In addition to “Make America Great Again,” one of the favorite phrases of candidate Donald Trump last year was “Drain the Swamp.” The Swamp, of course, is his reference to the way of doing the people’s business in Washington, D.C., and the bureaucracy attendant to it. As now-President Trump is finding out, trying to actually drain that swamp is a Herculean task, and might very well be nigh impossible.
On an historical note, the idea that Washington was actually built on swampland has been debunked for many years, but it still makes for a good story. Good ol’ George Washington had a heavy hand in the location. He’d been a surveyor in his salad days, and knew a thing or two about good land when he saw it. Coincidentally, there just happened to be a nice little plot of grassy knolls and plains about 15 miles away from his Mount Vernon home. George apparently envisioned the Capital as a thriving metropolis for business and industry, not just the seat of government. The Potomac River was navigable, and all roads, at the time, led there. (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and even Baltimore, however, proved more adept at attracting commerce.)
The District of Columbia was at least somewhat centrally located in the fledgling post-Revolutionary War country. The original colonies were situated up and down the coast, so travel to conduct the nation’s business wasn’t too onerous for anyone in that era. Members of Congress didn’t actually live in Washington. Only the President (beginning with John Adams) had a full-time residence there at his disposal. And even then most Chief Executives have always been eager to leave the White House and get back to their home turfs when the legislative sessions were over.
Sleepy little Washington, D.C. came alive for a few months each year and then settled back down to somnolence. And that lasted for a good long while. My Indiana-born-and-raised Dad remembered visiting relatives near the city as a kid during summer vacation in the 1930s. When his family went to see the Capitol, it was pretty much empty.
World War II is probably most responsible for starting the rapid growth of the populace on a full-time basis. Congress met in longer sessions in those days, and FDR was in attendance at the White House more often than a lot of his predecessors (although he certainly made frequent trips to Warm Springs, GA, and Hyde Park, NY). The influx of people needed to run the war soon added to the growing census in the city.
Many of the newcomers stayed after the war was won. Since federal bureaucracies seldom (well, never) tend to shrink of their own accord, those who had fought the good fight by pushing necessary papers around during the battle found new papers to push and never went back home.
Fast-forward to the present day and we now have a bloated federal bureaucracy that costs the American people approximately $7 million per minute. That’s 24/7, 365 days a year. Congress tends to meet year-round, and those who serve live in the city or its environs. Those non-elected folks who work for We the People arrive and never leave.
Since we’re in the midst of yet another shut-down-the-government fiscal cycle, I believe I have a suggestion that will help solve the spending problem and perhaps lead us back to a day when our representatives actually lived in their home states and districts and visited the Capital instead of residing there.
On the heels of the President deciding to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, instead of just draining the Washington swamp, let’s move it to a whole new place. I’m thinking Lebanon, Kansas. Two miles northwest of the city is the geographic center of the contiguous United States. That would make it far easier for any elected official at least west of the Mississippi to get to work. Chances are, federal staff members in any department, as well as lobbyists, wouldn’t be really keen on calling rural Kansas home for any length of time. So instead of full-time employees, everybody becomes a freelancer. And hey, in this technological age, couldn’t most things be done remotely?
We could keep the monuments in Washington, and maybe Congress could ceremoniously meet for a week or so each year in January at the Capitol itself, but nobody would need grandiose offices. Committee meetings and hearings could be done via Skype or Go To Meeting. Members of Congress could actually live in the real world.
It’s just a thought.
©MMXVII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer