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Newspaper article: Book explores ways to fix broken political system

May 13, 2012

Book explores ways to fix broken political system

Author Smyth offers perspective as reporter, editor and publisher

By Craig Anderson
Delaware State News

DOVER — Author Joe Smyth said he wrote his “Fixing America’s Broken Politics: Common sense so­lutions to the issues that divide us” not for political junkies but “all the citizens who — like me — are disgusted by today’s politics.” The result was a 252-page paperback that criticizes both political parties and urges citizens to get involved in helping re­form many of the country’s current policies and general direction. Each of the 32 chapters covers a hot po­litical issue, addressing what’s wrong and how it can be fixed.

“To attract people who wouldn’t normally read a book about politics, I tried to make it a short and easy-­to- read book,” Mr. Smyth said.

Mr. Smyth, who was a Delaware State News political reporter, editor and publisher for 25 years and now chairman of the parent Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, authored the book based on his own concerns, which do not reflect the views of INI.

The 70-year- old Scottsdale, Ariz. resident said his time in Delaware went a long way in forming his inner­constitution that provided fodder for the book. Mr. Smyth said he be­gan taking notes on ideas 18 months ago, and spent the past three to six months writing them into book form. His only other previous publication covered newsroom guidelines, and the current book proved far more challenging to condense due to wide­ranging thoughts and views, he said. “I don’t think there’s any better place to work than for a newspaper in the capital city in a state the size of Delaware,” Mr. Smyth said on Fri­day. “I covered everything from city council and county level government and state legislature, and learned so much about politics in action from the experience.

“Delaware is so small that it’s a terrific microcosm of politics every­where. People in the state really get to know their politicians, and are very informed on how the govern­ment operates and shapes the direc­tion of the populace.”

An executive summary of Mr. Smyth’s proposals is available free online at joe.smyth.org. “Fixing America’s Broken Politics: Common sense solutions to the issues that divide us” can be purchased online for $9.99 at Amazon.com. The paper­back was released on April 23. Mr. Smyth can be followed on Twitter@JoeSmyth99, and “Fixing America’s Broken Politics” also has a Facebook page.

Question and Answer

Earlier this week, Mr. Smyth an­swered questions via email regarding his book and the state of the country in general:

Q: Of the 76 proposals to restore America’s greatness in the book’s ex­ecutive summary, which is the most critical to first fulfill?

A: Good question, but I can’t nar­row it down to one. How about two?

First, campaign finance reform. Ban campaign contributions by busi­nesses, political action committees, labor unions, trade associations, and other special interest groups; cap the amount that individuals (includ­ing the candidate) can donate to a political campaign; and insist on timely public disclosure of all cam­paign contributions.

Second, rein in career politicians. Eliminate all pensions and benefits for elected officials, impose term lim­its and stronger conflict- of-interest rules, and cap their salaries at the median income of the private sector. When America thrived, respect­ed citizens were recruited by their neighbors to represent them as elected public servants. These citi­zens served in public office reluc­tantly — often at great personal sac­rifice — and were anxious to return to their families and occupations as soon as possible.

Today’s career politicians make little or no personal sacrifice. Most of them leave public office much wealthier than they were when they came in. Many of them have never had any other occupation, and it is doubtful they could do as well finan­cially in any other career.

Q: Are everyday American citizens part of the problem? How can they best help bring a solution?

A: Career politicians hire slick PR people, and too many voters fall for their demagoguery, false promises, class warfare, and sound bites. It’s understandable that so many citi­zens have given up on politics en­tirely; too often, candidates say one thing to get elected and then do something entirely different once they’re in office.

Q: How much of a factor are the upcoming elections, especially the November presidential race?

A: This book is definitely not about any specific election. It’s more about how we can return some sanity and public service to American politics. Too often, it doesn’t matter which candidate (or which party) wins be­cause most of them end up playing the same games with lobbyists and special interest groups.

In my view, anybody who does what’s necessary to be elected presi­dent of the United States or to Con­gress is automatically unfit for the office. It’s our entire political system that has become corrupt.

Q:What response has your book received so far?

A:I don’t expect any thinking per­son to agree with all of my stances, but most feedback so far has been quite favorable. I’m sure the special interests will come out in full attack mode if the book gets much atten­tion.

Q: Why is common sense so im­portant in your platform of restoring greatness? Can you define common sense?

A: Common sense is what most American families have. They can make good decisions and don’t need lots of rules imposed on them by others. They know they have to work and invest to get ahead. They know they can’t spend money they don’t have. They want the freedom to make their own decisions and are willing to live with the results.

If something isn’t working, they change it. They know their freedom doesn’t include doing harm to oth­ers. They willingly give time and money to help their neighbors. They — not our “esteemed” public officials — are the real heroes and the key to America’s success.

We can’t say any of those things about the nation’s capital. There, common sense is overwhelmed by partisanship, political spin, re-election fund-raising and the competing interests of special interest lobbyists.

Washington has buried us in so many complicated rules — most written by the special interest lawyers and lobbyists — that most of us can’t even fill our own income tax forms. And failed government programs always get more money instead of real reform.

Q: How are foreign influences shaping the direction of our country?

A: I’m not sure I understand the question. We operate in a global economy, but America still has the ability to set its own directions.

Q: What kind of sense do politicians as a whole have?

A: First-time politicians often come into office with noble intentions, but it’s far too easy for them to fall in love with the ego trip, power and benefits of public office.

Career politicians learn to please the special interests that finance their campaigns so they can keep getting re- elected. And they learn to tell voters whatever voters want to hear — even when their promises (such as more benefits and lower taxes) are clearly impossible to deliver.

Q: What are your political leanings? Democrat? Republican? Independent?

Why?

A: Passionately independent. I can’t stand either of the two major political parties because of what they have become.

Q: How much do economics and so-called Big Business affect what ails this country?

A: As special interests go, Big Business is among the worst. The politicians they support are constantly granting them special favors, which explain why regulations — including the tax code — have become too complex for regular citizens and small businesses to cope with or even understand.

Q: Taken as a whole, how would you describe the current lot of politicians and legislators serving in elected offices?

A: Many of them were decent people who have been corrupted by the special interests and money that dominate today’s politics.

Q: What are specific examples of government spending that is out of control?

A: Out-of-control entitlements because politicians know they can win votes by promising not to cut benefits — and not to raise taxes.

(Others include) military spending because of powerful Big Business lobbyists and education because we keep throwing more money at it without demanding accountability. And almost all government programs are inefficient and wasteful because they lack the real-world discipline of having to compete in a free market economy.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: The views expressed in this book are strictly my own, speaking as an individual citizen. I am not speaking for my company or for anybody else.

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