The fix is in

Washington is broken; here's how to repair it

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The American system of government was never meant to be efficient. You want efficiency, you get a dictator.

But neither was it meant to fail, and by every measure it is failing. Epically.

Washington borrows some 40 cents for every dollar it spends; that’s a $16 trillion bill (and counting) that we’re leaving to our children, even as the current economy has little to show for it. But even as they watch Europe flirt with financial collapse from its own overspending, members of Congress can’t put the brakes on this runaway train. They can’t agree on what day it is.

As a result, they lurch from self-created crisis to self-created crisis, kicking the nation’s can down the road while spooking the financial markets and paralyzing business owners unsure of what government will be demanding of them.

And though most pedestrians interviewed recently by comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show couldn’t even identify their congressperson – while being able to name characters in a TV reality show – they know Washington is broken: Polls give Congress an approval rating hovering around 10 percent, the worst ever. As Time magazine noted, one recent poll found Congress to be less popular than “root canals, NFL replacement referees, head lice, Canadian rock band Nickelback, colonoscopies, carnies (that is, carnival employees), traffic jams, Donald Trump, France, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen, Washington political pundits and brussels sprouts.”

In that climate, and in an enthusiastic spirit of unwarranted optimism, we offer you today our five-point plan to fix Washington.

We’ll spoil the climax by telling you up-front: This surprised us, and we didn’t plan it this way, but each of the five solutions to fix Washington is something that we the people must do – not our leaders. That may be happenstance; it’s just how our list turned out.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s an indication that, despite unprecedented overreaching by Washington, this is still our country. If it’s broken, it’s up to us to fix it.

But it’s also an admission that we have little faith in our current leaders to do what’s necessary to salvage our federal government. Too many are just out for themselves and the perpetuation of their interminable careers.

Whatever the reasons, the message is clear enough: Washington can’t fix Washington. Only we can.

Maybe the first step is to learn and commit to memory the name of your member of Congress. Seeing videos such as Jimmy Kimmel’s doesn’t imbue one with much confidence. Yet, we believe the majority of Americans still are smart and engaged enough to save the country from its dysfunctional central government.

But someone needs to tell the story that it is, indeed, going to have to be up to us.

Without further ado, then, the five things we must do to fix Washington:

1) Put spending limits in the Constitution.

Some of us believe spending limits are already provided for indirectly, through the enumerated powers spelled out in the Constitution proper, as well as in the 10th Amendment, which says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” But apparently we need to spell it out.

Spending restrictions, which would have to leave room for tightly-drawn emergency exceptions such as war, could be tied to gross domestic product – the value of what the
nation’s citizens produce in a year –

or other economic indicators that point to our ability to afford it. Historically, the federal government has hovered at 18 to 20 percent of GDP, but we now appear willing to accept 25 percent. Eighteen to 20 is better.

Ideally, we’d have an amendment that restricts spending to actual functions of the federal government, but the wording would be problematic. Still, strict numerical spending limits could perform that function, by forcing Congress and the president to set priorities and actually make difficult choices.

2) Term limits for Congress.

Unfortunately, this too would require a constitutional amendment, but it appears irretrievably necessary. We’ve got to return to a citizen legislature; the careerists are out of control, and are putting their interests above ours.

We have a ruling elite in Washington – crowned by the power of our purse and the resulting influence of lobbyists – that is both imperious and impervious. It takes multiple scandals and a reliable crowbar to dislodge most of these guys from our seats of power. We keep sending them back, term after term, to do battle with other permanent fixtures, all of whom have learned to dislike and distrust each other, so nothing gets done.

We do, sadly enough, have to be saved from ourselves.

3) We need a healthy states’ rights movement.

It’s out there, but has yet to coalesce. It almost did so, in the fight against Obamacare. But the various states relied on the federal courts to stand up to the other two branches of government.

The truth is, we’ve already got something to coalesce around: that 10th Amendment we mentioned earlier.

If more citizens considered that this country is still a union of sovereign states, and that their sovereignty has been run over with a Bush Hog, maybe those states would start to act like it.

