Column Date 2009-09-16

Let's fire Congress

You're not happy with Congress. I'm not happy with Congress. None of the talking heads (or screaming heads, these days) on radio or TV seems happy with Congress.

But if we fire Congress, you ask, what shall we replace it with?

The answer is easy: computers.

Don't laugh. It's happening already.

This fall, the Ridgewood, New Jersey school district replaced its three elementary school Spanish teachers with an interactive computer program.

That's right -- three experienced, human teachers were fired and their jobs are now being handled by computers.

The Spanish language program, called Rosetta Stone, cost the school system $70,000 -- which is less than half the combined salaries of the teachers. (And the computers don't take personal days, professional development days, or catch the flu.)

Of course, the school system says it still loves its teachers.

"There's never a replacement for a teacher in the classroom," said a Ridgewood school district spokeswoman. "But this was a good solution in view of the financial constraints."


We love our teachers except when we hit a financial bump in the road. Then we replace them with machines. Got it.

If it works for Spanish teachers, it's only a matter of time until they come out with Microsoft "Congress 2.0." Or Mac "iSenate '09," including "Quicktime 7" to speed up congressional debates.

Imagine Congress filled with logic and reason. Facts will appear in an instant, replacing those emotional outbursts based on half-truths.

But will these new computers become corrupted by the system, as generations of congressmen have claimed they were?

Not with new "anti-bribery" software -- designed to build graft-proof firewalls around each computer. And computers don't really need to go on junkets to Paris, or on quail hunts.

And when it comes to ethics, well, you certainly won't find a pompous, bible-thumping computer in a motel with a hooker.

Personally, I can't wait until a computer replaces my congressman.

He was just voted one of the "15 Most Corrupt Congressmen" on the hill by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

I suspect that a simple re-partitioning of his brain would fix this, but we can't do that to people. Only to computers.

(c) 2009 Peter Tannen