The Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio
Brian Gongol

An approximate transcript of the show broadcast on December 2, 2012

Segment 1

Good evening to you and welcome to the Brian Gongol show on Newsradio 1040 WHO. I'm Brian Gongol; Brian Dean has the night off tonight. And we're going to do something a little bit different that I, I've wanted to do for some time. And just given the opportunity here, that's what we're going to roll with tonight, since Brian Dean is not going to be with us. Wanted to go with a question here, or a series of questions that I think you might find a little bit interesting. In fact, you might even dare to call some of these questions downright dangerous. And the reason that I want to pose these questions is not to say that I'm in favor of doing anything about them per se. I just think sometimes it's so easy to get lulled into the status quo, and into the series of questions and debates and arguments that we're so used to having; and the terms of those debates, especially like politically. Everybody gets lulled into the same set of arguments, over and over and over again; and it's like they get shaped sort of by the people who want the messages shaped in certain ways; and sometimes by the way that they're reflected and discussed in the media; and it, it just kind of... it just narrows the way that we think about things.

You know, I just want to pose a series here of, I don't know, you could just call them wild ideas, even. Wild questions. Strictly for the idea, and strictly for the purpose of asking ourselves why don't we do these things, why don't we have these debates in these particular terms, and what does asking the question -- and just thinking the act itself of asking these questions is a little weird -- what does that tell us about ourselves and maybe some of the things that we take for granted that we shouldn't. Now, for instance, I'll just give you one right here.

Why, instead of giving out free healthcare, or more-or-less free healthcare -- as the government does under the Medicare system -- to people who are over the age of 65; why don't we instead give free healthcare to those who are under, say age 35 instead? And then make everybody older than that age pay for it themselves. Now, again, right; to be clear from the get-go here: I'm not actually advocating that this is what we should do. I'm just simply asking "Why don't we do this?" and does that tell us something about what we presently do. And what does even just the mere fact of asking the question tell us about ourselves?

Now, the reason one could make an argument, or a case for providing free healthcare for those who are under age 35 is that that's when people are most vulnerable and most -- most vulnerable I guess is the way to put it -- to decisions that aren't their own. You know, if you're under age 18, you're a minor. You don't really get to decide for yourself most of the things you do with your life, including things that determine your future health. You're actually there as the ward of your parents, or in some cases the ward of the state. But in most cases, you don't have the freedom, the opportunity, or the resources to choose what to do about yourself. You're only able to go to the doctor, or get preventative care, or go to the dentist when your parents take you there.

Now, in some cases, the government already steps in and says that they must do certain things. Obviously, if they neglect your health and well-being, the government can step in there. And obviously, the government does certain things in order to protect public health by requiring, say, vaccinations before you go into school or before you participate in certain sports. Now, the government already does these things in the recognition that certain steps are best taken when people are young in order to protect their health and insure that they have the healthiest long-term life experience possible. But, we do make kids basically the victims of, or in some cases the beneficiaries of, the good or bad fortune of their parents. And the good or bad decisions of their parents, of course. But that healthcare, those healthcare decisions get made by their parents, and sometimes families don't necessarily have the resources in order to provide everything that they want. Now, to an extent; we've already as a country kind of pushed in this direction. In Iowa, we have the HAWK-I program that essentially ensures that all kids under a certain income level do get some kind of healthcare coverage. And that's because I think we recognize -- and this actually goes all the way back to, you know, the writings of philosophers in the 19th century -- that you have to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. And children are the best example of that. They're the ones who have the least power, the least in terms of resources, the least pull in the political system in order to get something for themselves. So, by providing that... and again, I'm not saying, I'm not actually advocating this, but I'm saying as a question, why don't we provide free healthcare to those who are under 35 when the decisions that we make there and the resources that we expend there can have the greatest long-term impact on protecting their health later on in life.

I mean, it's not just about vaccinations. It's about wellness overall; it's about managing a person's dental care. I mean, you know, a kid who has lousy dental care when, you know, they're in their teens can turn out to have a lifetime of bad experiences later on. So, why don't we provide that free health care to them? The ones who can't make decisions for themselves rather than the adults, the senior citizens perhaps, who have had a lifetime in order to save up their resources in anticipation of what it is that they will need in later life. It's just a question. I'm not advocating it. I'm simply saying it's an interesting question, and I think we should ask the question and ask ourselves what does that very act of inverting the question -- totally turning the system that we provide today on its head -- what does doing that tell us about ourselves and what we really value as a country, as a nation, as a culture, as an economic system? It's kind of an important question.

