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Ten Ideas for Fixing the Federal Government

Ten Ideas for Fixing the Federal Government

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Published by terrabyte
In just the past year, the country has gone through a series of divisive political debates over the economy, tax cuts, unemployment, job creation, health care, bank regulation, the budget deficit, and the debt ceiling. Maybe it’s time to make some changes to our current system of government. Here are ten ideas that might change things for the better.
In just the past year, the country has gone through a series of divisive political debates over the economy, tax cuts, unemployment, job creation, health care, bank regulation, the budget deficit, and the debt ceiling. Maybe it’s time to make some changes to our current system of government. Here are ten ideas that might change things for the better.

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Published by: terrabyte on Aug 29, 2011
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Ten Ideas for Fixing the Federal Government
In just the past year, the country has gone through a series of divisive political debatesover the economy, tax cuts, unemployment, job creation, health care, bank regulation, thebudget deficit, and the debt ceiling. The only thing the two major political parties canagree on is fighting wars, enforcing pernicious drug laws, kowtowing to corporatelobbyists, and abridging the rights of citizens under the Patriot Act. These are not thingsthe majority of Americans want.
Maybe it’s time to make some changes to our current
system of government. Here are ten ideas that might change things for the better.
1. Bring
‘Em All Home
 
You elect representatives to present your views of what the country should do. Theyprobably live nearby, maybe even in your neighborhood. You may even know thempersonally or worked on their campaign. But then they go off to Washington. They meetscores of new people. They eat at fine international restaurants and go to world classcultural events. They are waited on and fawned over by support staff and lobbyists. Howcould they not get distracted and forget why they
’re in Washington and who put them
there? Perhaps it would make sense to move political thought back to State capitals andaway from the rarified atmosphere inside the Beltway.One solution to this issue would be to have Representatives 
 to Washington fromoffices in their home States (rather than telework to their home States from Washington).Representatives already maintain offices in their home State, so this would not beunprecedented. Communications shouldn
’t be an issue. Eve
rybody from the President toCongressional pages has a Blackberry. Hearings and meetings formerly held inWashington could be conducted by video. Voting could be done electronically, as is donenow.Each State would be responsible for maintaining office spaces
 — 
working offices in theState and an
embassy
in Washington. The State would decide how many representatives,if any, to send to Washington to represent the State in person. A State could decide tosend just one representative, rotate several representatives during a term, or send severalrepresentatives at the same time for each party or constituency. The States could decideto make their offices as lavish or humble as they choose, regardless of the seniority of their Representatives. The offices in the Capitol Building formerly used byRepresentatives would be assigned to Congressional support staff or be redesigned asmeeting rooms equipped with telecommunications capabilities to allow hearings to bebroadcast nationwide.Having representatives telework would improve their connection to their constituents andreduce travel, but there would also be other benefits. National security would beenhanced as elements of the Federal government are moved out of Washington. Localinterest groups would find it easier to lobby their representatives in their State capitalsand local districts, while the 14,000 high-priced lobbyists in Washington would have to spread their presence around the country rather than bask on K Street. Companies spendover $2 billion on lobbying just in 2011. Wouldn
’t it be nice to spread that
money aroundthe country?
 
