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The Big Question

Opening photo by
Sam Kittner
Q: How can the next president restore faith in government?
A: "We have a substantially corrupt process here in Washington. What we basically need is more accountability and transparency about what government does and what Wall Street is doing. The next president should put forth legislation to address this as well as enforce laws and regulations already on the books. All you have to do is look at the incredible wealth in and around Washington — five of the nation's 10 highest per capita income counties are in this area — to see the effects of a mercenary culture now dominated by private contractors and some 30,000 registered lobbyists. They've all done very well in the last eight years, but has the country? All of those things need to be out in the open.

"There are some basic ways a new president could go about making the system more accountable to the public instead of vested interests, such as ensuring that the very latest draft language of proposed laws in Congress is posted online before voting occurs. The dirty little secret in Washington is that many lawmakers often don't read things before they vote. Their constituents should have that chance, at least. But the new president should also make sure that the doings of government are as open as possible and that things like the Patriot Act, which became law almost overnight and with almost no discussion, never happen again. The technology exists right now to webcast every public hearing held in Congress or by the independent agencies live, in real-time. Let the public in on the decision-making process that affects our daily lives.

"Both candidates' records suggest they're capable of making reforms. The real question is, Just how much enforcement and regulation will we see? The current financial meltdown might actually have one positive effect. After the last major market crash in the 1930s, we saw the creation of meaningful banking and other financial regulatory laws. That's something the new guy should undertake, not to mention their strict enforcement, for a change."

Charles Lewis, SAIS '77, founded and for 15 years led the Center for Public Integrity and, more recently, co-founded Global Integrity, an organization that monitors corruption throughout the world. He is an advisory board member of the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies' International Reporting Project.
— Interview by Michael Anft

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