If They’re Good Enough for Our Capitalism, They’re Good Enough for Our Democracy

By July 20th, 2020

Blog No. 119
July 20, 2020

 Fixing America – Idea 17

 Reading Time: 8 Minutes

By Mack W. Borgen, Recipient of Eight National Book Awards. For a “cleaner,” non-email presentation of this and my other blogs, essays, and articles, please go to my website at https://www.mackwborgen.com/

Introduction 

Over the last year, I have presented ideas for “resetting” and “fixing” America. This blog is the 17th idea presented in my Fixing America series of articles. 

Certainly our country must first defeat the Covid pandemic, finish another national election, and start resolving America’s many problems. But, I respectfully suggest that we must think bigger and differently. We must think long-term, and we must stop being a harsh and reactive nation. And to that end, I humbly present these ideas for your consideration.    

Some of the ideas are my own. Some 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). A few of the ideas are older and well-known, but I believe deserve reconsideration. A few of them incorporate the welcomed and attributed ideas of friends and associates. The ideas cover a wide range of subjects. They are presented without lengthy comment.

This week’s idea is relatively radical. It should not be considered until after the passing of the pandemic and the settling down of our economy, but I believe that it deserves serious consideration now.

Idea No. 17

If They’re Good  Enough for Our Capitalism,

They’re Good Enough for Our Democracy

Monthly Recognition Payments

for Lifetime Excellence in Citizenship

Background.  In addition to wages and salaries, thousands of American companies use bonuses and incentive payments to reward and motivate their employees. Such bonus and incentive plans are standard components of American business compensation structures. But, almost strangely, there are no parallel “bonuses,” rewards,” or “recognition payments” which are a part of our America’s democracy. Possibly that should change. Possibly, if bonuses are good enough for our capitalism, then they’re good enough for our democracy.

Very bluntly, public awards and the many and varied do-gooder recognitions are not enough — at least for our deserving citizens. There are thousands of public and private awards, citations, and other recognitions given out each year in our country. Distinguished This and Meritorious That. Some awards are certainly prestigious. Some are even well-known such as the Presidential Medal of Freedom which has been given to a widely and disparate range of famous people — from the Apollo 13 Crew to Mother Teresa; from Ronald Reagan to Colin Powell, from Edward R. Murrow to Walter Cronkite; from Aretha Franklin to Roger Staubach; and on and on.

However, most awards are not widely known. Sadly, few people have even heard of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, the NIA’s George Washington Spymaster Award, or the U.S. Forest Service’s Excellence in Wilderness Stewardship Research Award. This is equally true of the untold thousands of state and local awards and the business, association and charitable service awards.

Ordinarily, these types of awards are made only annually to a single person or a limited group of people. But one very deserving group of Americans has been left out – and, collectively, this group of Americans may be the most deserving of all. This group of Americans is referred to in this article as the Excellence in Citizenship Americans — the “EC Americans.”

Our democracy, too often like our capitalism, is cluttered by the rules, laws, statutes, ordinances, policies, orders, and pressures. Similarly, we are constantly subjected to bossiness and negativism. We are too rarely encouraged and thanked. Instead, we endure the rattle, rags, and nags of “do this / don’t do that,” “be here / “go there,” file your taxes, yield to pedestrians, register to vote, pay your taxes, do your best, Don’t Pass Go … and on and on.

And with that in mind, it may be time for America to finally encourage, honor, and reward that which is central to our entire society — good citizenship. It may be time for our democracy to adopt the incentivizing and rewarding tools which have been so carefully honed by our country’s businesses; which have become such an integral part of our country’s capitalism. It may be time to recognize and reward those Americans who have been good citizens for a long time; for their entire life.

Such recognition would carry an honorarium whereby a monthly bonus payment would be added to these Americans’ social security checks. The monthly EC bonus payments could easily commence for each qualifying American at the age of approximately 62.5 years of age – the earliest age at which an American can start receiving social security.

Currently, the amount of one’s society security check is determined (a) by how much money a person mandatorily “contributed” to social security over the course of his or her life, and (b) by a series of complicated social security formulas. It is here suggested that if a person meets certain stringent qualifications, then his or her monthly dollar amount should be increased in honor and recognition of such person’s lifetime good citizenship.

