Time for an American Spring?

Time for an American Spring?
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usa flag on metal texture
usa flag on metal texture

Okay, it's clear they don't get it. After several elections, the Great Recession and lots of moaning and groaning about the stalemate in Washington, our national leadership still can't manage much progress on the issues that are most important to our future as a country. As one commentator recently pointed out -- it's not the fiscal cliff that is our greatest threat, but the breakdown of public trust in our government.

What can be done? The political system -- a quagmire of political gerrymandering, special interest lobbying and a torrent of campaign spending -- has officially hit a wall. The short-term solutions that have been gussied up to kick the can down the road are largely irrelevant. We've passed the point of urging the political class to stop bickering and come up with some real answers. They are clearly aren't going to get there on their own.

It's not as if there hasn't been a hue and cry from many quarters. The Occupy movement on the left and the Tea Party on the right have been challenging our political leaders to be more responsive to the citizenry -- even though they represent the extremes of the political spectrum. Inside-the-beltway pressure hasn't worked either. The Simpson-Bowles commission, which at least tackled the tough problems, was quickly thrown under the bus by both sides of the aisle. And no amount of hectoring from the media, the business community or non-partisan activist groups worked either.

Is it time for an American Spring? Few people would suggest an effort to overthrow the government or a wave of mass demonstrations. But the business-as-usual tools of democracy don't seem to be working. Citizens have a chance to vote every couple of years, but recent elections have done nothing to shake up the leadership. Ninety-five percent of members of Congress are routinely reelected if they manage to stay out of jail or avoid a sex scandal. The primary system is essentially rigged so that a handful of the most zealous, uncompromising voters get to choose the elected officials. And billions of dollars flow into the coffers of candidates who can be most helpful to the wealthy elite, corporations or special interests. At the same time, the media thrives on the 21st century version of yellow journalism, focusing on the sensational and irrelevant.

So how about a nationwide citizens' strike to get the attention of the political class? It wouldn't have to be a massive, European-style demonstration. It could be something as simple as a one-hour (or 15-minute) citizen protest where people shut off their computers, close their office doors, stay away from the malls and avoid other routine, non-essential tasks. If just a few million Americans joined in such a protest, it would certainly get a lot of attention and might even shake the politicians from their stupor.

what would be the goal of a citizen strike? Simple. Send a message to politicians that we are fed up with kicking the can down the road. Let's at least have an honest conversation about the issues that face our country at this critical time -- unemployment, global competition, tax and spending reform, education, the environment and the deficit. It's not about left or right, it's about the future of our country. No need to get swept into dead end wedge issues -- let's look at what really matters to most Americans -- their jobs, their health, their kids' education and their future.

When could a citizen strike happen? The sooner the better. How about Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. EST?

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