Thursday, May 14, 2020

Stay-at-Home makes it EZ to rant!


In the United States, our current politics stink. There is much rotten in Washington. The politicians there have forgotten who sent them there and what we sent them there for.

Photo credit - Rats! by ricardo on Flickr. Used per Creative Commons License.
They are supposed to be our representatives. They work for us and are to serve our ‘common welfare’ yet they call themselves our ‘leaders’ and expect us to kowtow to them while they ensure their nests are feathered with pay, benefits, travel, a fat retirement, and health care while we the people slave for them. Many of them have never worked in the private sector or even served in the military. The United States has become a feudal society supporting a few oligarchs. Some of the oligarchs are powerful businessmen or women. More are in our Congress. Many of them have become wealthy while serving in Congress while complaining that they can't live on their Federal pay and benefits.

We badly need to fix our system.

1. Term limits for Congress. I recommend six years for Representatives and eight for Senators. No exceptions. Members of Congress need to know they will have to live with the laws they create.
2. Establish fair, transparent, enforceable standards for obtaining ballot access. You want to start a party and back a candidate? Sure. Here are the rules for getting your candidate certified and listed on the ballot. The same rules apply to all. This may be the weakest link in my reform proposal – It will be especially essential that money must be prevented from ruling supreme here – I’m not sure how to accomplish that. Party primaries will have to be considered and solutions found.
3. Limit public campaigning for any federal position to 120 days prior to the election date (180 days within states where a primary is required). Incumbents are NOT allowed to hold rallies or partisan events of any kind prior. No campaign funds may be expended prior to 240 days before the election date (this allows for travel, communications for planning, and to meet requirements to get a candidate on the ballot). Money spent in the party selection process during the period between 240 and 180 days before election day must be accounted for and meet federal rules for campaign funds and donations. All other political donations are made to the Federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates. There will be NO private-source money spent to support any candidate or any party after the campaign process begins in any way for any purpose, including in-kind contributions with the exception of labor donated by campaign volunteers. Money remaining after a candidate is certified and the campaign process begins must be returned pro-rata to the donors or donated to the Federal fund for elections.
4. Repeal Citizens United – it will be mostly moot anyway, if items 2 and 3, above, are enacted.
5. Eliminate lifetime stipends and benefits for representatives. Provide a 2 – 4-year post-service period where pay and benefits continue at a reduced rate to aid in transition back to civilian life, but end payments and benefits completely after that period. All elected officials participate fully in the Social Security (and any socialized medicine program) exactly the same as civilians.
6. Once campaigning starts, fund all campaigns for all certified candidates for all federal offices with public funds. All certified candidates get the same amount (which amount may vary based on position—House vs Senate vs Executive). No other money may be spent from any source at any time for any reason. Political donations are made to the federal fund to be spent equally by the candidates.
7. Re-enact some form of the “Fairness Doctrine.” This is an area that needs thoughtful action. Media can be too unbalanced with no checks in place.
8. Enact legislation limiting each action of either house of Congress to ONE ITEM per bill and per vote. Disaster Relief Bill? Take out those non-related items tacked on or added as riders. One bill, one topic. No funding of the arts in a transportation bill, etc. Limit the page count for bills. No 800-page bill will ever by thoughtfully considered by our representatives anyway.
9. Enact legislation to make it a felony for any representative to vote on any legislation that they have not personally read. In its entirety. No more of this, “We have to pass it to learn what’s in it.”
10. Voting fairness. One person, one vote. Make registration and voting easy, safe, and secure for every person 18 and over. Require some form of personal identification but ensure that all who are eligible to vote can quickly and easily obtain such. If they can do it in Afhanistan and in Ghana, we can do it in the U.S.
11. Reform the electoral college – eliminate the possibility of “faithless” electors.
12. Mandatory retirement from the Supreme Court bench after 20 years of service.
13. Enact sunset legislation for all federal rules and regulations (note: Not laws – just the rules and regulations that are implemented and enforced by non-elective agencies – laws remain in effect until revoked or replaced). Perhaps 12 years would be a reasonable sunset limitation? Rules and regulations die at their sunset date unless renewed – there must be a reasonable public comment period prior to the renewal effective date.
14. Make the Post Office profitable. Home delivery reduced to three days a week – geographic routes get Monday, Wednesday, Friday OR Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday pickup and delivery. Allow PO personnel strength to diminish to right-sized counts as people retire or die. Raise rates as necessary – make the service competitive and worth any increased cost.
15. Improve medical care in the U.S. by fixing Obamacare, one step at a time. Consider allowing states to implement their own rules so long as they provide at least the minimum benefit as the federal plan. Remove federal restrictions, but not standards, so health insurance can work across state lines.
16. Remove the ‘cap’ on Social Security contributions. Keep long-term capital gains taxes low, but include all income, to include ‘non-earned’ income in the Social Security program taxation (dividends, rents, stock profits, etc.) Every dollar of net income or salary is subject to the SS tax. Remove gender-based discrimination from SS. If a man dies, his widow can choose the greater of his (before death) or her benefits. If a woman dies, her widower has no such option.
17. Make the heads of all Federal agencies subject to Civil Service rules.
18. Public Service unions, by definition, are a huge conflict of interest. Find some transparent way to ensure fairness and representation for Federal employees without the COI of a union. Ensure that employment rules do not unwisely protect marginal or worse employees but do provide fairness for all.
19. Repel or fix the Patriot Act and FISA. Ensure the Bill of Rights is respected and enabled.
20.  Outlaw (or severely restrict) paid lobbying.

"If a law is unjust, a man [or a woman] is not only right to disobey it, he [or she] is obligated to do so." Thomas Jefferson: Papers of Thomas Jefferson as presented by the Jefferson Monticello project at monitcello.org.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The Declaration of Independence, 1776. From the works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 2, as presented by the Online Library of Liberty at oll.liberty.org


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