1.) I believe the time to update our government to reflect the new landscape of challenges and opportunities has arrived. Reform is not always my first goal, but I call myself a reform candidate in this campaign. Leadership is sometimes most about getting the laundry done.
2.) Technologies that can improve government and citizen interaction, transparency, and accountability are now available. We should hustle up and use them.
3.) Is our nation about Self-Governance? If so, we need more citizen leaders. We’ll also need to make everyone more personally responsible citizens participating, formally or informally, in the direction of governance in their communities.
The reform suggestions below are biased toward amending how the people that serve us behave. It’s that behavior that has the bulk of our citizenry so disillusioned that its tuned out of the process.
Elections, term limits, and salary and benefit revisions could all be considered for our federal workforce.
Term Limits – 3,2,1 for House Reps, Senators, Presidents respectively. I would be open to your creative measures that might better allow for continuity of the few good examples of legislative body leadership, but I imagine most alumni of Congress are willing to keep in touch with the acting legislators through more informal mentoring when the need arises. As in sports or Silicon Valley, ‘institutional knowledge’ is only for those who need traditions to tell them how to break new records. In my mind its good if fresh faces reinvigorate each congressional body’s formal leadership regularly. An old timer can also publish a blog describing all the institutional knowledge. The goal for term limits is to discourage the production of career politicians, break the cycle of clout congressional incumbents seek to encourage their career longevity through gifts of federal resources to their regions, and to encourage more examples of citizen leadership. More turnover will help that.
Campaign Finance Reform – After $1,000,000 is raised in presidential or congressional races, one half of all further contributions to a campaign will be sent to a public campaign finance trust that can be used to fund future candidates. Those candidates who wish to use that public financing can access it after they first independently raise $200,000. The idea is to make any candidate capable of meeting the lower threshold better able to compete with those who have raised over 1 million dollars. An additional $200,000 from the public pool will be available to these candidates after reports of their own spending and fundraising are filed with the FEC for two consecutive reporting periods. I also suggest consideration of other plans dramatically different, but similar in intent.
Super PACs should become absolutely transparent regarding their fundraising from the earliest stages and I suggest they report exactly as candidate campaigns disclose. I don’t think dollar bills are proxies for free speech that’s why I’m making such a melodramatic offering to run my campaign with “Show Me No Money”.
Earned media is increasingly better utilized. Online conversations also make the discussions more participatory than ever. Advertising can play a less dominant role in the future. Therefore I think thriftier campaigns will become the norm. My campaign is extreme with this creative thrift to show those candidates running later that it can be done.
Elections – Encouraging early civic responsibility and engagement is of great priority. Not only have I mentioned ways to get young people through their basic education needs faster so that they can get on with finding independent ways to involve themselves as citizens and earners, I would also allow any minor the option to pass a civics exam to earn the right to vote prior to the age of 18. Society is moving toward measurement systems that will make arbitrary age requirements for civic participation less necessary.
Phasing out the Electoral College system seems smart; I think the person winning the popular vote should serve. Others have stated that rural states should have this handicapped system to preserve their influence (if popular voting ruled, more presidential campaigns would focus on cities), but I think rural states already have their interests protected by the legislative bodies. I expect presidential candidate campaigning is likely to become more social network-based, this will transcend geography. Although it has only happened a few times in history, it just feels demoralizing when the popular vote does not determine the outcome of the presidential race.
Public Servant Unions – I suggest we end federal employee unions. The taxpayer is the true employer and has no way to negotiate with these unions; as a result, collective bargaining in government work is usually a one-sided negotiation. The primary reason to have unions in the past was to protect workers from dangerous working conditions or lengthy required work hours. If government employee unions become more independently productive organizations serving society beyond their interest in higher pay and benefits I will likely feel a change of heart to treat them like any other party to a contract. For now, most government employee unions don’t face safety or work hour concerns. And the only use of collective action we see is their request for more generous pay and benefits while little resistance from their employers, the taxpayers, is possible. They, like all unions of workers, should switch their perspective to become collectively interested in the long term legacy their group can provide for society. The simple mission to bring more salary and benefits to the individuals in the group doesn’t create a legacy admirable to anyone outside the group.
For pay and benefits, federal managers could structure pay that aims toward performance-based goals or, along with other benefits, directly pegs the pace of comparable jobs in private markets.
Public Servant Benefits/Pensions – I suggest all federal benefit programs, including those for Congress, the President, and members of the Supreme Court, strive to match fashions that occur in the private market of middle class careers. Independent organizations already measuring employee benefits could supply this data easily. For example, concerning retirement benefits, our aim might match the median ratio of employer/employee funding in the wider market.
Pay for Performance Provisions for legislators – As Congress is the most lackluster performing body I know, I suggest almost direct alignment of their salaries with future performance. First, I suggest we cut salaries of Congress by 75%, but allow them to earn their wages back through three performance bonuses. 1.) Reaching effective compromise on a quarter of the bills earns back the first 25% 2.) Trimming federal expenditures by 2% over the previously budgeted year will earn them each the final 50% of original salary 3.) A year without the silly filibuster gets each access to the box seats of the cultural event of their choice so that they don’t have to lean on lobbyists for such a perk. I think we could raise money outside the federal budget to pay for that last perk.
Obama is in the process of finding ways to trim the rulebook. I’ll be thinking of ways to trim defeating legislation further. The Economist featured a good discussion recently.
‘Furthermore, the politics of removing regulations is harrowing. Each removal must go through the same cumbersome process it took to put the regulation in place: comment periods, internal reviews and constant behind-the-scenes lobbying. Ironically, regulated industries may actually not want regulations removed. They have sunk costs into compliance, and do not want those costs taken away to the benefit of upstart competitors.
Many proposals are floated to deal with this last problem. One, supported by the Republican candidate Mitt Romney, is to remove one regulation for each new one that is proposed. A second idea is to create a truly independent scorer for regulatory costs and benefits, modelled on the widely respected Congressional Budget Office. A third is to create a board of outside grandees to help break political deadlocks, like the Base Realignment and Closure commission, which was able to prod Congress to shut down military bases. And yet another is creating a full-time advocate for regulatory rollback: one state, Kansas, has created an “Office of the Repealer”, which aggregates complaints and suggests repeals to the governor and legislature. Lastly, automatic “sunsets” of laws have their fans, though Congress could mindlessly reauthorise laws gathered up in omnibus bills…’