I just think that the current system doesn't succeed in connecting people / citizens / voters to the services government provides.
Well, we agree 100 percent there. Now that I see where you were headed, I'll say it's an interesting observation.
Honestly, I think some investment in simple civics advocacy and education would do a lot of damage on the problem. Used to be, we saw some fairly objective civics in the media, and it was taught in our schools.
That left most people with some core ideas of how the thing works.
Today, both of those are significantly diminished by both the lack of investment effort, and the rise of both infotainment and Internet many to many media.
I find having had that background makes it possible to filter through the noise and continue to expand on my core civics, and understand where money goes, how it works and why. No expert, but I know I punch well above my weight class.
Recently, I've struck up some conversations with new friends I've met here. They are 20 somethings, and many of them don't have that core perspective. I know it because of the questions they ask, and the things they say. Been wanting to post about it here and on Dkos, like I have with the Politics Cube and other core ideas, but just haven't yet.
The generations coming up are very different. This always happens, and isn't a bad thing, but it's notable. How they get information and the level of connectedness they live with are very different from many who are older.
I'm a Gen X er. I've some younger friends who are Gen Y, and everybody else is "new generation" to me, because of where I'm at on the age curve. I think that's a constant, and nothing negative either.
We had (gen x) a clear connection to the pre-Reagan policies, and many of us enjoyed public school and media that framed up the basics in clear terms. Was boring, but then again, it was pervasive enough to soak in. Many things seen and heard then didn't matter then, but I have them to go back to after watching where we are today. It's still possible, though getting more difficult to talk to people pre-Reagan too.
Sorry to ramble...
I think the escalation of the economic issues absolutely will get more people engaged. Whether or not that's a good thing, like it has been in the past, is something I remain seriously concerned about. I am not entirely sure our national discourse operates in a way that is functional enough to actually foster debate and some reasonable democracy.
The reason for this is the current media environment allows for a lot of self-selection --way more than anybody else that came before got, and that means people can settle into some ideological niche, and remain largely free of contrary, or just differing opinion.
Secondly, the brutal economics in play for average Americans right now has made many of us poor in terms of time. Having that basic wealth we used to have was the foundation of civics. These things are fun for people like us, who care, know one another, and who are entertained and educated well enough to come here to talk.
For most people that's just not FUN, and they don't see it as necessary either, largely because eating and keeping a place to live is a much higher priority. This, coupled with Citizens United really is a game changer as much as the Internet is, and that's being constantly threatened too.
I really like your tax form idea. IMHO, that's got the side effect of being totally pervasive. Everybody will talk about it, and that's often difficult to achieve, unless it's some national disaster, or it's got enough controversy to attract the mono-media. (seems we can't do multiple things well in media anymore)
Since we've got Internet now, giving people some more granular and direct control has a lot of appeal. Of course, that can be abused too, but anything can. The question is will it be, and will too many of us get sucked into that?
I can imagine public schools, for example, being one of those check boxes, and some really ugly advocacy gets paid for by the wealthy, nobody checks the box, we see disaster, and end up with vouchers and an effective end to public school. Not sure what I think of allowing those kind of feed back loops. Not closed to it, just concerned about the end game product and whether or not it operates too fast, or too dynamically.
Finally, in every election there are enough people sitting on the sidelines to decide it for the better. How can we get those people involved? I'm not talking partisan here. Of course that leans Democratic Party. No question.
But, a look back at elections lost and won and the product of those reveals we would be in significantly better shape today, if people actually did just spend the time (very small amount of time) required to do the very basic civics.
I believe the parties, with all their flaws, would be pressured to better conform to serving us more than the money, if those people sitting at home, suddenly were not, because our law is written such that votes actually do trump dollars. This is why all the de-regulation of media has harmed us. Votes do trump dollars, but only when the votes are actually cast, and the civics are actually done.
It's worth noting the imbalance in priority on so many things too. We see welfare abuse, for example, as something just horrible that is costing us a ton! Well, how can it, given the very small slice of the tax dollar it impacts? Despite that, we have people out there advocating we seriously reduce the overall value of our government, just to bring that "important" issue into check.
Colorado Springs is the result of that, and is something nobody really wants, but they won't know it, until they have to live it as those people currently are.
I highlight a few positions here, not to derail the thread, but to connect the dots between basic civics and how well our society is performing for us.
How to fix this kind of dilemma??
So far, my favorite way is mandatory civic service. Do it from age 18 to 20 or 21, with a very few narrow exceptions.
Some exceptions might be, physical limitations, or disease, valued educational path, such as demonstrating that one is on track to be a doctor. Others might be, military service, or family needs. Say a father dies, mother needs the help, son takes the father role, working and dealing with younger siblings, perhaps with a subsidy, so that makes sense with some limited service, rather than no service at all.
The benefit of this is some time to make sure the civics get done, and we get a lot of value from the labor pool, able to do lots of stuff that efforts like the CCC used to do.
Other things like being trapped in low end jobs, or failing out of college, due to imaturity, crime, drugs, etc... would be improved by the years of service.
I did National Guard service out of high school, and it made a huge difference in my basic life skills and deportment. Honestly, I would recommend this to many unemployed and struggling youths right now. Of course, having only a military option is not appropriate for lots of people, and I get that, but the idea of service doesn't have to be military, or even super nationalistic. It's just got to be productive and useful to both the society, and those that serve.
As a nation, we have time and able bodies. What we don't have is a ton of dollars anymore, because we sent the means of production out of the nation, inflated the value of one thing after another to compensate for it, and are now just kind of stuck in this wierd place where we know we need to build and invest, but nobody can really figure out how to do that, and preserve some of the existing economic dynamics.
I personally would surrender the "free markets" and return to constrained, or regulated capitalism like many European nations are doing, but I understand that's highly toxic to both corporate America, and enough of us to pose a problem. The rub is we have to do something, as the current state of things, as well as the projections for the next 10 years are completely unacceptable.
Maybe some service, and a return to real civics would show us what that is. We sure as hell are not going to get it from the talking heads, and the current state of the coin operated congress isn't going to get it done either, largely because the big companies are not unhappy enough to give material changes any real consideration.
Doing our civics can get us the answers though. I do absolutely believe that, where I also believe there absolutely are good answers, new answers even. The current environment just isn't all that good at building the political will to get after them, as we have in the past.
Posted on August 14, 2010 - 03:18 PM