Monday, November 29, 2010

Our Moral Obligation and a Total National Restoration Plan

The bean counters correctly complain about the financial deficit we are creating while attempting to end the recession. But because they are bean counters they have only one solution—maniacal cost cutting. It is driven by their DNA. Bean counters never lead to growth and expansion.

Cost cutting of wasteful spending is a valuable activity but it should not be done as an isolated task. Cost cutting alone, without wise investment of the savings; will only further shrink the already starved economy. It belongs as an element of an integrated national program where savings can be immediately put back into the productive work of our economy. The problem is that after all the time, suffering, and damage to our nations global position our two party elected government has still not developed such a plan.

The American vision contends that free people can productively govern themselves for the common good. No despots needed. This was a unique basis for a nation when the US was formed and the vision has been kept intact in America for 230 years. Sadly it is now at risk. We must not let the vision end with us. Like the Founders we must pledge our sacred honor to passing an intact America on to future generations. To fail would be a terrible legacy to leave our children.

We will never succeed with the existing approach of one by one attempts at underpowered solutions-followed by years of the parties blaming each other for failure. The citizens need to see an integrated program that reverses the self inflicted damage that was done to our interconnected financial, manufacturing, job creation,and trading systems. We have the talent to do this if we can free the process from interference by self serving special interests and the political parties. It will be an honest national restoration plan that the citizens can evaluate and support.

This is a complex undertaking because of the special interest opposition it will generate. Many of those who led us into the disasters are still in power and have benefited from our difficulties. They will fight against openness on past mistakes and the continual transparency of the plan’s execution to citizens.

It can succeed, however, if the majority of Americans feel strongly enough about the moral obligation to actively and honestly participate.

We must first gain an elected government, business sector, and population that agrees strongly with the moral obligation and the need for an integrated plan as a basis for action. Lots of details to work out but a primary characteristic is that it is citizen, not government, run.

This sounds like a job for that non-party, the Tea Party.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harmful Developments Not Covered by the Constitution

One of the inspiring thoughts that drove the framers of America was that after thousands of years of governments by despotism the United States experience would prove that free men can govern themselves. They carefully crafted the Constitution to guide America through a life expectancy of many years. It was hoped that with continual improvements made through a careful process the vision would be protected and passed forward from generation to generation.

While the Constitution was being drafted neither political parties or corporations were of major significance. They therefore were not mentioned in the Constitution.

We were, however, given vocal warnings against a future controlled by political parties from many of the Founding Fathers. Washington even included a warning in his farewell address. Jefferson also warned against corporations assuming power (see earlier post “Founding Father Warnings on Current Issues, Oct 3, 2010).

Each generation of Americans has been a critical link in preserving the vision of a government that is controlled by its free citizens. Although some may disagree, I believe that in general we have performed well in that part of the vision protected explicitly by the Constitution.

But time has taken its toll in areas not specifically covered by the Constitution. We have allowed a two party system to gain control of our electoral process. In addition we have given corporations many of the rights previously reserved for citizens. This has allowed them to use their vast financial resources to influence our political processes. Both of these events have reduced the ability of the citizens to govern themselves.

The Democrats claim roots back to early post revolutionary war, while the Republicans emerged just prior to the civil war. Since then, although competitors for specific offices, they have jointly beaten down any attempts for a third party. This has greatly limited the choices in candidates and policies available to the citizens.

The two parties now essentially limit our choice of candidates to those from either one party or the other, meaning either a far left or far right agenda. There is no moderate agenda available. Further, as predicted by many of the Founding Fathers the party members have developed stronger loyalties to their party than to the country. Thus each party spends most of its energy sabotaging the other. Finally, the two parties have legislated themselves elite rights and privileges to a level that would really have distressed the Founders. The record of the Congress has been so bad that a recent Gallop poll showed that only 17% of the voters approve of its performance.

The direct solution rests on the efforts of the citizens to take advantage of the ability given by the Constitution to replace a large portion of the Congress. There is some evidence from the mid-term elections that this is starting to happen.

The solution to excessive corporate political power is more difficult. Corporations have become irreplaceable engines in the global economic system. The legal shield that allows investors in a corporation to only risk their corporate investment as opposed to risking their total owned assets is the most powerful incentive for capitalization of companies. An overwhelming portion of the countries economic and technical strength rests with corporations.