I'll give you another one here. Why don't we manage to have a balanced national budget by prohibiting any politician from running for reelection if the deficit of the national government exceeds three percent, let's say, of the entire Gross Domestic Product? In other words, of the entire economy. Now, we've talked on many occasions here on WHO about the debt, the size of the debt, the magnitude of it, and what it does to endanger us. And it really does endanger us, to some degree. There are a lot of people who say, well, debts don't really matter; deficits don't really matter. It's just what the government is doing in the meantime to provide things to people who need it; that's the only thing that really counts. Well, they're wrong. I mean, I have no other way to analyze this but to say that that is completely wrong.

Debts really do matter. Governments have been toppled. Nations, empires have been toppled over debt. And ours is a great country, a great culture, a great economic system. But it does have an Achilles heel; and it is that we don't seem to like paying for things when we're using them. We seem to lean way too heavily upon borrowing for our own good. Now, the question here is, if we really wanted a balanced budget, would we go after a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which we know that people like to skirt? Would we go after a different system all together? Or would we say that the best way to get to that solution is to prohibit anybody who's in office for running from reelection if we're running a deficit of a certain size.

And the reason you'd say, say, three percent of the total economy is this: the government can borrow, and can outspend its present means indefinitely, if the economy continues to grow. I mean, it's just like if you're running a household, it's very simple. If I know that every year I'm going to get a five percent raise or a five percent bonus at the end of the year, and I know with complete certainty that it will always turn out that way; then I can usually spend five percent more than I've earned in a given year, knowing that I will be able to pay for it with the extra that I make the following year. I can always put that off a little bit. Now, the thing is, we can't expect the economy to grow at five percent a year. We'd love it if it did. But we know that it really just can't. We can, however, set a certain limit that would ensure that we could benefit from that growth and, in the United States, we can expect one to five percent economic growth; really, one to four percent economic growth a year. Depends on the year, depends on the climate, depends on a lot of different things. But we can generally anticipate that will occur. And we can expect that on, in some years it's going to be higher, some years it's going to be lower. And even in some recession years, we're going to step backwards a little bit. I mean, we've lost a little bit of ground in the recession that we've passed through recently. And we know that we're going to recover that and we're going to keep growing beyond that. So if you set that limit, that in this case let's just say three percent of the total economy, if you know that on average you're growing to grow faster than that, then you can outspend by a little bit more than that. Which could be a good thing, if you're buying the right things.

I mean if you're buying things for essential national infrastructure, or essential national security, or you're spending that money by investing in training American workers and students in order to be the most competitive that they could possibly be in the global marketplace; well then, that might be a justifiable expense to have some deficit spending. But we're talking today, in the United States about deficits that are far greater than three percent of GDP. We're talking about years we have gone where we've spent a trillion dollars or more beyond what we've brought in in tax revenues. And the total economy is in the range of about 15 trillion dollars. Well, that's ridiculous. We've been far beyond a sustainable amount of deficit spending in recent years. You can't be approaching, you know, as much as five, ten, fifteen percent of the total GDP, the total economic pie that there is there every year. You can't outspend by that much year after year and get away with it. You simply can't. And we've been doing it without stop since into the Bush Administration. I mean, it's ridiculous and we can't keep doing that. If we really wanted to stop it, why don't we just put it, you know, where it matters most to the people who make the decisions? By telling the politicians themselves, the members of Congress, that they cannot run for reelection if we outspend by that amount. Why don't we do that?

What does it tell us that instead of just putting a firm, hard and fast rule in place that keeps the people -- who apparently are making stupid decisions -- from continuing to make stupid decisions? If we don't put that kind of a rule into place, what does it tell us about ourselves? That we'd just rather have the argument? Or rather all pretend like the national credit card isn't being run up to sky-high limits? And that we don't really care about the ultimate solution? It's just a question. I'm not necessarily even saying that we should do this. Though, this might actually be a good idea. But it's interesting that we don't even have the debate about doing this.

