Cathy Reisenwitz

Reason’s irascible Nick Gillespie has summed up what’s wrong with our political system in one chart:

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Apparently everyone hates Congress, but no one hates their congressperson. I’m here to tell you that, contrary to what you may believe, your Congresscritter sucks too!

Congress just watered down a bill that would start to begin the process of maybe thinking about re-establishing our Fourth Amendment rights. Guess we don’t need those after all. But aside from our eroding civil liberties, the economic situation is even more dire. There’s a reason only 28 percent of Americans think the country is moving in the right direction.

Here’s the problem. Our elected officials have been writing checks to voters without the cash to back them up. We’re out of money, but Social Security and Medicare costs just keep rising and rising.

This state of affairs is entirely predictable. In fact, the founding fathers predicted something very similar in the Federalist Papers. The fact of the matter is that American government as set up according to the Constitution was far less democratic than it is now. There was no direct election of Presidents. The people didn’t even elect their Senators or Representatives. Instead, we had what could most accurately be called a Representative Republic, where the (land-owning, white, male) people elected state Representatives, who elected federal Senators and Representatives.

This wasn’t an accident. The reasoning was laid out clearly in Federalist Number 10. In it, James Madison explains that democracy enables the majority to vote away the property of the minority. He feared a large majority of relatively poor people voting to levy a heavy progressive tax on the rich.

That hasn’t really happened. While the rich do pay a larger share of their salaries in income taxes, the uber-rich have figured out how to get out of paying the vast majority of their taxes. Really, progressive taxation just squeezes the middle-class.


Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a Young Voices Associate and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator.