Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cornering rascals

I wish President Obama would realize that he needs to look for better ways to motivate congress. He needs to make it easier for us to directly pressure our legislature. Take health care for example. Congress's vested interest is to structure all legislation to best suit the industries that most support them. These are the ones that generate the most profits and will always be things like financial services, or insurance, and never things like health care.

To overcome this tendency Obama must find a very straightforward way to measure their performance. In the case of health care reform this seems easy. Ask the GAO for a pie chart that shows all of the things health care dollars are spent on; from doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators, to marketers, insurance brokers, financial analysts, lawyers, and lobbyists. Color every slice with either blue or red depending on whether it represents an activity that actually delivers health care. Put in on a prominent web site with the simple promise to veto any legislation that does not leave us with a significantly smaller red area--at least 25% smaller.

Directly below it there should be two pie charts, one for each party, that represent how the allocation would change under the solutions they're each proposing (according to the GAO.) That would leave them with few options but to look for ways to outdo each other cutting the fat out of health care infrastructure or risk being replaced by people from the other team in the upcoming election. He should make it easy for us to email our representatives to let them know we're watching them via the web page and do indeed intend to replace them if they lose the contest.

And he should advertise the site relentlessly begging us to let them know that this new mechanism is going to be steadily refined and gradually evolve into something that enables citizens to more objectively measure the performance of their elected representatives and find out what they are presently working on. He should challenge congress to do the same thing to him as well; find ways to objectively record the alternatives he faced for each choice made.

Finally, don't clutter any site with a lot of distractions, like ads, pleas for campaign contributions, links to irrelevant affiliates or party propaganda, etc. Keep it simple, bipartisan, and deeply focused on the specific major issues presently before congress. If you give the American people a tight enough set of reins, I'm almost certain we could get some useful work out of those unbroken beasts on the hill.

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