A states’ rights movement could help in the cause of amending the Constitution, and vice-versa.

4) We need nothing short of a renaissance of civic-minded citizens and civic education across the country.

Too many Americans today either don’t understand our system of government, or perhaps just don’t buy into it. We must demand that our schools make it a priority to churn out students who appreciate the beauty of our republic and the individual liberties it protects and preserves when it’s forced to operate correctly.

Meanwhile, their parents need to show as much interest in the doings of government as they do the last season of Jersey Shore.

5) We need a media reformation.

Consumers must insist on national news (and entertainment) media that a) don’t promote one side of a political debate or
demonize the other side and b) inform Americans relentlessly and plainly about
the problems we face and the truth about their solutions.

One example: President Obama tried to insinuate in his inaugural address that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have political enemies who think such programs “sap our initiative.”

The truth is, Mr. Obama’s political opponents are actually trying to prod him into saving those programs, because they’re on an unsustainable financial track that could destroy the programs and bankrupt us. The media have largely allowed such demagoguery to go unchallenged.

Again, these five steps to fix Washington are up to us, not our leaders.

The question is, do we have what it takes to do it?

Comments (19) Add comment
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Gary Ross
3346
Points
Gary Ross 01/27/13 - 06:30 am
11
1
Good article, until...

I'm 59. Like most Americans in my age group, I've been paying into Social Security and Medicare most of my life, and without choice. They are a special tax for special purposes, and should never have been squandered. I'm depending on them, and now they are telling me that those programs are going broke and the retirement age has been raised from 65 to 67? Bovine excrement! This kind of mindset only comes from a government who considers its citizens as enemies.

Solution #6 The Federal government shall return to the values of being "For the people and by the people". Example: Return all monies stolen from these programs, with interest and penalties, starting with the $716 billion taken from Medicare by obama. That would be a big step in restoring faith in the government.

Riverman1
86905
Points
Riverman1 01/27/13 - 07:48 am
11
0
Eternal Bankruptification in the Words of Davey Crockett

The editorial reminds me of Davey Crockett giving his famous speech to Congress, telling all the famous long time politicians to go home and let others have a shot at running the country.

ymnbde
10016
Points
ymnbde 01/27/13 - 08:02 am
9
1
school choice

none of this is possible without removing centralized government control of schools. School choice, WHICH RICH PEOPLE ALREADY HAVE, will put the focus back on actually educating our children instead of indoctrinating them, and letting them achieve to their individual potential instead of providing power to the teacher's unions.

Truth Matters
7159
Points
Truth Matters 01/27/13 - 09:23 am
4
1
The Fix

1. I hope our local paper is willing to be held to the standard of media reformation.
2. G. Ross: I agree in part with what you said. You are right on about paying in. I would add if one pays into social security and medicare, how does that make them entitlement programs yet congress and the president keep harping on these two programs. Money has been taken for wars, etc. I believe. But I think the $$ billion taken by Mr. Obama was from waste in the Medicare program. I won't argue with saving from waste.
3. It is States rights that has alienate every demographic but one from the Republican Party. Are they now willing to stop rigging voting so voting favors their party? A blind man can see the dishonesty in some of the schemes put forth by some Republican-led state houses__Virginia this week. Tremendous credit must be given to the Republican governor who said, "not so fast."
Yes, when Dems controlled local houses I am sure they did similar with gerrymandering, but what we are seeing in VA and other states go far beyond that. I maybe too young but I don't remember a single Ga congressman being drawn out of his home district twice as was done with John Barrow.
4. I would add this fix: require Congress to work more than 126 scheduled days or make their pay commensurate to the time they put in. If I had a soft cushy job like that, I would not mind if social security and Medicare eligibility age were moved to 70 years.
Some in Congress do not have a clue about the struggles of the little guy so I am taking ACES up on the fix to contact them. That's so important.

5. Make congressmen pay the associated cost for bringing up votes on the same issue that have lost just to make a political statement. Some are still trying to get a sponsor for a bill to repeal the Affordable Health care Act instead of looking for ways to improve it.
My next fix is any congressmen who wants to eliminate making those who can afford to pay for their own health care should have to pay for ALL of their own!

