To whoever’s willing to listen:
In my humble, college-freshman opinion, the failure of Congress boils down to a matter of incentives. Congressmen want to get themselves re-elected and make sure their party’s in power at all times. However, the purpose (I assume?) of Congress is to increase the welfare of the American people and protect the Constitution.
This failure has two consequences – extreme short-sightedness, and the political gambit-izing of legislation. I don’t know if it matters so much anymore what a piece of legislation says, as long as Democrats will say ‘it’s all a political ploy’ and each side will claim victory. The loser is the public interest. Take for example the recent decision by GOP leaders to shelve the Vietnam free trade vote, which was supposed to be a rebuke to the White House from the Republicans in Congress. The American people just lost, because this vote is now going to fail. What concerns me the most is the apparent lack of consideration for whether or not American people would be better off with a free trade agreement from Vietnam.
I propose two solutions. The first is to make every Congressional vote anonymous. This would free people to vote rationally (or as rationally as they can, given all the noise from the Cato Institute about how we vote), rather than to vote in fear or with some external motive. This would also decrease the effect of lobbying and of voting as a bloc. As I see it now, with econ 1 analysis, there are two cartels in Congress preventing vote equilibrium. If we made votes anonymous we would see more of how people actually feel and less of two talking points. Moreover, politicians would no longer be able to blame “the other side” for failures.
Furthermore, I feel that 20 years down the road we won’t be able to elect anyone, because of Facebook and weblogs. The public will very quickly learn that no one’s perfect, and attack ads will have loads of material to work with (Drunk pictures, questionable opinions, etc). Our candidates, I believe, won’t have personalities or opinions (besides “I’m against crime, for democracy, and for education”). Making votes anonymous would stop attack ads based on decade-long voting records.
My second idea is for mandatory 30-year prediction and long-term goal statements, updated every 4 years (this has no way of passing, because it sounds similar to the old Soviet central planning idea). My goal here is to get Congress to realize that problems like “our budget is unsustainable,” “global warming is something we need to deal with,” and “many Americans and Iraqis are dying every day” are statements that can’t be passed from session to session without action.
Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading this.