The Jimmy Carter Program

We Are All Friends Here: The Social Responsibility Problem

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Part I: Freedom’s Light Burning Warm

When I was 6 or 7 — this is a composite memory, and have never found video evidence online to support its inputs — I watched George H. W. Bush debate Geraldine Ferraro on behalf of Ronald Reagan. I remember clearly and fondly Ms. Ferraro, a lion of politics, eloquently demanding Mr. Bush acknowledge that more women in politics and defense is what the world needs now (then).

And I remember Mr. Bush pushing back fiercely and democratically, asserting with no particular evidence upfront and publicly, that she was correct on all her moral and virtuous fronts, but that economic and security forces simply did not make this possible and that she and her wishes would need to wait.

I remember clearly looking at my parents, who were busily moving about the kitchen together with groceries and chores on their mind, and thinking: why not just have an American President Husband and American President Wife, that would solve that dilemma of economics and — wait! Clearly, and happily proud of myself, I thought: and then have an American Child as President: me.

I was 6 or 7.

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Part II: In The Eye of A Storm

In that same moment, I had the remarkable thought that American integrity, which Mr. Bush so clearly was putting forward as his reasoning, was in tacit violation of what Ronald Reagan had said just moment before concerning American taxes and Conservatism. I felt my parents deeply entwined in the politics of groceries and taxes, and their difference in politics reflected in their same affections and attractions to each other and themselves as a couple. It was all correct, what Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush were putting forward, and yet it was somehow all clearly incomplete, and Ms. Ferraro was standing up for that missing representation, and the composite them had not a solution.

I remember thinking how much long-term happier my parents would be if they had some control over how the government was spending their tax monies, and how much more strongly they would feel involved in government and how much more communicative their choices would be to administrators.

I remember thinking that despite all the integrity of Mr. Bush and the earned trust of Mr. Reagan, both were pushing a little bit of bullshit, and Ms. Ferraro knew, as a woman, she could not muster the political support to call bullshit.

Sure, the forces of American security implied secrets and numerous factions of safety and politics that required the tacit compliance of opposing politicians and their needs. And I surely was too young to every imagine any politicians corrupt enough to use that secrecy as a weapon against domestic politicians to box them in to taking positions which were harmful to Americans on promise that men and women behind the curtain were taking care to do just service.

It would be years before I heard the words Star Wars as anything other than a Luke and Leia story, oh, and the Millennium Falcon, of course, and years later before I would understand that Mr. Bush and Ms. Ferraro were debating the future American course of U.S. intervention into the end of the Cold War.

More women in the bureaucratic frontlines of defense makes more sense now.

But I really fondly enjoyed this thought of an American tax-and-voting system.

Thirty percent of the U.S. budget could be set aside into categorical objectives — defense, social security, healthcare, schooling, parks, arts, justice — and in each category could be a list of primary agenda objectives Executive Branch agencies were setting forth to achieve the following year. Taxpaying citizens could vote for agency and objective allocations as much or as little as they like. Vote tallies would be calculated and public, presented to Congress by the IRS.

Congress could publicly debate the funding allocations of each agency and objective that comes from this thirty percent discretionary pool, and make the ultimate recommendations on the budget that goes to the President, who has veto power or can send the terms back down to Congress for re-evaluation.

The key multiplier in this social responsibility network is that real taxpayer monies are set aside for a discrete and comprehensible short list of agenda and agency initiatives which voters have seem already and been asked to consider at a time their minds were on the money and the government. The public debate shifts discourse into public projects and policy initiatives that are measurably recognized by voters and citizens through direct channels, and channels that are not drawn from demographic, geographic, or inferred personality politics, because the program is a Federal level IRS program. The public summary compiled by Congress and sent to the President is a clear synopsis of the state-by-state decisions Representatives and Senators are willing to make in or out of alignment with their constituents and nationally, and the President puts their signature on agendas with Executive authority.

Were the country searching for a self-supervised solution to handing over the country change-purse to its citizens that could be stabilized, there it is, folks.

It felt like to me men and women and the country could put this contention of leadership behind itself, my mom and dad could feel security, and be happily engaged in the citizenry process of democracy. I was 6 or 7. It was a feeling.

It feels like the American immigrant story — like Neil Diamond’s America.

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Part III: Coming to America

When I was 10 or 11, to learn civics, in 6th grade, top students were randomly selected to each be one of the Presidents during a Hall of Presidents assembly in front of the whole school. With kids horse trading different names and me not knowing anyone, I kept the President I liked. My parents were delighted, and helped me all week to make my costume. We stood on choir bleachers in the front of the auditorium and sang a song of American patriotism. We may have recited each one line of achievement of our President. I don’t remember.

Forty boys were standing on that stage in black suits and I honestly could not tell them apart. The one top-hat of Lincoln stood somewhere in the back. And there I was standing over to the far moderate left upper stage in red plaid shirt tucked under blue denim overalls holding a peanuts bag in a farmers’ hat.

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