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Frank Fish: Time to count our blessings and make our resolutions for the New Year

Our system of government was designed for a different age.

(Jose Luis Magana | AP photo). The U.S. Capitol is seen at night after negotiators sealed a deal for COVID relief, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Washington.

Blessings are on the thin side because of COVID-19 and our governments failings.

On the bright side, we remain the richest major country per capita, but that’s offset by having huge differences between rich and poor and by prices for housing, health care and many everyday purchases being roughly double most major countries.

Resolution No. 1 should be to restructure our health care system. Despite being twice as expensive as most other countries, we rank 40th in life expectancy. On COVID-19 deaths per capita, we are 10th highest, but the rest of the “top” 10 are either Third World or have much older populations. On the truly negative side, in just four years, Donald Trump has reduced Americas world rating to its lowest since 1918.

Here are my suggestions for once again becoming #1.

1. Become a real democracy instead of the mix of dictatorship and plutocracy we are today. Plutocracy because 90% of elections are won by the biggest spender. Dictatorship because cowardly Republicans in Congress are afraid to challenge Trump.

We need to change our 250-year-old form of government — implemented before electricity or gasoline. Since then, our population grew 12-fold and from 13 states to 50. California’s population alone is almost 40 million and growing. It exceeds the total of the 22 smallest states — yet each state gets two senators. That’s crazily undemocratic.

By and large, big states are industrial and small states agricultural resulting in much different goals. As a result the Senate is no longer representative and needs to change (see 2b below)!

2 Remove the legislative block highlighted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 2a. Elect the entire House of Representatives proportional to population normally every two years (as now). 2b. Change the Senate by replacing senators individually as old members retire - not by state. 2c. Limit the Senate’s power to delay bills passed by the House to a month or two while requiring a new House debate and final vote. 2d. elect a president from among House and Senate members — a president who automatically resigns when a bill his party sponsors fails to pass, requiring a new election no more than two months later. An election that is government financed — not (as now) bought with outside money from organizations expecting a quid pro quo.

Require mandated retirement in both houses at (say) age 70 or 15 years of service, whichever comes first. Today, around 15 percent of the House, fully a quarter of the Senate, and both of this year’s presidential candidates are over 70. There’s plenty of scientific evidence that at this age their decision making ability is fading.

3. Similarly, limit Supreme Court membership to 15 years of service or age 70 — whichever comes first. Elected not by politicians but by a panel of senior judges with a minimum of 10 years experience.

Change is always hard to initiate, but failure to change is eventually disastrous. The U.S. has been the world leader for 100 years, but is reeling from a gridlocked Congress and a president whose foreign approval rating is the lowest ever. I’m afraid it’s change or become increasingly irrelevant.

Frank Fish

Frank Fish, Taylorsville, was born to a working-class family in England, studied mathematics in college, was a Fulbright scholar and worked as an information systems consultant in the U.S., U.K., Italy and France before retiring.

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