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Politics & Policy

10 Ideas to Make America Better #2

Ten more ideas to make America better? Nobody asked, so of course I answered. Here are ten more ideas focused mostly on politics, but also adult drinking and daylight savings time (which are surely related). Some seem like they’d be a slam dunk to implement, some much harder, but all are worth a try.

What do you think we should tackle first?

10 Ideas to Make America Better

1. Make Daylight Savings Permanent or Nuke It

Spring forward! Fall back! It’s like national calisthenics determined to make you less healthy. You know why we have this brilliant institution of annual confusion and electronics abuse? Freakin’ German imperialists:

“The German Empire and Austria-Hungary organized the first nationwide implementation starting on April 30, 1916. Many countries have used it at various times since then, particularly since the 1970s energy crisis.” – Wikipedia

That alone should be grounds for repeal. But it turns out changing the clock also screws with sleep patterns, causes depression, increases accidents and…sucks.

The solution is permanent DST, which of course in the USA is banned by the federal government because…freedom? More on this history of all this here:

As this video suggests, just sent the clocks forward during the spring and leave them there. For freaking ever. It’s not legal for states to do this now, but that should be relatively simple change. It has bipartisan support:

Marco Rubio first introduced the Sunshine Protection Act in 2018, which would move the entire country to permanent, year-round daylight saving time. Rubio has renewed his call multiple times since then, most recently on Tuesday: “The call to end the antiquated practice of clock changing is gaining momentum throughout the nation,” he said. – NPR

How? Pass the Sunshine Protection Act, set your clocks, and leave ’em. Forever. That’s it. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Write your legislators. Call them. They’re lonely and want to hear from you. Sign the petition. Do something!

2. Get Rid of Term Limits Except for Executives

Okay, this will be controversial and probably sound counter-intuitive, but term limits are just a terrible idea (for anything except executives, and maybe even there). Does anyone really think term limits taking effect in California starting in 1990 made California better? It did not improve politics, partisanship, policy or much of anything positive.

What term limits did in California is what they always do; ensure that ignorant, inexperienced politicians have to rely on special interests to tell them what to do on complex topics they barely understand and don’t have time to learn while figuring out what office they can run for after being termed out. Term limits empower money and lobbyists over people, period. And that’s why conservative think-tanks like ALEC love them. They want more power in the hands of corporations, and less in yours.

But what’s worse is that they are objectively unconstitutional and a gross violation of our democracy. Why? Well, think about it. People, soldiers, advocates and others have literally fought and died to give you a right to vote. And because we’re too lazy to do our job voting, we want to surrender that right back to the government so it can then tell us we can’t vote for the candidate we want.

This is the very definition of fascism, limiting votes to only those the government approves of. Term limits are a betrayal of democracy, period. If you really want to limit the power of incumbents, I’ve suggested a different approach called incumbent handicapping that increases  the votes required to hold office with each subsequent term, but even without that, term limits need to go.

But term limits could also tend to promote longer tenure than necessary, as well as perverse incentives for self-dealing in a lame-duck term. Proponents of term limits probably need to identify better arguments to overcome 230 years of constitutional practice, at least if presidential term limits are any guide. – Federalist Society

The only purpose they really serve is making angry voters think they’re teaching career politicians a lesson. It’s about anger, retribution and petty hatred of the “political class.” And that’s just a holdover from our founding when the country was small and you didn’t need to understand, well, much of anything to be a politician. You could learn it all on the job.

Today, there is simply no way anyone can understand what they’re voting on without years of experience. So term limits are really a vote for the “deep state,” the legacy bureaucracy, who are the only ones then left who know how things actually work.

How? Just. Stop. And get rid of the term limits in place.

3. Implement Ranked-Choice Voting

Without getting into a lot of technical and wonky jargon about voting, most of us can agree that the first-past-the-post 51% voting model that dominates in the USA isn’t ideal. We can’t risk “wasting” a vote on candidates we like, so instead we vote for the candidate most likely to win from the pool of candidates we hate the least. This lesser of two evils model frustrates voters and voter intent, makes it harder for third-parties to win office, and doesn’t even reflect what most voters want. Ranked-choice voting is one of several models that tackle these issues head on:

It’s a little complicated to explain, so here’s an infographic from the Maine Secretary of State, where RCV is already in place. You rank your top candidates and then:

Rank Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting – Courtesy of Maine SOS

Several states have already put RCV in place, including Maine in 2020:

To be clear, I’m not saying RC voting is the only option that’s better than the simple majority, just that it’s better. If there’s a preferred or superior option, let’s to that. I don’t care as long as voters can get closer to voting for the politicians they want rather than the ones they hate least. How can that not make America better?

