What’s the big idea? Suggest a creative solution for the country

Tim Skillern
January 9, 2013


Should the U.S. government hire military veterans in droves to patrol our borders? Should all Americans qualify to collect Social Security, regardless of age? Should we all be required to own a gun?

Sound a bit out there? Maybe. Or maybe they’re big solutions for the big problems facing our nation. These outside-the-box ideas were submitted to Yahoo News this week when we asked for solutions we could adopt to solve our country's problems.

We’re looking for your input, too.

When President Barack Obama takes his second oath of office on Jan. 20, he'll continue to lead the nation on a bevy of big issues, including health care, immigration and federal spending.

What creative and pie-in-the-sky ideas do you have? We’re collecting clever (and potentially controversial) solutions to issues we’ll certainly see over the next four years and beyond. Think big! We’re seeking inventive ideas that may not have been tried before. Thus, suggestions like "raise taxes on the rich," "give teachers handguns" and "privatize Social Security" do not qualify.

But there are rules: Your idea should be credible, reasonably implementable and based in reality. (Sorry, no superintelligent monkey doctors.)

Here are some suggested issues, but you can choose your own, as long as it's a national one: immigration reform, gun control, federal spending, environmental protection, gay marriage, a changing military, education reform, health care, Afghanistan, Washington gridlock.

Here’s how you can participate:

(1) Craft a solution to ONE issue in fewer than 400 words. Be very specific and include particular details that spell out exactly what your plan entails. (See an example below.) By Jan. 16, email your solution to contributor-news@yahoo-inc.com with “Big Ideas” in the subject line. Your solution, or portions of it, may be published on Yahoo News or our social networks.

(2) Or send in your solution via Yahoo! Contributor Network. Accepted submissions may be published on Yahoo News. Learn more here.

Here’s an example of what we’re looking for:

Make online voting mandatory; abolish the electoral college, by Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Approximately half the Americans eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election didn't. And many of those who did vote were subjected to waiting hours at polls on Election Day. Despite the typically unimpressive turnout, this presidential campaign was the most expensive ever waged. The Associated Press pegs that figure at an astonishing $2 billion, including $900 million spent on television ads. Two-thirds of spending was dumped in just four states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.

Something is wrong. Here's how we could fix it.

Compulsory voting made easy

The United States should have compulsory voting, accessible online. We should shift from Tuesday to a Saturday or Sunday and introduce voting via mobile app to hospitals and senior care homes. It can be managed; there are 23 countries with mandatory voting, including Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Turkey and Singapore. Many countries have an "opt-out" option for the elderly for illness and for exceptional circumstances.

We manage mandatory local and federal tax collection, driver's license registration and jury duty. Surely we can get this done.

Modern Americans are mobile

The United States should abolish its obsolete electoral college by constitutional amendment. We've changed voting rights around gender, race, and age, and now it is time to consider geography. Modern Americans move frequently, nationwide and overseas. Romney lived in France and Utah, and was governor of Massachusetts. Obama attended school in Massachusetts and New York, and represented Illinois. Where we live and cast a ballot has no relevance in national elections; yet this is currently weighted above all else, giving 30 percent of us little say in the game.

The winner-takes-all electoral system has created a skewed emphasis on certain states, drilling down by county, by congressional district, practically zooming into streets. National elections are decided by pockets of voters drenched with negative ads and exorbitant attention. In Cleveland, for instance, the average voter was exposed to 87 presidential campaign spots per week. Las Vegas was the most highly saturated city, with media experts tallying up 10,000 ads per week during the fall run-up to Election Day. One mid-September week saw $8 million dumped in Richmond, Va., a tenfold increase over 2008. Last year, Kantar Media Group's president, Ken Goldstein, remarked, "This really is a year when there is such focus on relatively few markets that the levels of advertising we're seeing are really uncharted waters."