Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Finding common ground

In 2003, I wrote a screenplay called Let's Play Two. The storyline has the team payroll of the Chicago Cubs being stolen by a computer hacker. The team owner is in a financial bind so he can't come up with more money. The hacker who took the payroll says he'll pay each player the highest salary that Cubs' hero Ernie Banks made — a pittance by contemporary standards. Nonetheless, the team pulls together and wins the World Series in the seventh game against the New York Yankees — in a blizzard, Chicago weather being what it is.
Only 13 years later, the Cubs did win the World Series, a product of brilliant management, terrific player acquisition and coming together as a team.
That made me wonder if it would be possible to bring the American voting public together for our common good. There's so much that divides us, could any idea unite us? I think there are a few things. I'll write about one today and another next week.
In my Jim McGill novel, The Last Ballot Cast, McGill is subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Oversight. The committee's chairman doesn't like McGill's attitude and McGill is threatened with being found in contempt of Congress.
McGill's too tough to be scared by that threat, and he asks why any American might be found in contempt of Congress but Congress can't be found in contempt of the American people.
A reporter later asks McGill what the grounds might be for Congress to be found in contempt of the American people.
He responds, “Failure to do their jobs.” Then he elaborates, "Over the course of a calendar year, has the unemployment rate gone down? Has the number of jobs paying a living wage gone up? Has the number of people with substantial health insurance gone up? Has the number of people using emergency rooms for their medical needs gone down? Has the number of U.S. made manufactured goods gone up? Has the number of imported manufactured goods gone down? Has the number of students graduating from high school gone up? Has the number of dropouts gone down? Has the number of admissions to colleges, universities, technical and trade schools gone up? Has the amount of student debt gone down? Has the number of cops on patrol gone up? Has the number of crimes against persons and property gone down? Has the number of people working their way out of poverty gone up? Has the number of whining fat cats gone down?
"If Congress failed in two or more areas of critical concern they would, de facto, be cited for contempt of the American people. Every member of Congress would have his or her pay reduced by twenty-five percent, they would receive no pension contribution for that year or health care coverage for the following year and members of the leadership would be confined at minimum security prisons during Congressional recesses.
How, he was asked, would such a situation come to pass?
“Congress would have to pass a law,” he said.
After the reporters all laughed, McGill added, “The voters could make Congress do that, if they wanted.”
So what do you think? Is this an idea voters spanning the political spectrum could get behind? I think so.