Redeeming the faith we once had in our public institutions

After years of failed policies and broken promises from both major political parties, it’s fair to say that much of America has lost faith in the government's ability to steward our nation towards the common good. Our faith in our once hallowed public institutions has been shaken because they have lately given us little to place faith in. The Department of Motor Vehicles is run like the Department of Motor Vehicles. Government regulations are as ham-handed and convoluted as they are well-intentioned. Sailing the seas of bureaucratic red tape can become overwhelming. After nearly two decades of war, the world is no safer. The government lies. The government fails.

Just as importantly, the poor performance of government as of late has cost a tremendous amount of money. Adding up the federal government’s budgets for the past 10 years, we see that it spent $38 trillion, which is $41 trillion if we adjust for inflation. Every dollar raised and spent by state and local governments is on top.

Year Federal Budget In 2016 dollars Total Total (in 2016 dollars)
2006 $2.7 trillion $3.23 trillion $38 trillion $41 trillion
2007 $2.8 trillion $3.25 trillion
2008 $2.9 trillion $3.24 trillion
2009 $3.1 trillion $3.48 trillion
2010 $3.6 trillion $3.98 trillion
2011 $3.8 trillion $4.07 trillion
2012 $3.7 trillion $3.88 trillion
2013 $3.8 trillion $3.93 trillion
2014 $3.8 trillion $3.87 trillion
2015 $3.7 trillion $3.76 trillion
2016 $3.9 trillion $3.9 trillion
Source: Congressional Budget Office

$41 trillion is equivalent to $514,000 for every family of four in the United States, enough to buy each one a brand new house, two new cars and two college educations with tens of thousands left over. This was money spent by both Republican and Democratic administrations, approved by both parties in Congress. Looking back from the past 10 years until today, what exactly has changed for the better? What kind of progress did that $41 trillion buy us?

We wish there was an answer to that question that rewarded the trust we once had in our government, yet we need only open our eyes to realize that the overwhelming majority of resources spent by our government did not go to our national improvement. They didn't go towards things we need, what makes our society healthier - what makes our society stronger. They didn't go towards solving problems we need solved.

Just as disappointingly, this degree of waste fundamentally disrespects us as a people because it disrespects the time and effort we invested to earn the money that funds government through taxes.

We work hard for a living to put food on our table, and in doing so know that should we perform poorly at our jobs we risk losing them. But government can not only act poorly - it can do so beyond our ability to hold it accountable. Instead, it can just come back every year to demand more money in the name of 'funding social services' it in turn doesn't fund, leaving us as a society to pay more for a decreasing standard of living.

federal budget pie chart

The consequences of this problem have far-reaching impact to our republic. It sends a terrible message to the American people, suggesting that we're simply ATM machines for bureaucrats and politicians. That the energy we devote to our jobs is something they can take for granted because they're above the laws and standards they set for us to follow. As a result, this makes us distrust government and dread government programs even worse - expecting them to fail from the start. Government hasn’t worked in years. So why should we expect it to work for us now?

Of all the problems in our society requiring a solution, this stands out above nigh all because we can't move forward as a society if we inherently distrust its ability to do so, or worse, if there is abundant reason to remain distrustful of government and its capabilities to perform acceptably well. Our future faces challenges that require a united focus and the capabilities of all of us as a people, and our government will not be able to rise to meeting these challenges if it cannot demonstrate to the people that it is worthy of their trust and faith.

This trust and faith is not something that can be asked for, it must be something that is earned - honestly, transparently and consistently. As per our Constitutional framework, the American people are the masters of our government and our government must in turn answer to them with the appropriate degree of deference and respect, for above all: public service is a service.

That's how a government of the people works, and the Alliance Party intends to reinforce that through the following measures:

Improve Government Structure

Improve Government Structure

A large reason why government doesn't perform well is that it's not structured to perform well. Agencies and services often overlap, serve similar roles redundantly or compete for jurisdiction, trying to maintain power within individual fiefdoms while maintaining disparate accounting practices and operating under limited oversight. We intend to address this by designing a new structure for public service agencies that helps them become less wasteful, more transparent and more effective.

We don't believe in big or small government - we believe in efficient government that is structured to perform responsibility for the national interest.

Create a Government Accountability Agency

Create a Government Accountability Agency

Most everyone in our country is familiar with the concept of accountability for our actions. In nearly everything we do, we live under a concept where we recognize that actions have consequences, and if we act improperly, the consequences can be harsh.

But this is all too often not true for government. If a government service breaks the law or violates our rights, very rarely is any corrective action taken. More often, the government seeks to look out for itself and “circles the wagons” to shield itself against accountability.

Simply stated: our government has made itself above the law. And that must stop.

The lynchpin of the Alliance Party’s plan to investigate government behavior and hold it accountable is the creation of a Government Accountability Agency (GAA), which would be a federal internal affairs agency focused exclusively on government services. It would have jurisdiction over every function of government in the United States, local, state and federal (including the military) and only functions of government.

