The time has come to look at the benchmarks set and see how well the forces are doing on them. A government is held to account for its inability to find a way to reach across the divide, unite the Nation and bring a common and consensual government together, with fair means so as to ensure the safety of the Nation.
Unfortunately, it is my duty to report to you that this has been an utter and complete failure on the part of those in power who have fought hard to gain power but have no idea how to exercise it. They have divided the Nation, done *nothing* on their promises and further ensure that disharmony is felt throughout the Nation, putting innocents at peril. By their own measures they have failed.
Is this about Iraq?
No, it is about the United States, now 25% into its two year Congressional cycle for the House and NONE of the stated things that those newly in power have promised have come about, and, indeed, there has been backsliding to chaos across the entire agenda. To remind you, this is the platform to which those in the Congress from the victorious side ran upon, not what they have been saying since that victory, although they have delivered on none of those promises, either:
A very, very simple Six Point Plan and they cannot achieve any of it. Using their own benchmark reporting concepts for Iraq, Congress can now rightly have similar applied to them.
Standard of Measurement: Section 1314(b)(2)(A) states: “The President shall submit an initial report to Congress, not later than July 15, 2007, assessing the status of each of the specific benchmarks established above, and declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved.”This is a very simple concept made so that Congress could get very complex issues boiled down to pap so that they could understand it as they are unfit to have any real concept of Foreign Policy thrust upon them and so need it spoon fed to them for political reasons. So let us hit the Six points promised by Congress which has frittered away 25% of its time to date:
1) Honest Leadership & Open Government - In the House of Representatives there has been movement to put an impeached Judge into a position of power and the use of threats on the poisonous earmarks concept to hide earmarks from the American People and even add them to the budget with NO vote at all taken on them. When promising to reform the earmark process and ensure that each earmark was properly cited to an individual member and given a line-item in the budget, accountability was to be performed. That has not happened and the process of inserting said earmarks into the budget has gone further into back rooms, further off the budget and far outside the normal Congressional voting procedures.
In the Senate backroom creation of an Immigration Bill was done that went through NO committee or review process and was not even available to read to members before debate on it had begun. TWICE. Further the Senate has taken to its own concept of adding earmarks far outside the normal procedures for same and refuses to put any means or methods of accountability into place.
No major spending legislation has passed either body, beyond an Emergency Spending bill to ensure continued support of the effort in Iraq. No major reform bill has passed into law to curb and hold accountable the earmark process or end it all together. Previous 'do-nothing' Congresses have at least passed minor appropriations bills for domestic parts of government and put off the heavy political fighting until the last moment. This Congress has not even achieved that very, very, very low level of capability.
Progress on this item is unsatisfactory. It has not had any work done on it by the Congress or its Leadership. Backsliding has made the situations worse and the divide of Congress from the People of the United States has widened.
2) Real Security - Congress to date has not put forth *any* security provisions for the Nation to ensure that all borders are secure, that all individuals in this Nation illegally are tracked down, and that all of those who have committed crimes while in the US illegally have been deported. Congress refuses to fund the very laws it enacted and then complains that no one is working to enforce them. Congress has abdicated its duties to properly fund all Agencies involved with securing the Nation from illegal border incursions, which have invited cross-border attacks by drug gangs, outlaws and corrupted Mexican National Police and Military forces.
Further, Congress has taken to do no long-term review of the force size and structure of the US Armed Forces to better prepare it for a long-lasting conflict that can flare up at any point around the world with deadly consequences and long-lasting destabilization of the system of Nation States. US interests in trade and the economy ALONE should mandate that, beyond just fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, support for the Philippines, Columbia, and other Nations facing terrorist problems.
Indeed, Congress is now looking to make Columbia more vulnerable to FARC and destabilize that Nation. By giving any consideration to FARC, Congress is seen as being cowed by an organization that has attempted to assassinate a sitting US President, beyond the hostage taking, assaults and other attacks upon the US, its citizens and property held by commercial organizations in Columbia by the US, that alone should give especial ire to Congress as the individual was from the party of the incoming leadership.
Beyond that members of the US Congress, from both parties, have broken with their duties as given in the Constitution and as upheld by the US Supreme Court making the President the ONLY individual who can make Foreign Policy for the United States. In particular, giving any hearing to one of the most centralized Terrorist organizations without the approval of the President inherently weakens those powers delegated only to the Executive Branch.
Congress has done nothing to ensure that a complete cargo inspection system has been created and implemented, so NO port of entry for cargo shipment in the US can be deemed 'secure'. Organizations in the Caribbean have been investigated that pose a deadly threat to a number of cities on the eastern seaboard by their plots to use terrorist means and piracy to attack the US and these have only failed due to luck of discovery before they could come to fruition.
