Ideas whose time have come
This piece is an edited version originally written by a retired medical doctor who is an astute political observer, and one of my smarter brothers. Considering the legislative results, or lack thereof, arising out of the past few United States presidents, the lack of leadership demonstrated by the past two decades of Congress, and the current health care reform boondoggle in Washington, D.C., it seems particularly apropos to offer Dave’s Contract with Congress for consideration.
Following a stint as the chief of staff of a Veterans Administration Hospital he was hired as the CEO of a nonprofit medical education corporation. The member institutions of the corporation included three Saginaw Community Hospitals and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine providing three levels of medical education, undergraduate (3rd and 4th year medical students from MSUCHM), graduate (residencies in Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Internal Medicine, General Surgery, and Emergency Medicine) and continuing Medical Education (the ongoing education required to maintain licensure for practicing physicians). While CEO of the corporation he simultaneously maintained the position of Assistant Dean of the Medical School.
While actively practicing medicine, my brother’s positions with the VA and the medical education corporation put him in regular contact with government and political bodies regulating doctors, medical care, insurance and education.
“I have been one of those bureaucrats you blame for problems you (the Congress) had a major hand in creating. I am neither Republican, nor Democrat – I would not consider joining either party,” he said.
With 25 years of insider’s experience in medicine and politics, Dave also has first-hand experience with trying to maintain affordable medical insurance and dealing with the high costs of being a patient experiencing, and paying for a catastrophic medical condition he was fortunate to survive. In many nations of the world, he might well not be still among the living. Under a government run health care system he might not have received in a timely manner the medical care that saved his life.
Dave’s Contract with Congress
Article I Once the elections are over you are not a Democrat or a Republican. You are representatives of your constituents who are of all persuasions. Your job is to go forth and represent all of your constituents with the caveat that you will do what is best for the country.
Article II You should have an orientation upon your arrival in Washington, D.C., that includes a review of the workings of government and an education on ethics. You will undergo a competency evaluation and, if found incompetent, you will be sent home and the constituency will hold a special election. The cost of special elections should prevent this from happening too many times.
Article III You will never attaché any unrelated legislation to any bill. An idea should stand on its own merits and your job is to convince your colleagues to support it. Consider this an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership abilities and encourage your constituents to re-elect you for valid reason.
Article IV You will never vote for, or against, any bill you have not read and understood in its entirety. Critics may feel this will slow the legislative process, but it will improve productivity.
Article V You will never vote for legislation without voting for the funding. If they must be separate bills they will be voted on in succession and if funding is not approved, the authorizing legislation is immediately rescinded.
Article VI Your ethics committee should include members of the public because the Congress has become unable to maintain professional standards. The public members should be elected from 12 states for two years of service, with half of them replaced each year from six new states. Since Congressional censorship has no real penalty, ethics violations should result in loss of pay and removal of voting privileges.
Article VII In each session, the budget will be given primary priority. You will not be allowed to move on to other legislation or investigations until a budget is passed.
Article VIII Because of the foolish appearance and the amount of money wasted on Congressional investigations, henceforth, you will each be given $25,000 per session that you can spend investigating. Members are free to combine their money if necessary, if you can convince your colleagues. Any funds leftover will be given to the charity of your choice within your constituency.
Article IX Since term limits have failed to pass, other methods of encouraging changeover are required. The seniority system should be eliminated. Committee assignments will be made according to interest, expertise and background. Each committee will elect its own chairman. Pension plans should be greatly reduced or removed altogether to encourage individuals to return to private life and allow other competent individuals the opportunity to participate. Once you have served in Congress you will not work as a lobbyist in any capacity.
Article X You will raise your election campaign funds exclusively from your constituents. If you cannot raise enough, consider it a message from your constituency that you should seek other work.
Article XI You will have only federal holidays off plus three weeks vacation per year. If your work is done, you may return home early, but only after publicly stating your work is completed before you go home and incur the wrath of your constituents if you do so inappropriately.
Article XII “None of the Above” should be placed on all ballots as a measure of the publics’ faith in the parties’ willingness and ability to give the voters the best choices. If “None of the Above” votes reach a certain threshold, there should be new elections with new nominees. Voters should not have to choose the least bad candidate.
Article XIII When a new administration takes office, appointments need to be approved or rejected in a timely manner – this means weeks, not months or years. Approval should be based on qualifications and ability and in no way based on politics. Making appointments is one of the spoils of the election process. Live by the rules of the game.
Article XIV You will agree that you will not accept anything of any value from any group or individual that might influence your vote on legislation. Voters can overlook gifts from family and friends on occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, but the prohibition extends to lobbyists at all times.
Consider closing the party offices until six to eight months prior to national elections. For the House and the Senate to be more functional, partisan politics need to be taken out of the picture.
If you become old, tired or infirm; suffer a stroke or other debilitating or terminal disease, go home. Your family and constituents will care for you. Like a classy athlete, go out at the top of your game and make room for other competent individuals to represent your constituency.
Do not tell us “I” passed legislation unless you ate it. The House and the Senate pass legislation. You may have authored, cosponsored, or signed it – we understand the difference.
Campaigning should be 90 percent informing us what you will do not telling us why your opponent is wrong. We are tired of hearing accusations of flip-flopping. If you change your mind because of education, personal reflection or change in circumstances, your constituents might consider that positively.
If you are not educable, do not take time to ponder or consider changing circumstances, then you do not belong in Congress or any other elected position. We know the difference between pandering and thoughtful opinions.
Celebrity should be based on leadership. Many great leaders, inventors and philosophers in history had personal lives that are unusual. Neither party has any credibility when it comes to morals and values. You deserve a personal life and most of us do not care who you sleep with, but you have to do your job.
If Congress cannot agree to reduce taxes, at least simplify them. We should not have to pay someone to figure out our taxes. If it can be done by home computer then the government should supply the software as a free download.