Ed. note: I wrote this last summer on my personal blog. I think it's worth reposting here.
A friend called me
a few months ago about a year ago, wanting to talk about the federal budget. He's a conservative Republican, I'm a blue-dog Democrat, and he thought he'd bounce a few ideas off of me.
At the end of a couple hours discussing numbers, and attitudes, and politicians (with a brief digression or two) we came to the conclusion that politically we had more in common than we had previously believed.
Once we stopped sniping at each other's party's fringe elements, we were able to talk without rancor, picking apart the details of what America spends its money on, and what it owes, and social and financial obligations.
It surprised me that he believes in the need for a (federal) social net, and I think I returned the favor when I told him we should rein in spending. Drastically. Oddly- or at least to both of us- we met in the middle easily. Easily.
But in the end, the way to fix our problems was just as unclear as when we began. Mostly, it seems like politics gets in the way. How can we run the middle course when we're posturing and trying to get reelected and hanging out with special interest groups?
I've come to the realization, as I've talked to people and thought about that conversation over the past year, that most people feel the same as my conservative friend and I do. Why, then, are we electing politicians who are hanging out on the edges?
And who is running for office, if once they get there it's all about being reelected?
Not public servants, that's for damn sure.
And so, without a modicum of regret, I've tossed out some previous beliefs about federal term limits.
I think we need them.
It's time to return to the days of public service. We should remember that you get what you pay for- there's no reason to pay our legislators pennies on the dollar of what they can make in the private sector- but there's no reason to guarantee a pension after brief service.
It's time to rein in the lobbyists. I'm not sure how to do that, but if we put our heads together, we can come up with a way to allow individuals, groups and corporations to advocate their position without the coarse wooing that goes on in our capitol.
It's time to get sensible about our budget. I think most of us would fairly ungrudgingly pay reasonable bills, including our social and defense obligations, if we can guarantee that we are all paying our fair rate. This corporate crap has to stop, and we all know it. We need to stop being afraid of our big businesses and remember that they're simply made up of Americans, just like you and me.
It's time to stop mucking about in people's personal lives. It wastes time and, frankly, most people don't give a rat's ass what their neighbor does in the privacy of his or her bedroom as long as the grass gets mowed in the front yard. It's
2011 2012. And probably your neighbor is gay. Let it go. Let's concentrate on the important stuff.
While we're at it, let's stop fighting over education. It's important. Children are our future and all that. So are our teenagers. Let's suck it up and loan those kids who need help going to college the money and stop bitching about it.
It's time to take a brutal look at entitlements. Social security? Let's figure out a way to keep it without making it a pension system. Medicare? Old people need medicine, and none of us are going to let our grandmas die because of an extra cut from our paycheck, so let's streamline it as much as possible and stop pretending we're ever going to get rid of it.
Science research? It's the fine strands that makes the material of our country wearable. Stop making funding about politics and go back to making it about improving our knowledge. That's where true progress and wealth comes from.
Transparency? We need it. Put cameras in every damn room in the senate and house offices. Stop with the side-stepping and the fake numbers and the pretense. Put everything- and I mean everything- online. In real time, or as close as possible. It might not be pretty to watch sausage being made, but I am damn tired of not knowing what someone is trying to force-feed me.
For goodness' sake, let's make voting easy. And mandatory. Either make election day(s) holidays or move our voting to the weekend. If we all had to vote, the bell curve would resurface lickety-split.
And, hopefully, so would sanity in Washington.
One never knows......
Postscript: Turns out there is already an organization (sic) called The Sanity Party. Who knew?
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