In their formative years corporations were engines of commerce only and forbidden to participate in politics. Over the last 100 years this has evolved to the point that corporations now enjoy rights previously reserved for citizens. This has been generally affirmed by the courts. Vast sums are now spent by corporations and their organizations to influence legislatures. The critical task ahead is to formulate an industrial program which strengthens American corporations competing in the global economy while preventing them from acquiring such strength in the political process that they harm the creativity or well being of the citizens.

These are both fixable issues. They do require an aware and determined citizenry to keep the parties and the corporations from taking over ownership of our vision.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Tea Party - Forerunner of a New American Political Architecture?

A No-Party Election Structure

With public approval of Congress at 17% it is unreasonable to think the current two-party system is serving us well. It has brought us very limited choice in candidates or philosophy and created inefficient and inept legislative houses. Worst of all, it has created leaders who have loyalty to their party that exceeds that to the country. Adams, Jefferson, and Washington were all strongly against the establishment of political parties. Very few citizens think that the parties operate for the general good of the citizens.

The country should give serious consideration to moving from the two party system to an architecture that is much more open to all citizens and that provides more choice. Forgetting for the moment the political agenda of the Tea Party we can use it as useful glimpse of how a no-party system might perform.

The Tea Party is not a political party in the conventional sense. It is a loose relationship of independent local organizations consisting of citizens from all walks of life. The local citizens support individual candidates that fall closest to their choice. This gives a very distributed architecture that has shown impressive power in the mid-terms for supporting new candidates in the primaries and opening the process to more citizens. It is taking a strong toll on the centralized power of the GOP.

How would it be if the entire American political system were organized on this basis, as opposed to the existing two party system? On the surface, not all that different. The all-controlling two parties would be replaced by many more advocacy groups. These organizations, many of whom would be national, could be more flexible in policies and indivdual candidates. They would replace the existing campaign headquarters of the two parties. Each center would normally present a slate of candidates and policies to support during the campaign. The multiple advocation oraganizations would offer a much broader political spectrum than the current two party system. The balloting would be the same as now but only vote on the position and candidates, not an organizational affiliation.

In the mid-terms the Tea Party used the GOP primaries to sort out the candidates which were to run in the finals. This would not be availabele in the no-party system. A new primary system would have to be designed, perhaps using state primary centers.

The advocate groups, of course, would have to be licensed and subject to qualifying rules.

Just a starting discussion, but worth exploring. It would be much closer to what our founders had in mind.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wise Investment Versus Wasted Spending: Congress Better Learn the Difference

In the long term any successful business must eventually acquire good management of its resources-both financial and people. This requires spending in areas which return good value and cutting costs in areas that do not. A company with an especially strong product can avoid this requirement for a period but eventually the competitive forces of the marketplace take hold. Thus, there are hundreds of once imposing companies that became mediocre or bankrupt because of their management failures.

The analogy fits the US in the current global environment. We have enjoyed a powerful product made up of strong protection of individual freedom, intelligent aggressive citizens, and bountiful natural resources. This has allowed us to excel in providing advantages to our citizens and the world in spite of many missteps. The good treatment has made American citizenship a treasure valued around the world.

Unfortunately, we have allowed weak leaders and special interests to degrade our ability to serve the citizens. They have also created an investment deficit that if not corrected will override any other efforts at resurgence. To be effective we need to implement a wise investment plan of equal importance to any spending control program.

We have many reforms ahead, but one of the most important is to revitalize manufacturing. It is unconscionable that the Government and citizens allowed international trade to get so far out of hand. We are now in the position of asking other countries to agree to controlled trade balances between countries. This is an embarrassing attempt to correct a situation that our government should never have allowed to take root. With no real industrial plan and the only political talk directed at cutting spending rather than investing, the US is in a very weak negotiating position. China and Germany, through aggressive and wise industrial policies, have established large trade surpluses. They are not about to agree to give them up.

The result is that the new balances for the US can only be reached through the hard work of re-establishing a commanding industrial trade position. It requires investments for the future in research, development, education, and incentives for manufacturing in the US. The goal would be to allow our manufacturers to compete directly in the free global market. Faced with that strength by the US the other countries will be anxious to talk.

