I realize this is like blowing smoke without a fire, but here is my version of an eight-step plan that could dramatically improve our government process.
Term limits. For senators, two 6-year terms, twelve years in office maximum. For Congressmen in the House, three terms maximum, two years each term.
America does not need career politicians, we need people who will work in the interests of the people. This provides a window of service for politicians who, going into office, will know when they will be passing the baton to someone else. This also allows senators and congressmen time to work instead of constantly running for office. Add to this, ten-year limits for Supreme Court justices.
Outlaw campaign contributions from anyone, small or large, especially corporate and special interest groups. When a cop takes money for favors, he goes to jail. When a politician takes money for favors, he goes to Washington. By necessity, the system invites corruption. It also inhibits the work ethic as congressmen spend half their time running for the next election, attending fund raiser after fund raiser. Campaign budgets for federal officials can be financed by the taxpayer by assessing a $25 fee for every income tax filed in April. With 138 million tax filers, that would provide ample money, and give the voters a peek at how they manage a budget. Or, pro-rate the contributions according to wealth, from $10 to $100 per tax filer.
Establish standards for holding office. The constitution was written when the population was less than four million and the state of commerce, taxes, laws, immigration, and national security issues were far less complex than today. Yet, the standards are never updated. Politicians should be vetted by bi-partisan panels to ensure we are not being represented by dishonest or untrustworthy representatives. This should be particularly strict for anyone running for president. Background matters. The record of achievements or lack of achievements, matters. Dishonesty matters. The FBI has a good system for vetting their applicants, why not use the same for federal politicians.
Fire dishonest politicians. A system should be designed whereby any senator, congressman or president who knowingly lies to his/her constituency is automatically impeached and/or booted out of office. If a politician can lie about one issue, they are non-believable from that point on and cannot be tolerated in public office. Any politician who authorizes blatant dishonesty in political ads should also be fired and/or disqualified. It’s time we stop joking about lying politicians and start holding them accountable.
Keep the media out of politics. At present, we have a number of moguls and other influential people in the mainstream media who have close relatives, including spouses, employed by the White House or in government positions of high sensitivity. The president of CBS has a brother who writes speeches for the president. The president of ABC has a sister who is a national security advisor to the president. White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney is married to an ABC News contributor. There’s more. This compromises the integrity of government – or the appearance thereof – as well as media focus if and when they have special interests in government policy. That translates to skewing news and information by favoring with one side or the other.
Revamp the entire lobbying system. Politicians who accept any special favors or perks from lobbyists should be disqualified from holding office. Corporations and other special interest organizations can present their needs in an open forum and not behind closed doors. Prohibit outgoing politicians from becoming lobbyists or allowing former lobbyists to hold office.
Special prosecutors assigned to investigate corruption or other scandals, should be appointed by a non-partisan panel and not by the president or the attorney general, especially when the focus is, in fact, on the president or the attorney general.
Abolish government departments that thrive on bureaucracy and accomplish little, costing taxpayers billions. A good start would be the Department of Energy.
I realize this is a pie-in-the-sky wish list. But we should begin somewhere and demand more of our representatives, not less. We can start with the honesty factors, which Americans don’t seem to care about these days.
Alas, if only someone would listen.