By Steve Kopperud
Below is a snarky list of political, procedural and practical changes I'd like to see in Washington, D.C., next year, especially with the kick-off of the 113th Congress. I hope as I write this on December 27, 2012, at least some of the items listed will be reality, and hopefully, before the freshman class of congresspeople finds the restrooms in January. Having said that, I've worked in Washington long enough to know that common sense and politics are the strangest of bedfellows, so I'm not crossing my fingers just yet.
Of course I want to see the perils of plowing over the fiscal cliff avoided knowing it will take smarts, political guts and compromise to get there. So big is that desire, I reserve a special spot on my personal list of priorities. With that disclaimer and tongue planted firmly in cheek - sometimes - here's my "wish list" for 2013 and beyond:
1. I want Congress to demonstrate collective maturity, common sense and bipartisanship, with all members understanding their political affiliation has a lot less to do with the national interest than they think.
2. I want all members of Congress, particularly the incoming freshman class, to understand and remember they were elected to represent the best interest of the voters of their state/district, not individual self-interest, career enhancement or their party leadership.
3. I want all members of Congress to think locally, then nationally, then globally as they contemplate legislation to be introduced, bills to be debated and final packages to be voted up or down. The days of "all politics is local" are quickly disappearing; we prosper or fail in a global context.
4. I want to resurrect the idea of a constitutional amendment on term limits for members of Congress. I'm not saying it's the magic cure to all that ails the institution, and I'm not saying I'm for or against term limits, but it's a concept based on the behavior we've seen over the last several years deserving some serious, lively and very public debate.
5. A more immediate improvement in how Congress operates is fairly simple. I want both the House and Senate to amend their respective rules to limit the terms of the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House and the various party leaders. This eliminates intraparty backbiting and public posturing. It's also a great way to avoid megalomania, especially among members who should have retired years ago. If it's important to force committee chairs and ranking members to rotate out of those powerful slots, it's important to bring new thinking and perspectives to chamber leadership, especially since what we've seen since President Obama was elected in 2008 is the inspiration for the first four items on this list.
6. I want to see all future Farm Bills move forward without the political baggage of the so-called "nutrition title," i.e. that chunk of the omnibus ag bill carrying federal food stamps and other "feeding" programs. Not only do these programs represent 80% of the total cost of the package, they've bottom line got nothing to do with producing the food they distribute or underwrite. Food stamps, Women/Infant/Children nutrition programs, etc., are important and deserve separate debate. Farm programs and food stamps were only mashed together in an attempt to secure votes back in the day. Them days is over.
7. If we go through the next two years as bad or worse than the last six or eight years, then I'm going to be the first to demand both IQ tests and mental health evaluations for all candidates for public office.
We all have a vested interest in this country's success, so we must remember politics is the art of the possible and compromise is an agreement where all involved are a just little ticked off when they walk away from the table. Yes, there are issues where facts must prevail over emotion and fantasy; but there are just as many issues where the middle of the road is the safest place for all of us to be. Fingers crossed.