Has any organization ever failed so miserably that every employee should be fired? One finally has. And we are its executives. It’s called Congress. It has a 13% approval rating but a 90% re-election rate. Just like The Bachelor, you almost start to admire how something so bad can keep going. Exactly like that show, our show also ends with all the contestants getting screwed. So why is this happening? And what can we do about it? The answer is money and zombies. And there is a radically simple cure to fix almost everything wrong with Federal government.
Failure is Job One
There’s a lot of debate from Republicans and Democrats about issues that barely matter. They present distractions and false choices to look like they’re doing something. On the important issues, their performance is nothing short of gross incompetence, heavy on the gross.
Here are the biggies:
- Debt is well over $17T and growing. No matter what anyone says, only three costs are driving 89% of it: entitlement programs, military, and interest payments.
- Employment, wages, and economic growth are stagnant, but there’s no plan to work with industry and academia to fix it.
- Poverty. A ridiculous 47% of Americans are on food stamps and the middle class is quickly disappearing. Who is looking to find and address the root causes?
- Social Security and other entitlement programs have reasonably easy fixes like means testing and adjusting retirement age.
- Healthcare costs are spiraling out of control and the only thing we’ve done to address it is invent and implement an untested 33,000 page policy. Almost every other modernized country achieves superior results at a fraction of the cost.
- Our public education system and college costs are a wreck. Like drug addicts, universities are hooked on unlimited loan money at the expense of real options.
- The US has a massive, growing prison population. Most of it is from a failed drug war that militarizes and criminalizes a medical issue.
- Our foreign policy is a mess with expensive wars and a defense budget bigger than the next 13 countries combined. And there’s no credible proposal to fix domestic spying, drones, and the NSA.
There are others, but let’s work on the cake before making icing.
The Facebook Model
Government now works a lot like Facebook. Users (citizens) get to use a service (America) for free, but advertisers (campaign donors) pay to promote their products to gain competitive advantage.
This system is cartoonishly misaligned. Citizens are not the customers. Big donors are. And it shows. Lobbyists get to write our laws. Top political donors buy free ambassadorships to countries they’ve never visited. And lobbyists bought a heartwarming $3.28 Billion of political influence in 2012. (Get detailed stats at OpenSecrets.)
This is the root cause of almost every bad policy, no-bid contract, and mystifying vote.
Citizen interests might get addressed if they happen to overlap with those of another donor. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) was one example. It was defeated only because one powerful lobby (Tech) defeated another powerful lobby (Media). Citizens were the chum floating in the water.
Zombies Can’t Jump
Like slowly boiling a rabbit, US citizens haven’t tried to jump out of the pot. That’s because zombies can’t jump.
There’s a reason the term “zombie apocalypse” produces over 72 million Google results – it’s already here. And we are the zombies.
They say people get the government they deserve. So why do we deserve this government? Some ideas:
- We are hypnotized. American households watch more than eight hours of TV a day. We also spend over five hours online per day.
- We are unhealthy. Almost 35% of U.S. adults are obese. Evidently, the Comcast channel guide is not a big calorie burner.
- We are indifferent. Over 42% of eligible voters don’t bother voting for a president. It’s even worse on non-presidential years.
- We are high. According to a UK government study, the US leads all westernized countries in drug use. 70% of Americans are on prescription drugs and consume 80% of the world’s painkillers. One in ten of us is on anti-depressants. And our kids are increasingly hooked on Ritalin.
A broken government is just a byproduct of this catatonic haze. We have only ourselves to blame.
A Simple Solution?
Even our biggest policy problems are just symptoms. The root cause is a broken campaign financing system that can only produce mangled results. It turns politicians into full time fundraisers and citizens into users.
To re-align the interests of citizens and its representatives, we must separate business and state in the same way our Founding Fathers did with church and state. That means we must fire them all.
I propose that no incumbent gets re-elected, regardless of party, until serious campaign finance reform is passed.
There can be no exceptions. Politicians must know that they are on a clock and there’s only one way to save their political future. This is something even Occupy and the Tea Partiers can agree on.
Between staggered terms and checks and balances, we can feel safe that our freshly-minted newbies won’t sinking the ship. Could they do any worse?
To start down this path, I encourage you to support Represent.Us, which I am not affiliated with in any way. This is their only issue. And as far as the future of the country is concerned, it’s the only one that matters right now.
PS – I’ve proposed a more detailed plan before. I’d love for all seven ideas to happen, but let’s start here.
Finally, don’t forget to click the FOLLOW button on this page and sign up to the IdeaFaktory newsletter for email updates on my future articles – which thankfully focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, not politics.
Steve Faktor is author of Econovation, futurist, and founder of IdeaFaktory, which helps companies create and commercialize big innovations. He is co-founder of Upcelerator, a network for selling and acquiring startups.
Steve is a popular keynote speaker, LinkedIn Influencer, and regularly featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, NPR, Wall Street Journal, among others. Steve is the former head of the American Express Chairman’s Innovation Fund and executive at Citi and MasterCard. You can stalk Steve via email newsletter, Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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