(This Op-Ed appears in Florida Today newspaper, January 24, 2018)
Here is a plan that would greatly improve our government process.
Term and age limits: For U.S. senators, two 6-year terms, twelve years in office maximum. For the House, six terms maximum, two years each. Maximum age: 80.
America does not need career politicians. We need the most qualified and able who will work in the interests of the people. Going into office, politicians will know when they will be passing the baton to someone else. This also allows senators and Congress members time to work instead of constantly running for office. Term limits of 15 years and/or age restrictions should also be extended to federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court. There are many reasons to support such laws, and few reasons to oppose them.
This may require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but campaign contributions to candidates running for federal office, including the president, should be outlawed from private citizens, large corporations and special interest groups. No elected representative of the people should be beholden to financial paybacks.
When a cop takes money for favors, he goes to jail. When a politician takes money for favors, he goes to Washington. The system invites corruption. Congress members spend half their time running for the next election and attending fundraisers. Campaign budgets for federal officials can be financed by the taxpayer by assessing a modest fee in all income tax filings. With some 153 million taxes filed this year, according to the IRS, that would provide ample funds to run campaigns and establish honesty in government. It would also give voters a peek at how they manage a budget.
Establish minimum standards for holding office. For every state and federal job in America, there are basic requirements for qualification, why not politicians? The standards for Senate, House and president are basically nil. The constitution was ratified when the population was less than 4 million and the problems of commerce, taxes, laws, immigration, and national security were far less complex than today. Politicians should be vetted by bi-partisan panels to ensure we are not voting for untrustworthy or incompetent representatives. This should be particularly strict for anyone running for president. Background matters. Achievements matter. Dishonesty matters. The FBI has a system for vetting applicants, why not use the same for federal politicians?
Fire or impeach blatantly dishonest politicians. Systems should be designed whereby any senator, congressman or president who knowingly violates the public trust by overtly lying should be booted out of office. Politicians who lie about one issue will lie about anything. Blatant dishonesty in political ads should also disqualify a candidate. It’s time we stop joking about dishonest politicians and start holding them accountable.
Keep media out of politics. We have had a number of influential people in the mainstream media who had close relatives, including spouses, employed by the White House or in government positions of high sensitivity. This compromises the integrity of government as well as media focus if and when they have special interests in government policy. That translates to skewing news and information by favoring with one side or the other.
Special prosecutors assigned to investigate corruption or other scandals, should be appointed by a non-partisan panel and not by the president or the attorney general, especially when the focus is, in fact, on the president or the attorney general. Further, the attorney general should be an elected official answerable to the citizens and not a guardian of the president. Ninety percent of states elect their attorneys general.
Absolutely require photo identification for eligible voters at every election and establish rules and process that are the same in every state, particularly for federal elections. Voters should produce evidence of being qualified citizens. There is nothing racist or malicious about that. This would curtail ineligible voting, and prevent those who may vote more than once. If people can get their welfare I.D., they can get their voter I.D.