Okay, we’ll need to recap the week before moving into a quick review of the Big Ideas to Fix Everything.
First, the congressional debate over a a national debt ceiling managed to tank our fragile economy while raising the question: We have a national debt ceiling? Who knew that the greatest country on earth depends on the exact same process as hitting your VISA limit on vacation and calling for more credit?
Suddenly it was like Casey Anthony was elected to the House. The Super Bowl doesn’t get this level of 24/7 news coverage, and it generates real news. Then we find that Congress didn’t get around to funding the FAA, including the safety inspectors. They put some sort of quick fix on that, no doubt when they realized it was time to fly home for vacation.
Then the stock market crashed on fears of recession and widespread speculation that the U.S. had lost it’s mind.
Then the New York Times and CBS News surveyed Americans to discover that 82 percent see Congress as the top culprit in the debt sanfu. Four in five said it was more about gaining political advantage than doing what’s right for the country, apparently confirming our fears that one in five Americans now works directly for Congress.
Of course, Congress is in that strange group of ironic cultural icons where we might collectively disapprove of the group but totally exempt OUR member from the outrage. Like parents discovering their kid was among a rampaging teen gang, we figure our congressional delegation was just visiting the party anyway, or perhaps led astray by The Others who lack adequate parental supervision or perhaps suffer from sugar addiction..
“I knew it was a mistake to let our delegation hang out with those Tea Party kids, staying up late and reading the constitution out loud in somebody’s basement,” we say.
How else to we explain why, with those disapproval ratings, we keep returning mostly incumbents to the halls of power? If Congress was a TV series it would get bumped by late-night infomercials touting kitchen miracles. By last Friday, you half-expected to channel-surf past Nancy Grace and see an Amber Alert for the Constitution.
All this is particularly galling to those of us who have actually figured out the answers. You see it in the eyes of the flat-taxers and health care reformers and, well, me. I’m totally different from the crazies out there because my solution is multiple choice.
Pick any one of these and we’re back on track.
We could just make any of these changes, our national nightmares will end.
1. Jury-pool Congress. Face it, this elected government thing has pretty much run its course. The founding fathers clearly had their doubts, eliminating direct democracy in favor of electing representatives to make the tough calls. How’s that workin’ out for ya?
I say if jury selection is good enough to decide if somebody goes to jail or even if they live or die, it’s certainly good enough to decide COLA formulas for supplemental program administration. This would work just like current juries – pull the names from anyone who still maintains a driver’s license and if they can’t come up with a doctor’s excuse, off they go for a full term.
2. Buy Congress back. Hey, if the process is really “for sale,” let’s get a bid in. Kick salaries to a million bucks a year, provide upscale housing and pay the people running the country exactly like we’d pay people who are actually qualified to run a country. Make the public broadcast airwaves free to qualified candidates for national public office. At minimum, we’d run up the cost for anyone bidding against us.
3. My favorite: Let the parking people do it. At a time when we are losing faith in most of our institutions — turning education over to charter schools, watching regulatory agencies cave in to Big Oil, writing Congress off by a margin of 4-to-1, watching our poor president age like a time-lapse video — the parking folks rock on, a marvel of functioning civil service.
Name me a major city where that’s not true? You may hear people complain that they can’t find a cop when they need one; they’ll never say that about a parking official.
In Portland, the tough but fair parking patrols contribute something like $4 million to the city’s coffers. Nobody thinks they slack off. If they ran Wall Street like they patrol Congress Street, the crooks would get the boot faster than you could get more quarters from the friendly corner grocery.
So just switch them around. Granted, if Congress did parking tickets we’d have delivery trucks triple-parked on I-95 while the subcommittee on lane-change regulatory oversight debated financial disclosure rules for its pending ethics probe, but that seems a small price to pay for a return to Glory.
Otherwise, Casey Anthony starts to look good. What’s her home state again? Florida.
(Curtis Robinson is founding editor of The Portland Daily Sun. See his interview show on CTN-Channel 5.)