Healing America City by City, State by State
As a result of a record number of people in our seminars last year who were learning the exciting answers America's Founders had for our problems today, probably the most oft-generated question was: What can we do about it?
Such a question brought to my mind the counsel of former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, who spent eight years in the Eisenhower Administration defending constitutional principles on the federal level. He later concluded: "I have faith that the Constitution will be saved..But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened.men and women who will subscribe to and abide by the principles of the Constitution."
Learning how to Heal America
During the past semester in our high school, I have been teaching seniors the marvelous principles of constitutional government in the tradition of our Founding Fathers. During this coming second semester we will focus on applying these principles to real government problems. It is reassuring to know that these principles can be applied to local and state problems as well as federal. I will be bringing in state legislators, city council members, judges, and others, many of whom these students will know. These students will come to feel what it is like to grapple with real problems and they will realize that the principles they now know can solve local problems also.
One of the best organizations that has done quality research on local and state levels in our state is The Goldwater Institute. Its mission statement includes:
"The Goldwater Institute was established in 1988 as an independent, non-partisan public policy research organization. Through policy studies and community outreach, the Goldwater Institute broadens public policy discussions to allow consideration of policies consistent with the founding principles Senator Barry Goldwater championed - limited government, economic freedom, and individual responsibility."
100 Ideas for 100 Days
The Goldwater Institute publishes a thesis entitled, "100 Ideas for 100 Days" which contains suggestions, backed up by quality research, for the state legislature (and in some cases city councils and school boards) to consider during its first 100 days in session.
My experience in teaching seminars around the nation has convinced me that there are not many unique problems in the different states. All states and communities are facing basically the same challenges. When concerned citizens feel frustrated and alienated over happenings in Washington, may I suggest getting involved in things a little closer to home?
Below we have given 50 of the suggestions given in the Goldwater Institute's study for the state of Arizona. Hopefully, you can see application in your state and community.
- Conform the state budget to the debt limit and special law requirements of the State Constitution. (Our state constitution limits state debt to $350,000, which is always ignored)
- Revise the state laws penalizing cities for providing subsidies to corporations to conform to the state constitution, which forbids corporate subsidies.
- Decline participation in federal programs that increase costs to the state and fight for the right to opt out of paying for federal programs in which we choose not to participate.
- Encourage legislative control and oversight of federal funds and mandates that are currently controlled predominantly by the executive branch.
- Pass a constitutional amendment giving authority to the state treasurer to determine future revenue estimates within which the budget must be balanced and give the treasurer authority to certify budgets as balanced.
- Classify all state employees as "uncovered" to make it easier to eliminate unnecessary positions and to fire under-performing employees.
- Reform the voter initiative process by requiring proposals that increase taxation, spending, or governmental authority to be approved by a majority of all registered voters, not just those who vote.
- Use "Public Private Partnerships" to finance state-owned infrastructure, from highways and hospitals to school buildings.
- Reinstate the Privatization Review Board and give it teeth by modeling it after similar boards in Florida and Utah.
- Amend the regulatory provisions in the state constitution to allow for competition in the provision and distribution of electricity.
- Require judicially-enforceable "sunrise" and "sunset" review for all property regulations to ensure needless regulations are trimmed from the books.
- Give cities and counties the power to replace centralized and bureaucratic zoning and land use regulation with decentralized and privately-enforced restrictive covenants.
- Give citizens the power to take back their government by empowering them with the right to vote for "none of the above," the right to vote to dissolve electorally unaccountable special districts, and the right to mandate bankruptcy filing by fiscally irresponsible cities and counties.
- Enforce fiscal responsibility by mandating "managed competition," requiring government agencies to allow both private businesses and government departments to compete to furnish public services.
Appropriations and Government Spending
- Lower the limit in the state constitution of how much of the state's economy the state government can consume to 6 percent.
- Allow private companies to assume the full responsibility of promoting our state as a tourist destination and eliminate public funds for the Office of Tourism.
- Allow consumers of art to fund artistic creativity and activities and eliminate public funds for the state Commission on the Arts.
- Eliminate all corporate subsidies within state agencies, such as commodity development and promotion within the Department of Agriculture and job training grants within the Department of Commerce.
- Eliminate state-run regulatory boards overseeing industries that could be regulated by private associations specializing in certification.
- Consider privatizing or contracting out prisons to gain efficiency and reduce pressure on the general fund.