And this idea, by the way, is not my original. This is actually one that Warren Buffet ran up the flagpole and I believe it was in an interview on CNBC, probably about a year ago. But, it's, it was a good question. Why don't we do this? If we really want the outcome that says that we don't outspend our means, why don't we structure the rules so that the people that do those, do that spending on our behalf, have every reason in the world to follow the rules and get it right. It's a very efficient solution. It's a good question why we don't do it. So, we've already run two kind of crazy ideas up the flagpole. I have some others. So stick around, we'll have those coming up in just a moment. I'm Brian Gongol. This is Newsradio 1040 WHO.

Segment 2

And once again, I'm Brian Gongol here on Newsradio 1040 WHO. And Brian Dean has the night off tonight, so we're playing a little, a game here, in essence. Just kind of having a fun little experiment, and asking a series of questions; maybe you can even call them just some wild ideas. But asking these questions that are maybe a little strange, maybe almost a little uncomfortable because they're so far outside what we're used to doing, but asking why we don't ask these questions more often. And maybe asking ourselves what does it tell us that we, about ourselves that we don't really have these discussions, and we don't really ask these questions. So far, for instance, we've asked why do we have free healthcare for those who are over 65 instead of those who are under say, 35? And again, the number 35 is malleable, I mean obviously this is not even an idea that I'm necessarily advocating. But we're asking why do we have free healthcare for those who have had the longest period of time to make their decisions for themselves rather than those who have had the least amount of time to make those decisions.

Or similarly, the other question we asked so far is why don't we prohibit politicians from running for reelection, and by politicians I mean the President, I mean members of Congress, if the deficit, the federal deficit, exceeds more than, let's say three percent of the economy. Because we know we can't go on spending like this; why don't we just set some rules in place that would ensure that their self-interest, which is to get reelected, is then aligned with our national interest, which is not overspending? Doesn't that seem like a simple solution? Why don't we do that, or why don't we at least have the discussion about doing something like that, and instead have these tired old debates about whether it even matters that we deficit spend -- it does -- and questions about, well how do we actually manage that? By putting in a national balanced budget amendment. And people have proposed that, but the question is, well then who would enforce it? This is a very simple enforcement mechanism. It says if you can't get the job done, then you're out. It's very simple. Why don't we have that debate? Why don't we have that discussion? On another note, here's... on a related item.

Why is it that we don't, just for the heck of it, enlarge the size of Congress? And by that I mean the number of members of the House of Representatives, by a factor of ten. You know, if we presently have a sitting Congress that can't ever seem to get anything done, but it's all because of power structures and vested interests and maybe even gerrymandered districts. If we have a Congress that doesn't seem to get things done, why don't we increase that number by a factor of ten? Let's put in ten times as many of them. Why would we do this?

Now again, it's a crazy idea. I'm not even necessarily advocating it. Though I might. I mean, I don't know. Given more thought, this might be worth doing. Why are we afraid though, of having Congress, and members of Congress represent districts that, instead of containing 60, or 600, 700, 800 thousand people; that would instead contain let's say, 60 thousand people, or 70, or 80 thousand people, but much smaller districts. Now, we had these ongoing debates in this country about campaign finance reform. There was a massive amount of discussion and debate about it. The decision, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United made some people very happy, other people very unhappy, but it meant that a large amount of money could find its way into the political debate that wasn't there before. And a large amount of it there is to define the terms of congressional districts and congressional races. Why is it that instead of arguing about how much money can be spent on campaigns, that we don't make the Congress bigger; which in turn makes the district that each one of those Representatives represents much smaller.

By making their districts smaller, wouldn't we make it less expensive to run for office; which, once we get down to it, isn't that really what the problem is all about? Is that our members of Congress are out there chasing after fundraiser dollars all the time in order to get reelected. And if that's the case, doesn't that make them, at least in a lot of people's eyes, beholden to special interest groups? Well, wouldn't it control those, the influence of those special interests, if it were much cheaper -- let's say about a tenth as expensive -- ninety percent cheaper, to run for office for a district that is one tenth the size of the current districts.

Now, beyond that; there are certain benefits that might improve actually accrue to states like Iowa. I mean, we've lost a seat in Congress as a result of population shifts within the United States. It's not that we've shrunk, it's that everybody else has grown faster. Well, we've gone from having five members of the House to four. If we had ten times as many members of Congress, instead of going from fifty to forty, we probably would have gone from let's say fifty down to forty-five. Or fifty to even forty-two. It wouldn't have been as much. You could have much better refinement of the number of Representatives that are out there. And again, not saying necessarily that we should do this. But I'm saying why don't we have the discussion about this?

