Congress in the Information Age
Who Needs It?
by David M. Fornalsky (e-mail: fornalskyd@mediaone.net)

Stop for a moment and think about Congress1. Do you get that same overwhelming feeling of disgust that I do? Every election season I keep telling myself that weíll get new representation that will finally stop selling out the average Joe to the special interest groups, and every post election season Iím proven wrong again. The Democratic President vetoes Republican congressional bills and the Republican congressmen filibuster Democratic proposals. Where does it end?

Iím far from a political pundit, but what I do know is that there seems to be little need for Congress at all these days. A few months back, I had the good fortune of hearing a gentleman speak on National Public Radio (NPR)2 on this subject. Iím grossly paraphrasing him, and for all I know, he may have been paraphrasing someone else. Unfortunately, I didnít catch his name or whether he was speaking about his own ideas or someone elseís.

Hold your breath and think about Congress again. Why does it exist? Itís a body of officials elected by the people to represent them and their views to the government and the President. That may not be the perfect definition but it should suffice for this discussion. Back when Congress was formed in the 1700ís there were no radios, televisions, or computers to disseminate information. The only way to let the new government know how the majority of people felt on political matters was to elect a person (or persons) to represent them and their views.

Fast-forward a few hundred years. We have satellites that can send images of war happening in third world countries right to our TVís in real time! Radio programs buzz with talk of the latest local and worldwide developments. With the use of a computer over the Internet, one can order a pizza, track Fed-Ex packages as they traverse the globe, and buy tickets to a rock concert.

And you know what? Using a computer or a telephone, it would be real easy to vote on matters of public interest too. Congress sits as a middle layer between the people and their elected President. In the information age, they add unnecessary red tape to the political process. Now, pork-barrel politics is the rule of the day, and the special interest lobbyists entice them with questionable "campaign contributions" and other "donations."

Many people now own a computer, and I canít think of anyone who doesnít own a telephone. A system could be devised where every eligible person could send or call in their vote on bills or proposals. Even the poor could go to special voting centers set up by the city or town they live in and submit their vote. Just think, perhaps an hour every week set aside as designated voting time. Friday at 8 oíclock sounds nice, just after dinner and right before the weekend. Anyone interested in exercising their right as a U.S. citizen can spend the hour voting on issues, proposals, and bills put forth. The people would speak directly to the President, with no congressional "interpretation" of what the people really want.

Sure there are pitfalls with this idea. There always are. Congress is beneficial in that it was designed to act on behalf of the people they represent, and do otherwise only to act as a logical buffer when public opinion may be uncontrollably tainted. But the technology is out there to create a secure system (at least as secure as what we have now) with which the people, not an intermediate body, can vote on important issues. I certainly donít advocate dismantling our government, or infringing on the rights granted to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights3, but any steps we can take to allow the people of our country to be heard, without obstruction, is in my opinion something we should strive for.

How do we do all this? Well Iím not sure. Like I said, Iím not a political pundit. Whether you agree or disagree, Iíd like to hear your opinions and ideas. Dismantling Congress would be a difficult task indeed, but it would certainly give "power to the people," where it belongs.

  1. Learn more about Congress by visiting http://www.yahoo.com/Government/U_S__Government/Legislative_Branch/.
  2. Information on NPR can be found at http://www.yahoo.com/News_and_Media/Radio/Networks/National_Public_Radio__NPR_/.
  3. The Constitution of The United States can be studied at http://www.yahoo.com/Government/Law/Constitutional/Constitutions/Constitution_of_the_United_States/.

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