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A Vision of the Future Congress of the United States

The Congress of the United States will be a vastly different institution in the year 3005 than it is today. Key rules changes and constitutional amendments restrict the powers of members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, so less ambitious people run for these positions. The same leadership positions exist; the majority and minority leaders and whips will still be elected by the members, but real power will have been distributed to individual citizens.

The opportunities for wealth and the power money brings will have the ambitions of the one-time Federal politician focused solely on the private sector. Congress would no longer have the ability to appropriate funds; the Internal Revenue Service would have ceased to exist eons before. Taxes would still be collected, but computers programmed with econometric models would set a tax rate on all transactions occurring Nationwide. Every fiscal quarter all sellers would have the taxes they collected for each transaction combined and sent to the Treasury.

Buyers would send in their receipts, and if the amounts paid by the buyers did not reflect the sales reported by the buyers, then the seller’s assets creating the salable item would be seized and sold to pay for the taxes not paid. At first many assets were seized, but then buying and selling became almost universally electronic, taxes were placed on transactions automatically and the funds moved directly to an escrow account, completely off the books of the corporate sellers.

The Treasury computers were not programmed to handle individuals selling to individuals, so most of these types of transactions went under the radar. Still the executive branch got all appropriations immediately and those funds were dispersed as programmed by congressional computers; there was no slush funds slopping around in mysterious accounts. Several Constitutional amendments severely limited the legislature’s ability to enact laws. The first such amendment rid the prisons and the jails of 40% of it inmates the day after it passed.

The amendment read simply: “Congress and State legislatures shall only enact laws to prevent theft and assault”. Immediately after its passage, penal institutions released all the people imprisoned for drug infractions, prostitution, gambling, loitering, and swearing in public. Senators as a result could no longer run their campaigns against immorality and with such restricted powers; their campaigns became mundane affairs that attracted very little interest and less money.

Certainly there were plenty of types of theft and assault the esteemed members could define and they did, such as defining discrimination as assault, which subsequently passed Supreme Court scrutiny. Yet, after several hundred years, the imaginative approaches had all been used and very few laws were passed anymore, just renewals of older laws. The next Constitutional amendment to pass stated simply: “laws always expire after 20 years and must be reenacted by Congress or State legislatures or be void”.

Sometimes called the “Perpetual Work for Congress Amendment” or the “Garbage Collector Amendment”, the amendment had the beneficial result of removing some of the more onerous theft and assault laws from the books with the advent of new generations. For example inappropriately burning the US flag no longer became “assault on the people of the United States” and the age for Federal Statutory Rape was reduced to 17 after it was increased to 25 soon after the passage of the “Only Real Crimes Amendment” as the first new amendment was called.

Congress still had its committees and the Chairmen of these committees still were powerful people that influenced how funds were allocated throughout the Government. The House of Representatives still distributed funds for the United States but any money not directly allocated to specific programs, agencies, and departments, was returned to citizens, netted out in the next quarterly taxpayer draw. One effect of this type of funding was the practice of creating quarterly budgets so as to disallow the executive branch from unwisely using appropriated funds that they could amass hidden for 4 tax periods.

The other effect was more frugal budgets, because citizens noticed immediately when their grocery bills went up because of some imprudent project arising from the House of Representatives. Companies and individuals alike tended to clamor for House members that directly put money in their pocket with the netting program, and likewise almost immediately voted them out of office when their bills rose by three percent, and there did not seem to be any impending disaster in the recent past or present.

“Pay as you go” no longer was an abstract phrase. At first, the really smart and idealistic politicians deserted their careers in droves. If they could not pass laws that they thought were appropriately restricting freedoms, and they would be voted out of office if they bought that new bridge in their district, then the profession seemed to have lost its bearings. That changed completely when the country was faced with a crisis such as a natural disaster, impending war, or an executive branch turned criminal.

Then, the old rhetoric returned and the new politicians got elected from the power of their words, thoughts and deeds. During these times, the House of Representatives seemed immune from larger budgets targeted to real problems, and Senators were praised when they declared that not feeding a refugee from a disaster was assault. No matter that the Supreme Court ruled that inaction was not assault, while the law was valid, hungry people were fed. As the pendulum of events swung from the uneventful to crisis, the tide of good and bad politicians ebbed and flowed through the doors of Congress.

If times were good, then the bright would move into commercial endeavors, when times were bad, those seeking their hero status went across the public threshold to help the Nation address its problems. After these cycles became apparent to the general public, members of Congress during good times received more derisive monikers than they had during the times when the corrupt and the idealistic drank from the same trough. Although they had vital functions, their approach to pending problems seemed to lack leadership and resolve.

Lobbyists had field days with the unimaginative and usually newly minted representatives and senators. Lowering the tax rate on one industry, say drugs, would increase the rate on everything else due to an automatic balancing that occurred with the econometric programs. The lobbyists would buy a few drinks, make a few contributions, and a loophole would become a done deal, until the next election. Once the vote occurred, the disparity would become immediately noticeable, and usually, but not always, the bums would find themselves back on the street.

For example, when the tax was reduced on fire extinguisher sales, the overall tax rate went down in the municipalities because less funding was required to pay the fire fighters. However, most of the time the tax break went to much larger industries, and had a greater immediate effect on the general public. One time congress voted (convinced by the largesse of lobbyists) to cover large losses by insurance companies from an extremely bad hurricane season. In that case, almost all the members of the House of Representatives faced recall petitions from their districts and there was an 86% turnover in the next elections.

These types of election results led to a new industry in the District of Columbia, the nutty economists. Lobbyists would explain how help for a particular industry would serve the public well. The Members of the House would then talk to their personal economist about the affects of the change. The economists, knowing full well that the likelihood of any tax change would have the immediate effect of having their imperial benefactor sent home always recommended against the change without any intellectual effort whatsoever.

Everyone seemed happy with the new regime; the lobbyists were paid more because tax changes were harder to get; the nutty economists were paid well to say the same thing over and over without the necessity of due consideration, and the congressmen became incumbents for life, or at least until a short term disaster, which might make them hawk hot dogs for a few years. The incumbent Members of Congress soon had a job for life, barring disaster, or an urge to change the flow of money from its steady state.

Certainly some of the decorum suffered, and one incumbent almost lost his seat when he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt in front of C-SPAN and raised his middle finger to a spurious contender; but he did not lose his seat, primarily because the Levi Corporation donated generously to his next race. Real work was done as well. When corporations could no longer receive incentives from Congress to spend money on the topic of the day, they started to look for profits with real innovations.

Soon, nearly perpetual fuel was created from hydrochloric acid and a rock. The oil companies responded by ubiquitously selling different rocks that made cars go faster or use less hydrochloric acid. The new Members of Congress then made some additional money by lending their images and prestige to paid advertisement espousing the virtues of one treated rock over another. Congress could still examine the excesses of any industry or any person that caught their fancy.

However since they could not pass any laws against a non-crime, and they could not change tax rates without immediate loss of prestige and their seat, they sought other avenues to pass time, and some of the initiatives that came from the ennui actually helped the society at large. For example, one congressman noticed that the executive branch continued to increase its expenditures on paper, but sales of paper nationwide decreased overall by a huge percentage. On examination by committee, it was discovered that Executive branch had decided to burn paper so the budget for certain departments would remain the same.

The committee was honored by various groups and the incumbent party lost the executive branch at the next election. These types of headlines inspired Government from all sectors, the legislative, the judiciary, and the executive branches to spend the majority of their time examining each other’s finances which left far more money in the pocket of the private citizen. Foreign affairs also became a hot topic for the new breed of Federal politicians. In this arena they could really shine with their well healed corporate brethrens.

If, say, a tire manufacturer wished to increase sales of tires to a country with high tariffs on tires from the United States, then a call to a lobbyist would certainly help the situation. The lobbyist would call an influential congressman who could then meet the wayward country’s trade minister in some idyllic spot. The Congressman and the Trade Minister then could negotiate rates that would not affect the general public one whit if the talks failed. If the talks succeeded, then both sides would succeed.

The foreign country would be able to export more of its tires to the US (and pay the seller tax) and the US tire manufacturer could sell more of its tires to the foreign country, increasing tax revenue, and jobs for the United States. The usurpation of the Executive’s fiefdom over diplomacy would be an added bonus; it would be another successful attack against a power nominally held by another Government branch. The transition from an esteemed deliberative body to a birdhouse with greedy clipped fowl was not noticeable by the public at large. The benefits were noticed at once by all that needed to watch every penny.

At last there was a true measure of a Politician’s merit, the money left over to buy necessities after an impressive Government binge. Fortunately the reforms to the Congress did not just affect that illustrious body, the reforms on them echoed on the judicial and executive branches too. As presidents tried to appoint Supreme Court judges to increase the likelihood of increasing executive power (the only real power of the Supreme Court after the passage of the “Real Crimes Amendment”), the act became a transparent grab for power; only truly competent jurists were appointed to the Supreme bench after the initial reforms.

Executive orders still held weight, but once again if they affected the immediate tax rates, cries of impeachment from the legislative branch met with immediate approval from Congress’s constituents. One of the true remaining powers of executive privilege was the arbitrary removal of Constitutional rights by executive order. Any executive order was hard to defeat by the legislative branch. The powers of the Executive branch however were limited, because only good jurists had appointments on the Supreme Court. The balance of power had finally been restored and the Nation flourished.

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