Reform Congress: A Simple Plan For Ending the Gridlock

For years, Grover Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) have pushed their no new taxes agenda by forcing U.S. policymakers to sign their onerous "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," which stipulates that the signer must oppose all forms of taxation whether it be new taxes or reduction in credits or deductions.

The ATR and Norquist' pledge contributes to the gridlock on Capitol Hill, because the pledge severely limits the number of options for how Congress can reduce the national debt and pushes austerity measures that have not worked out in Europe or anywhere else for that matter. Therefore, we need a new approach and pledge that is based on a open minded approach that encourages a solution-oriented mindset on Capitol Hill, which I would like to call: The Pragmatic Fiscal Governance Pledge.

This new pledge offers a wider range of options for members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, by seeking to create a results-oriented working environment in Congress to reduce our national debt to a sustainable level, while not forcing any single part of our society to bear the burden of the fiscal reforms that are used.

The Pragmatic Fiscal Governance Pledge grants allowances for the inevitable partisan prejudices and distracting interest in re-election that are ingrained into our politicians' mindsets today, but stresses the importance of being open minded about what vehicle we use to reduce our debt. The solution to our fiscal woes will require a combination of increased revenue and reduced spending, which can be achieved if we make a collective bargain about when and where the new revenue and cuts will come from.

One of the most important parts is to reduce or eliminate wasteful programs that do no serve our national interests or don't perform in an efficient and sustainable manner. The idea is to prod the federal government to find creative ways to stretch the dollars they already have from revenues by, for example, renegotiating the deal on drugs with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare, seeking to make federal contracts more competitive to get a more economical price on services, and speed up the process of making government operations paperless. This provision addresses the Republican concern for big government misusing taxpayer money.

You may be wondering if the cuts will be harmful, as the Democrats believe about cuts to social spending, but the fourth and final provision requires the signer to consider using restraint when making cuts and making reforms, to not undercut the vulnerable parts of our society when we must make cuts to social spending. If we are to reduce our national debt, we must make cuts to the biggest programs in the federal government, which include Medicare, Social Security, and others, but these cuts shouldn't be cutting to the bone and seriously harming our economy in the long run.

Ultimately, this new pledge will end the gridlock on Capitol Hill by holding members of Congress, who sign the pledge, to own up to their actions on fiscal reform through a regular report by a nonpartisan committee that diligently tracks the voting, speeches, and actions of all signers to measure their commitment to the principles of the pledge.

When you read this pledge, keep in mind that this isn't the final product, so please consider making recommendations when you've finished reading it and keep your comments as constructive as possible. We are all in this together and we need to be pragmatic in how we solve our nation's fiscal problems like adults. We want results, not hot air.

The Pragmatic Fiscal Governance Pledge

I, (Name of Candidate), pledge to my constituents and the Citizens of the United States of America that I will:

One, lead this nation with an open mind by considering every perspective and solution to resolve all current and future fiscal policy problems without undue prejudice due to my party's ideology and my political interests in being reelected;

Two, seriously consider supporting any and all efforts to reduce the national deficit, to a sustainable level, through a balanced approach that includes raising government revenue and cutting government spending on an more or less equal basis, which does not unduly undermine the national security of the United States;

Three, do my utmost to reduce or eliminate any and all government spending that do not advance the national interests of the United States in a sustainable manner with all due haste and in a orderly and responsible manner;

Four, work hard to ensure that all fiscal reform policies passed by Congress will not unduly undermine or jeopardize the economic prosperity of the United States in the long term by placing an onerous burden on one particular part of society, as all sacrifices must be a shared burden across all parts of America.

For the People, By the People

At this point, you're probably asking how are you going to measure the signers' actions in Congress and who will do the measuring?

The answer is relatively simple. We, the people, will judge the words and actions of our elected leaders and determine if these leaders are working earnestly towards a solution with all due haste. A report on the performance of each leader will be published for everyone to read and discuss, including the leaders, who may or may not object to the substance of the report.

The metrics for measuring will be based on a analysis of the statements, laws, policies, and votes made by our leaders as they carry out their duties. All of these things must be scrutinized to determine the legislative environment being shaped by each.

The things to look for are as follows:

Open-Minded Thinking - The representative or senator must demonstrate that they have seriously examined all the options laid out before them, regardless of who proposed it, and put forward a reasoned statement on how they believe Congress should proceed, which will include citing credible research. The congressperson must do this through a public statement via the media or through their own public channels.

Vision - The congressperson must demonstrate that he or she has a vision for fiscal reform. In other words, he must have clear goals for himself. The goals must be based on a thoughtful consideration of U.S. national interests in maintaining a stable and growing economy and securing the nation's global political and security interests.

Impact - The effects of fiscal reforms considered - both projected and in practice - must reflect a desire to bring the federal deficit down to a manageable level without forcing one single part of society to bear the costs of the method used to remedy our current fiscal situation. The impact on our ability to pursue our interests should also be examined to determine how a shift in resources might impact our ability to maintain our national security.

Expedience - Each congressperson must show that they are vigorously pursuing a solution to our fiscal woes and not being unduly weighed down by party ideology, partisan politics, or their desire to be re-elected. The main point is that the congressperson must demonstrate through his words and actions that his labors are largely for the sake of passing a balanced reform bill.

Sustainability - The fiscal reforms must be proven to be sustainable in the long run and according to current economic projections.

The congressperson demonstrates all of these thing through a public statements via the media or through their own public channels and their votes on bills put before them in committee and on the floor.

Each state will form a citizens' committee, which will consist of a band of committed and knowledgeable citizens, who will closely follow the voting record, statements, and substantive thinking of legislators and policymakers. The committee will utilize all resources available to the public, and use funds to commission research as needed, to help the committee assess the effect of all fiscal reform bills. The funds will come from donations as the committees will file to be non-profit organizations for the expressed purpose of monitoring the actions of each state's representatives in Congress.

The metrics and method of evaluation presented here are just the framework for a more detailed and developed approach. Recommendations are welcome, to make this solution a practical tool to push Congress to take thoughtful and meaningful fiscal reforms to bring our national debt under control within a reasonable amount of time.