Feb 21, 2014

Ideas to repair a broken system....

February 21, 2014  Rota, Spain
I am assuming that you share my conviction that the United States has become a nation that requires some serious repairs.  I think about this a lot and finally decided to put down some concrete suggestions.  I'll present them as problems and proposed solutions. To cover this much ground in a blog, I can't be academically rigorous. These ideas are offered in a general form to those with open minds. The opinionated may not agree.
The philosophy that is the basis for the following suggestions is simply that I believe that government must exist to serve the public - all the public.
Big Money has corrupted our political process to the point that it no longer represents nor serves ordinary people:
As a first step to eliminate systemic corruption, we need to free our politicians from the need to accumulate huge campaign funds in order for them to win elections. Even the most ethical politician has little chance of election unless he/she accepts money with strings attached,  Most of our current legislators spend an inordinate amount of their working time on fundraising.  In addition to eliminating donations to politicians we need to prevent our elected officials from getting all their information from lobbyists.  Here are some ideas:
1) There shall be no campaign contributions to any individual politician.  Acceptance of direct contributions shall be a criminal act. Contributions to political parties shall remain legal but all such contributions shall be registered publicly.  Political parties will disburse funds to their candidates as best serves the electoral strategies of the party.  In no case shall a contribution from a corporation or individual exceed $5000.
2) General elections shall occur no more than two months from the primary elections.
3) Television and radio political messages shall be provided at no cost by the media companies as part of the cost of using public airwaves.  Time and support shall be provided equally to all candidates.  Clearly this will reduce considerably the quantity of political advertising, giving the candidates only enough time to define their positions on key issues and to present their qualifications.  Negative advertising shall not be allowed.  Paid advertising on behalf of candidates from persons or organizations who wish to influence the election shall not be allowed.
4) The voting process, whether traditional or electronic, shall be conducted only by public agencies with scrutiny from representatives of the political parties.  No part of the electoral process shall be contracted to private companies.
5) Presidential elections shall be conducted as a popular vote.  The Electoral College shall cease to exist.
6) Elected officials shall document all public contacts, whether in their offices or in private social events.  This record shall be available on their webpages for review by their constituents.  That would include listing their golfing partners...
7) General lobbying shall cease to exist.  Politicians will not receive private visits from persons outside their constituencies unless that person has direct business with a constituent.  In cases where politicians need to be informed by corporation/s in order to vote on an issue, such presentations shall be made in public meeting rooms.  In the event that national security is involved and such meetings can not be open to the public, then there shall be a representative of the Department of Justice present to ensure that no illicit offers are made. The Dept. of Justice shall monitor the activities of politicians and those who have private contacts with lobbyists shall be reported on their own websites and in the event of a repeat, shall be removed from office.
8) Agencies within the Administrative branch responsible for regulating in the public interest shall not employ persons who have ever worked in businesses that are being regulated by the agencies.  Those who currently exist shall be transferred.
9) I saw an article somewhere on the web that had an idea that would reduce the impact of lobbying.  It would create a new webpage for every new bill proposed in Congress.  It would work like Wikipedia where many authors could contribute, but whenever a contribution turns out to be not true, it is deleted.  In time, the comments that are supported by facts will remain.  Since much lobbying is based on lies that are not discovered by the general public, they will not be able to force their viewpoint into the comments.
Obviously, the above list of changes would have huge resistance from those who benefit from the status quo.  None of this is likely to happen given our current circumstances.  However, it serves us to create a list such as this to see that there are some possible options.  Without dialogue we are unlikely to change anything.
In the interest of brevity, I have listed simple solutions and it may not be clear why some of the items were presented.  I leave it to the considerations of the reader.  In truth, all of the numbered items above could have been better presented with several pages of discussion - but then who would want to read that?
Our National Defense has become a for-profit enterprise which has caused our government to conduct military activities that are not in the interest of the American public.
In no case should military activity be conducted by an organization that will profit from that activity. I assert that our national defense is best executed by persons who have no financial stake in military activity and who have taken an oath to defend the constitution - as sworn by all regular military personnel down to the lowliest soldier.
1) The United States shall not contract for any military services whether those services are actual mercenary services as seen in Iraq, the gathering of information to be used by the military, or any other service.  All such services shall be performed by uniformed active-duty personnel who have taken an oath to defend the constitution.  In the absence of qualified personnel, a program of training and recruitment shall be established with compensation adequate to attract talented staff.
2) Procurement of weapons systems shall be based on the defense of the United States against actual or potential military danger based on the following military mission:
3) The Department of Defense shall be just that - for the purpose of defense from external danger.  That shall not include threats to the interests of American corporations abroad.  Nor shall any part of the Department of Defense intervene in the affairs of foreign sovereign states.
4) The Department of Defense shall meticulously account for all public funds - there shall be no secret budgets for black ops.  Given the huge amounts of money involved, the Department of Justice shall establish a section to audit military budgets and to scrutinize commercial contacts of the military.
Our Financial and Banking system has evolved into a system that benefits a small elite while creating significant risks to the world economy and harming ordinary citizens.
Few of us really understand the complexities of the financial system.  I assert that this is intentional and serves to obscure malfeasance.  I propose the following:
1) There shall be no financial instruments that cannot be understood by a 12 year old.  That would eliminate derivatives, credit default swaps, and any number of other arcane instruments.
2) Banks shall return to the traditional definition of banks - guarding savings of the citizens, facilitating payment of debts, and making loans.  Investment of the customer's savings shall not be a part of the definition.
3) Debt shall not be bundled and sold.  In the event of the sale of a mortgage or other such instrument, the sale shall be done on a one-at-a-time basis with the buyer receiving documents showing exactly what property and persons are involved.
4) The agencies responsible for supervision of the financial system shall be purged of industry insiders. Such supervision shall be vigorously conducted in the interests of the general public.
5) A study by leading economists shall be launched to examine possible options to the Federal Reserve and possible ways to return to a currency backed by something of tangible value (like a kilowatt of energy).
Our system of trade relations with other nations benefits multinational corporations while harming ordinary citizens.
The corporations have used their political connections to alter our trade relations under the ideology of the benefits of Globalization.  This has proven to be a huge benefit to those corporations, emerging nations, and shipping companies.  It has proven to be a disaster for the American middle-class.
1) Return to a limited system of tariffs to remove the advantage of using cheap foreign labor and reward production and manufacturing in the United States.
2) Eliminate existing trade agreements not in the interests of the general public.
3) Make the health of the middle-class the guiding principle in trade relations.
Corporations have acquired a power and immunity from legal control that gravely harms the general public.
Corporate corruption is endemic without consequences for the corporation or it's officers.  It would appear that corporate ethics are primarily based on profits for the shareholders.
1) Congress shall enact a system of laws defining criminal corporate behavior and associated penalties. These shall be based on the best interests of the general public.
2) Corporate officers shall be held personally responsible for corporate behavior with criminal sanctions when justified.
3) Actual or attempted influence of the political process shall have legal sanctions and penalties.