Mary Pitt: On The Other Foot.......
On The Other Foot.......
by Mary Pitt
In meetings regarding business and public policy, we are encouraged to ''put the shoe on the other foot'', to ''think outside the box'', to explore ways to solve problems by considering things that have never been done before. A good way to accomplish this is to turn the problem upside-down and to view it from an opposite angle. In order to do this, we must rip off the wrappers, remove the skin, clean the bones, and see what the basis of the problem truly is. Only then can we reconstruct a solution which may be, on completion, totally different from the original. Or, in some instances, we may find that there really is no problem, it "ain't broke", and the is no repair needed. We may begin by free-thinking regarding the problems with which we are beset today. The second step would be trying to get anybody in government to listen to us! They do seem immune to common sense.
We could take a big first step by requiring that all laws be written in language that is understandable by the "layman". All the laws are "lawyered up" in language which accomplishes nothing but to show that those who wrote them attended an expensive law school and have earned their salaries by hiding all the loopholes until another lawyer can be hired to interpret them for you. By cutting out all the "whereas and whyfors" the ordinary citizens would be aware of what laws were being broken. All laws should be written in plain English so that anybody reading them knows what, precisely, is prohibited or permitted. It would help in developing a law-abiding society and lessening the probability that any ordinary citizen would run afoul of them and find themselves in deep doggy-doo.
Would we be able to accomplish this requirement? No way! It seems that our lawmakers prefer that the ordinary citizen, Mr John Q. Public, not know what they are doing, at least until after the next election.
ABORTION: This solution came from a very wise lady who called a television talk program early one morning while her mind was fresh. If it were made illegal for a man to impregnate a woman without her express consent with a jail term as penalty for violation, the abortion problem would be solved immediately. Since no woman would become pregnant with an unwanted child, the demand for abortions will simply disappear. (Five will get you ten that there also would be money freed up for research to develop a male birth control pill!) This would also alleviate the problems in collecting child support from unwilling fathers. In this one action, we could solve two problems and have the benefit of improving the status of both marriage and children.
The next question would be, "Can we do it?" Of course not! It would be completely opposite to the patriarchal system of our society and interfere with the presumptive superiority of men and their prerogative of doing as they please and leaving the women to pay the price. Too bad.
GAY MARRIAGE: This is a simple problem. Why not make all marriages a commitment of two people to merge their lives and live together for however long it lasts, whatever may come? The Church may sanctify marriages as a matter of rote but in the early days of our nation it was considered a nicety in which couples would participate only when it was available. In many parts of the frontier there may not have been a "parson" available for years, yet people married, bore children and, we may assume, managed to live happily ever after. Now, when it is no longer necessary to remain in a marriage any longer than the commitment lasts, a wedding is a social event and about as meaningful as a first date. A simple registration of commitment should be enough for those who don't care to be bothered by all the fuss of a church wedding or other formality. If legalities are required, so be it, but connecting those legalities with Church doctrine is contrary to the Constitutional rights of citizens. Other nations have civil marriages, distinct and separate from religious weddings, which are optional, and it seems to work very well. The idea that refusing gays the right to legalize their commitment to each other will discourage homosexuality is as ridiculous as trying to enforce fidelity among heterosexuals who are not so inclined. We should admit that a union of any two people is only as strong as the bond between them and our only concern should be to protect children from abandonment by either parent.
Will this ever happen? Mercy, no! The very suggestion will inflame the religious conservatives and invite a ride on a rail while clad in hot tar and chicken feathers, and the television "pastors" of the fundamentalist variety will gladly preside over the festivities.
CORRUPTION IN GOVERNMENT: Allow any American citizen to file a civil suit on behalf of the public against any government official accepting money for "access" to require the recipients to repay the funds into the public coffers. The same process could be used to recoup funds that are overpaid to contractors who do not perform as specified. We could claim "right of return", for instance, for the non-functional computer system purchased by the FBI to coordinate sharing of information as well as the over-billing by KBR and Halliburton on their contracts in Iraq. Their accounting practices might improve if they could also be charged for the court fees in these cases unless, of course, the Bush administration succeeds in outlawing civil lawsuits.
Can it be accomplished? Absolutely not. Any attempt to allow private citizens to meddle in the dealings of the government would be rejected out of hand. And holding the privileged to the spirit of their contracts with the American people is tantamount to treason. Rank has its privileges, right?
ELECTION REFORM: This thorny problem seems to baffle the "powers-that-be" in its complexity, but is simple from the sidewise view. The object is to allow every qualified voter to cast a legitimate ballot, is it not? If you have a checking account, you have a "swipe card", If you live in certain states and qualify for food stamps, you have a "swipe card". If you have a major credit card, you have a "swipe card". It would be astoundingly simple to issue a "swipe card" to every registered voter, carrying the name, address, and political affiliation of the person presenting it, including the authorized signature which could be compared to the signature given upon signing in to vote.
