Thursday, December 30, 2010

Politics, Popularity & Priorities

"The purse of the people is the real seat of sensibility.  Let it be drawn upon largely, and they will then listen to truths which could not excite them through any other organ." - Thomas Jefferson

There are {2} easy and {2} difficult things about politics as we know it;

Easy: cutting taxes & offering services, amenities & programs desired by citizens

Difficult: raising taxes & cutting services, amenities & programs desired by citizens

Can you identify any inherent conflicts with this situation?

[My blog of Saturday, November 22, 2008 also touches on this dilemma]

As Walter Cronkhite used to say; 'and that's the way it is'

Think what you will about politics, government and our ability to effectively deal with public problems in general, the system we have is what we -individually and collectively- make it to be.

Having a victim's mentality about politics helps nothing but perpetrating a perceived bad situation and discouraging good people from performing public service.
So, while complaints are OK, excessive complaints only exacerbate the problem.

Despite the obstacles, we do have a good number of dedicated public servants with the competence and courage to conceive, advocate and make the difficult decisions most likely to sustainably endure and benefit citizens.

Unfortunately, things often have to get bad enough that politicians have no choice but to really deal with the situation that has evolved.
Such seems to be happening now, and simultaneously at multiple levels of government.

A recent example is this opinion piece by Washington Governor, Christine Gregoire, in Crosscut.

You can read it and decide for yourself, but I think the Governor has very few options, given both legal restraints and inescapable realities.

Of course, this is also true of the situations which our local and federal governments are facing.
The main difference is the feds have much broader and more diverse responsibilities, plus no mandate to balance the budget.
Plus, the Fed can also legally print money.

Some may remember the well-intended, but tepid exercise the City of Bellingham underwent a few years ago.
It was called 'Priorities of Government' [POG]. and while most elected officials gave it lip service as 'an interesting concept', not many really wanted to seriously touch it to implement its clear implications.
Believe me, I know - I was there!

Anyway, it's too bad that an absolute crisis seems absolutely needed for governments to seriously confront such intractable questions as defining what is necessary, fair and sustainable as public policy.
Unfortunately -or otherwise- that is the situation we find ourself now.

"A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of the government; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained." - James Madison, The Federalist Papers Federalist No. 62 - 1788