All of this while complaining that the Executive has, indeed, implemented laws passed by Congress to allow for such things as 'roaming wiretaps', necessary in this day and age of cellphones, and about intercepts of communications and electronic intelligence beyond the boundaries of the United States and outside all lawmaking areas of Congress. To date no program has been cited that Congress has not been informed about on a timely basis nor has any indication been given that such programs have not been safeguarded so that data about US Citizens is properly handled. Instead of looking to safeguard the interior of the United States and its commerce, Congress has complained about properly approved programs that have had sufficient oversight and Congressional briefings.
Progress on this item is unsatisfactory. Congress has not funded or even passed programs to properly implement safeguards as cited by the 9/11 Commission and has not even ensured that the Dept. of Homeland Security is fully staffed and funded. By not addressing the problems of border security, port security, nor in funding police and other investigative agencies, plus the court system and prison system to handle its CURRENT workload, the Congress of the United States is backsliding as the deficiencies get worse over time due to Congressional inaction.
3) Energy Independence - Congress has given no plan for the energy independence of the United States nor has it even proposed to lessen reliance on foreign sources of energy sources from Nations that aid, assist and promote terrorism. Sen. Kennedy has remained in hard opposition to such facilities that would 'pollute the viewshed' of his family's vacation home in Martha's Vineyard, and other well off families and individuals also oppose such things from that area. Even simple measures to alleviate the use of foreign petroleum resources, such as opening the US Continental shelf to oil exploration or getting tax credits or other incentives to industry to explore and utilize US based resources has not been done. Refineries remain a key bottleneck in the US system and the concentration of older vintage refineries along the Gulf Coast are both a security concern against attacks and a vital vulnerability of the US to natural disasters. Nothing has been done to alleviate this or the fact that the US has not opened up a new oil refinery since the 1970's.
Congress cannot even put forward a simple 'X-Prize' package to set goals for private industry and award prizes to those in industry who meet achievement goals in safe energy production, storage, transportation and creation of new energy sources. Even worse is that Congress does not put forward a long-term plan for utilization of space industries for the long term shift of US energy needs out of the biosphere and into the vacuum of space, along with the industry needed to support same. This would help to achieve long term energy goals AND environmental goals with a shift in emphasis away from terrestrial sources and to those of space based sources.
Even the very simple idea of putting forth proper regulations for third and fourth generation nuclear power plants, which suffer none of the design flaws of first generation plants has been implemented, and yet this has proven to be the energy source with the least impact on the environment and the greatest long-term sustainability. Third and fourth generation plants run more efficiently, with far less waste and no capability for nuclear accidents that older plants had to deal with. Fusion has taken far steps forward in just the past two years and NO Congressional 'X-Prize' system for that has been developed to encourage those working on designs from desktop to large reactors capable of lighting thousands of homes with NO radioactivity involved.
Progress on this item is unsatisfactory. Congress, by not doing the meager things within its power to stimulate economic growth in this area, and encourage research, development and design of new methods of creating, storing, transmitting and utilizing energy allows an ever wider gap of vulnerability to open up based on over-reliance on foreign energy sources.
4) Economic Prosperity & Educational Excellence - As Congress came in with a long-running, multi-year basis for economic growth, the best method to ensure that continued growth is to do NOTHING about it. Congress has achieved that to date and it is recommended that ALL changes in the tax structure, beyond simplification of it, be tabled for the foreseeable future. This area is not broken and needs no 'fixing'.
As the Federal Government established the Dept. of Education in 1980, it has not changed the reading capability of the children of the United States nor its test scores on an international basis. All programs designed to do this have not impacted these scores and reading, in particular, remains the same as it was as a percentage measurement when it was first brought to the attention of the Nation in 1958, when Johnny couldn't read. By that series of measurements all Federal programs, funding and other such things are a FAILURE over the long term. Education costs have gone up with Federal spending, and yet the debt load of those Americans seeking higher education has risen disproportionately to both. As the Federal Government only has limited needs for advanced educational outlook for targeted R&D and that is overseen by separate agencies, it is recommended that Congress remove the Dept. of Education for primary and secondary schooling, and award funds in proportion to how well each State does on internationally recognized standardized tests, with only fully meeting the best in the world getting 100% funding. All other funding should be ceased and Federal Agencies given better funding for targeted R&D, and the entirety of the Dept. of Education disbanded.
As Congress has so far not brought ANY reform of the Dept. of Education to the table nor any way to reliably 'pay for performance' of schools, it should cease the meddling in the State's education system as it has not improved the overall capability of them by a substantial amount.
Progress on this item is satisfactory for the economic portion and unsatisfactory for the education portion. To retain the satisfactory rating in the economic side, Congress is recommended to retain stability in the tax structure at its current point and implement recommendations for simplification of the tax system. Congressional outlook to utilize any input into the educations of Americans is a multi-decade failure and should be terminated beyond simple 'pay for performance' block grants and targeted R&D.