These "swipe cards" would be used to activate the voting machine which would print out a receipt which would be used to further validate the eligibility of the voter and a ballot to be approved by the voter before depositing it in the ballot box in order to allow for accurate hand recounts in case of the occasional "computer glitch". If Visa, Mastercard, and McDonald's can do it, surely the govenment of the United States can muster a few people with the intelligence to imitate! In addition, it would solve the problem of people who become confused and show up at the wrong polling place. The data on the card would trigger forwarding to the proper precinct and one could vote, even on vacation, ending the necessity for so many absentee ballots.
In addition, the time will come when even the politicians realize that, with the growth in the population and the physical size of the nation, the old system of state primaries as well as the Electoral College are simply archaic and the system requires modernization beyond simply electronic voting machines. The first change that is required is to have a nation-wide simultaneous primary which would determine the various candidates by the will of the people rather than the machinations of party bosses. Currently, the candidates are chosen before most voters have a chance to express a preference.
Candidates shoud be given free and equal air time on radio and television to present their case to the people. After all, the air waves do belong to the people and donation of this air time would be a small rental for the broadcasting corporations to pay for their use. Campaign "war chests" should be strictly limited and publicly financed so that donors would no longer be "buying access". Candidates would still be able to travel, within the constraints of their budgets, and perhaps people in some of the rural states might actually get to meet and talk to them.
Again, the question, "Could we do it?" Don't be silly. The political parties would never allow such a plan, which would erode their control of the decisions which are, supposedly, made by the American people. They LIKE their privileged positions of power-mongering and behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealing. A third-party or non-partisan man-of-the-people is the last person they want to see in the White House.
SOCIAL SECURITY: We are told the program will "go broke" by 2018 when the "baby boomers" beign to retire and will thenceforth require drawing down the funds in the infamous "lock box" of the "surplus", meaning that the Treasury bonds in which it is invested will have to be withdrawn. Is that not why it was "saved"? If the rest of the government is in less secure condition than Social Security, is that reason to rob the most financially sound program to save those which have not been designed to operate as efficiently? Why should we destroy Social Security instead of taking the necessary steps to balance the budget of the General Fund so those Treasury bonds can be used for the purpose for which they were intended? If there is a real "crunch" in the cash flow, the simple answer is to raise the "cap" on the amount of earned income which is subject to withholding. Depending on the amount of increase or total removal of this cap, the present Social Security collections would be sufficient to support it indefinitely with surplus to be used to support Medicare. The question is simply a tempest in a teapot to further the arguments for ending the most successful social progam in the history of democracy.
This has become a political issue only because of "debts" that are owed to the backers of the current administration. When an administration has made its major party plank the reduction of taxes for the wealthy, it can only compensate for the loss of funds by cutting expenditures elsewhere in the budget. Then, when the nation is plunged into war, it may seem expedient to destroy the social programs of the previous century in order to keep those expensive and ill-considered promises. It would seem to a logical thinker that the increase in taxes could be offset by the reduction in campaign donations, which is what the power-players fear more than anything!
Will it be changed? Not likely. Social Security is a political fooball, has been for seventy years, and the game is far from over. Many Conservatives are resistant to the suggested "reform", (translation: elimination), of this essential program and the basic format will not be changed any more than the budget deficit will be constructively solved. They don't call it "the third rail of politics" for no reason.
THE IRAQ WAR: This venture into enforced "freedom" has already failed and we should simply bug out! The Iraqis don't understand or want our "democracy". The fact that the country will probably erupt into civil war is offered as a reason we should stay. Listen carefully. They are already engaged in a civil war and we are in the middle of it! Our troops should be recalled to a central point in a rapid and orderly manner and be removed by a fleet of helicopters with air cover. It worked in Vietnam!
Will it be done? Not so long as the Neo-Cons are in charge of our government. We can look forward to another four years of wars and deficit and can only hope that the next President will be miracle-worker who can put us back on the right track and solve the many financial problems which he/she will inherit, of which, incidentally, Social Security will be the least.
This process of turning problems upside-down and sideways with their covers ripped off has infinite possibilities and makes a lot more sense than the reasoning that is currently being used by our governing bodies. It may be an exercise in futility but it will help keep our brains nimble until such time as constructive action can really be taken. Besides, it is great fun when engaged in with a group. A side effect is that such thinking may lead to a realization that we are being offered rationalization for desired actions rather than the simple truth which could eventually bring on all sorts of nasty things, like the demand for honesty in government and, perhaps, even "regime change"!
Come on! Join in, second-guess and speculate. Toss out your wildest ideas and talk about them. It's fun, it keeps you mentally agile, and it drives the other side crazy! They do hate common sense.
Mary Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and active in the political arena. Her concerns are her four-generation family and the continuance of the United States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org .