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As a lifelong student of public relationships, it is increasingly clear, perception-wise, that the U.S. Federal government is incompetent. The apparent looming failure of the bi-partisan Super Committee to reach agreement is just the latest example. The question: is it the institution itself that has become irrelevant and incapable of adapting to the needs of our times, or is it the people “occupying”, to use a current phrase in a different context, government offices who are incompetent? Or is is both, to varying degrees?
Representatives are elected and sent to Washington to work out issues that pertain to the masses. Their greatest recent achievement along that line were to declare pizza a vegetable in public schools! For a long time, I’ve thought we need a new Constitutional Convention to update our scheme of governing. The Senate is dysfunctional. Campaign contributions and lobbying have gone amuck. The Electoral College subverts our democracy in electing Presidents. Endless terms in office undercut the representative philosophy of governing. The military and their corporate surrogates have too much power inside our government. Government has repeatedly demonstrated their inability to understand and control the economy. On and on.
Of course, the problem with having a Constitutional Convention is who will participate? Will it be the same goons who populate Federal government now? Probably, for the most part. Then, what do we do? Have another revolution or civil war? I hope not. I think direct public demonstrations, like the “Occupy” and “Tea Party” movements, are one way to send messages to our current leaders. The ballot box is another. If your legislator is not actively negotiating on your behalf with their counterparts, and representing your views, vote them out and someone better prepared in. And, demand honest, balanced and probing truth from the news media, which so often let us down in that regard.
The bottom line: we must struggle through this, enact reforms large and small, keep trying to elect better people, get as much of the money and clout out of politics as possible, reform our failed institutions of government decision-making and regulation, and tweak our economy wherever needed, and get on with it, now.
Perception eventually becomes tantamount to reality. If we want perceptions of the trajectory of our society to be positive, we must take action, quickly, before perceptions of incompetence become accepted as the new reality.
With the unchecked excesses of Wall Street and the financial markets in mind, and the growing, yawning gap between the “have’s” and burgeoning “have-nots” of American society in mind, maybe it’s time to move to some Americanized version of the German Social Market Economy model (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy). Germany’s hybrid of a U.S.-type mixed economy, with its commitment to free enterprise, together with strong government regulations to protect social services and prevent private excesses, has been in place since after WWII, and pretty successful by most standards. It is NOT socialism, but a modern system that recognizes the pragmatic reality of the strength of a robust private economic sector, with the social protections that economic self-determinism alone cannot assure.
Of course, and I say that because it is self-evident to me, our government needs major reform, if not a new Constitutional Convention, if it is to assume a responsible role in a sane and democratic future. Lop-sided influences need to be removed from the electoral process, starting with federal funding of federal elections, term limits in Congress to restore “citizen government.” Further we need to reform institutions that defeat the “one person/one vote” democratic principle. Kill the obsolete Electoral College system of electing Presidents, that allows election in 11 or 13 “swing states” to determine the Presidency. Consider eliminating the Senate, which is a weak shadow of the old British House of Lords, and represents real estate rather than people, with its two-senator-per-state system that gives the citizens of some states 60 times the voting power of the largest states.
It is time to reform and evolve both our market economy and our representative government, and it must be done soon and together if either, if both, are to remain viable through the 21st century.
What is increasingly clear is that the U.S. Senate cannot govern. They cannot negotiate between the two parties, and they cannot reach decisions that benefit the people, even when the people are suffering. The Senate, I’m afraid, has got to go. Why do we still need this holdover from the ancient imperial British House of Lords, especially when they can’t legislate and compromise in a manner that credits our U.S. democracy?
On Oct. 12, I wrote here about how the Senate, which represents real estate (the States) rather than people (because of the disparity of state populations), was gridlocked on the President’s jobs bill. Now the Senate yesterday entertained a portion of the bill that would support hiring or rehiring some of the teachers, firefighters and police that had been cut back by local governments because of their reduced revenues due to the economic depression. This portion of the bill would have been funded by a 1/2 percent tax increment on individuals with a million-dollar or more income. The Senate again gridlocked at 50-50.
So, thanks to the Senate, we must forego any federal relief for the agencies of government that educate and protect the people. This is an inexcusable default by this dysfunctional relic of our supposedly representative democracy. This country needs a Constitutional Convention before we get a 21st century version of the people’s French Revolution to sort things out. Or, maybe, just maybe, our two even more dysfunctional political parties could resolve to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the best interests of the American people?
That’s it! I disown both the Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. Their inability to work together in the national interest is subverting the economic reputation of our country.
In college, I was a young Republican, and believed in economic conservatism, with a measure of social liberalism. Thanks to the Vietnam War and the greed of conservatives, I became a staunch Democrat.
It’s increasingly become clear that neither party any longer represents the range of my beliefs and interests, and I’ve concluded that the only hope for this country is a multi-party system like much of Europe has, where one can find at least a smaller set of issues to rally support around, and then form some sort of coalition to elect a government.
We badly need a Constitutional Convention to revisit the principles upon which this nation stands. We need to get rid of the archaic and dangerous Electoral College system of undemocratically electing our Presidents. We need something like a Balanced Budget Amendment to control debt and balance revenue with spending. We need some process to protect us from the military imperialism that now characterizes our nation. Our elitist economic structure is sliding down a path towards the modern-day equivalent of the French Revolution, unless Congress, the White House and the judiciary recognize and prioritize the social values that the American people, as a democracy, hold dear. We need to protect the State from all churches, if we hope to preserve freedom of religion and freedom from religion. We need to build a new commitment to education and an enlightened and compassionate dedication to protection of the poor into our culture and economy. We need Congressional term limits, to get fresh thinking and avoid entrenched politicians. We need to control campaign contributions so our representatives are not bought and sold. We need a military draft so that our population and government stay aligned on military adventurism. And we should start an alternative domestic service draft, sort of like the WPA of the Roosevelt era, to rebuild our infrastructure and build a sense of public service among our youth.
And if I never hear the tainted words Republican or Democrat again, that’s just fine with me. I will continue to vote, but with great hesitation to support any incumbent, of either current party, in future Federal elections, unless they demonstrate a commitment to higher principles than those who are currently sold-out to dogmatic, selfish interests.
I haven’t lost faith in the American people, just in the obsolete, insular and out-of-touch political parties that pose as representative of fundamentally good people.