Holding Politicians Accountable

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While
I now live near Los Angeles, and love the urban environment, I grew
up in Augusta, Georgia, and part of that heritage still is a part
of me.  I still hold a door open for a woman, and like a glass
of lemonade in the summer afternoon.  I’ve learned that there
is a proper way to behave, and if left alone, most people will figure
it out without being told what to do all the time.

I’ve
learned that you can’t trust the media, because I know how they
portray small town Southern life, and how different it is from my
experience.  I’ve learned that the federal government isn’t
your friend.

Reconstruction
may be over, but the Justice Department still rules most Southern
states, and has a habit, among others, of reviewing any change in
voting districts, a habit it does not enforce on other states.

Most
of all, I learned that we should keep our politicians accountable.

I
do not think our local politicians were any more or less corrupt
than politicians anywhere else in the country. We have those
who are simply trying to do their job, and we have our bad seeds
as well.  The governor changed our flag because he was worried
that if allowed to vote on it, we would vote against changing it. 
Whether it was right or wrong to change the flag, it should have
been for the people to decide, but the governor didn’t agree.  Bad
seeds.

The
most important lesson I ever learned about government, however,
comes from the town I grew up in.  While our politicians may
have been average, the founders of our city were certainly above
average.

Every
year as far back as anyone can remember, we always had a balanced
city budget.  Nobody thought too much about this, but we all
agreed it was a good thing.  One year, not too long ago, there
was the danger of a budget deficit for our city.  It made the
news, but not in too spectacular a manner.  Most people shrugged,
thinking there was nothing that could be done, but one person decided
to do otherwise.  He read our city charter.

Hidden
in our charter, much like the 9th and 10th
amendments are hidden and overlooked in the Constitution, was a
clause that stated that in the event of a budget deficit, the Mayor,
the Deputy Mayor, and the Members of the City Council are collectively,
severally, and individually responsible for paying the difference
out of their own pockets.

This
clause was then publicized, and after a brief panic, the leaders
of our city finally managed to balance the budget, but it was a
lesson well learned by me.  The only way to make sure our politicians
do the right thing is to make them accountable for what they do. 
Most politicians are so far removed from the results of their actions,
they feel they can do anything.  The worst that happens to
them is they lose the next election, but are never truly held accountable
for their activities and voting records.

So
how are we to hold our politicians directly accountable?  The
way my home town did, by hitting them in the wallet.  The place
to start, and the source of most of the rest of government mischief
is the budget.  Congress once voted on a budget limit, and
when they reached that limit, they simply increased the limit. 
No thought was ever given to staying below the limit, or reducing
the budget.  Why should they?  It’s not their money.

Holding
them directly accountable makes it their money.  Problem is,
such a bill would never get through any legislature.  I would
like to introduce it as a ballot initiative here in California someday. 
I don’t know if it will pass, but the screams of indignation that
will come from Sacramento will be worth all the expense.

I’ve
always thought that being in politics meant that the person in office
was meant to serve.  Perhaps paying for the privilege instead
of being paid to abuse the privilege will put things back in the
proper perspective, as the average Southern gentleman would understand.

July
2, 2002

Jason
Gonella [send him mail]
is a computer programmer in Lancaster, California, and the secretary
of the Antelope Valley Libertarian Party.

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