“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Indy Says: What Must Change

It’s never too soon to think about the future and with a little more than 15 months until the next national election, it’s time to consider some of the key issues.

And while many would say it’s the war in Iraq, or what might happen in Iran, or energy policy and oil prices, or national health care, the issues facing the American electorate are far broader and deeper than those.

Far more is at stake than the presidency, one-third of the 100 Senate seats and 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

At stake are the direction and moral fiber of this nation and whether a nation based on laws and integrity can continue to endure with a system so riddled with corruption, greed and indecency — in the corporate word and in all levels of government.

It is time for a New Contract with Americans. Notice I didn’t say “Contract with America.” The new contract is with the people of this country, not the country itself, a distinction that was lost on voters so many years ago.

Here are some, perhaps a beginning list, of provisions for the “New Contract with Americans:”

· Congress would eliminate the perquisites and insider benefits of office, including reduced-rate haircuts, charging users the going market rate for the use of any federal facility (the gyms come to mind) and special treatment at airports.

· Members of Congress would be required to fly commercially in coach seats and barred from the use of private aircraft as part of campaign contributions without paying for the going rate for those planes. This doesn’t bar candidates from owning and flying their own planes.

· All federal officials and employees would be subject to all the laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Freedom of Information Act and similar laws.

· The executive branch would no longer be allowed to invoke executive privilege in the face of a congressional inquiry.

· Election laws would be revised to require paper ballots for all elections, with the ability to have an audit trail for vote-counting, and no purveyor of voting equipment would be permitted to make any campaign contributions.

· Term limits would be imposed on Congress, by constitutional amendment if necessary, reducing the Senate term from six to four years and limiting senators to two terms and representatives to four two-year terms. In no case shall a member of Congress serve for more than eight years total in either the Senate or House.

· Congressional pensions would be capped at one-half the officeholder’s salary.

· No pay raise for any elected official may occur without an affirmative on-the-record, or recorded, vote.

· Election laws should be revised to cap the total amount of money any candidate may receive at $2 million, with no corporate or individual contributions permitted in excess of $1,000.

· Voters should be required to show identification and a voter registration card, with no poll taxes imposed.

· All campaign contribution reports and personal tax returns for any elected official (federal, state and local) and the president’s cabinet would become public records posted on an easily accessible Web site.

· All lobbyists at all levels of government would be required to register with the Federal Election Commission and all the personal and corporate tax returns of all lobbyists and lobbying firms would become public record.

· All private certifying or accrediting agencies, such as The Joint Commission, which inspects and accredits health care organizations, the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which certifies newspaper circulation, and all the agencies that oversee universities and other educational institutions, should be subject to audits and oversight by the General Accountability Office.

· Political appointees to federal agencies should be limited to cabinet secretaries and three deputy positions. The remaining positions would become subject to civil service rules, with the exception that whistleblower legislation should be strengthened to protect employees and take the advantage away from upper management.

· Legislation must be passed to reduce if not eliminate outsourcing. Such legislation would include provisions that require any firm that outsources such services as technical support to pay the difference between the prevailing wage for an American worker and the outsourced worker into a fund to pay for unemployment benefits for American workers who have lost jobs to outsourcing.

· Congress must repeal NAFTA and CAFTA.

· The federal government must enforce the borders. This goes far beyond a “fence” and must apply to all nationalities.

· Pardons and commutation of sentences would be barred for any conviction of perjury or obstruction of justice at any level.

However, these provisions of a New Contract with Americans are actually the second step.

The first step, which must occur on Election Day 2008: No incumbent senator or representative should be returned to office. I know in some cases it’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but this is the first step for us to take back our government.

Americans deserve no less.