Reflections on Government Change, Reform, Renewal (Part 2)
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 29 Apr 2019
Read Part 1 HERE
Suggested Topics for Discussion, Dialog and Debate
29 Apr 2019 – Recommendations for changes I feel are needed and justified, are listed below. I find the possibility of a national dialog, discussion, and debate inspiring.
Suggestions for Changes and Reform in Government Structure and Process
I offer the following recommendations for change! I do so to raise public consciousness, and to provoke discussion and debate regarding challenges we are facing as communities, societies, and as a nation.
I do so also to call attention to the struggle for individual rights and dignity in a global era in which proportion, process, ideological issues have limited an individual citizen’s choices for activism, protest, and dissent, all of which have become violations in the context of current government abuses and oppression.
At the core of my recommendations is the search for “justice.” “Justice,” as fairness and opportunity for all, must be the arbiter. Disproportionate concentration of power, position, and person, influence among a few wealthy citizens, violates our constitutional guarantee for equality, freedom, and opportunity.
Government for a few, by a few, is illegal, immoral, and criminal. There is an urgent need for transparency, accountability, and legal recourse for reform. Changes are needed! Asymmetric imbalances in decision-making, influence, and accessibility, are destroying public trust and loyalty.
Regarding Government Elective Offices
- Term:One six-year term for president
- One Term: No president may serve another term of presidential office . . . ever!
- Profit from Office:Retired or dismissed presidents should not be paid to deliver addresses, consultation, or opinion by private or government sources. If paid, the amount should be a modest honorarium, publicly acknowledged and shared with charitable interests.
The presidency must not be a path to wealth accumulation. The office of the presidency is about politicization; presidents should not abuse the honor and privilege of the office for personal gain. Their place in history should be sufficient.
- Disclosure: Complete and verified disclosure, by every presidential candidate, of all financial resources and assets, and of the individuals in positions of wealth, power, and position who have supported their election.
- Affiliations: Complete and verified disclosure of all organizational affiliations and memberships of those running for political office, especially the presidency.
- Campaign Promises: Statement of promises and positions for all candidates must be presented to the public, and with details about expected timetables and observed challenges. Failure to keep campaign promises can result in legal removal from elected office under grounds of violations, lies, and misrepresentations to public trust.
It is clear a candidate should not be elected on a list of promises, and fail subsequently to purse them. If unable to do so, honor requires the elected official to resign rather than yield to compromise and change. Detailed explanations must be offered.
- Positions: All candidates for elected office must respond to a critical list of major social, political, economic, and moral issues to identify their respective positions on the issues. Positions must be expressed in clear language, not “double-speak,” nor “spin!”
- Two-Party System Problems: Efforts must be made to establish and sustain more than two dominant political parties in local, state, and national elections. Rules and laws for active visibility and participation of alternatives to Democrat and Republican Parties must be encouraged, permitting equality of recognition and support. Although the two-party political system served our nation well for many years, it is clear the two parties have come to represent special interests because of lobbyist funding and the preferences of wealthy individuals (e.g., Koch Brothers to spend $1 billion on current presidential elections).
New political parties must be added whose loyalties will be to citizens and nation rather than special interests. It has now become public opinion that regardless of what party wins, those in power remain in power: there is no difference! One commentator stated the two parties (i.e., democrats and republicans) are now like “Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola: both bad for you, even as they advertise their disguised merits.
Perhaps it is time to consider a parliamentary system to accommodate to the diversity of our nation. I cannot see our existing two party election system becoming anything more than a political vehicle for limited individuals. Consider what is happening at this very moment in time. Bossism is not new, but never has it been so apparent.
- Contributions: No contributions from corporations or organizations. Limit of $100.00 for individuals with specific identification of their affiliation. Efforts to encourage en masse individual member contributions from agencies, organizations, and/or corporations are illegal and immoral, and stand in violation of the intent of this principle.
- Media Biases: Media political biases in favoring particular political positions should be cited and announced prior to any editorializing. Media biases represent “lobbying” for power and influence for special interests. The traditional view of the fourth estate as a corrective factor in politics has failed. Most media are now simply collectives of for profit special interest people and organizations.
Congressional Term Limits
- Congressional Term Limits: USA senators and representatives will be limited to two 4 year terms in office. There will be no re-runs. The empowerment of these officials is a danger for our nation. Power becomes invested in seniority roles, often times from small States, where incumbents can remain in power for decades, shaping local and national policies. Too much room for corruption and cronyism.
