Have Americans Lost Control of Their Government?

The current state of our government and, in particular, the chasm that exists between Republicans and Democrats, seems like a child’s food fight rather that an ongoing adult conversation. Each side is doing what is called, “right fighting.” That is, each side is so convinced that it is right that the art of compromise seems to have gone out the window. An old cliché says that a fish stinks from its head down. Our government right now is exemplifying that more than ever.

Our government was via the Constitution set up with three branches, none of which was supposed to have more power than the other. But our present Congress is so fearful of doing the next right thing, and its job, has abdicated in favor of the Executive Branch. Article 2 of our Constitutes delineates the powers granted the President. What amazes me the most is that Article 2 section 3 clearly states that the President “. . . from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient . . . “ The framers of the Constitution left many parts of it vague as they judged that with the passage of time necessary changes to the Constitution or different interpretations of It would be necessary. But it is my opinion the Article 2 Section 3 is rather clear in its intention; that being that changes to law and policy may be suggested by the President and that Congress would then act upon them. The Constitution is also repeatedly clear that a 2/3rds vote should be the standard for passing any legislation.

Over the years, however, Congress has made changes to what is necessary for certain measures and that being a simple majority favor the law.

Most recently, President Trump made the unilateral decision to scale back some remote (Utah) national monuments at the behest of industry. He has also charged his Interior Secretary to find other locations to which he can to the same. The idea of National Parks and National Monuments was the idea of President Theodore Roosevelt when he created Arcadia National Park and Yosemite National Park. “The Antiquities Act is the first law to establish that archeological sites on public lands are important public resources. It obligates federal agencies that manage the public lands to preserve for present and future generations the historic, scientific, commemorative, and cultural values of the archaeological and historic sites and structures on these lands. It also authorizes the President to protect landmarks, structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by designating them as National Monuments.” (Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/legal/american-antiquities-act-of-1906.htm). The law is quite specific in saying that the President is obligated to preserve “objects of historic and scientific interest. Pres. Trump has chosen to ignore this law and turn over these precious lands to commercial interests, destroying artifacts that favor the public interest and the scientific community.

The Constitution, and all its framers in their writings, made very clear that the first job of the Federal Government is to act in the best interest of the people. But for decades now our Congresses and Presidents have only too frequently done the bidding of powerful interests and PACs. It would be only too easy to show how the Republicans Party over the past 6 years or so has worked mostly in a self-serving manner. But that would less than truthful. The fact remains that the Democrats are equally responsible in bending to the will of powerful and well-monied interests instead of the people. The Democrats have not had control of Congress for many years now and the Republicans have been able to run rough-shod over them by passing bills that make a simple majority vote the rule of Congress. No Democrat has been able to find the inner fortitude to challenge such bills in front of the US Supreme Judicial court.

Time-and-again the Republican Congress has passed bills which are clearly unpopular with the people of the United States. The most visible action at present has been their persistent attempts to gut and eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Their most recent move has been to tied changes to the ACA to the government funding bill now in Congress. Such actions are referred to “rider bills.” It is the blatant attempt to circumvent the proper way to have a bill passed, a “clean bill.” That refers to a bill which has no riders and is voted up or down on its own merits.

Both parties in Congress are not doing the “right thing” but rather doing the most self-serving thing. That has never more true when Senator Mitch McConnell declared that he would not allow then President Obama to seat a new Supreme Court justice when Justice Scalia unexpectedly died two years ago. Not only was that self-serving but it went entirely against the spirit of our Constitution and the manner in which all justices have been confirmed since 1789. Such actions must stop. This means that U.S. Citizens, regardless of political favor, must make Congress accountable for its actions.

A majority of U.S. citizens of both parties has said they do not trust congress to do the right thing. There is an easy solution to that; stop re-electing your representatives and senators.

There is an old saying, “nothing changes if nothing changes.”


Why Is New Hampshire So Passenger Rail Adverse?

Five of New England’s six states have taken a very proactive approach to public transportation. In particular, they have all embraced the idea of upgrading their existing passenger rail lines with an eye towards expanding them. The lone state to shun such thought is New Hampshire.
When the Northern New England Rail Authority was planning a passenger rail route from Boston to Portland, New Hampshire pointedly stated it want no part of it even though the line would run through their state. But as the planning and funding stage turned into preparing the line for passenger service, New Hampshire, somewhat begrudgingly, opted in for stops in Exeter and Dover. It has since added one more station in Durham. Now, many years into the Portland service, all three of those stations have seen considerable use.
In the early 1980s Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, convinced New Hampshire leaders to have a trial run of passenger service to Nashua, Manchester and Concord. Even though the trial was successful and showed promise of growth, New Hampshire declined to fund it any further and the state has resisted all efforts, both within the state itself and by Massachusetts, to re-instated commuter rail to Manchester with stops in Nashua and Merrimack.
The MBTA also more recently made overtures to New Hampshire to extend the Boston to Haverhill line to Plaistow New Hampshire only to be shunned once again. It is impossible to find any rational reasoning behind such rebuffs. Anyone who commutes into Massachusetts using Route 3, 93, or 125, is keenly aware of the traffic nightmare that exists on all three routes. Worse, in the case of route 125 there is no reasonable way to widen the route. Both route 93 and 3 could be widened but at great cost, more than New Hampshire is willing to commit to at present.
Southern New Hampshire’s population is booming as people who work in and around the great Boston area move further out in search of affordable housing. The four counties in southern New Hampshire closest to Boston are Stafford with 125,600 residents, Rockingham with 300,600 residents, Merrimack with 147,200 residents, and Hillsborough with 405,200, a combined total of 978,600 or 74% of all New Hampshire residents. The state itself expects, conservatively, that each of these counties will grow by at least 10% over the next 20 years.
Years ago, the Boston to Montreal route, which passes through Manchester NH was declared a future rail corridor. Research showed that there is likely sufficient number of boardings on this route to create a Boston to Montreal Amtrak route. And while New Hampshire would have to make a significant investment into the project, it would ultimately pay for itself by removing automobiles from its highways while adding revenue to the state via people who live outside New Hampshire visiting the cities along the route. The Maine model has been so successful that not only it added stops to the original route, it has extended the route to Brunswick and is now planning on a second extension to Rockland with further plans for service to Augusta.
With the rail line through Nashua, Manchester and Concord being raised to passenger service levels the state could then enjoy commuter rail service in the same way Rhode Island has with the extension of the Boston to Attleboro route to Providence and T.F. Green Airport. If the state would simply show the willingness, it could immediately extend the Haverhill route to Plaistow and bring immediate relief to the route 125 travelers.
Another example of two states cooperating in such efforts is Connecticut and Massachusetts who are now actively pursuing and extension of commuter rail traffic from Hartford to Springfield and Greenfield Massachusetts. And Vermont of actively working to reinstate service to Montreal from Burlington using the existing New York to Burlington Amtrak route.
Five states see the benefit of pro-actively working on extending and expanding passenger rail service within their states. It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand New Hampshire’s continuing abhorrence of passenger rail service. I suspect, and hope, that with the continued pressure for rail service expansion in the Northeast, the near future will see the state finally join what has proven extremely desirable and successful for its neighboring states.