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Congress: pass this

On our Web site, a poll asking how readers would rate the performance of Congress produced some interesting results.

With nearly 1,000 votes, "horrible" was a clear favorite at 62.7 percent. Feeling more generous, 29 percent of respondents said Congress is going a "poor" job. A little less than 6 percent said "average." "Good" was chosen by 1.4 percent of respondents. And 1 percent -- just 10 people -- said Congress was doing a great job. I won't point out the irony that Minnesota has 10 members of Congress. Did they vote in the poll?

A huge part of the problem is both sides are far more interested in dwelling on what separates us and what we disagree on than what we all agree on. Why would they do this? Because they need campaign contributions, and people who are satisfied with the status quo don't write checks.

I wonder how well incumbents would do if they ran unopposed in a primary, but only got to keep their jobs if the electorate filled out a similar poll at polling places. If they don't get at least 50 percent of people rating Congress's performance as "good" or "great," they couldn't be on the ballot.

Instead of riling people up with the most divisive issues, here are some things most people agree on that we could move forward with now:

• Give the president a line-item veto. Clearly Congress can't police its own spending. As many pitfalls as there are with doing this, we've reached such a point of insanity with spending that Congress needs the president to have a line-item veto to police itself. How bad would Minnesota's budget hole be if Gov. Pawlenty didn't have the line-item veto?

• Publicly finance campaigns. No, no one wants their hard-earned tax dollars going to negative advertising, but it's far more expensive to have representatives whose every move is dictated by their masters with the checkbooks.

• Enact term limits. They don't have to be severe, but 20 years of service is enough.

• Remove the cap on Social Security and Medicare so everyone pays the same percentage of their income to the program. Means-test the benefits. Raise the retirement age gradually. We have a debt bomb coming closer and closer, and have done nothing. These simple changes would extend the program for decades.

• Invest in more human intelligence for the FBI and CIA. We don't need billion dollar bombers to fight al Qaida. We need Arabic speakers who can infiltrate and get intelligence. Direct resources to that.

• Use tax incentives or direct payments to get people to quit smoking, drinking, doing drugs, lose weight or volunteer in their communities. Reward behavior that actually benefits our people and our economy.

• Claw back bonuses for those who took taxpayer money and had a hand in the financial collapse.

This was a quick, easy list, and there are probably 100 more that most people would agree with. Let's get cracking and pass some of these things instead of spending one more year squabbling and pointing fingers. That act is getting old.

Or does a 92 percent disapproval rating not send a clear enough message?

This editorial represents the collective voice of the Pioneer Journal's editorial board. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher.