Let’s play a game where we propose something that will never, ever happen. I’ll go first! I think we should have a Constitutional Amendment that requires politicians to:
- Pass a literacy test. Is our politicians learning?
- Correctly answer all the citizenship questions which we put on the Naturalization Test. That’s the one that we give immigrants who want to become legal citizens. If our elected representatives don’t know the answers, maybe we’re either electing the wrong people or the test is irrelevant. When given a choice, I’d prefer to raise our standards for politicians rather than to dumb down the test. It would also be hilarious if some of the politicians most hostile to immigration failed it. It could be a new quiz show: Are You Smarter Than An Undocumented Worker?
- Pass an American History test. That would be a test that quizzes them on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and other important documents. It would see if the politician knows what Paul Revere actually is famous for, for example, or that the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired in Massachusetts and not New Hampshire, and that most of the Founding Fathers were Deists and that not only was this country not founded as a “Christian nation” but the Constitution doesn’t mention the word “God” once.
- Score above average on an IQ test. I know, that is just SO mean. You have to admit that it might improve things a bit, though.
- Pass a Current Events test. I don’t care if someone knows who Snooki is. I myself barely know who Snooki is, and wish I didn’t. I do think that an elected representative should know that Soviet Russia and Czechoslovakia are not exactly huge threats these days. Maybe they should even know the leader of Uzbeki(bekibekistan)stan, even if Herman Cain can’t be bothered.
- Maintain a website and social media presence. It should clearly outline which legislation they have supported or opposed, and how they voted (if they bothered to vote at all), including data about how many filibusters they indulged in (and how long they monopolized everyone else’s time with them). Citizens should be able to get online, go to a primary website, select their representative(s), and then be able to see where they stand on issues and how they chose to vote. They should know that Representative ArsonistCarThief is the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee where he can hand out subpoenas at his whim, despite his being known as a for-real felon back home, and Representative CrazyEyes is on the Intelligence Committee despite not being very well-informed about actual intelligence concerns and issues (and without being all that intelligent), and that maybe Representative SheAskedForIt doesn’t need to be on the Science and Technology Committee with Representative ScienceIsScary. Maybe they need to know what the heck Senator Bedfellow is actually up to, and if he is earning his salary.
- Maintain easily accessible and secure opinion polls online. I imagine this as a series of polls that solicit information from constituents about what the people they represent actually want them to do. Maybe you’d fill in your zip code, not that this couldn’t be subverted with a Google search. I’m not an expert on Internet security, but there are better and not-so-good ways to solicit poll opinions, and one would hope they’d choose the better way. There should also be an easy-to-find and easy-to-use
Crank-o-Gramcontact form. It would be nice to make it easier for the average person to be heard and acknowledged, though you know that this sort of thing would mostly be used by trolls sending DESU DESU DESU and U MAD? messages or angry old men shouting at clouds who wish to share some creative ideas about How Stuff Should Be. The best should be published, so everyone else can point and laugh or nod in agreement, depending on how much you read books and keep abreast of current events and such, or how much you really dig Matlock reruns and are likely to use the word “whippersnapper” or the phrase “in my day” without irony.
- Disclose all gifts and the total amount of money they receive from any individual or group. Every. Single. Penny. from Every. Single. Donor. If someone gives you a puppy, you itemize that puppy: One (1) Dog of Unknown Breed–cute, black and white, fuzzy, drools, knows how to fetch, fond of Beggin’ Strips, not very bright.
- Have the same healthcare plan as everyone else in the U.S.
- Have the same retirement plan as everyone else in the U.S.
- Get paid minimum wage. Failing that, figure out what the median annual wage is for the average employed American (it tends to be roughly $26,400) and pay them that. They can earn bonuses which will be solely to overwhelmingly positive ratings from their constituents.
- Have the same work benefits as does the average working person in the U.S. Have the same amount of paid sick days, maternity and paternity leave, holidays off, and paid vacation days as do most people. Just restricting some of these people to a half hour or hour maximum to eat lunch would freak them out.
- Ban lobbyists from getting within 10 miles of Congress. No phone calls, no emails, no snail mail. Forbid lobbyists to run for political office. Forbid politicians from serving as lobbyists after they are out of office. But seriously, they can hold regular free public “town hall”-type meetings to which the public is invited and then present their case to a particular political representative openly, with citizens offering their feedback immediately. This would probably be the most boring spectacle since a slow day on C-SPAN, but it is equally possible that LOBBY TV would be a hit, with the public phoning in to vote on whether Big Tobacco or Off-shoring Huge Corporation or Sketchy Charity or Self-important Wealthy Jerk-off can have the special favor or funds or considerations that it or she or he is asking for.
Good luck with that, amirite? Because (SPOILER!) who is going to be the mouse who has the power to survive the attempt to put the bell on the cats? Those who make our laws are unlikely to vote for a change in the law that holds them to higher standards and denies them goodies and perks they already enjoy. Example: it has been hard enough to get them to quit using insider tips to make a killing on the Stock Market, something ordinary folks get in big trouble for.
Our representatives are also unlikely to vote for something like this that might expose their possible areas of ignorance to everyone. That, right there, is most of the problem.
Yes, I am aware that this is silly talk. It’s a bunch of exaggerations and impracticalities presented for humor’s sake. It isn’t ever going to happen, some of it isn’t really do-able, and some of it would discourage people from choosing to be civil servants (not that this would necessarily be a terrible thing, if you got people in office who really wanted to be there to actually serve citizens more than they wanted power, a future career as a lobbyist, book salesperson or motivational speaker (ahem), and a nice salary with benefits). I’m just sayin’.
If still you haven’t figured out the reference being made in the article title by now, it refers to the old Æsop fable about a bunch of mice who are sick to the teeth of the household cat having an unfair advantage and chowing down on their brethren and sistren, and who suggest putting a bell around her neck so they have a fighting chance to hear her approaching in time to run for dear life. As you may have guessed–especially since I sort of gave away the most important plot point a couple of paragraphs earlier–there is a big flaw with their cunning plan: