The Congressional Reform Act – The Lie You Probably Supported


You’ve probably seen pictures of Corporal Kyle Carpenter. They’ve been making the rounds on Facebook for some time now. Carpenter is a Medal of Honor nominee who was catastrophically injured after jumping on a grenade to protect a fellow Marine while serving in Afghanistan in 2010.  His story, if it’s accurate, show us that Carpenter is truly a hero, exactly the kind of person pointed to when people say “Support Our Troops” – someone who risked life and limb in the service of their country. To say that his efforts were above and beyond the call of duty is a drastic understatement.

Chances are, though, that the only time in your life that you’ve seen Carpenter is was while he was being used as an involuntary shill to add some stitch of credibility to a gigantic lie. Perhaps you’ve seen the meme about the 28th amendment or the “Congressional Reform Act of 2013/12/11/10/09 ” recently? Occasionally it’s attached or attributed, in some lose form, to Warren Buffet, but typically it comes to our Facebook walls prefaced with Carpenter’s picture and this:

No one has been able to explain to me why young men … and women serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their pay. While Politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full pay retirement after serving one term. It just does not make any sense.

On Fox news they learned that the staffers of Congress family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans. This will get national attention if other news networks will broadcast it. When you add this to the below, just where will all of it stop?

At this point, the precise wording can vary a bit, but it usually follows the same rambling path through a proposed constitutional amendment or reform law stating:

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18-year-olds took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 – before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took one (1) year or less to become the law of the land – all because of public pressure.

Congressional Reform Act of 2012.

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they’re out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI [Consumer Price Index] or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

Hey now! There’s just no part of this that doesn’t sound good! Who doesn’t like the thought of really sticking it to all those greedy fat cats in Washington and showing them who the real boss is? I mean, if this weren’t wall-to-wall bullshit, it’d be the best thing ever!

Yeah … the ultimate reform, the one that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, have passed around, shared, “liked,” promoted is almost completely wrong and it’s using the image of a wounded Marine to promote its fallacy.

First, a short breakdown of what’s wrong:

1) Congressional Pension: Despite the myth, members of Congress do not draw their salaries until they die, even after only serving a single term. Their retirement is set by multiple factors, including how long they served and how old they are … just like the factors that control the size and payout of any other pension.

2) Congress has participated in Social Security since the mid-80s, having been part of the Civil Servant Retirement System prior to that, just like every other federal employee, and they do it up to the same salary cap ($106,800) that applies to everyone else in the country. You may as well be railing against the threat of those “dastardly Spaniards.”

3) Members of Congress purchasing their own retirement plans? They pay into it just like everyone else.

4) While it’s true that Congress can vote to raise its own pay (seriously, screw those guys), you have to give credit where credit is due – they haven’t done it since 2009. If pay were automatically attached to the CPI, the dead weight in Washington would have actually cost us more over the past several years.

5) Congressional health care – Members of Congress are on the tip of the Obamacare Spear. They can’t go anywhere else.

6) Congress abiding by all the laws it passes? The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 did just that. 17 years ago.

7) Congressional contracts – this is clearly an example of someone with a very specific ax to grind. What contracts does this refer to? Outside income is already reported. Is this a back-door way to stripping health care or other benefits from retired representatives? My guess is that, like me, 99 percent of the people who read this have no idea what it’s targeting, even after researching. It’s certainly much too vague to be made into law.

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? It’s certainly not that I’m a fan of Congress. Not by a long shot. The problem here is one of misdirection. Instead of focusing on things that actually matter, things that can make a difference, things that are actually true, countless people have seen this garbage attached to the picture of a wounded Marine and passed it around, feeling that sense of righteous indignation and accomplishment, knowing deep down in their hearts that they were tuned into the real problem in D.C. and that if others would just listen and go with these changes, everything would get better. By attaching this particular image to the message, the person who did it tugged at the post-9/11 heart strings of most Americans, the blindly nationalist, everything-the-troops-do-is-good-and-I-can-honestly-help-by-buying-a-car-magnet emotional reflex we’ve all developed in the last decade, a reflex that automatically shuts down the critical thinking response in most people

Part of me thinks that this entire thing may be huge case of misdirection, initially authored by someone looking to demonstrate just how miserably the average American would fail a simple civics test. That’s probably a bit too pessimistic, though. This was likely the result of one person with good intentions and another 10 million who were too lazy to do some simple fact-checking before passing it along.

There are a lot of problems in the country today – large, divisive issues that are going to take a significant amount of political will, intelligence, dedication, and creativity to fix. While myself and the others here at Addicting Info have our preferred solutions to most of these problems, the simple fact is that none of them will ever be fixed unless we can honestly agree on what the problems actually are. By focusing our attention and outrage on things that are blatantly untrue, we miss the opportunity to focus our collective attention on the actual problems affecting us all and inadvertently support the belief inside Washington that most Americans are just too stupid to understand the issues.

For the record, though, things are improving for Kyle Carpenter, as seen in this recent picture and write up from July of this year, Courtesy of The Marine Times:

He’s been promoted and is on the slow road to recovery. Things will never be the same and he’ll carry the results of his actions for the rest of his days, but, gradually, life is getting better. If you really want to honor the sacrifice he’s made, you can start by being an informed citizen and by taking the time to educate yourself on the issues that really matter.

Check out more from The Rambling Fool on Addicting Info.  Head over to the Facebook Fan Page or e-mail him with story ideas, comments, or scathing insults to his intelligence and personal hygiene.