A Perot presidency and La-Z-Boy lawmaking

ROGER SIMON

May 13, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

The thing I like most about Ross Perot is how he is going to take the country away from those jerks in Congress and give it to the people who elected those jerks in Congress.

He is going to do this by turning democracy over to those who deserve it most: the people who watch a lot of television.

He calls it the Electronic Town Hall and if Ross Perot is elected president, each and every citizen with a TV set will get to vote on actual laws without ever having to get up and put clothes on.

The Electronic Town Hall is a way of taking power away from America's lawmakers and giving it to America's Couch Potatoes. (And how much worse could they be?)

Important issues will be presented on special TV programs put together by Perot. People will watch these programs from the comfort of their homes and then press a button on the channel changer or dial an 800-number and tell their representatives how to vote.

In other words, La-Z-Boy Lawmaking.

Perot believes this will work because he believes in the innate brilliance, goodness and unselfishness of the average American.

Which makes me wonder just one thing: What country has he been living in for the last 61 years?

But Perot insists that the Electronic Town Hall will work. And not just for little questions like: "Should we try once again to kill Saddam Hussein? If you would like to do it by plane, press 1 now. If you would like to do it by missile, press 2 now. If you would like to do it yourself, press 3 now. If you would like President Perot to pick up your cleaning on his way home, press 4 now."

On "Donahue," Perot suggested that reforming the massive and complicated U.S. Tax Code would be a snap if we would just let the American people vote on it. Here is how it would work:

First Perot would think about a new tax code really, really hard and try to come up with some alternatives. "Then run all the different models," Perot told Donahue, "go back to the Town Hall, explain it to the American people and say, 'OK, here are our recommendations' . . . [present] the various options, build a consensus and then put it in. See, now isn't that better than being in gridlock all year like we are right now? Build a consensus and move, move, move. Act, act, act!"

And that may be the way things get done at the Perot household. But at my house, I can imagine me trying to vote on America's new tax code:

"Where's the damn remote control! I can't vote on taxes unless Ifind the remote control!"

"You had it last! I never use it!"

"I'll bet your mother swiped it last time she was over for dinner!"

"Don't you talk about my mother, you weasel!"

"Don't you call me a weasel!"

And meanwhile Ross Perot is on the screen saying: "If you want a capital gains tax at 3 percent of per annum earnings in the first quarter, press 1 now. If you want a 1.5 percent deferred tax with a .67 piggyback tax, press 2 now. . . . "

Another problem comes to mind. How long are these Electronic Town Halls going to last? How long would it take to explain the tax code? If it's longer than a half-hour, I think Perot is going to be in trouble. People can't concentrate much longer than that. Especially if "Seinfeld" is about to come on.

All of which reminds me of a small news story I came across about a month before the last presidential election. Some do-gooder group had announced plans to spend $3 million to place ads on buses and subways to tell people to go out and vote on Election Day. The reason for these ads, the story said, was to "reach people who didn't read newspapers, watch TV or listen to radio."

And it struck me: If you don't read newspapers, watch TV or listen to radio, who the hell wants you to vote? I'd much rather that such people stay home and just watch TV rather than trying to determine the future of the nation.

But Ross Perot believes that these very people are the cornerstone of this country, and he wants to put a push button in their hands so they can directly determine their future and ours.

So if Perot is elected, you can bet that at this time next year we all will be watching a TV show on taxes. And at the end of the show, Perot will be saying: "If you want more taxes, press 1 now. If you want fewer taxes, press 2 now. If you want no taxes, press 3 now."

Funny thing, though, I have a feeling I already know what's going to win.

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