Tuesday, November 09, 2010

New Congressional Draft Leads to Draft Dodging

You know what they say, those who deserve power don't want it and those that want it don't deserve it. This has never been truer than in politics. In 2014 we saw Congress swing back in control of the Republicans, after having swung in 2012 back to the Democrats, before that in 2010 the House going to the Republicans, and in 2008 and 2006 moving Democratic. This back and forth, back in forth has become the only change America could expect from Congress.

That's why after the 2014 Midterm Elections, (one might call No Real Decision 2014), many Americans had had enough. The grassroots movement to amend the Constitution, to select Congress members by a draft, similar to that used back in Vietnam, or jury duty, caught traction. As co-founder of the Congressional Duty movement Gerald put it, "Well, when I look around at the people I know, the only ones I would truly like to see in office don't want to touch it. So I thought, what if serving in Congress were like jury duty? A random selection of representatives is the only way to ensure we get qualified individuals into office these days." When asked if he wanted to serve, "Hell no! But that's the point. If my name comes up, I'll go though, of course."

Article 5 of the Constitution provides two paths for an amendment. One is for two-thirds of both houses of Congress to vote to propose an amendment. The other is for two-thirds of state legislatures to ask Congress to call a national convention to propose an amendment, never before used until now. Of course, the latter approach was necessary as Congress would never be willing to relinquish power. As Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi said, "We're doing great work. Why would we support some damn %$@ amendment from the same people who are in the Tea Party movement to stop us?" For the record, neither founder of the Congressional Duty movement are in the Tea Party. One was in fact a registered Democrat before becoming an Independent.

Co-founder Gerald may say "of course" he'll go, but that hasn't been the case with many who have received Congressional Duty notices. We talked to Vietnam historian Mark Porter. "What we're seeing is not un-akin to draft dodgers during the Vietnam War, although what is surprising is the rate of dodging going on. It's actually worse than that among those called to Vietnam, despite the ostensible lack of threat of death in the case today, and of course the Congressional pay and health benefits. (You can thank the 2008 Congress for ensuring that Congressmen enjoy their great benefits despite the changes forced onto the rest of Americans.) We've even seen the unemployed with homes about to foreclose dodge service, saying they'd rather live in a homeless shelter than move to DC."

Yes, across America, Americans are waking up to the fact that they may have to serve in Congress. One Congressional Duty supporter anonymously said "I was working hard to get the amendment path. I have more faith in the average Joe than the career politician. But then I realized I could receive that dreaded notice."

There are of course various requirements to be eligible to the Congressional Draft. The original age limits set by Constitution remain in effect. This means that at age 25, you must sign up with the Selective Service, whether male or female. What used to be a somewhat significant birthday only because of the promise of lower car insurance and the ability to rent a car has become absolutely dreaded. There are however exemptions for those pursuing higher education. I talked to head of admissions at Harvard University. "We've seen the number of applicants for our masters, doctorate, post-doctorate, and post-post doctorate programs skyrocket." The same holds true at universities across the country. Doctorate student Jessica Smith said "I was going to pursue a promising career in private industry. I had several job offers coming out of college, which is saying something considering the sluggish economy. But I realized if I left academia I would face the possibility of serving in Congress. I know the chance is slim, but I can't take that risk. I'll take the loads of debt for grad school any day." Asked about her plans after her doctorate, "Oh, I'm already looking at grad schools for my post-doctorate, and post-post doctorate after that."

Law school must receive special treatment. In order to reduce the likelihood of a would-be career politician ending up in Congress, the amount of persons in Congress with a Juris Doctorate have been capped at 5%. Law school advisor Karen McCormick said, "At first I had hope that this would mean we would start seeing only applicants to law school who were, you know, actually interested in practicing law and not doing it just to get into politics. I underestimated how much people loath Congress though when the number of applicants actually jumped. We're seeing people who just want a permanent way practically out of the draft. They're willing to take on huge debt with no promise of paying it off just to avoid the possibility." The sense amongst the newest class at Yale was hopeful. But amongst those third year, L3, students about to graduate, positively abysmal. Natalie Carneige said, "What am I supposed to do now? I did my undergrad in political science and got a law degree with no intent on practicing law so I could get into politics. The job that is being forced onto other people is out of my grasp. I got into politics because I saw there are two things that more money will be spent on, health care and political campaigns, and I don't like blood. But without elections all the political advisor jobs are drying up." This attitude seen here and especially at lesser law schools has led to an increase in suicides amongst law students. (If your son or daughter are in law and had political aspirations, we strongly advise you get them into therapy immediately.)

One of the other controversial requirements of eligibility is that potential draftees must be current on their taxes. As one anonymous farmer put it, "I don't see why we have to go punishing honest, tax paying individuals with the threat of serving in DC." Will he stop paying his taxes? "No, but that's because I hire illegal immigrants to work my farm, so I'm counting on that being good enough to get me out if my number comes up." The requirement was of put in to rid the potential pool of Congressmen from unqualified candidates, like the former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner who somehow passed Congressional approval in 2009 despite having not payed self-employment taxes. I talked to tax attorney Richard Green. Would he say the amount of tax evasions have gone up. "Oh, most certainly. Business is booming, never better. I'm working 100 hours a week as tax day approaches. Our clientele used to be the rich who had money they wanted to hide. Now though, we're seeing Americans from every walk of life come in to evade taxes so to be ineligible from the draft. Of course, almost half of America doesn't end up owing the government money. The interesting thing is we even see those people come in. At first we turned them away but eventually caved in to pleas for help. I may be a lawyer, but I'm not so cold-hearted as to sentence them to serving in Congress."

Armed forces recruiters have started pushing to make military service an exemption to Congressional duty but so far no luck. They're banking on the horrors of possibly serving in Congress being perceived worse than going to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran. Our soldiers are brave, but no one can blame them for not being brave enough to serve in DC.

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