Ok, Here's a Big Idea: Citizen Coupons and a Government By the People

Digby points to this diary by thereisnospoon on how the right-wing mainstreams their ideas and says we can learn from it.  I agree.  And I also agree that politics is about ideas.

So here's a big idea: Citizen Coupons.  Every government agency should dedicate a certain percentage of its payroll to non-employees who contributes to its work through criticism and identification of errors.  

There are two basic parts to this program.  One, there needs to be ombudsmen for every public agency who blog and track complaints and compliance.  These ombudsmen should serve single terms so as to be immune from political pressure.  Two, these ombudsmen should be allowed a 'bounty budget' where effective critics are rewarded with small amounts of money for answering relevant questions, coding necessary pieces of infrastructure, identifying security vulnerabilities, or coming up with cost-effective public improvements.

By creating a revenue flow from government to active citizens, you can effectively and instantly fund billions of dollars of citizen journalism, real citizen journalism that has an impact because it is designed to.  This also destroys the insiders who run government, because it empowers citizens to help bureaucrats and hold them accountable, and it will embolden trusted community leaders through their blogs to criticize insider lobbyists and bad legislation before it goes through the system.

You can also get around the lobbying problem, since these citizens will have strong incentives to weigh in against lobbyists who screw things up.

Anyway, the basic idea here is that the country doesn't need another think tank to help us run government.  What we need is a new approach to government, where revenue flows, ideas and work are shared among employees, citizens, political leaders, and media outlets that do public spirited work.  I bet I'm not the first person to come up with this.  And I'm sure there are a million reasons this is a bad idea.  But it is a big idea.

Tags: Politics (all tags)



Re: Ok, Here's a Big Idea: Citizen Coupons and a G

Sounds like a good idea for the Executive Branch, but you can't do it for the Judicial, and Legislative will be really hard (the old suggage adage).

My big idea: have the government place EVERYTHING it buys online for a priceline style open and open auction.  If your office needs more staples, ask for it and find it online, ditto for surface-to-air missles (some info would be withheld for security reasons), Rx drugs, and printer paper.

call it eprocurement.gov...the public could see, comment and bid on every contract out there, saving everyone time and money.  The best part: no more Haliburtons.

by DaveB 2006-05-10 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Ok, Here's a Big Idea: Citizen Coupons and a G

Cool idea! Sad to say our government is a few decades behind in some technological areas. Ironically, the federal government "invented" the internet, but it doesn't make as much use of it as private firms.

Democrats have a lot to offer in this area. I like the idea of reclaiming "taxpayer outrage" and standing for leaner, more efficient government. It's progress at its best.

by bluenc 2006-05-10 04:36PM | 0 recs
Small Government, Big Ideas

I've wanted this to be a Democratic slogan for a while.

by msnook 2006-05-10 03:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Small Government, Big Ideas

I like it, but doesn't it reinforce the "big gov't" vs. "small gov't" paradigm? Republicans lean on the "big gov't" smear all the time, and this might just back them up. I think what we're really about is vigorous and efficient government.

by bluenc 2006-05-10 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Ok, Here's a Big Idea

I like it! But we need to flesh out some details, such as:

1. Will only individuals be eligible for coupons, or can they go to groups?

  1. Who will make sure that the suggestions/criticisms are actually helpful? We have to make sure the ombudsman has airtight criteria.
  2. Which parts of government will be open for the program?

AND - The $64,000 question:

4. Where's the money coming from?

Those are just details, but the idea is great.

by bluenc 2006-05-10 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Citizen Coupons

Matt, while I assume you're writing partially in jest, you've come up with not only a big idea, but a pretty good idea!

Not that the Republicans have ever cared about the "good" part.  Remember Gingrich? We should implement term limits (versus allowing something called elections to work).  We should eliminate the Department of Education (because education would be better served without a cabinet position, apparently).  These guys seldom if ever gave a reason for their position.  They just staked out a position and argued for it vehemently. Gingrich in particular always took the stance that he was expressing the frustrated but overwhelming desire of "the people" versus his own selfish agenda.  

Here's what your position does beautifully - it re-introduces the idea of transparency and public accountability.  Any "big idea" that puts those vital issues back into the public arena is a good thing.

by Batocchio 2006-05-11 09:56AM | 0 recs


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