Instead of yammering on about campaign finance reform, why don't we, and instead of yammering on about the influence of money in politics; why don't we change the rules of the game so that money has a different impact on politics? Having a Congress that had ten times as many members and thus districts that were one tenth the size of the districts that were there before; wouldn't that dramatically affect the amount of money that it would cost to run for office? Wouldn't it make it more like running for the statehouse rather than running for Congress like it is today?

And obviously, there are people who will say, yeah; but I don't want any more dollars going into Washington. Realistically, let's not pretend like increasing the number of members of Congress from what, 435 to 4,000 people would really have that big an impact on the budget itself. That's not what this is really about. What it's really about is taking the money out of the electoral process, or at least changing the impact of that money. Because then, if you had much smaller districts, it would be much more like running for the statehouse, or even running for a city council seat. You know, I mean, the Des Moines city council members each represent -- the ones who have designated districts -- represent areas that are about the population that we're talking about. Wouldn't it be much more cost-effective to do it that way? And thus, also, change the impact of all that tenure that has such a bearing on how things are run in Congress. Wouldn't it change things a lot if there were more people there, perhaps from a broader array of backgrounds? And instead of there being so many people who are literally professional politicians; maybe more people who look more like citizen-politicians. People who didn't have to do that as their full-time, life-long career; because really, once you get into Congress, don't you want to keep getting reelected to Congress, year-in and year-out? That's what so many of them are there for.

Instead, if it were much more of a citizen-oriented Congress, wouldn't we potentially have people with broader, more diverse backgrounds in different areas, different specialties? People who would bring more knowledge to the table, and if they, if it weren't so hard to get elected; wouldn't there be more people willing to do it in the first place? Again, not necessarily saying we should do this. But I'm saying we should ask the question. Why don't we even have this debate? Why donít we even have this discussion? I never hear anybody talking about this. Instead, we just talk about ways that government could limit the role of money in politics. And they talk about placing campaign finance limits on things, and thinking that will solve everything. Why don't we instead look at what the money is there to do, and change those rules instead?

Now, on a related note, we've been talking about money issues and government, and government spending. Why is it that we don't have all budget matters discussed in terms of their per capita values? Now, this actually probably is a question or an argument that I would stand behind. I would probably advocate very strongly for this one. But why is it that when we talk about the federal debt, let's say, and it's in that 15 or 16 trillion dollar range, and everybody's eyes kind of glaze over at that stage. Nobody knows what a trillion looks like. Nobody has a bearing or a grasp on what "trillions" look like. But when you tell them that means that every single person in the country has fifty thousand dollars of federal debt to their name; well, that seems to be a little different. That makes it a little more real. It makes it a little more humane. It makes it a number that we can grasp that we can feel something about. So when we're having these discussions about whether, let's say defense spending should be increased or decreased. Or whether, when we're talking about how much it costs to run different federal agencies; and whether it would be a good idea to invest more or take money away from these federal programs. Shouldn't we have all of those discussions in terms of per capita amounts? How much it really costs you personally?

Now, the people who are behind certain government programs, when they think it's to their advantage, are very good about trotting this out. You ask somebody who is interested in PBS subsidy, or the National Endowment for the Arts subsidy, or NASA. People who get really, really emotional and passionate about particular government programs. If they think their number is very small, they're very quick to trot it out the fact that it only costs you $1.50 a year in taxes. You know, they're very good about trotting that out. But those really aren't the subjects or the projects that really we need to be paying that much attention to. I mean obviously, we need to pay attention to every single dollar that is spent on our behalf. But, it's difficult to wrap our brains around every program that's out there.

On the other hand, if we were acutely aware that every year the government were spending X number of dollars, let's say $5,000 in deficit spending on each of our behalf; wouldn't that make us more conscious of the big picture? Isn't it really hard to listen to those numbers that are thrown out in billions and trillions and really grasp those? It's too hard to take those numbers and make them humane. Except if we divide them up by everybody who's living here -- plus or minus 310 million of us -- and say, this is the share that is allocated to each one of us individually. This is how much the Air Force costs each of us individually. This is how much NASA costs each of us individually. This is how much the National Parks Service costs each of us individually. I think we'd be much better off if we had that discussion instead in per capita values. And yet, we never really seem to.