We desperately need our industrial leaders and the government to cooperatively attack this well known problem aggressively head on with a realistic and thoughtful plan.

But remember that this will require knowing the difference between wise investments and wasteful spending.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Reform of the Senate: Enough Honest New Faces to Begin?

The constitution allows each House in Congress freedom in determining the rules of its proceedings. Over the years members of the Senate have abused this freedom to give themselves outrageous powers and self serving privileges. This has created a pathetically inept and corrupt body that exists to serve the two political parties and their members rather than the country. This has become clear to most citizens.

It is difficult to find an American citizen that does not believe that each member of congress puts their own interests and that of their political party ahead of the country and the citizens. The congress is sadly in need of radical reform,

The current situation is much too attractive to the current members for them to initiate significant reform. In fact, much of the need for reform is related to our monopolistic two party system. Until the majority of existing office holders are replaced with honest and dedicated candidates that place the higher value on the country and it citizens reform is not going to happen.

The constitution allows for elections to replace one third of the Senate every two years. Anti-incumbency as a step toward “taking back the country” was a major battle cry for the recent mid-term elections and won the new senators their jobs. The mid-term results reflect how the citizens took advantage of this opportunity.

Of the 33 positions open for seats in the Senate the recent mid-terms elected 16 candidates who were new to the Senate. Thus, when the new Senate convenes almost half of those who were up for election will have been replaced. Thirteen of the new senators are Republicans and three are Democrats. A short resume of each of the new senators is provided by Salon in this reference. Seven of the new senators have served in the House of Representatives. We therefore have nine new senators with no vested background in the federal machine. Three are small businessmen who have had no elected experience until this election. Four have held only state government positions. Two have been state governors.

Depending upon the position for reform of the seven from the House this mix could be a reasonable group to lead a series of reforms. It will take many more similar elections and very careful watching over the next years to return our Senate into the organization the Founders intended. But we have begun.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Rally for Sanity a Very Pleasant Surprise

When my two daughters asked me if I would like to go to the upcoming Stewart and Colbert Rally for Sanity it was an easy answer. No way was I going to travel the 65 miles to DC to hear Jon Stewart make jokes about the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. I hate listening to all that self-congratulating laughing and applause that comes with every lame joke told to a mass liberal audience.

But early Saturday afternoon I decided to turn on C-Span so I could intelligently criticize later. To my surprise there was a very large and lively crowd. It appeared to be larger than the Beck rally. The rally was publicized as aimed at calming the anger and fear that has taken control in today’s politics. The rally was true to that goal. There was music, singing, and Stewart and Colbert comedy skits directed specifically at that objective. The selections and speakers were patriotic. No ranting and partisan accusations. It was truly apolitical and filled with patriotism.

The media coverage has focused on the theatrics and essentially ignored the underlying principles of the rally. In this post I will focus on the values they were presenting without trying to reproduce the theatrics. You can find a summary of the show aspects in this reference. A full copy of the important closing remarks by Jon Stewart are here.

The basic principle is that we are all loyal Americans who must put aside irrational anger and fear and calmly face our real problems.

We must resist manipulated by the irresponsible media. To feed a 24hour news cycle it is saturating us with warnings of an infinite number of possible bad events which are very divisive and unlikely,and will probably never occur. Some will happen but they are solvable if we focus on those that are reasonable problems.

The anger and fear is further exaggerated by expanding the causes for problems from specifically identified individuals to much larger groups. This is being done without the required accompanying analysis.

It is important to realize that we are now one big mixed country of almost 300 million. We can expect many diverse opinions and consequences on issues that affect many groups differently. We must eschew one line insults to each other and try to reach reasonable solutions while showing respect for other's views. This does not mean we cannot aggressively address the causes of our problems. We should show strong aggression to the specific individuals behind the problem but be careful about extensions to a generalized congregate that will extend and magnify the problem.

If you have the chance, watch the video that shows media clips of both liberals and conservatives violating these very simple and common sense rules. You will recognize the faces.

Of course,calm discussion isn't "in" with the media so they have given the rally a big thumbs down.