- Seniority System Abuses: Seniority systems should be abandoned in favor of elected positions of congressional and representative offices. Seniority systems empower a few individuals to exact total control over public policy and issues. After many years in senatorial office, those with seniority can become too powerful and dictate the course of our nation. They may be elected, but the seniority system constitutes fertile ground for abuses and inequities.
This has been a major source of abuse by individual senators and representatives. With their seniority came unlimited power to serve special interests and their own ego’s pursuit of an enduring legacy as evidenced in building, monuments, streets, highways, airports.
- Dual Citizenships and Loyalties: Individuals with dual citizenship cannot be appointed to a public office at any level. Abuses occurred when a score or more of dual citizenship (Israel and American) people controlled major government offices in the Departments of State and Defense, especially during the Bush-Cheney presidency years. In addition, they served as major consultants and advisers to the presidency and to congressional members.
- There is a growing opinion that current regional wars and destruction were promoted for special national interests. Closely related is the issue of dual loyalties in which individuals act to preserve powers of their loyalty ties.
- Lobbyists: Lobbying of any individual or organizational source must be identified and registered, and their particular cause or interest identified and made available to public scrutiny. It is rumored that K-Street in Washington, DC, has hundreds of special interests lobbyists and lobbyist organizations.
- Open Government: Records of all meetings of government officials at any level with representatives of lobby groups must be identified and made available to public (i.e., No back room or back door meetings in which lobbyists write laws to serve their interests)
- Gift Giving: No gifts to any government officials in any way by foreign government or organizational interests. This includes domestic individuals, groups, or organizations claiming to serve certain legitimate interests (e.g., Multi-National Corporations, AIPAC, ADL, treaty interests and obligations).
- Election Funding:Funding of all elections will be supported by specific government funds limited to the level of elective office, and in any case, will not exceed 100 million dollars. It is estimated that the current presidential election will expend more than one billion dollars via media and related election activities. This is excessive, and serves a limited usefulness for citizens. It also turns elections in favor of influential wealth interests.
Issues of Process and Regulation
- Prosecution of Crimes and Abuses: A tragic consequence of government and private violations of laws and regulations is the failure of prosecution at all levels. For example, obvious war crimes are not prosecuted, even as they are clear violations and abuses of national and international law. The absence of transparency, accountability, and legal recourse is major source of citizen distrust.
- Cronyism, Nepotism, Tribalism: Careful monitoring of appointments of relatives to political offices. Nepotism is common, especially at local levels. Reliance on family via political appointment facilitates possible abuses of the public trust. Recent president elections have pointed out the tactic of “dynastic” empowerment. This is an obvious affront to all citizens, as name recognition and preferential positioning encourages “dynastic” power.
In some ways, this is akin to royalty in Europe; an unwarranted inheritance of power and position. Royalty, in my opinion, constitutes an egregious abuse of rights. It is not a symbol! It is a continuation of abuses associated with past centuries.
- Citizen Complaint Office:Expansion of citizen complaint offices and consumer affairs offices to improve access and services. Abuses by government and private sources are becoming endemic, and citizens have little access to remediation.
- Responsible Journalism:Expansion of investigative journalism–a legitimate ‘fourth estate,” is essential. Citizens need to be able to rely on an honest press, determined to investigate and reveal abuses in society. Unfortunately, media resources committed to citizen protection have yielded to political, economic, and cultural special interests. It has been said: “News is now driven by entertainment value.” Quick bites of information, serving special interests!
- Whistleblower Protection: Expanded protection of whistleblowers. Government and corporate whistleblowers represent efforts by individuals and organizations to expose illegal activities at all levels. Too often, whistleblowers are labeled as criminals, and punished for their revelations. While some may be illegal by law, they may not be illegal from a moral and ethical perspective. The money and power available to government and organizations to defend their practices is extensive, while whistleblowers have few resources. Whistleblower financial and legal resource should be increased.
- Taxation Policies:Taxation is a major source of government financial activities and policies. It is now clear there are gross inequities and corruption in our taxation system. Perhaps it would be better to halt tax deductions and their loopholes, and establish a common 10% tax on all earned income for individuals and corporations. This is called a “common” tax approach.
The idea that wealth can be taxed at higher rates to support other social and financial strata will simply result in more legal protections for their wealth. The use of off-shore tax havens constitutes a crime of privilege. It must be ended. A straightforward common tax would also address the abuses of the IRS, especially its special interests.
- State versus Federal Governance: The issue of State versus Federal rights and responsibilities has become a source of great national fractionation and violence. Clearly, the United States of America exists as a nation, even as its citizens have suffered a loss of participatory democracy in governance.
