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Tom Finneran: Rooting for Congress

Friday, January 31, 2014

 

It's time for Congress to shelve the canned talking points they get from their respective parties and start talking to each other as fellow Americans, believes Tom Finneran.

It might seem out of place in the week in which the President gave his State of the Union address, but put me down as rooting loudly for Congress. And while you’re at it, put me down as hoping that more and more members of Congress will shelve the canned talking points they get from their respective parties and start talking to each other as fellow Americans.

The emergence of the “imperial presidency” did not begin with President Obama so let’s not blame him for the current state of affairs. Nor will the modern imperial presidency end with President Obama’s second term. Rather, the fault in this dangerous distortion of our system of checks and balances lies with us, the American people. We seem to have a juvenile wish for simplicity, for “decisions”, for easy solutions to hard problems, and for avoiding at all costs the notion of argument, disagreement, and debate.

A disturbing recent example—it’s no secret that the rollout of “Obamacare” was a spectacular embarrassment for the President. Nor is it a secret that certain parts of the law were not able to be implemented on the timetables which the law established. To this very messy state of affairs, the president has issued a set of waivers and/ or executive orders making unilateral changes in a law which governs every American. Consider that for a moment—in the United States of America, a nation founded on the wise distrust of putting unchecked power in the hands of any one individual, one person, our President, has asserted a power which he does not have. There should be universal shrieks about these actions, particularly from Congress.

In fact, Congressional Democrats should be shouting the loudest for this institutional intrusion into their explicit duties. If the law needs fixing then fix it. And if you don’t have the votes to do so, then cobble together an interim solution. Why oh why would any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, so abjectly surrender on such matters. The system of checks and balances is far more important than any particular policy. Those checks and balances are constitutionally established and they should vanquish by a staggering margin any silly talk about “party loyalty”, party priorities, or similar irrelevancies. And, if the result is that this President, or, more importantly any President, is put into a politically awkward or difficult position, then that’s an unmitigated good. I don’t trust royal judgments. Neither did our forebears. And such awkward or difficult positions would be instructive to any President (and their increasingly haughty staffers) as they attempt to provide executive guidance to the nation.

Consider for a moment the infallibility of Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, et. al. To even use the word infallible regarding any of these folks is to break out laughing. As is of course true if the same word were applied to any of us, the American people. We, all of us, including our Presidents, are flawed, often in multiple ways. Thus our very flawed “founding Fathers” recognized that universal limitation even in themselves as they devised a check on monarchical power. Power and authority were to be diffused, not concentrated.

All this of course is really basic American history and elementary civics. It’s not hard to grasp. Yet modern America seems terribly uneducated and uninterested in these dangerous matters. Consider the negative inferences of “gridlock”, one of the pejorative terms of our times. There is nothing wrong with gridlock. It should be understood as strong evidence that an idea or a proposal lacks broad support. In such cases proponents of change should go back to the drawing board, nipping, tucking, listening, and compromising with their critics, trying to find the right balance of interests and developing legitimate consensus.

Reflect upon the Congress’ abdication of its legitimate powers and duties in light of two other frequent intrusions into their institutional domain—judges who “legislate” from the bench and regulatory agencies which issue rules far beyond the plain meaning of statutory language. For years and years we have heard complaints about such institutional over-reach. Yet Congress appears supine in its acceptance of such theft of its constitutional prerogatives. Such theft, and its troubling trend toward increase, would be rapidly cured the moment Congress expresses its intent to curb such abuses, rewriting jurisdiction, revisiting statutes, and making clear its will regarding policy. I call it institutional spine. Let’s hope that Congress finds it, soon.

 

Related Slideshow: New England Communities With the Most Political Clout 2013

The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with Azavea, released data maps this week showing political contribution dollars to federal elections dating back to 1990 -- by county.

GoLocal takes a look at the counties in New England that had the highest per-capita contributions in the 2012 election cycle -- and talked with experts about what that meant for those areas in New Engand, as well as the candidates.  

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25. Merrimack County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.86

Total contributions: $1,447,713

Merrimack County is named after the Merrimack River and is home to the states capital, Concord. Merrimack County has a total area of 956 square miles and a population of 146,761.

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24. Cheshire County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.88

Total contributions: $759,209

Cheshire is one of the five original counties in New Hampshire and was founded in 1771. The highest point in Cheshire County is located at the top of Mount Monadnock, which was made famous by the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

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23. Rockingham County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $9.96

Total contributions: $2,965,530

Rockingham has 37 communities and has a population of 297,820. Rockingham County also was home to the famous poet, Robert Frost

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22. Belknap County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.02

Total contributions: $604,512

Belknap County is one of the ten counties in New Hampshire and has a population of 60,327. It is located in the center of New Hampshire and the largest city is Laconia.