 If we can pay rewards for lost dogs;

If we can pay bonuses for good sales numbers;

If we can structure incentives for timely work;

If we can pass out winnings for having the right lottery numbers;

Then,

We should be able to – and we should want to — honor America’s best citizens.

This author can already hear the deficit/debt push-back, no-can-do arguments.  And these are serious matters. However, as explained below, it is highly possible that these reward checks could be distributed with little or no out-of-pocket cost to our country. This is because good citizenship more than pays for itself in many ways — happier citizens, better communities, more education, less criminal activity, less dependence upon public welfare, more military or public service, and greater voter participation – to name just a few.

We cannot — and should not — build our democracy merely upon taxes and monies collected from fines, penalties, and judgments. Compare it with our capitalism. Businesses could easily punish, demote or fire employees who don’t meet the companies’ expectations. However, these companies have long recognized the advantages of adopting various kinds of incentives and rewards.

Idea:      Establish a universally-announced set of qualifying Lifetime Excellence in Citizenship criteria for Americans. Upon reaching a designated age each qualifying good citizen would receive an Excellence in Citizenship (“EC”) monthly bonus and recognition payment for his or her life. This payment would be added each month to their social security check.  

 Examples of possible qualifying criteria for achieving an EC status could include the following:

1.  Graduation from high school (supplied at no cost under our system of free public education).

2. No criminal convictions (with possible exceptions for speeding or minor vehicle or employment noncompliance infractions).

3. X Years (e.g. Two Years) of Military or Other Qualifying Community or Public Service Programs (e.g. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Vista).

4.  No application for any federal or state welfare program benefits (or, alternatively, never aggregately received more than $____ from such federal or state welfare programs and with a possible carve-out exception for FEMA-related assistance in the case of a natural disaster).

5. Voted in X% (e.g. 80%) of U.S. national elections.

6. U.S. Citizenship.

The Excellence in Citizenship recognition payment and bonus simultaneously would serve four purposes:

First,  delivery of honor and monetary recognition to such deserving EC Americans;

Second, repayment, in effect, to such EC Americans for the monies saved by our country as the direct or indirect result of their excellence in citizenship (e.g. no incarceration costs, no or less welfare payments);

Third, monetarily incentivize Americans to model their behavior so that they, too, will someday receive the EC monthly bonuses; and

Fourthly, greatly financially assist some elderly and deserving EC citizens.

Implementation. Like many of the ideas set forth in these Fixing America blogs, this idea for monthly EC recognition payments would be almost impossible without an integrated, multi-state computer capability. But this capability does exist. The requisite EC criteria information could be readily tracked.

As noted above, the cost of such recognition payments should be paid for many reasons and could be paid for in many ways.

Consider the following:

On a theoretical level, good behavior should be recognized, and sometimes even rewarded – just as bad behavior should be punished. Certainly, one should not have to be “bribed” to be a good citizen. However, this is itself a matter of perspective. While this author agrees that bribery is objectionable, rewarding and incentivizing good people should not be objectionable.

And in this case, the monthly bonus program for EC Americans may largely pay for itself. First, there is a direct correlation between one’s educational achievement and one’s lifelong economic well-being. Second, there is a direct (albeit not guaranteed) correlation between one’s avoidance of criminal activity and one’s economic (and familial and community) well-being. Bluntly, high school graduates are less likely to go to prison than high school dropouts. Similarly, high school graduates are less likely to rely upon welfare than high school dropouts. Thirdly, our nation deeply needs – and should deeply appreciate — the performance of military or other qualifying public service from these EC Americans. Fourthly, every good citizen quietly could serve as a model for others, and as a result, the quality of our communities and our nation will rise.

Adoption and Implementation Details: This EC program will have the normal implementation challenges until (a) the EC data is readily and verifiably assembled, and (b) the program has been in place for a number of years. For example, while the EC qualification criteria should be finalized now, the EC payments criteria may have to be staggered. For example, all six of the EC criteria listed above (High school graduation, no criminal record, military or public service, no receipt of welfare payments, voting participation, and citizenship) might be demanded only of those persons currently of age 14 or younger. On the other hand, U.S. citizens currently 45 years of age or more may be permitted to qualify for a partial monthly EC bonus if between their current age and age 65 (a) they have no criminal convictions, (b) they receive no welfare benefits, and (c) they vote in not less than 80% of the elections in this 25 years. These are just examples of the necessary implementation challengers – but they could be overcome.

