Fixing America- Ideas 21-40 – “Going Forward (Better)”

By November 13th, 2023

Blog No. 176 
November 14, 2023

Fixing America 

The Brilliance of Many – Part II

By Mack W. Borgen
University of California at Berkeley (Honors, Economics); Harvard Law School; National Award-Winning Author; 2023 Listee – Who’s Who in America.

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(Note: This is materially the same Introduction as appeared in my last Brilliance of Many article (Oct 31, 2023). If you wish, you may go directly to the New Ideas starting below at Idea 21.) 

In 2010, 13 years ago now, I started writing my series of books. For nearly the first two (2) years, I meandered with how and where to begin. I felt motivated in part because I believed than (and still do) that America had lost its way a bit – and that “the place to begin was everywhere.”

I eventually decided to write a series of books entitled “The Chance of a Lifetime – A Series of Seven Books about the Patient Remaking of American Life.” The working title of the last book in this planned series was to be “The Brilliance of Many.” This book was to set forth, page after page, a relatively detailed description of the hundreds of ideas for change which I had developed or which I had come across in my research and reading.

My writing plans changed, however, and the rest is, as they say, “history.”  In 2012 and 2013, I released The Relevance of Reason series. In 2018-2019 I released the Dead Serious – The Memorable Words of Modern America series. And then in 2021 I released my far more personal “Writings of a Lifetime.”

But I always regretted not presenting – or at least listing — the many ways in which we might help us, step by step, to move our country forward.

Recently, I came across nearly 300 pages of my notes and outlines of such ideas. Start with my last article (Blog 175, October 31, 2023), and although that Brilliance of Many book is not going to be written (by me at least), I have started to present at least some of those ideas for your consideration. The second set of twenty ideas (Ideas 21-40) is set forth below. Many more will be included in later blog articles.

The below descriptions of these ideas are, as you will see, presented in a very summary manner. I have not included any background of the issue or any identification of the probable issues of implementation.

Nevertheless, I believe that some of them may resonate. Some of them may – in some small way – motivate others where I have left off.

Also, some of the ideas are very broad in scope and “major.” In a few cases, they are even “philosophical” in nature. Others are individually “minor” and, in a few cases, almost borderline pedantic in nature. They are included because theoretically every step in the right direction might help.  Enjoy.

Quick Listing of (Both Simple and Complex) Ideas

for “Fixing America”

Idea 21. Reinstitute Campaign Contribution Limits and Campaign Donation Transparency. Especially after the devastating 2010 USSC ruling in Citizens’ United, it is nearly impossible to eliminate – or even materially diminish – the impact of money or in-kind donations upon our political campaigns. Nevertheless, three (3) things can be done. First, at least some caps on campaign contributions above $X should be reinstated (whether made to a candidate, a party, or a PAC). Second, full and timely donation transparency should be made to the voting public, and the identities of contributors should be rigorously tracked. Third, criminal violations of campaign laws must be strictly enforced — not through the (currently-lame) Federal Elections Commission but through normal federal and state criminal enforcement prosecutions.

Idea 22. Lessen the Impact of Single-Issue or Single Party Voting. Although extremely difficult to do, single-issue voting (e.g., Second Amendment, abortion-related issues, LGBTQ, foreign policy, or tax fairness issues) or single-party voting (Republican vs Democrat) should be discouraged. It is not proposed that one should not work for and towards defined goals and objectives, but single-issue voting should be discouraged whenever possible and wherever feasible. This might be partly achieved by emphasizing (a) the concept of community, (b) the simultaneous importance of a wide range of issues, and (c) the fact that our world does not, and never will, allow us a single-issue existence.  

Idea 23. Eliminate the Annual Production of the 4.3BB (yes, billion) Pennies. This was done relatively recently by Canada, and it is estimated that the U.S. Treasury could save $100MM per year. In the scary numbers of the government, $100MM may not, at first, seem like a lot. However — to use one example — using a rough average of K-12 teacher salaries, the easily saved money by merely NOT producing more pennies every year would equate to about another 1,500 to 1,900 schoolteachers in America every school year!!

Idea 24. Periodic and Scheduled Review for Assuring Appropriate Compensations for the Use of Federal Lands. Nearly one-third of this country is owned by the federal government. Periodic close and public review should be regularly conducted (e.g., at least once every two years) to assure that the federal government (i.e., our” government) is receiving reasonable compensation for the use of the use of such land for grazing rights, timber removal, etc. 

Idea 25. Sunsetting – Institutionalize the Regular (and Ongoing) Review of All Federal Laws and Regulations with respect to whether or not such laws and regulations should be proposed for sunsetting. The reviews should be conducted by independent commission which, in turn, could rate the current relevance and utility of such laws and regulations on a scale of, for example, 1 = No Longer Serving an Identifiable Purpose to 10 – Critically important for the purposes such law was enacted or such regulation was promulgated. All review ratings should be publicly reported, and all laws receiving a “low” continued utility score should be revoked.

Idea 26. Enhance Governmental Contract Banning Practices so that any individual (using, as applicable, the RCO (responsible corporate officer) standard) or corporation which is convicted of a serious federal crime shall be banned from any federal contract for a period of not less than X years. Once again, transparency is critical so that state, county, and city jurisdictions may likewise, if they so choose, ban such parties.

Idea 27. Elimination of Congressional Pensions. All federal congressional pensions (except to the extent they are currently vested) should be suspended and hereafter barred. (Author’s Note: This would be unnecessary if term limits were adopted). However, even before the hopeful adoption of term limits, this pension-restriction step could reinforce the honorable concept (and earlier tradition) of the citizen, rather than the career, politician. (Blog 110, December 10, 2019).

Idea 28. Cap Congressional Pay Increases to the greater of CPI or X% (e.g., 3%). (Blog 110, December 10, 2019).