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21. Hampshire County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.41

Total contributions: $1,664,077

Hampshire County has a total area of 545 square miles and is located in the middle of Massachusetts. Hampshire County is also the only county to be surrounded in all directions by other Massachusetts counties.

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20. Barnstable County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $10.90

Total contributions: $2,348,541

Barnstable County was founded in 1685 and has three national protected areas. Cape Cod National Seashore is the most famous protected area within Barnstable County and brings in a high amount of tourists every year.

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19. Berkshire County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $12.49

Total contributions: $1,624,400

Berkshire County is located on the western side of Massachusetts and borders three different neighboring states. Originally the Mahican Native American Tribe inhabited Berkshire County up until the English settlers arrived and bought the land in 1724. 

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18. Essex County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.22

Total contributions: $9,991,201

Essex is located in the northeastern part of Massachusetts and contains towns such as Salem, Lynn, and Andover. Essex was founded in 1643 and because of Essex historical background, the whole county has been designated as the Essex National Heritage Area.

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17. Chittendon County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $13.86

Total contributions: $2,196,107

Chittenden has a population of 158,504, making it Vermont’s most populated county. Chittenden’s largest city is Burlington, which has about one third of Vermont’s total population.

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16. Lamoille County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $14.82

Total contributions: $369,854

Lamoille County was founded in 1835 and has a population of 24,958. The county has 464 square miles, of which 461 of them are land.

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15. Addison County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $15.49

Total contributions: $569,299

Located on the west side of Vermont, Addison County has a total area of 808 square miles. Addison's largest town is Middlebury, where the Community College of Vermont and Middlebury College are located.

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14. Newport County, RI

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $16.02

Total contributions: $1,214,26

Newport County is one of the five Rhode Island Counties and was founded in 1703. Just like Connecticut, none of Rhode Island counties have an any governmental functions.

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13. Cumberland County, ME

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $18.33

Total contributions: $5,205,507

Cumberland County has a population of 283,921 and is Maine’s most populated county. The county was named after the William, Duke of Cumberland, a son of King George II.

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12. Windsor County, VT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.57

Total contributions: $1,156,149

Windsor County is the largest county in Vermont and consists of 971 square miles of land and 5 square miles of water.

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11. Bristol County, RI

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $20.91

Total contributions: $1,027,472

Bristol County has a population of 49,144 and is the third smallest county in the United States. Bristol County was originally apart of Massachusetts, but was transferred to Rhode Island in 1746.

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10. Grafton County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012 :$20.95

Total contributions: $1,868,739

With a population of 89,181, Grafton County is the second largest county in New Hampshire. Home of New Hampshire’s only national forest, White Mountain National Forest takes up about half of Grafton’s total area 

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9. Carrol County, NH

Contributions, per capita, 2012: 2012: $22.81

Total contributions: $1,012,10

Created in 1840, Carroll County has a population of 47,567. Carroll County was also named after Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.

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8. LItchfield County, CT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $22.86

Total contributions: $4,286,143

Although it is Connecticut’s largest county, Litchfield has the lowest population density in all of Connecticut. Since 1960 all Connecticut counties have no county government.

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7. Middlesex County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $32.81

Total contributions: $50,432,154

Middlesex County has a population of 1,503,085 and has been ranked as the most populous county in New England.  The county government was abolished in 1997, but the county boundaries still exists for court jurisdictions and other administrative purposes.

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6. Nantucket County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $33.41

Total contributions: $344,021

Nantucket County consists of a couple of small islands and is a major tourist destination in Massachusetts. Normally Nantucket has a population of 10,298, but during the summer months the population can reach up to 50,000.

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5. Norfolk County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $35.87

Total contributions: $24,459,854

Named after a county from England, Norfolk County is the wealthiest county in Massachusetts. As of 2011, Norfolk was ranked the 32nd highest income county in the United States. 

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4. Dukes County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $36.32

Total contributions: $618,960

Consisting of Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, Dukes County is one of Massachusetts’ top vacation spots. Originally Dukes County was apart New York, however it was transferred to Massachusetts on October 7, 1691.

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3. Suffolk County, MA

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $40.73

Total contributions: $30,323,537

Suffolk County has a population of 744,426 and contains Massachusetts’s largest city, Boston. Although Suffolk’s county government was abolished in the late 1900’s, it still remains as a geographic area.

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2. Knox County, ME

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $45.89

Total contributions: $1,820,410

Knox County was established on April 1st, 1860 and was named after American Revolutionary War General Henry Knox.  The county has a population of 39,668 and is the home of the Union Fair.

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1. Fairfield County, CT

Contributions, per capita, 2012: $55.65.  

Total contributions: $51,970,701 

In a population of 933,835, Fairfield County is the most densely populated county in Connecticut, and contains four of the state's largest cities -- Bridgeport, Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury.

 
 

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