Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Representation in Government

It is easy to get disillusioned about the efficiency of the United States Government.  Government was conceived to do what we, as citizens, could not do for ourselves.  It provides for national defense and a system of law.  The Federal government is different from state governments.  This was driven home during the American Civil War which lasted for 4 years and killed 1,030,000 people (kind of puts the Syria situation into perspective).

In the past 100 years as we have evolved as a society, we take care of our citizens as best we can by providing universal health care, education, food stamps, welfare, disability insurance, social security, and Medicare.  We also stand for Democracy around the globe and have been involved in conflicts in Europe, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan among others.

The government has the ability to tax to fund its activities.  This started with tariffs and excise taxes and grew to include income taxes.

200 years ago communicating with the seat of government was not easy.  Representatives were set up for each of the states and an electoral college was set up to elect the President.  Quickly a two party system evolved and voters could align with whichever party more closely represented their views.  Kind of like the current congressional resolution, you can’t pick or choose which features of the brand you want to align with.  You have to take the whole thing.

Technology has come a long way in the past 200 years.  Some facets of the government have evolved and most people choose to file their taxes online.  The paper option is still available, but that is still processed very quickly.  Social benefits programs are delivered online directly to a bank account or paper checks can still be chosen.  I think it is time to evolve the House of Representatives in a similar manner.  Voters should be able to go online once a quarter and weigh in on issues of the day.  Online forums in addition to media, town halls, etc. could be used to build consensus and then the question could be called.  The ease of this public policy is that there would be no riders and jockeying.  Internet gambling could not be attached to an unrelated bill.  Social programs could be directed towards children rather than everybody.

Several state initiatives are already decided in this manner.  A proposal is placed on the ballot based on minimum initial support and all voters weigh in on the issue.  This is preferred to having State representatives and State senators decide the issue based on a vote along party lines.

The downside to this approach is that the current system is very lucrative.  Campaign finance and the lifelong compensation of Congressman via salary, pension, future lobbying jobs, and speaking engagements is something that is hard to walk away from.

In case of emergency situations a Senate and President would still be in place, but they would be kept in check by this new quarterly system.  Voters would know what is coming down the pike and plan accordingly, avoiding eleventh hour uncertainty and its associated economic consequences.  What I am proposing maintains checks and balances, but removes 435 middlemen, their staff, and the financiers.

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