1. Prisons - Let's immediately model all prisons in America after those of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona. Taking office in 1993, Arpaio relieved overcrowding in his prison by housing inmates in a "tent city" and put inmates on two meals a day, reducing food costs to 40 cents per meal. He re-instituted chain gangs and created "chain gangs for women" to avoid discrimination suits. The benefit: Arizona now boasts America's lowest recidivism rates. Sheriff Arpaio has been sued by prisoners wanting luxurious accommodations, but the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld his actions despite cries from the ACLU and other bleeding hearts. Not surprisingly, Arpaio has won re-election by huge margins.
2. Hospital Care - This business of folks using our emergency room as their doctor's office has to stop, pronto. Here in Newton County, we have to figure how to handle the legal imperative to treat anyone who shows up at our public Newton Medical Center. How about this? Let's issue patients without insurance a phone number to call just as an insured patient does in order to ascertain appropriateness of treatment. Issue ID cards to folks on record and to first-time drop-ins, and treat them if the "nurse call" professional says so. If not, stay at home. Our Constitution does not grant the right to free health care at the expense of the taxpayer. And we need to stop treating folks from neighboring counties who drive here just because our hospital's better than theirs. Go home! Improve your own.
3. Schools - Stop building new schools, right now. To paraphrase the mysterious voice from the baseball film, Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come." Well, too many of them have. Instead of building new schools, operate two schools per day in the same buildings we already have, with a long enough break between sessions to accommodate extracurricular team practices and activities for both schools. Utilize our existing campuses to the max.
And quit hiring foreign nationals to teach in our schools. Don't give me that malarkey about American colleges not turning out enough credentialed teachers. Broker innovative agreements with local realtors, bankers and apartment complexes and make attractive housing part of our recruitment package. Work with members of the Chamber of Commerce to reward teachers who stay in the system. Think outside the box.
Immediately, if not sooner, relieve beleaguered property owners from running schools for renters, transients, foreign nationals and illegal aliens. Operate schools through dedicated sales taxes, which would benefit local businesses as folks would shop at home to support their local schools.
4. Government - Get the federal government out of as many areas of everyday life as possible. "That government is best which governs least." And send a clear message to our local officials: every time "Rails to Trails" comes up, good numbers of citizens turn out clearly opposing the notion of buying railroads and turning them into walking and biking trails. When elected officials hold a meeting to explore buying the rails through the Industrial Development Authority - it looks as if you're trying to subvert the will of the people by going behind their backs. Whether you are or not, it looks bad. So don't do it. Either respect the will of the people, or resign your office.
5. Immigration Issues - Immediately stop allowing foreign nationals to attend America's colleges and universities. You want an education? Learn in your own country.
Deport all foreign nationals who are in this country illegally. Do not jail them, do not give them medical care, do not feed them, do not support them. Deport them - now!
6. The Deficit - Crank up the teleprompters one last time for the 44th president. Let him announce to the world that for one calendar year - 2010 - the USA will suspend any and all foreign aid payments in total. That'll take care of our deficit. Countries depending on America's taxpayers can turn to the other members of the United Nations for help in 2010. If the UN objects, evict them from their posh digs in New York City. They can take their headquarters operations elsewhere: North Korea, perhaps.
7. Politics - There's one bright spot on Capitol Hill. It's a group of 53 conservative, concerned members of Congress who call themselves "Blue Dog Democrats." They meet weekly and are known to work across the aisle in the country's best interests. Four of Georgia's Representatives are Blue Dogs, including the 8th District's Jim Marshall. I spoke with Marshall's press secretary, Doug Moore, and he told me that "though we're not the Speaker, we're trying to get things done."
Abraham Lincoln once said "God must have loved the common man, since he made so many of them."
Maybe, just maybe, there's enough common sense folks out there to bring this country back around. Keep an eye on the "Blue Dog Democrats." Maybe, just maybe, they'll make the difference.
Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.