5) A healthcare system that works for everyone - Congress has no progress on this item. Congress has yet to cite benchmarks on what 'works for everyone' means, as the varieties of outlook on what healthcare is or its scope varies from individual to individual across the Nation. As Congress is given NO power in this area via the US Constitution, it is recommended that a 'pay for performance' schema be instituted for all charitable hospitals without regard to any affiliation whatsoever. As Congress has already seen fit to establish medical costs per procedure that it is willing to pay for other systems, those can be utilized and adjusted by locale as is done with the Federal civil service system.
This would ensure that the very poorest of Americans gets reliable help from charitable institutions and the Federal Government would be establishing NO religion by paying to *any* institution, regardless of its religious or social affiliation, based on benchmarks for such procedures and institutions that can be established by such agencies as the National Institutes of Health and Mental Health. Congress can 'means test' such things and not pay out fully based on hospital performance and patient status, and this will only be, like in the case of Education, a small 'supplement' on the order of less than 5% of the Nation's overall medical costs. As other Nations with 'socialized health care' are now finding those systems failing and patients getting worse care, year on year, the US should do little to its system, beyond ensuring that the absolute poor and destitute get care.
Via the utilization of existing charitable and not-for-profit hospitals and giving re-reimbursement to them based on patient status and demonstrated capability of treatment, the very poorest can be assured of having access and the rest of America can pay more as their income rises, with a cut-off at the poverty line. This is not an area amenable to Federal oversight or legislation beyond tested drugs, assured procedures and a non-discriminatory outlay for the poorest to be treated. America has always been open to giving the poorest assurance they will not die for lack of funds, but we have never slit the National wrists to assuage a bleeding heart on the economics of it.
Progress on this item is unsatisfactory. Congress has little it can do in this realm and should let the American People know this is the case, and that the failings of other systems around the globe demonstrates that freedom of choice for Americans is far better than government choice.
6) Retirement security - As the original Social Security System was meant to encourage economic stimulation based on a theory of limited jobs and too many young individuals, it was seen as a limited time endeavor Individuals, before that, worked for their entire life and many did, indeed, retire based on health concerns or the ability of their own savings to cover them in that retirement. Today the wealthiest and most economically capable segment of the population is the elderly. One fact that needs addressing is that the jobs market is now missing the skills of those that retire early due to government fiat in this realm, and that many individuals seek further, part-time employment in their retirement. This is a mandated downgrading of jobs, by government, and this hurts the very job market that encourages younger people to work: the part-time market.
Further, as no individual expects to work for one company or even in one occupation for a lifetime, many individuals are restarting entire careers multiple times throughout their lives to cope with this changing economy. Retirement dates now change that outlook as individuals may find themselves needing to either retire early, due to upcoming age mandate, or to face working in a low paying job at the end of their careers due to the flux of the economy. This is compounded by the fact that Americans now live much longer lives than they did in the 1930's, and the expectation of two or more DECADES of healthy and active lives beyond retirement points out that the experience of the labor market is now increasingly on the golf courses of America and not in the workplace.
Economic vehicles have also increased in abundance and Americans now have options and opportunities for investment that allow for long-term financial planning so as to utilize advancing economic capability for self-actualization of funding. Mutual funds and other distributed investment concepts for fractional ownership in funds, have shifted the ownership proposition and payoff proposition from wealthy individuals to that of wealthy funds investing for masses of individuals for retirement. Most growing up today expect to receive NO Federal help as they see that the system will be BANKRUPT by the time they get to the point where it could be useful to them. To allow for these changes, Congress needs to examine if the Federal Government has *any* role in the care of the elderly beyond that of healthcare and minimal standards for living. As most of the wealth is now concentrated in the upward age brackets, the funds taken from younger workers is increasing disproportionately to the size of that workforce and the payouts are handed to those who should have *planned* for their retirement.
As it is the Federal Government will need to end this system at some point, as its percentage of budget is far larger than anything save paying on debt. A system of pro-rated returns on funds or ending the system with insuring only current payouts from the system for amount paid in would be a start to changing the basis of retirement security in the US. Further, a system of reducing or eliminating taxes on investments would allow for long-term financial planning that would not be raided by the Federal Government and allow for individual Americans to guide their own future be it into extended working life or into retirement.
Progress on this point is unsatisfactory. Congress has too long ignored the changing demographics of America, the changing workplace, the changing work expectations, the increased mobility of the Nation and the concentration of wealth to the older age brackets of Americans.
Congressional leaders have, since the election, purported that they promised many other things, including some unconstitutional Congressional 'oversight' for combat overseas and in areas of immigration reform. In the first instance Congress refuses to do its duty to properly ensure that the Armed Forces are trained, equipped, sized and scoped out according to the actual JOB that they have been set to do by Congress, and, on the second point, Congress has refused to fund enforcement of the laws on the books.
Iraq, in comparison, with 'green' politicians in their first democratically elected National Government is doing fine on its benchmarks, to actually establish a Nation. The Congress of the United States, however, seems to have lost the concept of democracy, accountability, oversight or even what their jobs are. Perhaps it is time for the Citizens of the United States to petition their States to pull the validity of the elections for their current Senators and Representatives and withhold same until the Government agrees to do its job.