A National Process for Problem Solving

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Thanks to Tax Day, the middle of April has a fairly negative connotation for Americans and their government. But something happened last week that promises a better legacy for this part of the calendar. In the future, mid-April may very well be known as the anniversary of a day when our government paid something to us instead of vice-versa. 

With the introduction of a resolution to establish a framework for a National Strategic Agenda, members of the U.S. House of Representatives began a process that promises to give something quite valuable to the American people: a federal government that collaborates, follows a process for governing, and solves problems. 

Our movement, No Labels, identified these goals by asking the American people what national problems they most wanted their representatives in Washington to solve. The resolution will establish a framework for a National Strategic Agenda that can appeal to citizens and leaders of all political stripes: 

•         Create 25 million jobs over the next 10 years;
•         Secure Social Security and Medicare for another 75 years;
•         Balance the federal budget by 2030; and
•         Make America energy secure by 2024. 

Goals like these are easy to agree on, but our government hasn’t taken the time, until now, to establish them. That’s why Americans are frustrated. They see a federal government that conducts itself like a near-sighted sprinter — lurching from one election to the next, with little more than a swearing-in ceremony accomplished in between. The goals seem to be elections themselves, not governing. 

Talk of term limits, redistricting and campaign finance reform are all important, but will likely require longer-term fixes. 

Meanwhile, there are major goals that we as Americans should fight for, that are achievable over the shorter-term horizon. 

Here’s how it can work: For our government to change course, goals must first be agreed to and set, then substantive policy negotiations can be held. That’s what a National Strategic Agenda is all about — think of it as setting a destination in your GPS or favorite navigation application on your phone. The GPS or app may give you multiple options to reach the destination (goal), and there may be alternatives suggested along your way, but you know where the journey will end. You know you will accomplish the goal of arriving at your destination. 

Our government is in dire need of this type of navigation — one that allows for productive debate on the journey, but promises delivery of a goal. By consulting with the American people, No Labels easily identified the National Strategic Agenda’s destination in the form of four policy goals. Nearly 70 members of Congress have already said they support the goals and the process that can get us there, and now 26 of them have introduced a resolution that would formally establish the agenda.

We expect the Senate to introduce a companion National Strategic Agenda resolution this summer, but of course both the executive and legislative branches will need to coalesce around the agenda. To be realistic, we may need to wait for a new presidential term for the agenda resolution to be signed and for policy negotiations to begin. 

Unlike campaign finance reform or term limits, this type of government reform can happen in just a few short years. By Tax Day 2017, we truly could have a federal government that is giving the gift of problem solving to the American people. It’s a lofty goal, yes. But difficult tasks can be achieved through a deliberate process. 

The process for problem solving begins with a National Strategic Agenda.

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