Chain Reaction

July 7th, 2011

Despite what the letter may say, unless your rich uncle has taken a turn for the worse – or maybe you run a meth lab – you’re not coming into a lot of money in five days. Despite the happy prognosis of the letter, sending it to 20 friends won’t cure anybody of anything, except – possibly – of opening your email.

Yet, because hope springs eternal, here I am springing one of those letters on you. Forgive me, but a common sense approach to Congressional reform just holds too much promise to ignore.

As published in The Daily News, July 8, 2011, and in The Memphis News, July 9-15, 2011



My brother just sent me a chain letter. Within 10 minutes, a friend of his sent the same one. Both suggested it might be a column. Both are respected journalists, published authors – two seasoned guys who live in D.C. and wear their cynicism as proudly and visibly as a Heidelberg dueling scar – and both are suggesting I pimp a chain letter.

I hate chain letters. I’ve lost friends over chain letters. I think everybody who sends a chain letter should be chained together and held in a dark, damp place until that kid in (pick a country) gets a (pick an organ), until (pick an amount) in cash shows up on your doorstep, until whatever that emoticon-loaded claptrap promises actually happens. I think while Bin Laden burns, he’s still expecting virgins because of a chain letter.

However, I've received this letter before. A lot. People so far to the left they make MoveOn.org look like the NRA have sent me this letter. People so far to the right that they make the tea party look like the communist party have sent me this letter.

Must be something to it if it can hold things that far apart together, if a country that shares less and less in common is sharing this more and more, if a guy who hates chain letters is about to rattle this one.

I quote from my inbox:

“Proposed Congressional Reform Act of 2011”

“1. Term Limits: 12 years only: A. Two Six-year Senate terms; B. Six Two-year House terms; C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms.”

“2. No Tenure/No Pension: Congressmen collect salaries while in office and receive no pay when they are out of office.”

“3. Congress participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.”

“4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan.”

“5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

“6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.”

“7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.”

“8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective upon passage. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home.”

So there.

If this passes nationally, there might be local implications. Perhaps Walter Bailey will realize that “limits” mean if you’ve served 100 years, you don’t get to come back and serve 100 more. Or Mark Norris will stop passing state laws that apply only in Shelby County. Or local elected officials could start buying their own lunch.

Or not.

I’m a Memphian, and I’m going to go out on my porch and wait for the good news and money.


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