Commerce and Economic Development
- End boom and bust budget cycles by enacting a constitutional expenditure limit that restricts budget growth to the rate of population growth and inflation.
- Create an "Economic Liberty Act" to establish that state agencies and local governments can only enact regulations limiting entry into a trade or business if they can demonstrate that the regulation is closely related to a legitimate government interest.
- Simplify the regulatory climate to make it easier to start a new business.
- Prohibit governmental entities from competing with the private leisure industry by owning, subsidizing, or providing bonding authority for golf courses, hotels, and amusement parks.
- End social promotion by requiring third graders to pass a basic skills test before being promoted to fourth grade.
- Create a personal use tax credit to allow parents to deduct the cost of private school tuition on their taxes.
- Modify funding for early education into direct education grants for families to use at a preschool of their choice or to offset the cost of home schooling.
- Create alternative routes to the certification of both teachers and principals that is outside the standard education college path.
- Do not consolidate school districts.
- Restrict the state Department of Education to its statutory boundaries and prohibit it from interfering with the approved curricula of charter schools.
- Permit more charter school authorizers, including state universities and cities, as well as non-government authorizers such as private universities, colleges and non-profit organizations, to help remove charter schools from the political process and give more quality schools a chance to open.
- Ease the regulatory burden on charter schools, allowing them to expand or open additional campuses more easily.
- Review provisions for students with special needs and consider appropriate reform, including changing the funding system to eliminate districts' financial incentive to mislabel children as disabled.
- Adopt English language mastery scholarships.
- Unless Congress removes federal pressure for states to "race to the bottom" by lowering their cut scores on state tests, withdraw state from the No Child Left Behind system completely.
- Remove the cap on the allowable tax deduction for contributions to College Savings Accounts.
- Expand the tax deduction for contributions to College Savings Accounts to grandparents and other family members.
- Allow tax deductions for contributions to College Savings Accounts plans from any state, not just plans in state.
- Increase the self-sufficiency and private funding of state universities.
- Require public university students who need remedial education to receive remediation at less expensive community colleges.
Tax Policy, Ways and Means
- Eliminate targeted tax breaks for favored industries.
- Prohibit publicly subsidized sports stadiums and their specialty taxes.
- Reduce the number of special districts in state that function as independent, autonomous government bodies with the power to tax.
- Consider replacing the current state tax system with either a flat tax or with a sales tax on final goods and services.
- Restore inflation indexing of the personal income tax code.
- Require cities to open their transit markets to private van or bus services.
- Thin out traffic congestion by converting High Occupancy Vehicle lanes into High Occupancy or Toll lanes, allowing people to pay to drive in high occupancy vehicle lanes.
- Tap the private sector to finance the construction of new roads in exchange for the ability to collect tolls for a defined period of time.
- Consider construction of a toll road that runs the breadth of the state along which state fuel taxes are suspended.
- Consider truck-only bypass toll lanes around state cities that are near interstate highways.
Can you identify some area in the above suggestions that you can speak about with your state legislator, county commissioner, city council member, or school board member? Most Americans have no idea all this is going on and what affect they can have on these local matters if they just speak up. It will also give a person some valuable experience when dealing with federal issues.
Ten things you can do this year to keep sharp on principles of good government
So that you will always have a ready answer for those you talk to, here are some suggested activities for you to consider for the New Year.
- Read and distribute The Five Thousand Year Leap. You can also listen in MP3 format. (Glenn Beck recommended this on his show and thousands of people are reading it) (Get 10 for $50)
- Read The Making of America-the Substance and Meaning of the Unites States Constitution
- Read and distribute the Constitution of the United States in our pocket edition. (Get 100 for $30)
- Read the classic series- The Real Benjamin Franklin , The Real Thomas Jefferson , andThe Real George Washington
- Host and/or attend a Making of America one-day seminar in your area
- View A More Perfect Union DVD - the story of the Constitutional Convention
- Complete the detailed study of the 28 Principles of Liberty in American Government, Part IDVD series. See a preview at www.adlar.com/nccs (student can receive high school credit for this semester course)
- Complete the detailed study of the Making of America's Constitution in American Government, Part II DVD series. (Students can receive high school credit for this semester course)
- Try the USIQ quiz/game online at our website www.nccs.net. See how much you really know!
- Teach your family and neighbors what you have learned by following our suggested study guide to conduct a discussion once a month in your home.
Perhaps you can even pick a few of these to include in your resolutions for a Happy New Year!
Earl Taylor, Jr.