving it (Staff, 2017).  President Trump submitted his proposed budget to Congress on 23 May 2017 (Mascaro, 2017). Once submitted, Congress was responsible for reviewing the proposed budget and amending it (Staff, 2017). If there were any issues then a group of House and Senate members should have met to work out differences (Staff, 2017). Congress had 241 days to pass the budget it was presented, and nothing was done. Fault for the Government shutdown falls squarely on the US Congress, not the president.

The US military has been involved in a protracted war for over 10 years. Congress has committed and continues to fund US military combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The American military is deployed and fighting at these overseas locations at the direction of the US Congress. Congress has placed members of the military in “harms way”; unlike the members of Congress they don’t get the option to ignore their constitutional duty. All Americans should be disgusted that Congress would have the audacity to shut down the US Government in a time of war and withhold pay from these same airmen, sailors, soldiers and marines.

Equally offensive is the fact that Congress allowed the government to be shutdown primarily because both the Republicans and Democrats could not reach a compromise concerning Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (Berman, 2018). In essence, Congress neglected their constitutional duties to represent 327 million Americans citizens, so it could make a political statement and pander to 800,000 illegal aliens and their supporters (Harvey, 2018). Given all the real problems America faces, it is unconscionable that US legislators would fall on their sword for a group of people who have no legal entitlement to be in the United States in the first place. The dilemma “Dreamers” now face, is a direct result of President Obama and the Congress ignoring existing immigration law and failing to enact immigration reform. It’s sickening that Congress would hold the American people, especially the military, hostage over this issue.

Are American gluttons for punishment? It is difficult to conclude anything but that, given the people it continuously elects to office. Americans don’t want to admit that the country is run by a bunch of losers, but increasingly that seems to be the case. The current dysfunctional state of Washington and the loss of trust and faith in the people and institutions that make up the Government is the result of years of neglect…by the American people. At some point they just became numb to the lying, fighting, finger pointing and general stupidity of the political elites. The Government has made the American people feel helpless, abused and isolated. Why participate in the political process when the outcome is always the same? This mentality must change! The American people need to be more active at all levels of government and demand more accountability and more results from their elected representatives. The Government belongs to the people, not the people who make up the Government. The American people need to force Congress to get back to the basics and do their job! Congress needs to be reminded the Republic is based upon the premise “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (Lincoln, 1863). Congress needs to do the job they were elected to do; the work of the people!

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Tim Ferner, Newsbud Senior Analyst & Author, is a retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel currently working on his PhD in Political Science at the University of Otago. He was a rated officer with over 5000 hours in the C-130 Hercules, EC-130 and MC-130. While on active duty with the USAF he served 2 tours with NATO, was an exchange officer with the US Marine Corps, a visiting fellow with the Royal Australian Air Force and an exchange officer flying with the Royal Saudi Air Force. While on active duty, he had the distinction of becoming the first officer in the history of the United States Military to successfully sue a government contractor on behalf of the United States Government for fraud. He has written three books; Men of the Coin; A once Grateful Nation and Consumer Jihad. Lt. Col. Ferner currently lives on a farm in New Zealand, his wife’s home country.

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