August 25, 2013

You Want Me to Solve the Problem? Fine!

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been having a Facebook conversation with a friend of  a friend, a man who apparently thinks that most if not all Dems are commies and that the only right thinking comes, naturally, from The Right.

What started our discussion was his comment that public employee unions need to be abolished, because 'when you have elected officials accepting contributions from unions and then having to negotiate with them", there’s an obvious conflict of interest. 
Even though I'm not the biggest fan of unions, I suggested that the same obvious conflict of interest exists when you have elected officials taking money from businesses, lobbyists, trade organizations, other legislators, etc., who then go and write or vote on legislation that will directly benefit their donors, and further that this happens equally frequently and is equally bad.
Surprisingly he agreed with me, but then put the burden on me:  
Sue, you’re absolutely correct and when you can figure a way to make legislators vote to remove the money from politics we’ll all be better off.
Typical. The R’s blame the D's and their union backers for bankrupting the country,and then leave it up to us to solve the problem of money in politics too?  Sheesh – talk about shirking responsibility.
But fine, I said to myself. There IS a way to do this, if we really wanted to. And I appreciate that's one big honking 'if'. Here are a few dozen suggestions.
All levels of government:
Implement term limits. Eliminate pensions for elected officials. Allow campaign contributions only from actual living breathing people. Period. Ban contributions from outside the district.  Limit how campaign contributions can be spent. Prevent legislators from setting up Political Action Committees. On the slim chance that a politician leaves office before death, return all remaining campaign contributions to the local jurisdiction’s general fund.  
Require legislators to be present and accounted for, for all votes.  Record all votes as either Yes, No, or Chicken. Do not allow voice votes on legislation. Require legislators at all levels to abide by the laws they pass, no exceptions.  Do not allow attachment of unrelated amendments or language to any legislation.
Reduce the number of committees, sub-committees, and the leadership positions that go along with them. Remove elected officials from the redistricting process. Permanently ban former elected officials from lobbying. Honor the voters: don’t appoint the spouse of an elected official to fill out an unexpired term of their spouse. Do not appoint someone from a different party to fill out an unexpired term. 
Here in New York:
Stop paying full time salaries to part-time legislators.  Stop paying per-diems to legislators who take the job knowing that they’ll have to work in Albany even if they don’t live there. Ban fundraising while the legislature is in session (not only in Albany and in the home district, but in other cities where politicians are prone to congregate).
For the privilege of ‘franking’, political mailings must be black and white only, use a standard format, must be sent to all residents in the district only once a month while the legislature is in session, and must include the legislator’s voting record for that month. Mailings sent when the legislature is not in session must be paid for by the official, out of their own money.  
And finally:
Any mailings sent by any elected official within six weeks of an election in which the official is a candidate must include a black-box warning similar to that on cigarettes or prescription drugs stating:
WARNING: This is NOT official correspondence from an elected official. 
It is either flattering gibberish intended solely to encourage you to vote for this person again in the upcoming election, or it is derogatory nonsense intended to discourage you from voting for their opponent.
Believing what you read in this notice may cause you to make a bad decision when you vote.
Please choose carefully.

1 comment:

  1. OK, except for losing it in the last paragraph, I appreciate and agree with much of what you write here--you really need to find an existing organization that shares many of these views (there *has* to be one!). Oh, and I add one more thing--line by line audits of every government department's budget every 36 - 48 months by private auditing firms, with full disclosure of questionable findings.