Friday, August 8, 2014

Money and politics

Believe it or not there is a fairly simple way to mitigate the massive amounts of money needed to participate in our current political system.  As it stands now in order to run for even the most “humble” of elected offices hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed.  If that office is more notable, like that of a Congressman or Senator or even the President, millions and billions are needed. 

During the last election cycle the average spent by members of Congress was in excess of 1.6 million.  For a United States Senator the winning amount exceeded 10 million and a whopping 1 billion was spent combined during the last Presidential race leading us to the conclusion that there has to be a better way, a more efficacious way that allows more options than just the very rich and connected the opportunity to run for office and more importantly serve.

Tell me what you think:

I call it a Political Service Degree and every potential candidate would have to pass the course in order to be eligible to apply to run.  We have to pass a driving test in order to drive.  We have to pass drug screenings in order to work.  There are tests it seems for almost everything we do except for running for political office.  In politics all you need is money. 

Words like experience, ability and honesty have been used to describe our leaders, repeated endlessly in revolving sound bites, sound bites that require lots of money.  For the most part those words are worthless expressions used only within a campaign as platitudes to sway the hapless voters, purchased in large blocks to run over TV or Radio, print and mailers.  Unconnected words are often used without a foundational basis creating the illusion of a moral foundation instead of the needed clearly seen principles that are generally earned through life’s experiences and tell us the truth about who a candidate really is, things that money cannot buy.

Money has always been a part of our political system but now it’s the overriding factor in most elections.  Even though the “most money” spent does not guarantee success it does create a shift of opportunity that very few can exercise, excluding the majority of the population from the very process that is supposed to be a "Government of the people, by the people, for the people…”Lincoln   
It has instead become a government of the rich, by the rich and mostly for the rich, this needs to change.

Let me make one thing very clear, I am not trying to exclude the rich they became rich in some cases through hard work, and have every right to utilize their skills and money toward getting elected, and I for one would rather have a successful individual as my leader than a guy who is just getting by or has a track record of failure.   What I am saying is that money, on its own should not be the deciding factor in any election in the future.

Every potential candidate must be able to show competencies and earn the associated certifications of the Political Service Degree, based on real life experiences prior to the application process and just like teachers, lawyers, Doctors, health workers etc.. they would have to provide proof of continuing education.  So often we complain that our politicians are out of touch with the reality of what most of us have to deal with, so let’s change that, make them prove to us that they do understand.

Step one:  Community service, similar perhaps to the TV show Undercover Boss, the potential politicians would have to work within certain segments of our economy and be able to show competency working behind the counters of American businesses.  They would have to be able to “hold down” a job, for three months, just like the rest of us and deal with the mundane, the difficult, the dirty and the gross aspects of what the rest of us have to deal with on a daily basis.  Maybe Mike Rowe would agree to moderate the show?
Three months of complete anonymity should be enough with hidden cameras to prove that they actually did the job and with the added benefit for us to watch, after the fact of course as they bumbled and fell, screwed up and messed up, just so they can know what real life is all about.

Step two:  Each hopeful leader would have to work as a Substitute Teacher; three months in random assignments, in different grades and schools and most importantly not the schools they send their children too but the everyday schools we all attended including a one week stint in an inner city school, again incognito and recorded.

Step three: This is perhaps the hardest part; each candidate would have to live within a very strict budget, living in an apartment, preferably on the second floor while working for those six months.  They would have to do their own shopping, their own cooking and cleaning, they would have to buy furniture and pay the bills, get the cable company to work and balance their working life with the realities of having little money, less time and in an environment that is less than ideal…hmm kinda like the rest of us.

After the six months they must pass a test, maybe the CAHSEE high school exam, of understanding that outlines their ability to budget their money, live within that budget and successfully demonstrated competence toward the skills of living like those they hope to represent.
For those who have truly come from the real life the six months will be an easy reminder of where they come from, but for those who came from privilege the process may be the difference in determining whether or not they are able and capable to lead with empathy and understanding.

The TV rights and associated revenues would be equally split with those who complete the training but could only be used in the campaign toward their hopeful election.  Those who do not complete the course, decide to cheat or in any way try to subvert the process will forfeit their chances for political office and have to wait at least 5 years before trying again. 

Money is not evil but how it’s used in politics breeds contempt and disrespect for those who fail to achieve that same level of “success”.  Political leaders have for too long been too dependent on the one overriding force of money, they need to learn that in order to lead effectively service and empathy is the key. 

There are three aspects of leadership that must be demonstrated prior to certification.  1.  Ability has to be present; a candidate has to be able to do the job.  2.  Honesty and integrity must be associated with a strong leader, what good is a leader if these traits are not in evidence? 3. They must have the means toward effective communication.  They must be able to explain their vision and their methods in order to garner the support they need to lead.  

Money should not be the issue in politics…your ideas and comments are welcome.

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