Closing Note: This author recognizes that this is a rather radical idea; a rather radical enhancement to our social security program. At first blush, it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest social security increases at a time when some critics are concerned about the financial soundness of the social security program itself. However, over the mid- and long-term, the inducement for high school completion, the containment of criminal prosecution and incarceration costs, the decline of reliance upon the public welfare systems, the increase in military and community service, the honoring of citizenship, and the rebuilding of our communities should far – and easily — outweigh these shorter-term concerns.

Lastly and importantly, it should not be forgotten that even $100-$500 monthly EC recognition payments will be extremely helpful to many senior Americans. And this amount would be doubled for qualifying senior couples. For some seniors, such payments could be life-changing. And again, remember, the only way they could receive such additional monthly bonuses is by their excellence in citizenship for their entire life.

Source: Mack W. Borgen.

INVITATION 

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See Additional Previously-Presented Ideas: 

Idea 1 –  Consolidated Interstate Database for Reports of License Suspension or Revocation (Borgen Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019).

Idea 2 – Term Limits (Borgen Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019).

Idea 3 – The Media – Report Corporate Settlements, Awards and Fines as Percentage of Annual Net Profits (Borgen Blog 106, Oct. 14, 2019).

Idea 4 – Award of Attorneys’ Fess to Winning Party (Borgen Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019).

Idea 5 – Inclusion of Positive Aspects of American Society as a Distinct Part of U.S. History School Curricula (Borgen Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019).

 Idea 6 – Office of International Comparisons (Borgen Blog 107, Oct. 28, 2019). 

Idea 7 – The Need for Climate Scientists to Retain Professions for the Development of an Educational Campaign (Borgen Blog No. 109, Nov. 26, 2019).

 Idea 8 – Redefining the Concept of “News” The Need for the Regular Infusion of Positive News (Borgen Blog No. 109, Nov. 26, 2019).

 Idea 9 – The Necessity of Mandatory Public Service (Borgen Blog No. 109, Nov 26, 2019).

 Idea 10 – Cap or Tie Congressional Pay Increases (Borgen Blog No. 110, Dec 7, 2019).

 Idea 11 – Scrutinize (and Possibly Eliminate) the Congressional Health Care System (Borgen Blog 110, Dec 7, 2019).

 Idea 12 – Eliminate the Congressional Retirement System (Borgen Blog 110, Dec 7, 2019).

 Idea 13 – Cease production and eliminate the use of the U.S. penny (Borgen Blog 110, Dec 7, 2019).

Idea 14 – Institutionalized Use of U.S. Military Units in Event of Natural Disasters (Borgen Blog 113, February 11, 2020).

Idea 15 – Streamline the Federal and State Penal Codes and Address the Issue of Overcriminalization in American Society (Borgen Blog 114, February 25, 2020).

Idea 16 – It’s Time to Reset America (Borgen Blog 118, June 30, 2020).

Idea 17 – If They’re Good Enough for Our Capitalism, They’re Good Enough for Our Democracy – Monthly Recognition Payments for Excellence in Citizenship (Borgen Blog 119, July 15, 2020).

The Fancypants Word of the Day

Noctambulate (Part of speech: Verb; Origin: Latin) To walk about at night.
Examples of use in sentences: “After dinner, he loved to noctambulate and watch the stars come out.”
“The best part of living in the city is that you’ll never noctambulate again.”
Source and thank to wordgenius.com and Shawna Borgen.

The Gen Z* Slang Word or Phrase of the Day

Introduction: Communicating with younger generations is oftentimes difficult enough – especially since their conversations are dominated by memes, ever-changing social media platforms, and 280-character tweets. Nevertheless, our ability to “talk” with one another is important – and even if not important, it is at least useful. These short slang definitions might help.
Fit. “Fit” is just a shortened version of outfit.
Example 1: “Their fit was bold.”
BUT NOTE: The British use of the slang “fit” is to mean attractive as in “she’s fit” or “he’s fit.”
Source: The New York Times.
* Definitions of Generations: Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen X (1965-1980), Millennials (1981-1996), and Gen Z (1997- ).

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Books authored by Mack Borgen

Recipient of Eight National Book Awards
Best Nonfiction Book of the Year in Three Separate Categories
— U.S. History, Current Events, and Reference –

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