In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
The Founding Fathers, for all their myriad imperfections, did manage to design a workable form of government. The operative word is “work.”
The Congress was tasked with making laws, the President with either signing or vetoing those laws—although the President’s veto could be overridden with a two-thirds majority of Congress—and the judiciary with interpreting how the laws should be applied.
Congress is made up of two houses; the House of Representatives, with 435 voting members elected for two years, who represent the states and 6 non-voting members, who represent the US territories. The House focuses on the latest legal or social fad.
Each state has two senators, who are elected for six-year terms and are expected to be more deliberative and sophisticated. However, the Senate has spawned members like Joe McCarthy, who are generally dangerous to the country.
Sometime in the last century, Congress decided that certain laws would be unpopular, meaning that a member might not get re-elected and have to get a real job, so many laws were made by virtue of the decisions of the Supreme Court. This gave the members of Congress more time to pontificate and profess their principles without actually doing anything, other than raising campaign funds and running for re-election. Since this gave them more time to talk, even (if you ever watch C-SPAN) if most of their colleagues were not in attendance, they were happy. They rarely had to do anything, except talk, talk, talk. Making sense was optional (and rare).
On those occasions that Congress did pass a law, the law was prepared by lobbyists and most members of Congress were ignorant of most of its content (except for pork barrel amendments inserted to get them re-elected).
Eventually, the President wanted to get in on the action and began to issue Executive Orders. Even though the Constitution stipulates that Congress has the power to declare war, it has not done so since 1941. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War—and the sequel to the Gulf War, and the War in Afghanistan were not wars but “police actions” initiated by various presidents. While it may have been war to those who fought, were wounded, or died, Congress maintained plausible deniability by not declaring them as actual wars.
Executive orders worked so well that presidents began issuing them for whatever issue caught their attention at the moment. Some were good, some were not. The problem with executive orders is that they can be issued by one president and cancelled by the next.
How do we fix it? All we have to do is follow the US Constitution. If you haven’t read it within the last year, please do. It has been amended 27 times to reflect changes in society and its needs. For a copy, go to https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-110hdoc50/pdf/CDOC-110hdoc50.pdf.
Excellent post, Steve. Thank you. I loved the quote by John Adams. Imagine a founding father of the Constitution almost as funny as YOU.