Idea 29. Eliminate the Congressional Health Care System so that members of Congress receive (or endure) the same health care system which is available to the American public. (Blog 110, December 10, 2019).

Idea 30.  Increase the Necessary Prosecution of “White Collar” Crimes by Defining, Tracking, and Reporting Their Occurrences. Data regarding nearly all crimes is carefully tracked by numerous federal and state law enforcement departments. However, since there is literally no formal definition of “white collar crime,” data regarding such crimes (e.g., frequency, type, number of victims) de facto goes untracked and unreported. Some argue that this is one of major reasons “white collar crimes” are (a) too frequently perceived as almost “victimless” crimes (other than rough references to X number of customers, etc.) and (b) too frequently under-prosecuted in the United States.

Idea 31.  Increase the Prosecution of “White Collar” Crimes by creating a new division in the DOJ and by allocating increased budgets for the prosecution of white-collar crimes. These cases are oftentimes highly complex and defendants in these types of cases are oftentimes, if not usually, represented by sophisticated and experienced counsel. The DOJ (and state authorities as well) need to create their own white collar prosecution divisions with parallel expertise and resources. Relatedly, the use of deferred prosecution agreements (“DPAs”) and non-prosecution agreements should be rarely, rather than commonly, used. Furthermore, they should not be allowed unless responsible high-level executives are prosecuted.  It should be noted that “I-promise-not-to-do-it-again” release tickets are not available anywhere else in our criminal justice system.

Idea 32.  Media – Clarity in Reporting. The media should be encouraged to report all civil penalties imposed against corporations in both absolute dollars and as a percentage of such corporation’s average corporate earnings for the last X (e.g. three (3) years). While large lump sum penalties imposed upon corporate defendants may appear to be substantial, when they are juxtaposed against such corporation’s average annual earnings their probable impact becomes far more meaningful. Compare, for example, a seemingly large $460.0MM fine. Certainly, such sum seems substantial to most Americans. However, if the media reporting shows that such amount represents only, for example, 4% of the corporation’s annual income (i.e., a measly 14 days of the corporation’s year), the “truth” of such amount becomes far more meaningful. (See M. Borgen Blog 106, October 16, 2019).

Idea 33.    Alllocation of Payment of Legal Fees and Costs. Adopt the European system of allocating the payment of attorneys’ fees to the losing party. This simple, but hugely impactful, change could help equalize the respective rights and powers of litigation parties – and the true right of access of all citizens to America’s judicial system.

Idea 34. Institutionalization of “Goodness” and the Routine Recognition Thereof. Encourage all departments of government and all schools, businesses, and organizations to more routinely recognize “goodness” – whether by nomination or selection. Better promote and publicize the recipients of award such as, to name just a few, Purple Heart recipients, Volunteer Service Awards, and the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission which honors civilians who risk their lives to save others and organizations. America needs to slowly elevate the recognition of not just the rich and powerful but the best, bester, and bestest of all Americans. (See M. Borgen Blog 119, July 20, 2020, for discussion of the use of Lifetime Citizenship Awards).

Idea 35. Expend Parental Leave Laws and Job Security Provisions and, relatedly, expand the role of fathers in the routine provision of childcare. While the U.S. is getting, if I may interject my personal beliefs here, better and better with respect to family leave protections, we are still distant and far behind the tolerance — indeed, encouragement — of family leave of other countries (e.g., in Scandinavia, family leave is normally for up to one year and in Sweden at least three (3) of those months must be taken by the father).

Idea 36. Limit “Automatic” Jus Soli Citizenship. Though a highly sensitive subject amidst our country’s currently too-heated discussions about immigration and though it would require amending the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it would be advisable to possibly restrict or qualify the principle of jus soli (right of the soil) so that anyone born in the US does not automatically become a citizen. “Birthright” citizenship may have made more sense – and been less impactful — decades ago when international mobility was far more limited.

Idea 37. Transform the Concept of “Affirmative Action” away from race and instead upon economic status. In other words, arguably a “better vision” of affirmative action would be based one’s economic status rather than one race. This is not offered as a “fixed idea,” but merely as an idea which may be worthy of considered evaluation.

Idea 38. Institutionalize Independent Fact Checking with respect to all media reporting and provide accuracy ratings. Such ratings could guide, but not dictate, viewership. Such media accuracy ratings could be done in a manner somewhat paralleling the institutionalized (and now routine) movie content ratings – From PG to X-Rated. To assist readers or listeners in understanding what they are reading or hearing, many useful ratings could be quietly posted with respect to all such media. Examples could include E (Entertainment), N (News), C (Opinion and Commentary). Critically important as well, is for there to be some form of rating and reporting (e.g., A-F) reflecting this media’s historical factual accuracy.

Idea 39. Teacher’s “Bonus” and “Incentive” Pay. Encourage school districts to institutionalize the use of bonus or incentive pay whereby teachers can receive school year bonuses (a) for achieving good academic results, (b) for working in historically poorly performing schools or school districts, (c) for teaching traditionally hard-to-teach or hard-to-staff subjects, or (d) for whatever defined goals and objectives are from time to time identified by such school districts. While this may at first seem, to a degree, “inappropriate” reward system, the general concept of bonus and incentive pay is widely recognized throughout our country’s economic system – why not in the context of education as well. 

Idea 40. Two Closing Quotes Humbly Presented as Both Idea and Reminder. As FDR once said, “there are many ways of going forward, but there is one way of standing still.” And at this juncture of our American history and with the rise of the hostility in our public conversations, it seems like today is not a good time to “stand still.” So, when should we start – well, as Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “the past, the present, and the future are really only one – they are today.”

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Copyright 2023 by Mack W. Borgen. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews, without prior written permission by the author.




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