In this fading summer of our national discontent we’ve survived deeply unsatisfactory deficit reduction negotiations, an unprecedented earthquake, and one of the ten most deadly hurricanes in our nation’s history. Nobody can figure out which is worse.
Obsessed with scoring partisan points, our politicians on both sides hurriedly seem to discover just before electoral season that the primal issues facing the land always were and always are about jobs and justice. Jobs for the unemployed and under employed, those living at the margins, those not making it, and those who have given up. More than twenty percent of our entire population or sixty million if we leave the accounting tricks behind and get straight with ourselves. Justice meted out to those who stole from the public trough, treasury, and national trust and then got more of the same through back door bonuses paid to c-suite “manipulators of the universe” leading financial boiler rooms, war profiteering scams, or sweetheart revolving door consulting gigs using the rest of us who never get bailed out as testing ground for their own inevitable career advancement. Oligarchies looming in the national mist as income inequality has soared to the level of authoritarian command and control economies, those countries that treat their people like dirt.
The recent east coast earthquake shows that we’re living on borrowed stability as well as borrowed time. Convention wisdom holds there is no political appetite for any converging bipartisan platform but polls keep showing that over 40% of the 2012 electorate most likely will be up for grabs until the last bell. One side’s argument that the other side is pure evil either as a choice or as a compared alternative will not pass muster, meet expectations, or win the voting day. Content is king in this political season of hardcore discontent and that means effectively channeling a reactive, angry, disillusioned, and economically desperate electorate by throwing a successfully caught hail Mary pass to the most credible source of populist patriotism we sense instinctively in the end zone of our voting guts.
Right now, the nation wants our President to lead, to stand up and fight for the middle class tired, the forgotten poor, and the huddled masses yearning for employment and psychological respite between lay-offs, bankruptcies, and foreclosures. Right now, the nation wants Congress to take a contract on itself and serve the American people as leaders instead of courtiers for special monied interests.
Instead of debating how to achieve nationwide healthcare as a right exercised through personal freedom, the country wants to heal itself, starting with the political physicians in charge, first by fixing Congress which is now at the lowest ebb of citizen consumer confidence in collective history (13% approval rating). It’s time for a bipartisan “Congressional Reform Act of 2012” beginning with a pledge that can be signed in 2011 by every sitting member, and all candidates campaigning against incumbents. The shorthand goes like this:
- Congress must abide equally by all laws that Congress imposes on the American people. No more double standard, now it’s time to either walk the talk or stop talking.
- No tenure and no pension. A Congressperson collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when out of office. Congress represents a privileged opportunity to serve but is not a career for the privileged.
- Congress (all past, present & future members) will participate in the nation’s Social Security system. All current funds in the Congressional retirement fund will move to the U.S. Social Security system immediately.
- Congresspersons will purchase their own retirement plans, just as all American citizens do.
- Congress will no longer vote itself a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3% when similar pay scales rise for the rest of working class Americans.
- Congress loses its current, privileged health care system and participates in the same, common denominator health care system as do the American people.
The X factor, the missing clue filling the empty policy solutions set as to why the country can’t reboot is that too many of our models and leaders have failed us and we’ve lost our willingness to believe again. Blow-up after burn-out, the American dream has come to resemble no dream at all but rather the Joycean description of recent history as a nightmare from which we’re trying to awake. We need credible, confidence-building steps to regain our sense of hope and we need to renew our conviction that the same rules apply to all, that there is no parallel universe or double standard for those who obscenely have too much in comparison with those who clearly don’t have enough.
Once Congress reforms itself, future solutions to getting our national mojo back include closing down the last decade’s wars, allowing underwater homeowners to refinance at current market interest and property value rates thereby bringing national labor mobility back into the equation, stripping the U.S. tax code of all insider loopholes starting with corporate tax loopholes so that it fits on a single side of one sheet of paper with terms any high school graduate can understand, and achieving national energy self-sufficiency through customized regional solutions so that nobody wearing our uniform ever has to go in harm’s way again for a barrel of imported oil.
Either the American Dream is an equal opportunity mechanism for all or a bait and switch shell trick designed to trick citizens into voting against their natural self-interests. In this “show me” environment, our only plausible path is to bring both big and small bore, market-oriented solutions to the national table, assisted when necessary by transparent and cost-effective government through the philosophical prism of metrics-driven competence, truly shared sacrifice, self-effacing leadership by example, generosity of spirit starting with an over-pouring of disaster relief for those who need it, and self-reliance as an American inspiration not an imposition. We the people will bring our best game to the floor but first let’s rebuild the peoples’ arena.