Thanks for letting me share. I have a road trip today and tried to hit a lot in one post. Some a little outside the focus of this article.

americafirst
966
Points
americafirst 01/27/13 - 10:09 am
6
1
No. 6: Congress can pass no

No. 6: Congress can pass no law that does not apply to the members of Congress.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/27/13 - 10:14 am
3
11
"States's rights" JB Stoner,

"States's rights" JB Stoner, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats, and many others preached that long ago. You would think that dirty era of US history would have passed away. What sorry ideas modern conservatism is preaching.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/27/13 - 10:23 am
4
8
Since we have payroll taxes

Since we have payroll taxes specifically for Social Security and Medicare, these should be off the table when it comes to cuts. I suggest a war tax to cover all of the military spending in the US (real military spending, not just the defense budget). Then Americans really would scream about high taxes.Hopefully, then something might be done to these programs that eat up virtually all of US revenue after payroll taxes are removed.

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 01/27/13 - 10:33 am
0
0
This article is calling for outright revolution
Unpublished

this will play directly into the hands of the POTUS. The POTUS wants revolution. The complete and utter collapse of the government as we know it today. Chaos and anarchy will ensue and the only choice on the block will be socialism.

dichotomy
34405
Points
dichotomy 01/27/13 - 11:08 am
8
0
As long as race is a factor

As long as race is a factor in congressional districts there will be gerrymandered disctrict based on who is in power after a census. I don't have a good answer for the racial advantage game but it certainly does not benefit the interest of geographic communities and/or areas.

Congressional districts should be square with 90 degree corners. Inland districts should have four 90 degree corners. Districts on state boundaries should have to have at least one 90 degree corner and two straight line sides, or two 90 degree corners and three straight line sides.

I know the race card players won't agree with this but a representative who's district is stretched halfway across the state does not represent any "district" and NONE of the their constituents have a coherent community reprsentation.

harley_52
23959
Points
harley_52 01/27/13 - 11:32 am
4
1
"The question is, do we have what it takes to do it?"

And the answer is a resounding "No!"

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/27/13 - 11:51 am
5
1
State Rights

Well Techfan....
So are we to assume you are in favor of burning the US constitution Bill of Rights? Because the 10th Amendment covers State Rights.

Monday when you get up, try to think about America this way.
99.9% of America woke up by raising their head off a pillow case,
99.9% of America got out from between the bed sheets,
and 99.9% never thought about wearing either.

itsanotherday1
45380
Points
itsanotherday1 01/27/13 - 12:39 pm
5
0
Dichotomy

On the old forums I promoted a very similar idea. You pick a corner, the middle, or throw a dart at a map. You start in a symmetrical manner, picking up zip codes until you've reached the population desired for a district. Then you do the same again, and again until you have all of the districts. With shifting populations, you could do it every census, and it can be done with a computer, which is totally non-partisan.
If you get stuck in a district you don't like, MOVE!

ymnbde
10016
Points
ymnbde 01/27/13 - 01:15 pm
2
1
centralized power

Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Mao, and many others preached that long ago.
You would think that dirty era of human history would have passed away. What sorry ideas modern liberalism is preaching.
Stalin, Lenin, and Hitler would have loved a world in which we heeded techfan's wishes, and spent less on defense. Cause in techfan's world, humans are too bad to be trusted with freedom, yet those same humans are perfectly suited to govern. Sounds like a product of government school indoctrination to me...

dichotomy
34405
Points
dichotomy 01/27/13 - 02:51 pm
4
0
Techfan......."JB Stoner,

Techfan......."JB Stoner, George Wallace, Orval Faubus, Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats"

Those people did to "state's rights" what Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats are doing to "promote the general Welfare". They both have perverted the hell out of the original intent.

Jane18
12332
Points
Jane18 01/27/13 - 04:35 pm
3
2
dichotomy to techfan @1:51pm

Way to tell it! Now, let's see if it sinks in! (I bet 'not').

