With the unexpected retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals journeyed to Rome and were secluded in a papal conclave where they made a decision that will undoubtedly affect at least the near future of the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to the mid 13th century, cardinals could come and go as they pleased during this meeting. But politicking intervened, and Pope Gregory X decreed cardinals be secluded until they chose a new pope. Important decisions? Politicking? A need for expediency? Sounds familiar. When it comes to Congress, it’s time to give this seclusion idea a shot.
The idea has its merits for a number of reasons. The many meetings among party leaders at the White House, on Capitol Hill and even in Washington, D.C., restaurants aren’t moving decision making forward, and the general consensus is that politics is getting in the way. Without access to televisions, phones, computers and visitors, sequestration—the courtroom kind, not the financial tactic—may just work.
Sound crazy? Consider the idea for a while. The people who are shaping the future of the United States and who are stewards of citizens’ money would have to stay in one place, together, without politicking, until decisions are made. They would have to meet face to face and talk about the merits of one approach over another. They would have to consider each other’s lines of reasoning. They would have to think about what’s best for the entire country. And they would have to do all this, because they wouldn’t go anywhere until they did. The length of their conclave would be up to them. When the final vote on the final decision is cast, white smoke would rise above the Capitol. OK ... not really, but you get the general idea.
And if the idea of a conclave seems too closely related to religion or too extreme, how about this: You work, you get paid. For members of Congress, when the work gets done, the paychecks start again.
Perhaps the idea of a pay freeze doesn’t go quite far enough. How about suspending access to bank and credit accounts? Try to use your debit or credit card? Nope. Open your wallet and use cash or you’re out of luck. Pay your bills online? Sorry. Figure out how to pay America’s bills first. Go to an ATM for cash? The only message on the screen says, “No decision, no money.”
The bottom line is that indecision is in the process of paralyzing the most powerful country in the world. Business as usual is not working. Business as usual is not enough. It isn’t necessary to take apart democracy to make democracy work, but sometimes new methods are called for to move it forward. The consequences of indecision can be just as dire as the consequences of making a poor decision. Governing a nation is about statesmanship not stagnation.
How can we get Congress moving in the right direction? What are your unique—if somewhat extreme—ideas? Go ahead and share. You know you want to.