Darrell Berkheimer: Isn’t trust the biggest challenge ahead?
Our new year begins with a litany of immense challenges, many of which may take an entire decade to adequately address because they will require a plethora of reforms if we expect to bring an end to the increased inequality, chaos, corruption and divisiveness afflicting our nation.
The events of the past four years have emphasized that we can no longer rely on the politicians in our executive and legislative branches to honor the traditions and ethical norms observed in the past.
Doesn’t that indicate that some of those traditions and norms need to be codified in legislation that will require continuing enforcement?
Meanwhile, numerous issues and problems have only grown worse as they continued to be unheeded, neglected and ignored by our dysfunctional federal government.
Those issues and challenges include:
— Our deteriorating infrastructure.
— Shrinking middle class.
— Growing poverty.
— Inadequate health care.
— Distrust in our judicial and law enforcement systems.
— Disillusioned youth and millennials.
—An economy that’s failing to provide the American Dream to 90% of our citizens.
— depletion of our non-renewal resources,
— the fouling of our air, streams and oceans;
— the changing and more disastrous climate patterns;
— Ecological threats resulting from declining numbers of insects, birds and amphibians.
— Perhaps the most important issue of all – the tribalistic distrust behind the divisiveness that’s threatening our democratic republic.
But none of those issues can adequately be addressed until we remove the constant dangers of COVID-19. Then the dysfunction and distrust should take priority until we see a restoration of our national values and ethics in our nation’s capital.
Trust in our federal government is quite low in sections throughout our nation, and perhaps the only way trust can be rebuilt is through legislative reforms that punish corruption and limit activities that provide for the perceptions of corruption.
Governments must operate on trust. When politicians abuse that trust, it creates doubt in all corners of a nation.
Unfortunately, the past four years were punctuated with so many abuses that have further undermined trust, a trust that can only be regained by legislative reforms and appropriate enforcement.
Yes, our immediate concerns are ending the pandemic and reviving the economy, but our Congress members must go beyond that to enact the reforms needed to deal with such future situations, and especially the mistrust they have fostered.
How can we rebuild trust when we see:
— No penalties for lying to the American public.
— Erosion of the Rule of Law and deteriorating faith in our Department of Justice.
— Loss of respect for law enforcement agencies.
— Continuing ethics violations being ignored.
— Federal appointees poorly vetted and lacking in appropriate experience.
— Federal officials participating in partisan politics in violation of the Hatch Act.
— Ignoring intelligence and security procedures.
— Illegal nepotism.
— Emoluments clause violations.
— Presidential pardons abuse.
— An attorney general who ignores violations and bows to unjustified whims from the White House.
Isn’t it obvious that legislation is needed to codify ethical norms and specify penalties for violations?
Wouldn’t it be wise to establish experience requirements for Cabinet members?
Isn’t it the responsibility of the attorney general to enforce ethics violations, the Hatch Act and anti-nepotism law?
My research shows that attorneys general typically are guilty of not enforcing such transgressions.
Doesn’t that raise the question of why we should continue to have the chief executive officer of the Justice Department owe his allegiance to the president?
Isn’t that why 43 states, including California, have made their attorneys general elective positions? And why Tennessee chose to have its attorney general selected by the state supreme court?
Electing an attorney general would help to remove that allegiance to the president. Then the president could no longer fire the attorney general in favor of someone who will do the president’s bidding.
And why not elect an attorney general during mid-term elections? Wouldn’t that tend to separate the attorney general even further from campaigning as a part of the presidential team and political party?
It should be obvious that we need an attorney general who owes his or her allegiance directly to the voters, and not to the president. Perhaps then we would see better justice and ethics enforcement that likely would lead to building the trust that’s so important for any bureaucracy to perform at its best.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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