A Few Reflections On America During the Holidays

The video clip below is a patriotic medley that’s been a favorite of mine for several decades. I never seem to tire of it. In fact, I think we would all benefit if one greatly expanded it and its sentiments.

What Can I Do for My Country?

The best description of the video clip’s sentiment is “what can I do for my country?” Most Americans would likely agree with this sentiment, but the key question is how to go about bringing that into reality. One thing I believe we need is something Newt Gingrich has espoused for many years: fixing America’s broken processes.

We can all probably agree that establishing a fair, prudent, and reliable national budget ranks near the top of processes that America needs to fix.

My Proposed Solution

Here’s a brief synopsis of my proposed solution for fixing this process:

  • Force Congress to construct the budget in public and summarize it as it moves through the Congressional process
  • Include a “running clock” that stipulates the days upon which every U.S. Representative and Senator would sign a short series of three single-page, formal budget summaries. The clock would also include deadlines for when the summaries must be sent to any constituent who requested them. Each Congressional representative’s signature would be preceded by the following statement, “I have read and understand the high-level consequences that this budget document could have on our nation”
  • Provide stipulated days on which the public could forward their comments to their Congressional representatives
  • Congress would publish the three-page summaries in the official Congressional Record at specific junctures. The process would stipulate a minimum time requirement between release of a single final three-page summary and a final vote by either house of Congress

The overriding purpose of this process would be for more active citizen involvement without forcing citizens to read and understand hundreds of pages of details. Needless to say, the process would likely also help many in Congress to be better informed.

The three-page summary process would have several tight restrictions:

  • Three separate pages covering 1) revenues, 2) expenditures, and 3) national debt. Each page would contain a detailed breakdown of each of these three categories into smaller increments. Each page would also contain multi-year historical and future financial projections for each. Each page would resemble an 11″ x 17″ spreadsheet
  • There would be four versions of the three-page summary at the beginning of the budgetary process — one for each of the two major parties, and one each for the House and Senate. Law would mandate that these documents would converge to a single summary document during the normal course of committee and legislative business
  • Congress would be free to still produce its several thousand page version of the budget, but its summary financials would have to be identical to those of each of the three final summary pages as published

My Proposal’s Advantages

The above proposal is different from more traditional solutions because it:

  • Acknowledges that Congress and the nation are deeply divided over how to fix our debt problem
  • Factors in the need for the American electorate to understand and contribute to a debt reduction consensus
  • Includes addressing the impact of the nation’s much larger (by a factor of about four) “unfunded liabilities” for various entitlement programs. These liabilities are also future government financial obligations, but Congress does not typically include these liabilities in the official $15 trillion debt figure

Source: Mark Sussman

Moreover, this proposal has several other advantages:

  • It is likely to be an easier proposition to pass through Congress, as most people: Republican, Democrat, and Independent, buy into the idea of government transparency. The balanced budget amendment, a similar process fix, has become highly politicized as demonstrated recent voting in the House
  • The American people will have a greater voice in their governance at the expense of special interest lobbying
  • It will succinctly display the connections linking the budget, entitlements, and national debt
  • Obsolete, duplicative and pet “pork” projects will face tougher public scrutiny when spending is linked explicitly to incoming revenues

A more detailed discussion is available here and contains a sample format for the three summary pages that are the focus of the plan.

About mbsbvu

EDUCATION: BAE, MAE, Aero. Eng'g - Rensselaer Poly Inst; Ph.D. Aero. Eng'g - M.I.T. CAREER: Engineer & Program Mgr. - The Boeing Co. 1966-2000. Retired 2000. Founder of Political Discussion Group: Conservative Enthusiasts Greater Seattle Area - -2006
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