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READERS' FORUM: March 10, 2014

Our government’s heart and soul

On Feb. 11, a piece appeared in the Opinion section of the Tribune-Star questioning the wisdom and effectiveness of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which took the appointment of senators away from state legislatures and allowed the people from their respective states to elect who they saw fit.

The general argument by the writer, Mr. Bean, was that this arrangement forever changed the dynamics between the executive and legislative branches of our government, removing a vital link of influence state governments could exercise over the federal bureaucracy through its close association with it; allowing a measure of oversight that has since been lost.

Again, according to Mr. Bean, the executive branch of government has increasingly usurped the power of the states, growing steadily in size and power, with little to no restraint from anybody else ever since.

It may just be a matter of perspective, but it’s my understanding that the 17th Amendment’s purpose was to rectify problems arising from the fact that our Senate and House of Representatives had been modeled after Britain’s House of Lords and House of Commons; the House of Lords reserved for the aristocracy and high-ranking clergy, the House of Commons being filled by men whom the limited electorate voted for — all of which had a distinctly undemocratic feel to it.

In being state appointed, you might think the senators would be more conscientious of their responsibility in promoting their state’s welfare, but more often than not they became attuned only to the small number of people appointing them and kept those appointments indefinitely by pleasing them only. (Much like the members of the House of Lords, who once elected, often served for a lifetime.) As such, they often became entrenched almost exclusively in the politics of Washington, D.C., a situation ripe for the type of collusion Mr. Bean claims runs rampant today.

Throughout history, one branch of government or another has achieved ascendancy over the others, impinging on the delicate balance our forefathers sought to create; there being a natural ebb and flow to power of any kind. The 17th Amendment partially addressed that issue by making sure that every representative of the United States — whichever House they serve in — are answerable directly to the people; which is the heart and soul of our system of government.  

That being the case, it behooves us to be well-versed as to the facts of our situation, civil in our discourse and active in the processes of government. Expressing ourselves in an intelligible yet empathetic manner so that the balance of governmental power is maintained and our expectations met. As a government ostensibly by, for and of the people relies most heavily on its last and most important check on unbalanced, unheeding power — the people themselves.

It’s time to shake off our own lethargy and exercise the power our founders vested in us — not in the apparatus of government but in the people who drive it; the common men (and women, via the 19th Amendment) whose wisdom they most trusted to make it all work.

— Fred Price, Brazil

A plea for more give and take

If you hate America, then things are very good. If you endorse scorched earth as a strategy, then it does seem possible Washington, D.C., will be harvesting what they have sewn. Will God use the Tea Party to save the U.S. from bankruptcy? Are the Christian capitalists doomed because they try to worship two Gods? Maybe the answer to both questions is “yes.” What might help? The Tea Party could pray for guidance and the Christian capitalists could pray for forgiveness.

Politicians do want and need our vote, but ironically our vote still does not benefit taxpayers because the politicians don’t use their office to benefit the taxpayer. Politicians use their office to help the groups that gave a large amount of money to their campaign.

These self-serving groups such as big business and unions expect money from taxpayers through political favors. The easiest taxpayers to tax are the ones not born yet because they can’t complain. The political spin for speech-making rhetoric is always, “If you vote for me, I will help you.” But the reality is, office holders move money through their influence from the general public to those groups they are obliged to. You scratch my back … and remember me next election.

What can happen is the goose that lays the golden egg is killed due to either greed from Republicans or impatience from Democrats. The right or responsible thing to do is obey our existing laws and pay our national debt. Unfortunately, neither of these are a priority for the current administration.

Most of us are observers, not important participants or major contributors to government changes. But when the economy is very bad for a very long time like it is now, citizens become deer-in-the-headlights observers. Business experts probably could stop our economy from collapsing, but so far they have exploited the opportunities to help themselves.

The secret is to understand paradox. The secret is to be inclusive/appreciative of all. To understand that success comes from the “Both/And” style of problem conceptualization. Both/And is the solution offered by all the self-help books including and especially the Bible. The term sublimation is used to convey the problem-solving strategy of turning a negative into a positive.

President Obama seems pro-American and anti-big business. Hating the rich is no more noble or helpful than hating the poor. How would it be if we took turns? First, the Republicans can have just one thing. Then, the Democrats could have the same — just one thing. No! No! No! Democrats first! OK. So the Democrats can have one thing; then Republicans, and so on.

The first suggestion would show wise leadership by someone who is assigned the job of presiding over our Congress. However, the Democrats first style would be the choice of an ordinary president. A Democrats-only style would fail to make progress. The hypocrisy and immaturity is bad and getting worse.

— Cliff McDaniel, Brazil

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    March 12, 2010