Again, in the exceptional cases when that number appears to be really small and people can use that in their favor. But when it comes to the big stuff, whether it's debt, whether it's defense spending or Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security; any of those big picture items, we very rarely talk about how much it costs each of us on average individually if we divide it up amongst all of us. And I think it would be a much more sensible thing to do if we did. Trillions don't mean anything to us. But interestingly enough, those trillions, divided by the millions of us, when they become thousands or hundreds, now those, that's an area where we can start talking turkey. Just a thought; and it's a question. Why don't we have those discussions in those ways? We're going to come back with some more interesting questions, or at least I hope their interesting to you. I find them fascinating. We'll be back with those in just a moment right here on Newsradio 1040 WHO.

Segment 3

Well, we're in the business of asking some crazy questions tonight here on Newsradio 1040 WHO. I'm Brian Gongol, Brian Dean has the night off tonight, and he probably wanted that anyway so he could have plausible deniability from asking these questions; because frankly, I think that the very act of asking any of these, the fact that it's been recorded now means that I am like never, ever, ever going to be eligible to run for office. Because now there's a record of me saying things that are well, frankly, you know, a little bit crazy. But I'm saying them, I'm asking these questions not because they're crazy, not because I'm trying to do anything wild and not even because I necessarily agree with doing any of these things that we're talking about. But instead, because I think it's interesting that we don't ask these questions about ourselves.

And I think it may tell us something about ourselves that we don't ask these questions. Say, like, in the last segment here; we were asking this question. Why don't we discuss all of our budget matters, specifically at the federal level, but also to some extent on the state and local levels as well. Why don't we discuss all of those matters in terms of their per capita values? And by that I mean why don't we ask, instead of talking about the budget in terms of trillions of dollars and billions of this and millions on that; why don't we talk about it at the level that it means to the individual? Every single individual in the country, and divide it up just among the approximately 310 million of us that are here. I think that it's interesting that we don't do that. I think it's telling that we donít. And the only cases when we do are when people are trying to convince us that their particular pet project doesn't cost very much. Because I think it's really important for us to get a grasp on some of these issues. I think if people really understood, in the United States, that we are each on the hook, in essence, for federal debt to the tune of fifty thousand dollars; I mean for every single man, woman and child in this country. If we understood that that was the size of the debt, I think that would mean a lot more to us than hearing "oh, it's about 15 trillion dollars." Numbers of that scale just are so far beyond what we understand, that they remain kind of mythological. It's almost like talking about the abominable snowman or something. That when you talk about them in such huge numbers, they're just beyond what human beings can reason with.

And I think it tells us something about ourselves that we do talk about them in that way, in a way that does strip away our ability to reason. I think that's really unhealthy for us. This is actually one of these wild ideas I actually would stand behind; is asking that we discuss all budget matters in per capita values. Because I think the less magical we make it sound, the less mythological we make it sound; the more it feels like there is something we can do about it. I can't do anything about fifteen trillion dollars. No individual really can.

I mean, Warren Buffet can't do anything about fifteen trillion dollars. Bill Gates, with all of his enormous net worth, cannot scratch the surface of dealing with fifteen trillion dollars. However, we can each understand that the government has borrowed fifty thousand dollars on our behalf. And we can even begin to understand that we've borrowed certain numbers of that; I mean, I don't remember the exact figure off the top of my head, but let's say it's seven thousand dollars of that, is money we've borrowed from China. Now that's much more meaningful, I think, to each of us as voters, and as decision makers than certain trillion number of dollars or even billions of dollars, that we've borrowed from another country. I think if we understand it in terms of our share of the puzzle or our share of the pie; I think it makes a lot more sense, and it's much more digestible and much more understandable and something we feel we can take action on. I think it almost tells us about ourselves that we are trying to avoid the big issues, that we don't break them down into these littler pieces so that we can understand them. And I think it's a bad thing it tells us about ourselves, and that we should probably get that fixed. Of course, we've talked about a lot of big issues here on WHO Radio. And so far, some of these have been... these have been kind of big picture issues. Let's, let's talk about another one.

Again, I want to make it very clear here, I'm not necessarily advocating this. I'm simply saying we should ask ourselves why we don't do this. Why don't we pay teachers instead of a salary, instead of these fixed numbers that are usually negotiated through large, usually union contracts. Instead of paying them like that, why don't we pay teachers on commission from their student's future earnings?

