Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

Bursting the Beltway Bubble

My friend Harry Stevens, cited in a previous item, shared an idea that might be worth further discussion in this era of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement. I assume this is an original idea with Harry, but I am not sure about that. I gladly give him credit, because he often had ideas that blossomed many years after he planted the seed.

The level of “legalized corruption” in our national electoral politics is becoming more and more evident, as are the distortions it causes. Jack Abramoff, the corrupt, and corrupting, lobbyist, who is promoting his new book after getting out of prison, makes crystal clear the depth and level of corruption in Congress.

What Harry proposed might just make it a little more difficult for lobbyist to lobby by removing the “lobby”. He proposed that in this day of electronic communications there is no longer a need for all of our congressmen and senators to gather in Washington DC. The Pentagon has the capability for all types of secure communications and this may be the time to put them into use so that our elected officials can stay home in their district or state. If our 435 congressional representatives and 100 senators  are at home in their districts, they are not as easy to corral in a “lobby” in Washington DC by the K Street influence peddlers.

Let me list some of the differences, both positive and negative, that this change in congressional operations might cause:

– The federal government could free up a lot of office space in Washington DC.
– Our elected officials would save money by not having to have two places of residence, one in DC and one in their district.
– They would stay closer to their constituents and have more daily contact with the concerns of the people they represent.
– If they were to be entertained by a lobbyist in their district, there would be a higher probability of their constituents being aware of this activity.
– We would not have the risk of a deliberate, or accidental, catastrophe disabling our government because all of our officials are gathered in one place .
– Congressional and Senate hearings could be spread around the country giving elected officials opportunities to see more of the whole country that their decisions impact.
– Extra efforts would have to be made for face-to-face contact in order to build the levels of communications and trust that are necessary for political bargaining.
– There would be new challenges for the media and the Washington “Bureau” of many media organizations might have fewer staff members.

So, could we burst the Beltway bubble, that isolation and sense of self-importance that can infect our leaders when they are inside the Washington Beltway? What do you think the impacts of such a change would be? Is this a way to decentralize an excess concentration of power and spread it more evenly across the country? Could we all have more access to our elected officials if they spent more time back home?

What do you think?

One response to “Bursting the Beltway Bubble

  1. Ronald Henderson December 22, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    There could be more unintended consequences than we can count.

    Our laws are written by the industries that they are regulating, because the legislators are not able or willing to gain the knowledge to deal with the complexities. The Congressional staffs are mostly located in DC along with the industry representatives so that this process can work smoothly. So maybe they need to stay there and just loose some of their influence.

    The big problem we have with all our legislators now is that they don’t trust each other and don’t work together. Dolly Madison started or at least encouraged the social events in Washington to help solve this problem during the early years of our country.
    We need to throw all these folks in a whole (lock them away in a conference center) and not let them out until they come up with some good solutions for our country.

    I think the use of more technology and more transparency could help the process.

    Enough of me for now.


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