Fixing America – Ideas 1-3

By October 16th, 2019

Blog No. 106
October 16, 2019 

Fixing America – Ideas 1-3

By Mack W. Borgen, Recipient of Eight National Book Awards 
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          This is the first in my new series of Ideas Blogs. In this series of short articles I will present ideas which might help in “fixing America.”
          Some of the ideas are my own. A few of them are already well-kn0wn but deserve our reconsideration.  Most of them I have come across in the course of my research over these last now 12 years for my last two series of books – The Relevance of Reason (Vols I and II) (2013-2014) and Dead Serious and Lighthearted (Vols I, II, and III) (2018-2019).
          These ideas cover a wide range of subjects. I will present them without lengthy comment or recommendation, but I believe that you, like me, may conclude — like the title of my last blog – that many ideas are already percolating out  — some of them “are good … and some are brilliant.” Enjoy.

Idea No 1.

Consolidated Interstate Database for Reports of License Suspension or Revocation

Background Some professions have strict licensure requirements for practice. For example and with only very limited exceptions, health care professionals (e.g. doctors and nurses), psychologists, lawyers, engineers, and architects, have to be licensed by the state in which they practice. In some cases, these persons must also comply with mandatory continuing education or re-examination, qualification, and other licensure maintenance requirements.
          Most clients, patients, and other customers understandably want to know the qualifications and expertise of those professionals they retain and with whom they entrust their lives, monies, or businesses.
           While some states maintain easily accessible databases by profession, oftentimes the databases are not well-known. In some cases, they are not well-maintained. For that reason, clients, patients, and customers are left to unduly rely upon word of mouth or Yelp-type reviews in their selection of their professionals.
          Even worse, in mobile, right-to-travel, re-invent ourselves America, an individual who has had his or her license revoked or who has been disbarred or censured in one state, can relatively easily move to another state and start dangerously afresh,. In the new state, the disbarred or censured professional can start anew. This is unwise, unfair, and risky.
Idea:      Develop a single, high-quality, widely-known, and well-maintained consolidated national database for selected licensed professionals. America needs an “American Professionals” database.
Implementation Comments: Careful identification procedures should be put in place so that no information is incorrectly included (or omitted) from the database. Arguably, there could or should be some procedure whereby an individual who has been the subject of a suspension or license revocation can after X years (e.g. 15 years) have such reference expunged.
Source: Mack W. Borgen

Idea No. 2

Term Limits

Background: The concept of term limits has been debated for many years at both the federal and state levels. At this time some form of term limits exist in 36 states (albeit with some material exemptions such as limiting only “successive” terms). However, except for the constitutional limitation of two successive terms for the U.S. Presidency, there are no federal term limits. The concept of federal term limits for at least the U.S. Congress should be re-considered for several reasons. The first reason is in honor and recognition of the concept of “citizen politician.” The Founders did not anticipate politics as a career choice. Instead, they had hoped to design a truly participatory and representative democracy. Second, it is not obvious that additional years “as a politician” enhances one’s expertise, wisdom, objectivity, competence, or forthrightness in his or her voting. Thirdly, regular and frequent changes in the U.S. Congress are more for the first time in our nation’s history our country is “both blessed and burdened by the simultaneous presence of four generations…—in 1900 (there were) two generations; in 1960, three generations; in 2015, four generations.” Dead Serious and Lighthearted – The Memorable Words of Modern America (All Volumes) (2018-2019) p. 15. Thus, the periodic change and the age composition of our U.S. Congress should, to a degree, be assured via the use of term limits. Lastly, term limits could lessen the tortuous (and dangerous) influence of lobbyists. Lobbyists will not disappear as a profession, but because the legislative tenures of Congressmen and Congresswomen will be shortened, lobbyists will at least be retained more for their subject expertise rather than their legislative connections.
Idea:      Limit terms in the U.S. Congress to, for example, two terms in the House and one-term in the U.S. Senate.
Implementation Comments: Any statutory changes are, to varying degrees, disruptive. Thus, because (and in order recognize that) the adoption of term limits could greatly impact the careers of fine younger men and women who have already planned on politics as a “career” and who may have already invested years into positioning themselves to run for U.S. Congress, it may be acceptable – even advisable – to provide that term limits will only affect candidates under the age of X, e.g. age 45 years. Such exemption may also lessen the resistance of current members of Congress to adopting and accepting term limits. While this is a substantial exemption, it is useful to remember how quickly time flies by – it has been 50 years since the U.S. first landed on the Moon; 39 and 27 years,  respectively, since Reagan and Clinton were elected President; and 18 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. Thus, even if term limits were adopted with this exemption, term limits would be “universal” and apply to everyone soon enough.
Source: Already well-known concept.

Idea No. 3

 – The Media –

Report Corporate Settlements, Awards and Fines as Percentage of Annual Net Profits

Background: Major financial settlements and judicial awards and fines of corporations and other business entities are reported almost every day in the media – The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on the evening and in the Internet news. Oftentimes, in the case of settlements, the payor party is not required to admit any wrongdoing. Instead, it is expressly stated that the payor party “admits no wrongdoing,” and that the settlement was reached (“merely”) in order to bring “conclusion” to a matter. At first blush, many of these settlement amounts and imposed awards and fines seem to be very substantial — $25.0MM, $147.0MM, etc. However, without balance sheet perspective, dollar amounts – and especially large corporate dollar amounts — can be very deceiving. (See Mack W. Borgen Blog No. 59, “The Challenge of Perspective and the Burden of (So Many) Numbers,”  , June 16, 2015). What may seem like a large settlement may, in reality, be a chump-change corporate payoff.   For example, hypothetically, if Wells Fargo Bank settled its false-accounts dispute for a settlement sum of $350,000,000, such sum would seem substantial. However, such a settlement would represent a mere 5.7% of the bank’s 2019 reported net income of $6,100,000,000. Such entire sum could be entirely paid by Wells Fargo Bank with its net profits from a mere 20 days based upon last year’s reported net income.
Idea: In reporting corporate financial settlements, awards, and fines, the media — as a matter of routine practice — should identify the amount to be so paid both in actual dollars and as a percentage of the corporation’s net annual profits. The referenced net annual profits could be those reported for the prior year or, preferably, the average net annual profits for the last three years could be used.
Implementation Comments: This type of reporting cannot (and should not) be legally mandated. Furthermore, it will never be perfect (i) because of the corporation’s use of subsidiaries and affiliates and (ii) because such net annual profits may only be available for the about 4,000 reporting public companies in the U.S. Nevertheless, such companies represent a great portion of the U.S. economy and, in some instances, net profit data with respect to even private companies may be available.
Source: Mack W. Borgen

Added Blog Feature – The Fancypants Word of the Day

Abecedarian 1) Of or relating to the alphabet; 2) Arranged in alphabetical order; 3) Basic, rudimentary. Source and thank to and Shawna Borgen.

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