Fixing the failure of our Republican politicians

What Barack Obama and the Democrats have to offer can’t be made to work. It’s pretty easy to summarize a few examples of what we now have with big government – especially at the state level.

  • Government is growing faster than taxpayers’ income. We need to set a limit on state spending.
  • Medicaid spending is out of control. We need real reform and a public that understands what’s really wrong with the health care system.
  • Public schools are failing to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to provide an efficient and quality education system. We need school choice.
  • Illinois leads the nation in its unfunded liabilities in the taxpayer-funded state pension system. We need to stop over-promising and bring public sector pensions in line with private sector pensions.

It’s important to note that all of the above problems were caused by government. It logically follows that they all need to be fixed by government. Obviously, then, we’ll need leadership that’s up to the task of accomplishing those fixes.

Instead what we have was illustrated a few years ago by one state senator who was asked about whether he supported county-level property tax caps. “Some of my friends support caps,” he said, “and some of my friends oppose caps. And I’m with my friends.” He might well be loved by his friends but he isn’t a leader.

We need our representatives to be leaders, advocating for and enacting good policies. We don’t need them to be serving as some kind of broker between interest groups. Their job is not to stay neutral or to find a compromise between policies that don’t work and policies that do.

Leadership on policy is not something that takes place only after taking office. Real leadership begins on the campaign trail, where a candidate is supposed to outline their principles and policy proposals and win votes for an agenda.

There is a confused view that believes campaigning and governing are completely different activities. Chances are if a candidate isn’t willing to seek public support for specific policy directions while campaigning, he isn’t going to bother doing so after being elected.

Most current office holders talk a good game but they’re not problem solvers. If they were, we’d be seeing problems solved.

When was the last time you heard a Republican state legislator or a group of them aggressively advocating for a substantive policy reform measure?

Conventional wisdom often isn’t very wise – and one of the continuing myths is that the American public can’t understand government policy so why bother trying to explain anything?

Americans can graduate from school, get married, raise children, buy houses, cars, build businesses, and plan for retirement, but gosh, the workings of the local bureaucracy are just too lofty for the average guy to grasp.

Voters respond best to leaders who avoid bureaucrat-speak and instead talk straight. Every problem and solution can and should be summed up in clear and simple terms.

The fact is most elected officials would prefer not have to deal with the substance of policy.

Another fact of life in the current political and governmental arena is the lack of any serious oversight of existing policies and programs. The public would be shocked to learn just how little. Hours might be spent haggling over how much to spend next year but what is being spent now is pretty much ignored.

The little that does take place happens during committee hearings, but legislators are generalists without the staff support that could help them get enough information to demand accountability.

Thus, there is no mechanism that’s set up to insure that the policies work or that the money is spent in ways that benefits taxpayers, not just tax-eaters.

Up next: Republicans continue to fail in their duty to sell.

©2008 John Francis Biver

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