DanK
784
Points
DanK 01/27/13 - 07:42 pm
0
2
Finding the path

Riverman, (1) learn to spell the man's name, and (2) Davy Crockett was regaling against "The broken fenced state o' the nation, the broken banks, broken hearts, and broken pledges o' my brother Congressman..." He was complaining about the fact that Congress was not taking enough and decisive action to counter the ills of the country. The exact opposite of today's conservatives, who want a government that is powerless and inactive.

As to states rights, conservatives as always just pick their times to refer to states rights. With Obamacare, the states were given the opportunity and the offered the funding to establish health insurance exchange programs for their citizens. Georgia and surrounding conservative states declined, leaving their citizens to make the best of the federal program instead. These states forfeited their state's right to control the implementation of the program.

It's important to read the actual words of the Amendment, within the context of the text and other Amendments to the Constitution, which provides for a lot of federal power and a lot of interpretation. Even George Washington was a proponent of a strong federal government.

As for the media reformation, the problem is, who will be the arbiter of truth? Fact is, all information has context and that creates ambiguity. The only reasonable solution is freedom of the media to present all viewpoints, enabling the populace to determine for itself the truth. We have that today. We have conservative media in print and broadcast that are widely available to every person in this country, just as are moderate and progressive media voices.

Is ACES really advocating censored media that provide one "party line" of news and interpretation? Well, I think conservatives would like to censor the media that do not agree with them. I suppose that's what ACES is really advocating -- a clear violation of our First Amendment rights for freedom of the press.

Of course, historically, the Chronicle is simply following its pragmatic approach. Most people probably do not realize that immediately after Lee surrendered, the Chronicle flipped to become the voice of the Unionist Republicans who had won the war and would be taking over, and remained a mouthpiece for the carpetbaggers and Unionist governors for years that followed. Now the Chronicle would have us abandon the First Amendment to homogenize the media and limit the media to a conservative message.

debbiep38
428
Points
debbiep38 01/27/13 - 08:08 pm
0
0
Poor Tecchfan.
Unpublished

Poor Tecchfan.

deestafford
28670
Points
deestafford 01/27/13 - 11:29 pm
0
0
Great Editorial

The problem is the people/sheeple. We keep electing the same ones over and over about 95% of the time. It's because the federal government has intruded in everyone's lives and santa claus to the majority...expecially the uninformed voter/low information voter.
It's a shame everytime someone says "states rights" it conjures up "racial'' conotations. It is not that at all. To put it simply, the 10th Amendment says if the Constitution says the federal government can't do it, it can't do it, it's up to the states. As far as gerrymandering goes, it was in place long before the racial spectre ever raised its head. To be honest, if it were not for gerrymandering, over half the blacks in congress would not be there. If you don't believe me, look how many districts that black representatives and what their district looks like on map.

Truth Matters
7159
Points
Truth Matters 01/28/13 - 04:37 pm
0
0
Deestafford

Why do you suppose if not for gerrymandering half the blacks would not be in Congress?

Darby
26922
Points
Darby 01/28/13 - 10:12 pm
1
0
DanK - Have you tried reading....

....your own rhetoric? If so, does it really make any sense? You have your own personalized interpretation of history don't you?

Are you warm and comfy in that insulated political cocoon you've woven for yourself?

Just for a moment, let me editorialize one of your comments."Now the
Chronicle (The New York Times and Arthur O. Sulzberger) would have us abandon the First Amendment to homogenize the media and limit the media to a conservative (liberal) message."

Guess it just depends on whose ox is getting gored, or your point of view or which foot the other shoe is on, doesn't it?

This post has been re-written and re-submitted in response to your objection to the Editorial Staff. Sorry, didn't realize that anyone who dishes it out the way you do could be so sensitive. In that light, I was amused to notice that you give free spelling lessons to other posters. I don't really feel qualified to do that myself.

Darby
26922
Points
Darby 01/28/13 - 10:07 pm
1
0
"The broken fenced state o' the nation, the broken....

....banks, broken hearts, and broken pledges o' my brother Congressman..."

How contemporary! Old Davy could have written that any time during the last four years and still hit the proverbial nail right on the head.

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