Rally to Make Government Work!
About two weeks ago I was a prop for a publicity stunt. That was not my intention but, as can happen, something good came of it.
No Labels, a centrist group that bends its spear trying to get Republicans and Democrats in Congress to cooperate, staged the rally. It began at a velvet rope bar at which “citizens” (how very French Revolution) gathered to hear Lisa Borders, a cofounder, motivate the props for the stunt with grating tent revival rhetoric. She also appeared the next day at “citizen training,” but continued more grating then motivating.
No Labels has recruited 81 of the 535 members of Congress to serve as “Congressional Problem Solvers.” There are 37 Republicans, 43 Democrats and one independent. Eight percent of the Senators and 17% of the Congressman have joined. It would appear that their primary motivation is looking good for their more moderate constituents rather than making bold statements in opposition to partisanship.
Decide for yourself on the goals, but the commitment on the part of the elected officials to achieving them is suspect. Here are the nine ways to make government work.
1. If the Congress does not pass a budget the elected officials do not get paid. Not a bad idea but, if you really want to accomplish something, don’t pay the staffers either and get them to harass their bosses endlessly.
2. Since budgets are never passed anyway, move to a two-year budget cycle. At least you will only fail half as often.
3. Get rid of duplicate agencies and programs identified in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office. Duplicate agencies and programs get pared down to those lacking campaign contributors.
4. Buy all the paperclips from the same guy. Other stuff too.
5. Stop assuming automatic year-to-year spending increases in agency budgets. (Figure out how to insulate yourself from enraged bureaucrats and campaign contributors.)
6. Merge the electronic health records of the Department of Defense with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Seems like there are about two things that can happen to soldiers, sailors and air people: they can die or they can become veterans. The first group does not care as much about its health records.
7. Replace 50% of government travel with videoconferencing. (Then replace the other 50%?)
8. Reduce energy waste in federal buildings by incentivizing private companies to identify energy savings. The contractors would be paid with the dollars saved instead of with taxpayer dollars. Wait. Aren’t the dollars saved also taxpayer dollars?
9. Plan for efficient and effective government by creating a new Commission for Government Transformation. No need to read any further.
On the whole, a rather odd combination of the tactical, the strategic, the useless and the hopeless.
Here is a picture of the stunt itself. The props, many of whom flew to Washington from wherever they were from, are in the foreground. The inspiring capital dome is in the background. In between are about 70 of the 81 problem solvers. Each was permitted a 10 second sound bite in trade for standing in 95° heat for the better part of a morning.
The picture suggests that the primary decision for the lawmakers was whether to wear a jacket or just a shirt. Always a tough one because the jacket permits lapel pins (in many cases more than one) while the shirt shows how hard you are working. Given the distance between the lawmakers and the cameras together with the heat, lapel pins and jackets were in the minority.
Still wondering about the “something good” that “came of it?”
Michael Smerconish is a talk radio host for the POTUS (Politics of the United States) network on Sirius XM satellite radio. He was the MC for the radio broadcast of the event and he cares far more about this country and its governance then all of the people standing on stage combined. He could also teach Lisa Borders how not to be patronizing.
At breakneck speed, Smerconish, with the assistance of his Executive Producer, TC Scornavacchi, moved through about 15 interviews with interesting and serious minded people who have written or thought extensively about congressional dysfunction.
Smerconish and his guests had all of the wisdom but none of the lapel pins.
Those on stage had the lapel pins and, in some cases, flitting staffer groupies who seemed more appropriate to rock concerts than to governing.
For some reason we stand when the second group walks in. We seem to have it backward.