How?  Learn where it’s already implemented and how it improves things. Support or start RCV initiatives in your state. Then, get ready for a better voting experience.

4. Government Use IFRS Accounting Standards (Hard)

I know, accounting. Exciting, right? International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) would require the US government to follow the same rules as pretty much everyone else (or at least, where the world is heading), thus increasing transparency, decreasing software and accounting costs, and paying less to consultants who actually understand our arcane national GAAP and other accounting rules.

This is like the metric system: most of the world uses it, but we don’t. It causes translation cost and confusion. The US uses its own system (US GAAP) instead of IFRS, just like China and a bit of Japan, who also have their own systems. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually pretended like we were part of the world for a change? That would make America better for, well, everyone.

How? Lots of legal, regulatory and accounting changes. Will it happen any time soon? No. Should we start moving in this direction? Yes. Is this exciting? Sorry, I dozed off. I mean, sure! If you care about government efficiency.

5. Universal Automatic Voter Registration (Hard)

Other than the fact that some parties benefit from low voter registration and turn out, it’s hard to see why we make registering to vote so hard in this country. We’re a representative democracy. Democracy requires voting. Shouldn’t we make that as seamless and efficient as possible?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining this because it’s a contentious partisan issue. The GOP would probably prefer we all give blood and five forms of ID to prove we’re worthy of the vote, and for them, this makes political sense. The more Democrats show up, the worse Republicans perform. That doesn’t make it a sound bases for public policy or elections.

How? Support initiates in your state for motor-voter (DMV-based-registration) and other programs that automate and simplify voter registration.

6. Require Single-Subject Legislation (Medium)

The idea is simple; legislation (bill) should be about one thing, and one thing only, so they are (a) less complex (b) more easily understood (c) don’t carry endless riders and amendments for special interests and (d) aren’t 5,000 pages long. This should be a policy supported by either end of the political spectrum, if not necessarily by political parties that benefit from massive and confusing omnibus legislation.

This has even been proposed as an amendment to the US Constitution:

A federal amendment was proposed as early as 1999 in a law journal article by Brannon Denning and Brooks R. Smith. The Florida Legislature in 2014 passed a memorial applying to Congress to call a convention for this purpose. A bill was introduced in the 113th Congress, and again in the 114th Congress, to propose the amendment by Congressman Tom Marino…” – Wikipedia

If you want to watch the world’s most boring and probably auto-generated summary of this, here’s a video guaranteed to kill some brain cells. Seriously, don’t watch it.

No, wait, this interview with (late) Single Subject Amendment CEO Spider Webb is even more excruciatingly uninteresting.

Despite how painfully uninteresting this topic is, it’s actually pretty important; giant bills full of mysterious amendments are how special interest slip ridiculous things into bills that almost no one even knows are there. And that’s why the single-subject rule is already law in state legislatures, including California:

In California, there is a single‑subject rule for legislation. Found in the state constitution, Article IV, Section 9, it provides, “A statute shall embrace but one subject which shall be expressed in its title. If a statute embraces a subject not expressed in its title, only the part not expressed is void. A statute may not be amended by reference to its title. A section of a statute may not be amended unless the section is re‑enacted as amended.” – CAP Impact

How? Every state could pass single-subject rules as a constitutional amendment, and the same thing would likely be required at the federal level. This will be a challenge given partisan opposition (parties do love their special interest amendments), but if it can get out of Congress and into the ratification process, it’s hard to see how 2/3 of states couldn’t be pressured into passing it.

7. Require an I’ve Read the Legislation Pledge

This is the simple but apparently inconceivable idea that a politician should know what they’re voting on when they…vote on it. There is simply no way that any current politician reads massive 1,000+ page bills pushed at them hours before a floor vote, where they’re just asked to trust party leadership.