Let me put that another way. Why don't we tie the amount of money that teachers make to how well the students they prepare are prepared to go into the world? Now, I'm sure that would, the whole question itself would ruffle an enormous number of feathers. I mean, it would really throw a lot of people into a tizzy to even have this discussion. But I'm saying, it's kind of strange that we don't have that discussion. We have a lot of talk about teacher's unions, we have a lot of talk about how much we spend on education, and getting more money, you know, more money into education and how much that would change the future of education and how much better student outcomes might be if we'd just put more money into the system. But I think realistically, it's sensible for us to ask ourselves why we don't structure that pay system so that the incentives for the teachers are tied directly to the outcomes, the performance of the students they create.

Now obviously, this is far too complex a thing to just throw out there and think this is a magical solution, it's like waving a magic wand at things. I mean, you'd have to account for what they're given to work with and the quality of the students are that they get and whether those students are coming into the classroom prepared from the prior teachers and whether they've, you know, had a good night's sleep at home, and all kinds of things have a real bearing on student performance. That's why I'm saying this is just a wild idea, it's not even an argument I'm trying to make for you here. I'm simply saying that we never ask ourselves why we don't structure pay for educators around the performance that we then get later on from the students. I think it's really interesting that we don't do that and it may tell ourselves, again, something about the way we've structured the system that may or may not be broken. It may be that it's wrong to structure a system that penalizes the teachers if the students don't perform well.

But maybe that's exactly what we should be rewarding or penalizing teachers based upon; that is, how well those students turn out. How do you measure that? I mean, that itself would be an enormous question that would be great to have a national debate about. Or even a local debate about. But interestingly, we always seem to avoid some of these crazier questions, and I think dismiss them as crazy rather than asking ourselves what can we be doing better. And why don't we look at this from a totally different angle? And the whole reason I'm asking some of these questions and just throwing them out there; again, is not because I'm even necessarily advocating them. But because it's important sometimes to look at things from an unconventional angle. And ask ourselves why do we do the things we do in the way that we do them? Why do we accept this status quo that we have around us and is there a better way we could approach it? I personally think that we might need to look at how we structure education spending and finance and rewards and whether it's smart for us to consider other ways of rewarding good teachers and perhaps encouraging the ones that don't perform as well to find something else to do.

Because there are many great teachers out there. And many of them are performing at great levels and are not getting rewarded for it at all. They're being penalized by the systems that they're in because they're just getting paid what the pay scale says they're supposed to be paid. Instead of getting rewarded for performing really, really well and creating really good outcomes for their students. It's important that we ask ourselves why we don't look at this in a different way and structure the system somewhat differently in order to match the outcomes that we are hoping to get. And maybe from education, the outcome isn't sending kids off so they make a huge amount of money later on. Maybe it's keeping them out of jail. Maybe it's making sure that they raise happy and healthy kids of their own. Whatever the structure is, we may need to think about why we don't structure the system -- the way we pay for those things -- in a different way.

Now, on a related note, you know, we'd like to see good cultural outcomes. We'd like to see a happy, healthy, civic society in which people volunteer and people vote and people pay their taxes and people participate in those institutions that make us all better off. I've got an idea on that, or at least a question; remember, I'm not necessarily advocating it. But I want to ask the question. We'll be back with that in a moment right here on Newsradio 1040 WHO.

Segment 4

I hope we haven't made you too uncomfortable with some of these kind of wild ideas here on Newsradio 1040 WHO. I'm Brian Gongol, Brian Dean is off tonight and I'm just taking this opportunity to ask some crazy questions. And again, I'm not necessarily saying we should do any or all of these things, but rather that it's interesting that we don't really have the debate about why we donít. Sometimes it's important, and it's just as important to know why you aren't doing thing A as it is to know why you are doing thing B. I think it's really important to ask ourselves these questions. So, let's throw one more out here just for kind of a closer on Newsradio 1040 WHO.

If we really want a civic society in which people feel engaged with their communities, you know, and they contribute to their communities; there's a lot of very vaguer talk about this. There's a lot of general conversation about how great American culture is and how we've got such wonderful communities and these are such important things to us. Why don't we create an actual, measureable financial reward for doing this. For instance, like by providing a tax credit, let's say, for active membership in a social or fraternal organization. And I would say let's, let's take churches out of this because that's not necessarily it for everybody. Certain people you know obviously are deeply engaged with and involved in their churches and they do great things there. Other people aren't comfortable with those for whatever reason. So let's put that aside and talk strictly about social and fraternal organizations.

