Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Radical Changes We Can Agree On

Umatilla, FL

Love it or hate it, Donald Trump will be President and he intends to make major changes.  Most of his changes will be loved by some and hated by others.  I would like to focus on two really big reforms that he could do that I thing most of us, liberal or conservative, could agree would be improvements.

Move agencies out of DC
Trump promised two things, first to “drain the swamp” and second to put the coal miners in WV and OH back to work. But many coal burning power plants have already shut down permanently, and no government actions will re-open those coal mines. One small step we could take would be to move EPA to West Virginia. Presumanly, many EPA employees would refuse to move there, so we could hire WV and OH people to take their places.

In terms of making government accountable to the people, it makes perfect sense to staff the government with people who are closest to those directly affected by government actions. I think that sentiment should appeal to liberals and conservatives alike.

But don't stop with EPA. Trump could move all executive branch offices to locations around the country other than Washington DC. That would naturally lead to staff profiles that reflect the public, and not an overreaching ruling class. I believe that it is pretty obvious that much of today's resentment of government rests on the public's perception that federal employees have been evolving into an arrogant and privileged ruling class.

Make the law WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)
For 230 years, our system of laws more-or-less works like this. Congress drafts a law using lawyer's language and passes it. Laws are seldom repealed but new laws add features or override meanings of older laws. Then courts interpret what the laws mean and at times strike down portions of laws. The court's product are decisions. Then regulators create regulations which are supposed to put flesh on the skeleton of laws. For a citizen to know what he is or is not supposed to do, he is required to read and understand the entire history of laws, court decisions, and regulations. No mortal can do that so we need armies of lawyers.

Now, if Trump is making radical changes, especially in this digital age, imagine this:
  • The Law of the Land (TLOTL), should be written in plain language that every citizen can and should read and understand without assistance from a lawyer. It will be posted on the Internet, and fully searchable.
  • The online version should include revision marking. For example, that previous versions of the law can be made visible in red strikeout fonts green underline text . Proposals for future changes can similarly be identified by color and font in terms of proposed changes in text wording changes.  
  • The Internet site displaying TLOTL will also provide for citizens to comment on passages, and to start discussions.  People viewing TLOTL can choose to see or not see the comments.  Comment management will be difficult.
  • We will not pass additional laws, we pass edits or revisions to TLOTL text.
  • Regulations and court decisions are not in addition to TLOTL they modify the text of TLOTL
  • We will no longer allow district or regional courts to make local decisions that have the effect of making the law of the land different in different places in the country.
  • TLOTL repeals and supersedes all prior laws, regulations and court decisions. TLOTL will be the one and only place to look to see what is and is not allowed or required. No documents, other than The Constitution and TLOTL, will have force of law.
  • IRS and the tax laws plus 70000 pages of tax regulations are too complex to translate to plain text. Repeal and replacement of all existing tax laws will be reuired, not just in words, but also in detail. We need to re-think taxes from the ground up and to put millions of tax lawyers out of business.
  • Expressing TLOTL in plain text will have the profound effect of ending government micro-management of its subjects simply because it can not be millions of pages long. The law of the land will have to be more general and less specific than existing laws and regulations. All three branches of government will have to adjust to that. On one hand, that seems to give government more power, but on the other hand it will greatly reduce government interference into the daily lives of everyone.   
  • Transition from the status quo to TLOTL will be very difficult. The easiest way to start would be with those agencies that relocate from DC and who re-staff.  Instead of undoing existing regulations one at a time, they would focus on the TLOTL expression of what they think the agency should do.  Achieving that for a few agencies within the next 4 years would be a major accomplishment.

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