We face an overwhelming number of crises in this country which seem to compound on a near daily bases. We sometimes burn a lot of energy trying to resolve the issues while ignoring the causes. Obviously if fixing a problem is our goal we should resolve them first at their source.
Years ago my Dad told me of a procedure utilized by the company he was employed at, a technique they referred to as "fish lining." This was a process where a team of employees and management would fish line from a problem area tracking back to its origins. They would detail and graph this out indicating each spot along the line where failure occurred. Once arriving at the origin they'd examine the procedures in place and develop and implement remedies they deemed necessary. They'd continue this process at each failure point along the line. I don't know if this was or still is a widely utilized practice but it sounds like a great tool.
Through my own style of fish lining I've determined that the root causes for most of our issues lies mostly with an electoral and legislative funding system run amok by a corporate-lobbyist network which is contaminating the national and foreign policy decisions made in Washington. Our policy makers themselves have made these funding activities legal, but a perverse domination of influence has led to serious distortions in many policies which favor one segment of our society at the expense of the whole. This situation is epidemic and pollutes both parties running widespread throughout our political and legislative process. I have written three articles so far that portray this very effectively, please see: "Revisiting NAFTA", "Did Manipulation Fuel the Oil Price Surge? , and "The Making of a Great Leader."
Regardless of party affiliations most of this funding primarily originates from the same corporate-lobbyist networks with the Titians of industry hedging their campaign and lobbyist bets. Both parties essentially want the same things and each are in collusion and servitude with the same multi-national benefactors. Regardless which party is elected to power the corporate agenda continues unabated. This has been going on for a very longtime and neither party offers any real alternative solutions as there is too much vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
I propose the following are causal areas and suggest they should become our first priorities.
Reform the Electoral and Legislative funding process
Without meaningful reform in these two critical areas change is just a catchy but worthless jingle. By meaningful reform I'm referring to the removal of corporate, special interest, and lobbyist money from these processes entirely. Otherwise "business" will continue as usual. Obviously a vibrant healthy corporate infrastructure is vital for our economy. But they should NOT be running our government because their needs and goals are not the same as ours. Their need is about growing and defending profits and market share. For multi-national corporations it has never been about country or people firs--and never will unless it benefits their bottom line. The globe is their territory and therefore they don't perceive the global marketplace and its labor force in terms of borders or along political party lines. Their business models and strategies are based on a global economy and have been for years. Multi-national corporations have adapted to a new paradigm, thus creating a shift in the global economy. In fact they created this paradigm shift.
Simply follow the bios of any key cabinet members that make up any administration past and present, and they are always captains of industry like former U.S. V.P. Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton or Robert Ruben, former Treasury Secretary and executive with Citigroup or our new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former president of the New Federal Reserve Bank of New York who formerly served in undersecretary roles during the Clinton Administration, etc. Many of these key cabinet members are frequently recycled from one administration to another and seldom run for office.They don't need to. That is why U.S. policies never really change. I mean no disrespect toward any of these folks, as I am sure they are fine people doing what they believe is best. And a reasonable argument can be made that they are the most logical candidates to fill these post given their experiences and resumes. But at some point one does need to contemplate the serious conflict of interest this frequently places them in and question how the decisions they make can be completely impartial. Empirical evidence suggests that many are not. Clearly something needs to be done to resolve this situation.
The current campaign and lobbyist finance program allows multi-national firms excessive control over public officials who use them to manipulate policies to meet their needs often at the expense of the people. In conjunction with the articles I mentioned above also take note of how many news releases you have read or heard over the years reporting how "industry lobbyists" descend on Washington. (Update: Feb 26,2009; talk about descending--need I say more?) Clearly they are protecting or expanding their own interest. Quite simply if lobbying didn't generate profitable returns on their investments, corporations would not make them. Clearly government policies should be balanced. But shouldn't government's role be to strike a balance between the needs of corporations and those of the people?
Currently a movement has been gaining momentum for publicly financed campaigns which would be a good place to start and offers a variety of viable options.
Shake up Washington - replace most elected officials in upcoming elections
Can you think of a better way to get their attention? A voter's "Shock & Awe." I can see the headlines now! We're long overdue for a turn over of elected officials. Some of these folks have made a lifelong career out of politicking and have been in office too long. I realize not all elected officials are of dubious character, but it may be necessary to send most of them packing, replacing impaired politicians who are overly addicted and indebted to the multi-national -corporate-complex. Wayward politicians are the causalities of a faulty campaign and lobbyist finance system, so let's fix it and replace the defective players. However we need to get real; expecting these same elected officials to reform this of their own volition is a fox guarding the hen house mentality.
Why just a two party system?
In a country with dozens of soft drinks to choose from I find it perplexing that we have only a two party system deciding the fate of our collective future. This is primarily a divide and conquer sort of mentality. Voters are divided into believing a myth that there is actually a difference between the two parties and are vastly scattered, diffused, and confused chasing after symptoms but ignoring the causes. This has created a dysfunctional system incapable of fostering real change. Consider for a moment the vast number of activist organizations that exist today. Each are viable in their own way with good intentions but may be largely pursuing symptoms rather than causes. This only creates a state of being overwhelmed and consequently voter's strength numbers as well as financially is diffused and weakened. While we bicker over relatively minor differences between the party's, policy makers and business leaders conduct back room deals carrying out multi-national corporate agendas of far greater importance and often once implemented have negative consequences impacting the society at large.
A careful study of the manner through which most major legislative decisions are made reveal historically it is frequently a bipartisan accomplishment. The deregulation of the banking industry by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act is a perfect example. The original legislation, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, was written by a Republican Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX); passed by a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by a Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1999. Ironically Senator Gramm also wrote the legislation that deregulated energy trading via the "Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000" which ultimately led to the Enron Scandal. A similar pattern can be observed in how this legislation became law as seen with bank deregulation. (See "Did Manipulation Fuel Oil Price Surge") A typical reaction of confronting the issue while ignoring the cause would be to write new legislation that repeals these bills and reinstates regulation but yet do nothing to limit or thwart industry lobbyist ability to influence the legislators. I guarantee you they will not take any such changes lying down and will be back over time with efforts to influence policy again.
Major legislation like these should stand alone and not be saddled with pork barrel and other pet appropriations bills. It's not rocket science folks, whenever legislation hits major resistance in Congress as both of those pieces of legislation did the practice of linking pet appropriations bills is a gimmick to gain supportive votes.