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Fix Our Divided, Dysfunctional Congress

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Jonathan Haidt

Our legislative process is broken. We’re deciding some of the most important issues of our day not based on what’s best for the country, or on careful deliberation, but based on what terms can possibly survive the shredding machine of our divided Congress as it lurches past its self-imposed deadlines. We are not making the best laws we can, and our children are going to pay the price in higher taxes and reduced benefits. Should we just throw up our hands in despair? Or should we roll up our sleeves and do something about it? My top priority for 2013 is political reform. At every step of the process, from the gerrymandering of our electoral districts to the way we fund elections to the way the minority is blocked from introducing legislation in both houses, our democracy has become anti-democratic. It’s too prone to corruption by special interests and polarized dysfunction. I will convene a group of elder statesmen — including political scientists and former members of Congress from both parties — to recommend a package of reforms that will stop the madness. A great nation must have a way to pass good laws.


Jonathan Haidt last visited Moyers & Company to talk about how conservatives and liberals see the world. Watch video »

Haidt is a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of The Righteous Mind. His current research focuses on the moral foundations of politics and on ways liberals and conservatives can move beyond the culture wars and engage in more civil forms of politics and discourse.

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  • Orwellness

    The special interests that have the strongest influence on
    legislation appear to be the interests of the largest and wealthiest
    corporations. This has not been well-covered by most of our news media,
    which are owned by or share the interests of many of these large corporations.
    This may be obvious to many people and it was well-known long before I
    began to realize it. Based on what I have read or heard many people say,
    however, the awareness of the influence of big money on policy is not as widespread
    as it should be for the majority of Americans to make democracy work in their
    favor. Elected politicians vote for policies that help enrich the richest
    among us while framing their votes in a context to appeal to the average voter.

  • http://twitter.com/Prof_W_ Prof W

    Funny. As a former liberal turned conservative, I would think that Haidt feels well represented by the dominant GOP House and the dominant GOP Lite (aka Democratic) Senate, which are playing the same kinds of games and are both fronts for their 1% corporate sponsors.

    People who really care about humanity and equity are not represented by this President nor this Congress. It’s time for a new Progressive third party to represent the 99%.

  • Steve

    Money rules . . . period! This has to be stopped first and foremost, then we can start addressing the other issues that need to change in our government. Citizens United is a joke and must be repealed. There is one and only one issue constantly on the minds of all of our so-called representatives, getting re-elected. Let’s ease their minds a bit by instituting term limits on all and then switch them all over to Social Security and medicare for their retirement benefits so they can begin to appreciate what “the people” are going through instead of just the 1%. Then lets permanently close the revolving door between our members of Congress and all the corporate lobbying firms that provide their re-election financing and then provide huge salaries when the members of Congress retire and go to work for those they once regulated. One more joke on We the People. How long are we going to put up with this? This is not Democracy as our forefathers intended. We all need to wake up and demand changes or we will have wasted 237 years of hard work and human sacrifice.

  • Steve

    Money Rules . . . period! Citizens United is a joke . . on us and must be repealed and soon. Members of Congress only have one thought constantly in mind . . . getting re-elected. Let’s ease their mind a bit by establishing strict term limits on all of them. Then let’s switch them all over to Social Security and medicare for their retirement years, so they appreciate and identify with what “the people” must deal with instead of just the 1%. Then let’s permanently close the revolving door between retired members of Congress and the lobbying firms and corporate interests that fund their election campaigns. The current process is a joke and one big conflict of interest.

    Let’s not waste 237 years of hard work and human sacrifice. This current dysfunction and bought system of government is not what our forefathers had in mind, so let’s change it and NOW!

  • Reddoor2

    You’ve got my vote!!!

    “At every step of the process, from the gerrymandering of our electoral
    districts to the way we fund elections to the way the minority is
    blocked from introducing legislation in both houses, our democracy has
    become anti-democratic. It’s too prone to corruption by special
    interests and polarized dysfunction. I will convene a group of elder
    statesmen — including political scientists and former members of
    Congress from both parties — to recommend a package of reforms that will
    stop the madness. A great nation must have a way to pass good laws.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/gilles.marin Gilles Marin

    Change will not come from the current top. We need to feed the new roots to come up with new tops!

  • JL

    Gerrymandering is the linchpin. If you outlaw that, all the other progressive goals will be attainable, but as long as Conservatives are immune to the wrath of the voters, nothing will ever change.

  • Anonymous

    You capitalized ‘progressive’! lol

    You also started with ‘People who really care about humanity and equity…’

    You also use a moniker suggesting you’re a college teacher!

    So objective, sir!

    - Marine

  • Anonymous

    “As a former liberal turned conservative,… It’s time for a new Progressive third party to represent the 99%.” BWHAHAHHAAHHAHA!!!!

