• ritadunaway

Congress, Do Your Job!

Federal government “shutdowns” raise valid questions about what really goes on in our nation’s capital, and how Washington spends our tax dollars. But this latest shutdown raises a bigger, more essential question: why won’t Congress just do its job?

Securing our borders is at the very heart of the federal government’s role. It just doesn’t get much more basic. If we were to strip the federal budget down to its absolute necessities, border security would be near the top of the list, along with funding our armed forces. Keeping our nation safe is a top priority, both in terms of what we need Washington to do, and in terms of the duties clearly assigned to it by the Constitution.

Congress is Off Track

The crazy thing is, while Congress refuses to budget money to protect our southern border, it has taken on lots of other projects. We can make a long list of dubious causes for which it has freely opened its coffers. According to a recent op-ed in the Washington Times, these include:

  • $21 Million in loans to Rolex jewelers;

  • $42 Billion in grants, aid, and subsidies to ivy league colleges;

  • $161 Million in loans to exclusive clubs like country clubs and yacht clubs; and

  • $5.7 Million spent on “climate change voicemails from the future,” through the National Science Foundation.

This is just a tiny little taste of the complete list.

Keeping our nation safe is a top priority, both in terms of what we need Washington to do, and in terms of the duties clearly assigned to it by the Constitution.

Putting aside for a moment the issue of authority to spend tax dollars for these purposes, let’s first think about the issue of priorities. Does anyone really think that any item on that list should be a higher spending priority than securing our national borders?

What if parents budgeted for their family’s needs like Congress budgets for America’s?

Imagine the situation in a different context. A couple puts their precious children to bed for the night. They retreat downstairs for the evening, but they can’t really relax. For the past decade, their home has been the target of frequent break-ins. Sometimes the trespassers are desperate people who are just looking for a place to spend the night. But on other occasions their home has been vandalized, their possessions stolen, and their children assaulted.

The couple considers various options for securing their home. They know how the trespassers are getting inside, and a number of solutions are available. But it’s hard to agree on the best one. Security costs money, after all. And they worry that locking the doors, building a fence, or installing alarms might offend the subset of trespassers who don’t meant them any harm.

So in the end, they leave the problem for another day. They send a hefty check to support the entertainment industry in Hollywood, pay the deposit on their three-week European vacation, and choose the design for their new in-ground pool.

Crazy, right? But isn’t that just what Congress is doing?

Back to Basics

And now let’s come back to the issue that has been sidestepped for way too long: the issue of power. In our Constitution, Congress is given specific jobs to do, and it has no power but to do those jobs. Yet somehow, Congress is so busy sending money to ivy league colleges, supporting yacht clubs, and funding marketing to address climate change, that it has no time or money to do a basic job that it was meant to do.

In true American fashion, “We, the People” have stepped up to try to stand in the gap for the nation we love. Iraq war veteran and triple amputee Brian Kolfage has started a GoFundMe page for the wall, which has already raised over $20 Million. Individual citizens — people who have already paid their taxes — are willing to give $20, $30 and $50 donations to do what Congress should be doing.

I applaud Kolfage and admire the spirit of sacrifice and independence that has always characterized Americans. But let’s not be content with just covering for Congress when it falls down on the job. Let’s provide what is needed to force Congress back within the scope of its actual job description. That requires not just finding new personnel, but repairing the structure that defines their role.

The best way to do that is through the state-initiated process outlined in Article

V and known as a “Convention of the States.” The states can use this process to propose constitutional amendments that will close the loopholes that have allowed the feds to lose their focus. We can’t afford to keep looking the other way when Congress behaves irresponsibly. It’s time for us to force Washington back on task.