Publius Speaks

Publius Speaks
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Sorry, but I’m sick and tired of the lies and false alternatives and misleading agendas of the politicians in Washington (and elsewhere for that matter).  For instance, I hear cut, cut, cut spending; that government is too big; that it needs to be made smaller.

Bamboozled!!  Government can be dysfunctional and non-effective whether it is big or small!  The politicians, as so often, are on the wrong track!  And, they continue to bamboozle all of us with their fabricated rhetoric. 

The debacle just concluded - passing a bill that raises the debt limit of the United States government - is a prime example of what’s wrong with government: the process of making decisions is unwieldy, problem-solving is non-existent, and compromise is a joke!

Republicans believe that changing the discussion from stimulus spending to cutting spending is a great victory.  It isn’t.  There is no victory here, because the public policy favored by radical right-wingers is detrimental to real lives of real people.  Cutting spending without considering its effects upon people’s lives is draconian.  Cutting spending without a rational basis is akin to anarchy.  Cutting spending without knowing what or why is illogical.  Cutting spending without defining problems to be solved is idiotic.

On the other hand, Democrats are equally to blame for not defining problems, solutions, alternatives, goals and objectives, and limits for any and all increases in spending.  Too many “projects” are just simply that: self-aggrandizing programs and projects meant to feather someone’s nest or to enhance someone’s chances to get re-elected. 

Politicians are politicians - no matter to which party they adhere - and public service is fast becoming an anachronism.

The point is: reform of government is the answer, not irrational spending cuts with no basis behind them except political gain and political ideology.  Reform and re-structuring are not options; they are necessities to keep institutions responsive, innovative and democratic.  Here, in no particular order, are some ideas related to reforming the political system:

1)    We must amend the Constitution in order to change the system fundamentally; there is no other choice.
    In an earlier blog, dated June 20, 2010, I proposed amendments establishing term limits, public funding of elections, broadening citizen participation in auditing and evaluating government programs, contracts, etc.  Also proposed: a new method for constitutional amendment; an end to the Senate’s cloture super-majority requirement; closing of the revolving door from public service to private sector; prevention of gifts and contributions to members of Congress; limits on budget earmarks; no exemptions for congress from any legislation they pass; non-partisan commissions to draw congressional district lines.
    With all the Republican emphasis lately on a balanced budget amendment, it must be said that such an amendment imposes a restriction on Executive branch governance that is not balanced or checked.  Therefore, it is my contention that a balanced budget amendment must be coupled with an amendment allowing a line item veto for the President.  One without the other is contrary to the checks and balances principle of the constitution.

2)    There must be a re-examination of the purpose of all three branches of  government, and a definition of mission for all departments, units, committees, etc.

    What is the purpose of all those Congressional committees, commissions, sub-committees, joint committees, special committees.  Do they each have a clear mission? what outcomes do they expect?  Are their operations in line with their purposes?  Why do we have so many?  Are they no more than posturing opportunities, and occasions for being addressed as “Mister or Madam Chairman?” 

3)    Problem-solving techniques must be taught in depth to all members of Congress and to Executive branch members, along with group process training, so that meetings, hearings, and sessions can be places to define and resolve problems, not places to posture and bluster and politicize.  

4)    We must return to Zero-based budgeting, and define what exact problem or problems are being addressed by each appropriation.  Never mind the inane exercise pushed by Republicans that every piece of legislation must identify a constitutional basis.

5)    We must demand Sunset provisions on all tax increases and tax loopholes, old & new programs, contracts, commissions, special committees, etc.  There are very few programs or taxes or committees or contracts that have the same value or relevance after 3-5 years down the road.   

6)    We must have a process by which all contracts are executed based on problem-solving criteria.  No contract should be let without a yearly evaluation built in by which a determination is made as to whether that contractor is meeting goals/objectives and outcomes that were defined to solve problems.

7)    We must challenge the existence of political leadership positions in the Congress.  Instead, all leadership should be focused in the Speaker’s office and the office of the Senate’s President pro temp or another non-political office.  The Constitution does not allow for any other leadership positions based on party, although it does allow for other Officers.

Yes, this only scratches the surface.  Yes, reforming government is a huge undertaking. Yes, it seems almost impossible.  However, our immediate problem is not the future end-game, but the beginning steps in the present.  Where do we start?  For me the obvious place to start is amendment of the Constitution.  What do you think?