The $900 billion pandemic relief package that was rushed through Congress Monday created a familiar year-end conundrum for lawmakers: It was a bill too big to fail, and also too big to read. – USN

What I propose is that a politician’s Yes vote be legally treated like a sworn affidavit stating that they or their staff have read the bill in full, that they understand what they’re voting on, and that pledging ignorance later is a legal admission of fraud. It may sound harsh, but voting for bills you don’t understand because someone told you it was all good is a terrible abnegation of responsibility and common sense.

And one great side effect of this requirement is that the longer the bill is, the longer it has to be publicly available before the vote, which increases transparency and review time. There is already something like this in discussion, though I’d argue this doesn’t go far enough:

The Review Every Act Diligently In Total (READ IT) Act aims to allow members to fully review all legislation before votes. It would institute a new rule in the official House rules, that anything receiving a vote must have been publicly available in electronic form for a number of minutes that’s double the number of pages. – Medium

The proposed Read the Bills Act gets closer to the mark:

The Read the Bills Act (RTBA) is proposed legislation intended to require the United States Congress to read the legislation that it passes. It was originally written in 2006 by Downsize DC, a non-profit organization focused on decreasing the size of the federal government…

Similarly, a separate bill nicknamed the “Read the Bill Act” would require bills to be posted publicly 72 hours prior to consideration in Congress. Unlike the Downsize DC proposal, this bill is supported by (part of the Sunlight Foundation) with the primary aim to increase transparency in government. – Wikipedia

But whatever the name or form of the bill, it’s time politicians were required to read the bills they vote on, and given the time to do so.

How? Pass one of the bills mentioned above, preferably the one advocated by, and then take it a step further to require reading before voting.

8. Stop Infantilizing Adults (Drinking Age 21)

You’re an adult when you’re eighteen. You can be drafted, sent to jail, ruin yourself financially, and so on. You should be able to buy a damn beer. They idea that in the allegedly “freest country on Earth” you can be forced to fight a war oversees and kill people for America but then can’t have a beer when you get back is beyond hypocrisy.

Countries Where Drinking Age is 21

Countries Where Drinking Age is 21

All laws restricting the rights of anyone over the age of eighteen should be repealed and are, frankly unconstitutional. The only reason we have this effective national drinking age is because President Reagan imposed it on states by threatening interstate highway funding in 1984.

This video might or might not help inform you about the topic, but either way it’s a good laugh.

So if you want to decrease binge drinking, decrease date rape and sexual assault by drunken idiots, and generally act more like a free country populated by adults, it’s time for the age 21 law to go.

How? Just freaking repeal the 1984 act and replace it with a law that you can’t strip adults of freedom in the name of interstate commerce or funding. Or any other reason short of felony convictions, and then only to the extent necessary.

9. Restore Native American Land where Possible (Hard)

There is no way to undo what has been done to Native Americans in this country, but one problem we can fix is to (at the very least) enforce and comply with land-related agreements that are currently in dispute. See the #LandBack hashtag on Twitter for an active discussion.

Does this mean giving all US land back to all tribes? Of course not. Do I agree with everything being proposed? No. But should we do something to restore lands and dignity where we can, and often where the law requires? Hell, yes.

How? At least start the process of seeing what Native American land can be restored in your region, what remains in dispute, etc. There’s a large learning process here for all of us, and no perfect solution, but it’s time to get started in earnest.

10. Formalize a Default Neuter Pronoun

And I don’t mean “it”. It’s a scary clown or an offensive objectification, not a neuter pronoun. Just pick a set of words we can all use to solve absurd damn problems like calling companies they or who and unknown people he / she or he or she or frack! Why hasn’t anyone just fixed this? And yeah, I know “they” is the current contender, and I’m glad it works for trans people (genuinely), but it’s a grammatical disaster and always has been. We can do better.

Two Heads Neutral Bubbles

Two Heads Graphic – Courtesy of ETFO Voice

My suggestion for a humanist, apolitical gender-neutral English.

How? I guess I’d start with business communications, publishing companies and schools. But honestly, I’m open to ideas.

Other Ways to Make America Better?

I’m sure I’ll have more ideas in the future, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. What works or doesn’t? What’s practical or not? And what do you think we can do to improve America? I mean, the United States.


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