Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Fix, Revisited

Back on August 20th of 2012, I wrote a blog entitled “It’s Finally Time for the Fix!”  The point of the blog was to identify what I see as the solution to nearly all of our problems, politically, in the United States.  In this blog, I laid out a list of things that, if done, would virtually eliminate every one of the most vexing problems we face by attacking the root of the issue, the politician, instead of attacking the citizens of the United States.

The changes I proposed would require no violence, no real changes to the way the electorate deals with the politicians and would not eliminate any of the few remaining freedoms that we citizens are left with. 

One of the key elements I was trying to tack into was human nature.  The Constitution is overwhelmingly a document written with human nature taken into account.  Why do you think the government is limited in its dealings with speech, religion, guns, personal property and the like?  It’s because the founders understood human nature – create a position of power and eventually you’ll find someone who will abuse it.  When I was writing my list, I decided that to best head off the most dangerous aspects of human nature, we have to remove those things that are most likely to be corrupted and to even use what we know of human nature to incentivize the politician to do the right thing.

All of this has led me to rethink my first list a bit, and here are a few changes I’d like to make to that original list.  See what you think of this:

1.    One and only one consecutive term in office for all federal elected offices including the Presidency

2.    A maximum of two Non-consecutive terms are allowed

3.    Once you have served two terms, regardless of the office you serve in, you are totally ineligible to hold federal public office of any kind

4.    The Presidency and the Senate would be four-years plus 30 days term

5.    The House would be a two-year plus 30 days term

6.    Terms of office should overlap by 30 days (this is why terms would be 4 or 2 years plus 30 days). This gives the outgoing official time to transition everything to the incoming official. Generally, power would be shared during that time, but only the incoming official has the power to vote, sign legislation, submit bills, etc. The outgoing official is in an advisement capacity only.

7.    The pay for members of Congress (House and Senate) would be limited to the base-pay salary for a 15 year E-7 (i.e. – Air Force Master Sergeant) in the military and would be taxed at the same rate.  Whatever the E-7 makes, is what the politician can make.  If the E-7’s pay goes up, the member of Congress gets the exact same pay.  No more, no less.

8.    Congressional travel would be required to be made on commercial flights in coach.  The Congressperson would be allowed to join and use frequent flyer programs and purchase their own upgrades, if they wished but all travel would be reimbursed at the coach rates.  Tax laws (written by Congress) will determine deductibility of travel and expenses and would be required to match normal corporate allowances.

9.    The pay for the President would be limited to the base-pay salary for a 20 year 0-6 (Colonel or Navy Captain) in the military and would be taxed at the same rate.  Due to the realities of the office, expenses for most day-to-day things would be reimbursable.

10. Elimination of any payment or benefit (health insurance, retirement, etc) to elected officials after their term of office ends with the possible exception of the Presidency since it is nearly impossible for a former president to work anywhere other than doing speeches.  The retired pay for a President would be equal to the retired pay of a military officer with the rank of O-6 (Colonel or Navy Captain) with 30 years.  This retirement would be reduced by the amount of any speaking fees or other income that the former president might receive.

11. Sitting elected officials would not be allowed to campaign for or publicly support ANYONE running for any office

12. Staffs are equally not allowed to serve beyond the term of their boss and will assist in the transition, but cannot be part of the next term.

Each year, tens of thousands of new laws take effect federally.  There were many news reports that on January 1st of 2012 over 40,000 new laws took effect!  This is ridiculous.  We are a nation of laws, but we are also being buried by those laws!  I can’t imagine what we need that many laws at the federal level for, considering that constitutionally, most of the power is at the state level.  Therefore, I have a suggestion:

Each term, a fund is set up and each Senator, Representative and the President get $5,000,000 each put aside for them in this fund.  Each time they pass a law, and it is signed by the President, $10,000 would be deducted from each lawmakers ‘pile’.  That means that if they want to have any of that cash left at the end of their term, they must pass less than 500 laws.  And I would stipulate that a law that contains multiple laws counts as multiple laws.  Bundling doesn’t save your stash!  This would force our lawmakers to be absolutely certain that a law is necessary and that it is worth the hit that THEY will take to their own pockets.

Finally, I would like to see things that directly affect Congress and the President to be directly controlled by the state legislatures. In other words, if Congress wants something for themselves, be it a change in the above rules or being exempt from a law they’re passing, or whatever, it must be approved by a simple majority of state legislatures.  In my vision, Congress would never be allowed to vote to change anything about how Congress operates.  It is silly to think that when we give folks the option to decide for themselves how things will work for themselves that they won’t decide to do what will most benefit themselves.

In addition, as I mentioned in my original post, I’d like to see these changes implemented around this concept:

1.    Reverting election of the Senate to the original intent in the constitution: Senators would be selected by the legislatures of the many states and would serve up to a four year term. Keep in mind that they would serve at the pleasure of their legislature and could be recalled and replaced at any time, if the state so desired.

2.    The House would serve a two year term and be elected as they are now by the people.

3.    The President would serve a four year term and be elected as happens now, via the electoral college

It seems to me that these changes could revolutionize our political system and re-invigorate our country.  The most powerful part of this is that it utterly destroys this corrupt, disgusting mess of lifetime electees and ultimately brings lots of new blood into the mix.  I doubt it can ever happen – but hey, it’s my pipe-dream, so I can have it, right?

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