Thoughtful critics tell us that politically we are suffering from a shortage of ideas. This idea deficiency, it has been reported, is especially acute among Democrats. Wanting to do my part to help remedy any alleged imbalance in the Body Politic, I freely submit the following ideas.
Formation of the Paul Douglas Brigade. Right after Pearl Harbor, Paul Douglas then a full-tenured professor at the University of Chicago and past president of the American Economic Association, enlisted in the Marine Corps. The combat wounds Douglas suffered in the Pacific won him the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star and left his crippled right arm in a permanent crook throughout his brilliant 18 years in the Senate, which ended in 1966. At the time of his enlistment as a private in the Marines, Douglas was 50 years old.
By now it must be clear that the Reagan administration and Congress are fairly brimming with some authentically Tough Customers who, but for draft deferments for graduate school or a trick knee, would have happily donned the khaki and kicked a little Commie tail in 'Nam. You have to know that if the age and medical requirements were waived for the formation of such a Brigade that White House communications chief Patrick Buchanan, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle would all volunteer for service in Central America. Just as Douglas did.
The member of Congress who, during the debate on contra aid, offers the amendment to create the Paul Douglas Brigade can place his or her sticker upon my bumper in perpetuity.
Congressional Flight Plan. You remember Arrow Airlines, the charter carrier on which 248 American soldiers of the famed 101st Airborne met a fiery death last December 12 in Newfoundland. According to congressional testimony from two former Arrow pilots, that airline pushed pilots and crew to the point of exhaustion and conducted aircraft maintenance that was "marginal" and "minimal." The pilots spoke of crews so overworked that members actually fell asleep in the cabin and in the cockpit, of a flight attendant having to wake up a dozing pilot in flight.
Congressional delegations, composed of House members and senators, frequently fly in the United States and abroad on U.S. Air Force transport jets. The trips these congressional delegations take are mostly helpful, useful and ought to be continued. But here's a simple idea: as long as American service men and women are required to fly on charter airlines like Arrow, all congressional travel ought to be done on identical charters. No single initiative would so quickly and completely guarantee safe air travel for American military personnel. The elected politicians who implements this idea gets the back bumper-sticker position on the Shield's family sedan.
Sensible "Privatization." The candidate for governor or mayor anywhere who adopts this idea will win office indefinitely or as long as he or she wants it. Make a quick survey of the state or city offices most used by the tax-paying public, the real citizens. Among these would probably be all offices involving automobiles: the inspection, licensing, insueing of, as well as the licensing of those citizens who drive them.
Pledge to keep open all those city or state offices that serve the public the very same hours that the local shopping center is open. Taxpayers ought not to be required to take time off their jobs to fulfill those minor obligations of citizenship that their taxes pay for. Flex-time for public employees is a step forward. But it means little that employees in the motor vehicles department can come to work at 6 a.m. or work until midnight if the window serving the public is open only from 10 'til 3:30. Why do the shopping center people understand that and not the elected executives?