Saturday, November 8, 2014

Repurposing Government

Two weeks ago I spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Highway 34 Bridge joining Nebraska and Iowa. Local and national officials, past and present officeholders, people from both states—all came together after working on this project, which took over 20 years. Encouraged by the spirit of celebration, I joked, “Obviously this will help people from Iowa get to Huskers games faster!”

On a deeper level, the ceremony reminded me that our national government has few success stories today. The bridge is a piece of infrastructure that is critical to economic well-being and to travel between family and friends. People from different political parties and states recognized a common need and resolved to work through problems until the job got done. In a small way, the opening of the bridge represented a bygone era of basic government functionality—but one that might be worth reclaiming in our time.

America needs to repurpose its government

Repurposed objects are often old, outmoded, but not without value. Most Americans want smart and effective government that serves their needs. They expect government that is accountable, responsive and affordable. As James Madison said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” But men are not angels, and ordinances of reason and the rule of law are needed to serve the good that is common to us all. Government should maintain the guardrails for national, economic, and family security so that community life can flourish.

Nearly everyone agrees that one of Washington’s highest priorities should be to keep America safe. Many agree also that a strong economy with ample jobs and widespread opportunity must be our focus. Our market-based economy is sustained when the government maintains a fair and just playing field for competition. A vibrant marketplace expands space for constructive interdependency and community dynamism, creating opportunity, fighting poverty, and driving innovation. In a market that works for the many, everyone can benefit from using their gifts, enabling them to provide for their families and help others.

We live in a time of intense demand for sound public policies. But it’s important to recognize that Washington can’t solve all the problems. Well-formed individuals and vibrant cultural institutions are the preconditions for healthy political and economic life. The government exists in service to societal well-being. A properly ordered government, which delivers basic public services, ends up building bridges across Nebraska and Iowa through commitment and collaboration.

Unfortunately, Washington is mired in mediocrity. Partisan gridlock, bureaucratic dysfunction, and government overreach are hindering the traditional means through which we insure government’s responsible and proper place: supporting a strong and good society. Horizons of opportunity in our economy are too dim for many, and social fracture is straining more and more families and communities.

Our current discourse would benefit from a better understanding of the various levels of government that provide structure and order. Federalism is a long held principle in the United States. The national government focuses on high level concerns such as military security and economic protection. State and local governments offer other goods that are closer to the people: protection from crime, education, maintenance of streets—even tending parks for recreation. When Washington tries to do too much, it interferes with this effective system of government-societal organization.

Many people in our state are familiar with the phrase, “Nebraska is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.” Hard work and fiscal responsibility, family and community, faith life and civic life — these are the values that give those words real power. The Nebraska model can serve as America’s model for economic, political, and cultural renewal. Our values can repurpose Washington—and turn our country around.

ABOUT the AUTHOR:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Clay Aiken Gracious In Defeat

Clay Aiken seems to be destined for 2nd place. However, say what you will about Clay, he does have class.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Your Vote Still Counts ... at least locally

Voter turnout for today’s mid-term U.S. elections are expected to be the lowest in history. Those who keep track of these sorts of things are thinking that somewhere along the lines of a 20% or less turnout will be the end result even though voter registration has picked up significantly over the last 10 years.

That is a sad commentary but an accurate barometer which reveals the ever growing level of frustration and ambivalence the voters in America have about their political system and particularly those national candidates for the highest offices in the land.

What is most sad however, is this increasing lack of participation in the political process is greatly affecting the daily lives of the country’s citizens and these voters, because of their dissatisfaction of the status quo in Washington, D.C. by not showing up at the polling place are leaving the fate of their futures in the hands of a very few.

I can understand the resentment caused by the continued stalemate that politics on the national level has caused. The gridlock in the nation’s capitol is worse than that on the line of scrimmage in a pro football game, with one big difference, no satisfying touchdowns have been forthcoming from the Congress or office of the President in such a long time that people have forgotten what quarter the game is even in.

However, this failure of those nationally elected Presidents, Senators and Congressmen should not be allowed to carry over into the ballot booth, especially during mid-term elections when most often important Statewide and local offices are up for grabs as well as important referendums and initiatives that usually appear on the ballot.

Let’s be honest here. What happens in D.C. within that political bubble up and down the Mall generally stays within that bubble. On a day to day basis very little that happens or doesn’t happen in the nation’s Capitol finds it way down that long path to the individual citizen’s front door -- the IRS being one of the few exceptions.

Yet, what happens in one’s State in the way of legislation, decisions that are made in one’s County, votes by a Board or City Council in one’s city or town does have great import and impact in that one’s daily life. It can affect their wallets, where they live, how they live and how important and needed services are delivered and provided for.

That is why State and Local elections are of paramount importance every voting period. Who gets elected Governor, State Legislator, Auditor, State Attorney General, Mayor, County Sheriff and who holds a seat on City Council will affect how one lives day to day.

In most States the mid-term elections are the time to have referendums on the ballot. If voters stay home then that referendum or piece of proposed legislation will still affect their lives. If it is a bond issue or a proposal to increase property taxes in your area the voter needs to make their voice heard by casting a ballot on those issues. In this election many States have put forth new Minimum Wage proposals. Whether these and other issues pass or fail will determine the individual’s future household budgets. Some of the issues on State and Local ballots this year deal with environmental issues, pipeline installation, zoning laws and infrastructure changes. If only 20% of the voting public shows up at the polls then the other 80% have given up their voice and are allowing this minority of voters to decide their future and the fate of them and their families.

The individual vote really does still count in America. Perhaps not so much on the national level, but it continues to carry great weight on the State and Local level.

Big corporate bucks, high level CEO’s, Lobbying groups and special interests with deep pockets may control national elections for President and Congress but John Q. Public still carries the day on those offices and ballot issues in his or her State, City and Township and that voting voice still must be heard loud and clear.

The voter must move past their disgruntlement over the failure of their vote seeming to not matter in Washington and return to the polls triumphant fully aware that they still have a voice on those offices and local initiatives that matter the most, affect them and their families and neighbors where they live.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Aliens Night" - A Sci-Fi Short Film Review

"Aliens Night" is a kickass Italian-made sci-fi short in which the Greys finally have the tables turned on them and learn what it is like to be taken against their will and … probed!

Shot with 3D graphics, special effects on a budget that was practically zero and without your typical long list of crew support (just particles and dynamics by Matteo Migliorini), director Andrea Ricca has proven all that is needed in this digital age to make a decent and entertaining short film is a HD Camera, a computer, good writing, editing, a bit of know how in animation and 3D modeling and you’re end product can be something those in the indie film festival circuit can rave about.

Starring actress Stefani Autuori, "Aliens Night" is pure fun to watch.