And we could be talking about some of the classics, the well-known ones; you know, your Kiwanis, your Rotary, your Lions, those kinds of groups, your Optimist Clubs. Maybe you're talking about new ones, maybe you're talking about ones that are only on a very local basis, on a community by community basis. There are several right here in Des Moines that have no national affiliation, but they are local community groups with a community focus; and they involve their members in trying to make that community better. So, again, the question is, why don't we do something like offering a tax credit for active membership in a social or fraternal organization that particularly focuses on making the community better? Because in reality, don't we have those organizations there in order to provide some of the things that otherwise might fall to government? Don't we want to encourage people to do things like volunteerism because we think it builds better communities? There are a lot of folks who -- and this is why this question maybe is not so crazy -- there are a lot of people out there who are very strong advocates for mandatory national service. They say that you graduate from high school and you've got to go out and do a year or two of being in the military or serving in AmeriCorps, or going off to Peace Corps; whatever. There are a lot of people who believe very strongly that there should be a mandatory national service component of becoming an adult in this country. Now, I personally bristle at that. I personally don't think like we're, we're going to be better off if we force everybody to do a certain set of things at a certain prescribed period of time in their lives. I mean, I do think it makes a lot of sense of course to go through K through 12 education; but I donít necessarily think that at 18 years old, or 19 or whatever, that it makes the most sense to send everybody off into a, almost a rubber-stamp kind of situation where they have to do something specifically in order to prove their worth as citizens, you know. But there are a lot of people who do believe this.

I do think, however, that if what we really want are vibrant communities, and if we do want something that involves healthy volunteerism and commitment to charitable activities and to the building of communities and the fostering of interpersonal relationships among people who otherwise might just be anonymous neighbors to one another; if that's what we really want, if that's what we are really after in this country; then shouldn't we reward that somehow? Couldn't we reward that through, say some kind of tax credit, or make it some other financial advantage, but I think a tax credit is probably the simplest way to do it. Why don't we do that? Again, I'm not necessarily saying this is something the right solution, the best solution, something we must do. What I am saying is, it's interesting we never have that discussion.

There's a whole lot of talk from a lot of folks about how they absolutely believe that we, that everyone should have to go through a mandatory national service period. But they'll never talk -- never -- about an incentive structure for insuring that people do something with their time and encouraging them to do so. I'd much rather use the carrot here than the stick. Because there are a lot of people for whom mandatory programs of really any sort when they're 18 or 19 are a terrible idea, and I don't see any value to that. There's a reason that the, that a lot of people who are professional members of the military just hate the idea of bringing back the draft because they don't want a bunch of people in there that don't want to be there. That's not what they want, it's not what they'd like to have.

And to my mind, I think it would be much more valuable to have people who would become five-, ten-, fifteen-, twenty-, even fifty-year members of these social and fraternal organizations going out there and doing things to volunteer and build their communities over the long term. I think that might do much more good than just have somebody spend 12 or 18 or 24 months doing something they really kind of resent anyway when they're in their late teenaged years.

I think if what we really want are valuable, vibrant, healthy communities with a strong sense of civic pride and engagement; shouldn't we just create an incentive structure, a reward structure there in order to encourage people to do that more? Like, say, offering a tax credit. And if we did that, wouldn't that help to offset some of the expenses the government pays for, for things that maybe these volunteer groups could otherwise provide? Again, not necessarily saying we should do it, but I am saying we should ask the question, and we should ask ourselves why we don't talk about this, and why we don't look at these possibilities from a different angle. Instead of just having the national service mandatory; you know, mandatory service requirement discussion. Why don't we have the broader discussion about what it is that we could really be doing to make our communities more vibrant. Because I think we can all get behind that idea, if we're open to thinking about the smart, strategic ways to do that; that again maybe involve a little more carrot than stick.

Anyway; I hope these thoughts have been interesting for you. They, they've maybe been a little outside the box, and that's been the intention. But sometimes you have to look at things from a completely different angle than the norm in order to see things in a new way. And maybe get brighter, bolder ideas; and perhaps, you know, stretch the brain just a little bit. That's what we seek to do. We'll be back here next Sunday night to do the very same thing, and Brian Dean will be back with us right here on Newsradio 1040 WHO.