2. Improve Representation
When the United States was created, the Founding Fathers agreed that members of theHouse of Representatives should serve no more than 30,000 of the four million or so citizens of the country, resulting in 105 members of the House. The number of Representatives increased with the population until Congress limited the number to 435in 1929. By 2000, the US population had grown to about 281 million, so there was onerepresentative for 647,000 constituents. But representation varies by state. Wyoming andRhode Island have about 525,000 constituents per representative while Utah and Montanahave over 900,000 constituents per representative.One way to minimize this unequal and ineffective representation is to give
e
ach State one
vote
(rather than one Representative) in the House of Representatives for every 30,000 of population. Of course, the improved representation would come at a price. With twentytimes more representatives to provide for, States would have to be creative inadministering their governments. They could send just a few of their Representatives toWashington at a time, having the remaining Representatives telework instead. Statescould economize by combining the jobs of State and Federal Representatives. The extraworkload could be accommodated by adding non-elected support staff. Furthermore,States should pay the salaries of their Representatives and their staffs, and be free to setthe salaries, as well as link the
salaries to performance, the State’s ec
onomy, or otherrelevant factors, as in the private sector. As the cost burden shifts from the Federalgovernment to the States, Federal income taxes could be reduced, and States couldimplement taxation measures they deem to be more appropriate for funding government.
3. Create Unbiased Election Districts
It’s no sec
ret that politicians stay in power, and kick opponents out of office, byredistricting. Gerrymandering is a concept known even to high school students. But thearcane art of politicians drawing district boundaries should be relegated to history books.Really! Sophisticated GIS (geographic information system) software is readily availableas are mathematical algorithms for partitioning spatially dependent data.
Isn’t it about
time we bring elections into the 21
st
century?
4. Make Sure Candidates Are Qualified
When you apply for a job, you have to prove you’re
qualified. You might need a degree
or a certification, or have to pass a test, but you have to prove you’re qualified just to get
an interview. Appointed Federal officials, like judges and agency heads, have to passCongressional confirmation, so why shou
ldn’t candidates for elected Federal offices also
go through some screening process?As part of the requirements of filing to run for an office, candidate qualifications shouldbe screened to safeguard voters from ignorance, incompetence, instability, or immorality.For example, candidates need to know the Constitution.
Perhaps a candidate’s knowledge
of civics could be evaluated with the tests given to immigrants seeking citizenship.Psychological tests and security checks might follow those given to FBI and other lawenforcement agents. Financial audits might be similar to those required of IRSemployees. Drug testing would also be prudent, at least as long as the war on drugs
 
continues. One exception to the screening process would be lie-detector testing. It wouldprobably be too severe a test for any politician to pass.
5. Reduce the Influence of Money in Elections
The Supreme Court made a big deal of saying in the Citizens United case that moneyrepresents free speech and cannot be censored. But while the ruling protects the rights of corporations, foreign governments, and wealthy individuals who have the money tospeak, it trounces on the rights of millions of Americans to free and fair elections. So,
why don’t we make it a law that contributions to
a political campaign can only be madeby those who can vote in that election. No contributions would be allowed fromcorporations, foreign governments, PACs, unregistered voters, or residents of other voterdistricts. Another approach advocated by some is public financing of elections. 
6. End Two Party Dominance
The U.S.
Constitution doesn’t call for or even mention political parties. That’s
becausethere were no political parties 
when it was written. It wasn’t
until almost a decade laterthat the Federalist Party became active in elections. Today, there are scores of activepolitical parties in the U.S., though y
ou wouldn’t know it from the way Republicans and
Democrats dominate the political dialogue. But the current system is stacked againstthese 
.There are substantial administrative and financial requirements toeven be put on an
election ballot. Even then, most voters won’t support third
-partycandidates because the candidates are perceived as having little chance of victory, andwithout voter support, they in fact have little chance of victory. One way to address thisself fulfilling prophecy is Instant Runoff Voting.In IRV, voters rank their choices for an office rather than just selecting one candidate. Votes can be counted in a number of ways, such as averaging the rankings or eliminating the lowest ranking candidates andreranking the rest.
7. Count Every Vote Correctly
In the 2000 Presidential election, Floridataught us about butterfly ballots, hanging chads, and counting and recounting votes. Not to be outdone, Ohio
2004 Presidential election taught us how electronic vote counts can be hacked. In both cases, the contested resultswere maintained because there
wasn’t enough time
for an investigation and a full recount.In contrast, the 2008 Minneasota Senatorial election took six months to investigate andrecount before finally overturning the election of Norm Coleman in favor of Al Franken.So, perhaps the solution to this problem is the simple application of transparency overtime. Let voters cast their votes by paper ballot throughout the month of October andrequire election districts to post incremental vote tallys on a website. This wouldhighlight any statistically improbable changes in voting trends and provide time for investigationshould any improprieties come to light.
8. Drop the Electoral College
Improving citizen representation will render the biased and obsolete Electoral Collegeless biased but even more obsolete. Already, about 70% of citizens would prefer directelection of the President. Things have changed a lot in two hundred years.

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