Saturday, August 1, 2009

Abolsh The Senate

In my last post I made the argument for abolishing the senate because it is an anti-democratic institution. I’d like to examine other reasons for abolishing the senate now.

As I said last time, the founders designed the senate to represent the few. Senators were chosen by state legislatures under the control of monied interests until the constitution was amended in 1912. In Washington the railroad interests controlled the selection of U. S. Senators for decades. In 1789, all of the state legislatures had steep property qualification for membership so those who were given the responsibility to choose senators were among the wealthiest members of their states. As opposed to House members who served for two years, senators terms are six years. The founders designed the Senate to move at the pace of molasses and insulate senators from their decisions.

Even though the property qualification to run for office were abolished long ago, different property qualifications are now in effect for the exclusive millionaires club that is the senate.

Most of us know that the ancient Roman senate was corrupt but they were pikers when compared to the current bunch who control our Senate. It was said of the Roman senate in the late republican period that no legislative body “in history has ever devoted itself so wholeheartedly to fleecing its subjects for the private benefit of its ruling class as Rome of the last age of the Republic.” But that historian had no experience with our current senate. And it seems that our senate has more in common with the Roman senate than there are differences.

Michael Parenti in his revisionist history, The assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome, points out many similarities. When writing about the “mystifying tenets of all ruling propertied classes throughout the ages,” Parenti identifies significant connections between our senators and those of Rome.

“The oligarchic clique represents it own privileged special interests as tantamount to the general interest,” Parenti writes. These shameless self-promoters in our Senate, those Bacuses, or Spectors, or Grassleys, or Reids, or Murrays or Cantwells, like their Roman counterparts are climbers who seek above all else to promote themselves and in the process become a ready tool of wealth.

Oligarchs in the Senate of the United States and in Rome represent “its own privileged special interests as tantamount to the general interest.” How else can we account for the constant drone by members of our senate about how the American people believe X or the American people believe Y or Z? These senators confuse their financiers with the people of the country. Senators “argue that the well-being of the Republic and the entire society depend on the well-being of the prominent few who preside so wisely and resplendently over public affairs and whose high station give proof of a deserving excellence. How else explain trillions in bank bailouts handed out by our senate to the financial industry, the wealthiest people in the country, while home foreclosures mount for common people, and millions loose their jobs and health care and are denied two of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom from fear and want? How else explain that there is always money enough for war and massive public subsidies to the ruling class but not enough for unemployment, rent caps, debt cancellations or the general welfare?

Michael Parenti sums up the situation in ancient Rome and in the United States: Whatever its republican trappings, aristocratic liberty is essentially blue-blood plutocracy, the rughless liberty of wealth that remains to this day inhospitable to any modicum of economic democracy.”

It’s time to get rid of our aristocratic senate.