GAA agent photo

This agency would be chaired by the Secretary of Citizen Advocacy, within the newly proposed Office of Citizen Services. They would be elected every midterm election cycle and refrains from listing party affiliation on the ballot in furtherance of political neutrality. The Secretary of Citizen Advocacy would serve four-year terms with a maximum limit of two and may only be removed from office through impeachment by Congress.

Unlike the present Government Accountability Office, which has narrow investigative authority and no real power, the GAA would be a criminal enforcement agency dedicated exclusively to internal affairs. As it would only investigate functions of government, it would not need a warrant to probe any area of public service, and as a federal agency tasked with both civil and criminal enforcement, it would be immune from stonewalling by local public officials.

Issue Public Service Licenses

Issue Public Service Licenses

The Alliance Party would propose legislation establishing a licensing system for public service, requiring an active license to be a non-elected public employee. Today, you need a license to work in many professions: law, medicine, even hairstyling and nail polishing. These licenses establish that a person is both competent and held to a standard of ethics. If they act outside of those ethics, their license is suspended or revoked.

public service license sample picture

The same should be true for employees of government, coming to the Public Service License. A Public Service License would be required to work in any function of non-elected public service at local, state and federal levels, and would be issued free of charge and be valid for life. Should a government employee act improperly or unethically, their license can be suspended or revoked by the GAA as necessary.

As an active Public Service License would be required for any non-elected job in government, a suspended license would prevent employment in public service outright which, for example, would prevent an official removed for unethical actions from being hired within another government function.

Additionally, the GAA would have the authority to strip public officials of qualified immunity in the event they act improperly toward individuals – exposing them to civil liability in court by people they’ve harmed. If a public official commits a crime against someone or abuses their rights, they should face the same consequences as an average citizen.

Public Spending Reports

Public Spending Reports

financial audit from the Government Accountability Agency.

As the Alliance Party seeks to implement a universally standardized accounting process for all government agencies, the GAA would review their books and analyze their financial efficiency over a recurring time period.

From this analysis, the GAA would provide annual financial reports on each government service at the federal level. These reports would detail how public money is spent, how close it was to its stated budget and performance assessments on effectiveness.

Much like we have annual performance reviews at our jobs, the GAA would conduct this review and provide its results to the public. This information, in turn, would help people make more informed decisions when voting and would aid the press in investigative reports by providing clear and concise figures about how public money is spent – or wasted.

Greater Oversight of Classified Information

Greater Oversight of Classified Information

The Alliance Party recognizes that information sometimes needs to be classified as secret to conduct affairs of state. But today, information is often classified that never should have been in the first place - often to cover up wrongdoing by government.

U.S. Intelligence Community Logo

How can a free society have both? Currently, our government has no real answer for this question, and we have tens of thousands of classified programs that are allowed to remain secret because we have no effective mechanism to determine if its secrecy is appropriate. As the scale of information classified as secret has expanded, the task to determine appropriateness has become significantly more complex.

This cannot be allowed to continue. Plainly speaking, if there is so much classified information that the government can’t review it effectively and it allows corruption to be hidden from the public, then there is too much classified information.

Information is classified as secret for the benefit of society and if society wishes to know something over the objections of a government agency, there needs to be an independent arbiter to make a proper determination. The GAA would serve this role and maintain a function to review classified information and if necessary allow its public disclosure.

Investigate Waste & Corruption

Investigate Waste & Corruption

Department of Justice Logo

As an internal affairs entity, the Government Accountability Agency would have the authority to investigate any function of government at any level. If during an investigation it finds unlawful action has occurred, it would have the authority to collect evidence and make a determination on action. It could respond administratively and suspend/revoke Public Service Licenses or if the matter was serious enough, make arrests and bring criminal charges. For this function, the Government Accountability Agency would maintain a staff of special U.S. Attorneys from the Department of Justice that would seek indictments and prosecute all cases openly in federal court.

Responsible Accountability

Responsible Accountability

As we live in a politically polarized country, it's possible that a Government Accountability Agency might be a tempting tool to use in furtherance of cynical partisan aims. Under no circumstance would that by tolerated by our party.

One of the first preventions we have against that kind of abuse is separation by structure. The GAA exists within the Office of Citizen Services in our model, which is separate from other functions of the executive branch and is chaired by an elected head who is term-limited. That, alone, makes it difficult for other areas of government to unduly influence the GAA.

Second, in our model the FBI would have authority to investigate the GAA and bring charges with the approval of the Attorney General. Additionally, the Secretary of Citizen Services could be impeached by Congress for wrongdoing.

Third, should our platform be adopted and the GAA created, internal rules would mandate transparency in all public initiatives - if a public employee has committed wrongdoing and a criminal case is pursued, all evidence would be released for scrutiny by the media and public.

Lastly, as the Secretary of Citizen Advocacy is elected every four years, the voting public has an opportunity to make their preferences known and ultimately determine whether or not the direction taken by the GAA is truly within the national interest.

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