  • DHM

    7-19-13 A Dysfunctional Congress?
    Any ideas?
    Thank you.
    DHM
    100% disabled 1952-1956 USAF Veteran.
    [
    CONGRESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY. (EMPHASIS ADDED THROUGHOUT)
    A. ["To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces."] [1] and ["...nor cruel and unusual punishments."] [2] is the U.S. Congress’s responsibility under the U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sect. 8, Clause 14 and Bill of Rights, Amendment VIII. Doesn’t this mean the U.S. Congress prohibiting, their to-date ignored and own verified, Military “experiments that were designed to harm” [5] with the now Rape of Military Personnel? Please require your members of congress to obey their ongoing 69 years of an abandoned Oath of Office!
    [
    B. The U.S. Congress's Oath of Office is: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."[10]
    [
    LOST CONGRESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY?
    A. "Unethical and illicit activities".[7] The “LESSONS” now span SIXTY NINE (69) of the 221 years from 1791, i.e., 1944 – 2013! On 25 July 2012 a U.S. Judge ordered the VA to release needed for treatment and experimentation identifying records, e.g., LSD experiments![3] The U.S. Congress withholds this information by rejecting the “Veterans Right to Know Act” EIGHT (8) times from 1999 to-date.[4] Previously there is Congress’s own 1994 U.S. Senate Report titled, “IS MILITARY RESEARCH HAZARDOUS TO VETERANS’ HEALTH? LESSONS SPANNING HALF A CENTURY.” and “EVERY YEAR, THOUSANDS OF EXPERIMENTS UTILIZING HUMAN SUBJECTS ARE STILL BEING CONDUCTED BY, OR ON BEHALF OF, THE DOD.” Then the “I. INTRODUCTION” In its, “III. Findings and conclusions” are, “K. DOD and DVA have repeatedly failed to provide information and medical followup to those who participate in military research…” plus “N. Participation in military research is rarely included in military medical records, making it impossible to support a veteran’s claim for service-connected disabilities from military research.”[5] “TO CONCEAL THESE ACTIVITIES FROM THE AMERICAN PUBLIC IN GENERAL, BECAUSE PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE OF THE UNETHICAL AND ILLICIT ACTIVITIES WOULD HAVE SERIOUS REPERCUSSIONS IN POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC CIRCLES….”; U.S. V. Stanley, Footnote 4, Page 688.[7] This is the still U.S. Congress ignored CIA, Inspector General’s 1957, non-consensual human experiments statement.
    [
    B. An "incident to service" [7 & 9] is “EQUAL JUSTICE”? An LSD case is one of the U.S. SENATE’S 1944 to 1994, “experiments that were designed to harm” “conducted on hundreds of thousands” of U.S. Military Personnel![5] The 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision OK’d the 1958 Stanley non-consensual LSD experiment.[7] STANLEY was in direct disobedience of the DOD Secretary’s 26 February 1953 NO non-consensual experiments order.[8] The Stanley Case wraps up these deliberately injured Military Personnel in the (U.S. is not responsible “incident to service”) cloak of the 1950 U.S. Supreme Court Feres, accidental barracks fire death![9] Also to-date U.S. CONGRESS scorned is the 1994 U.S. SENATE REPORT’S [5], “The Feres Doctrine should not be applied for military personnel who are harmed by inappropriate human experimentation when informed consent has not been given.” Shouldn’t U.S. Service Personnel have the same U.S. Constitutional, Amendment 8, Rights that convicted rapists and murderers keep, i.e., The International, “…Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”?[6] “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” is written above the main entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court Building.
    [
    References: >>>[1] Enacted on 15 December 1791, U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sect. 8, Clause 14. “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces”. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/article >>>[2] Enacted on 15 December 1791, U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, Amendment VIII, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/billofrights >>>[3] 25 July 2012 U.S. Magistrate Judge LSD records decision. http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/07/23/48617.htm >>>[4] The “Veterans Right to Know Act” was proposed by H.R. 3256, 1999; S. 2953, 2000; H.R. 511, 2001; S. 405, 2001; H.R. 5060, 2002; S. 2704, 2002; H.R. 4259, 2005 and H.R. 2434, 2007. >>>[5] December 8, 1994 REPORT 103-97 “Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans’ Health?….” Hearings Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 103rd Congress 2ND Session. >>> [6] U.S. State Dept., “U.S. Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights July 1994, Article 7 – Freedom from Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” “1994 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” Index of “Treaties and Legal Issues” || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage >>>[7] U.S. SUPREME COURT, JUNE 25, 1987, U.S. V. STANLEY , 107 S. CT.. 3054 (VOLUME 483 U.S., SECTION 669, PAGES 699 TO 710) http://supreme.justia.com/us/483/669/case.html >>>[8] 26 February 1953 Secretary of the Department of Defense no non-consensual human experiments order. Pages. 343-345: “The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code; Human Rights in Human Experimentation” George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin (N. Y.: Oxford University Press, 1992). >>>[9] Feres v. United States, 340 U.S. 135, 146 (1950) >>>[10] http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Oath_Office.htm