Nevertheless, efforts must be made to clarify the current ambiguity, which is creating critical economic, political, and social problems. A public discussion and debate presenting all sides of this issue is needed. While this may not resolve the problems, it will be a step toward improved understanding. Education, health, citizen rights.
- The Electoral College: It is well known that popular election vote results are not the deciding point in an election. Rather, delegates cast votes according to a contrived proportion, supposedly in accord with a popular vote, but not subject to it.
This system represents a serious flaw, capable of discounting results of an actual popular election vote, and leaving choices of a victor in the hands of political appointees. A popular vote should be the arbiter of winning an election. The addition of the Electoral College is an anachronistic policy subject to corruption and abuse.
- Judicial Reconsideration: Everyone is aware of the executive, congressional, and judicial branches of our government – a marvelous system of check and balances – until one of the branches is offered the latitude to extend its power beyond it legal and privileged station. When the Supreme Court offers corporations equal status with individual citizens for making donations and for preserving protections, the balance is destroyed. The same can be said of presidential signing statements. The latter empowers the president to ignore congressional acts, by interpreting them from a presidential perspective. We must return to a balanced government with integrity and justice governing our government.
- Supreme Court Judge Selection:The process of Supreme Court judge selection has become politicized with tragic consequences. Decisions now become ideological statements rather than studies of the laws, their sources, and the opportunities for change.
New judges should be monitored by public citizen groups and legal professional groups to determine if they are biased. We must restore honor and dignity to the Supreme Court.
- Supreme Court Justice Terms:All Justices must resign at age 75. In accord with suggestions regarding political offices, they should not be able to profit from their position of trust and service by accepting and receiving huge honoraria for speeches and presentations.
It is essential the Supreme Court Judges remain above reproach and be considered the highest honor accorded by a society, a reverence for law, justice, and wisdom.
National Security and Security Acts
- Surveillance, Monitoring, Archiving: Government must cease surveillance, monitoring, and archiving of citizens. While issues of local and national security are real and must be pursued, it is clear that there have been numerous violations of laws, regulations, and privileges. Existing procedures for guaranteeing rights are flawed and permit and encourage abuses. Courts and judicial panels are subject to political interference and biases. A citizen may be placed under special watch with consequence abuses through the opinions of those in authority without cause. The surveillance may be total, and unrelenting, even as it is undeserved, encouraged by a jealous acquaintance with no justification.
- Foreign and Commercial Surveillance:Use of security data from other nations and private corporations constitutes a risk for the individual and/or groups, and requires careful monitoring lest abuses occur. To escape condemnation and prosecution, governments currently may rely on foreign or private surveillance in pursuit of its agendas.
- Private and Religious Organization Abuses:Some private, religious, and political organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, exercise abuse and bias of individuals at their discretion. They label a person or group as anti-Semitic, and then engage in efforts to prove this charge, and to pursue prosecution, or other forms of abuse. This empowers their agenda and interests and can abuse rights of critical individuals and groups.
- Special Surveillance Programs: The creation of various national security programs and projects to gain additional control and domination of the public must be halted. For example, Project Infra-Gardwas founded in 2008 by an FBI agent to assist the FBI in surveillance and monitoring. Essentially, Project Infra-Gard has enlisted the assistance of hundreds of thousands of businesses and corporations to provide the FBI with any individual or group deemed to be a “risk.”
Thus, we now have every store, shopping mall, employer, etc., offering info to the FBI. But who are the providers? Let us suppose you argue with a grocery clerk regarding a charge; the store can submit your name as a problem customer. Did you complain? Get set for 1984! A nation of snitches! Biometric data is now in surveillance control.
There you have it; a score, or more, of issues warranting local and national discussion, dialog, and debate. The issues are not new! What is new are the times in which we are living.
Our times are filled with many challenges. The sanctity of our existing government system must not confine us to blindly accepting the system. What troubles me so much is the failure of our “System” to respond. Systems and structures continue, not because they are the best, but because they are now flawed by corrupt leaders favoring special interests. Lobbyist run are government! They do not represent citizens.
Time for a Constitutional Convention! I don’t know! Something must be done, and the current Constitutional System is being abused and exploited by those with wealth, power, and position.
Increased citizen knowledge and discontent supports activism. We should not shy from the process.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (FDR)
Re-Posted again, separate from original, on April 27, 2019
Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. His TMS articles may be accessed HERE and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Conflict, Democracy, Development, Economics, Environment, Geopolitics, History, Human Rights, International Relations, Justice, Media, Military, Power
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Apr 2019.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Reflections on Government Change, Reform, Renewal (Part 2), is included. Thank you.
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