Where Do We Go?

So, the election is over. There were some pretty big upsets and some politicians kept their jobs for another few years. The Congress shifted and the Senate got close to changing power. Yay. The President gave an uninspiring press conference and seemed not really interested in anything this afternoon, or at least that was my take on it. Maybe he was tired from a lot of last minute campaigning and disappointed at the results. I understand all that. My question for those new public servants and those who retained their position is, where do we go?

Regardless of your political affiliation, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Independent or member of the “The Rent Is Too Damn High” party (yes that actually exists in New York), change has to happen in our governing bodies and decision making. That seems to be the only explanation for the shift in voting that was evident yesterday. People who have never touched politics entered races and won, all campaigning for a return to fiscal responsibility and decreasing budget problems. Unemployment is still high although stimulus bills were supposed to solve that. So where do we go?

Just a few campaign signs for you
We as Americans want to move forward. We want answers and solutions to the problems we face at home with our economy, employment, and taxes. We want answers that work, and have been proven to work. Increased taxes and spending programs didn’t work to fix the problem. They haven’t worked in the past in history, not the way we would want them too (meaning long term solutions). We also want solutions that work right away, because instant fixes are what we’ve programed ourselves to expect. But that works in fairy tales and not really in real life.

I don’t have solutions to the economy or unemployment. I do believe that increasing the tax burden on businesses will not lead to growth. History taught me that, both in school and in life. Increasing regulations and criteria on businesses doesn’t make businesses easier to hire or manage, which means hiring more people doesn’t happen as quickly and growth doesn’t come as easily. But those are big picture items. I hope that whoever is making policy for America has big picture and small picture ideas, insights, knowledge and wisdom when they bring their ideas to the table. I hope that the collective bodies will work together for the betterment of me, my county, my region, my state and my country and not the betterment of their party or constituency that paid for their campaign and bought their position. That’s politics, or so I’m told, but is that the direction that we still have to travel in? Can’t we go in a different direction?

You can love or hate the Tea Party movement. I am actually intrigued by this random assortment of people who gathered together to square off against the powers that be because they felt their voice was unheard. Unfortunately for the Democrats, much of the critique and finger-pointing was at the Dems because they were in power. But Republicans should take note that they might have their heads on the chopping blocks if they don’t do what they campaigned to do and be responsible with our money (taxpayers).

Being surrounded by politics and news gets me thinking outside the box about this stuff a lot. I’ve wondered if anyone would ever propose an elective tax system in the government. Come on, we vote for propositions to legalize one thing or another from marijuana (in California on yesterday’s ballot), same-sex marriage, the sale of alcohol (in my town of Clyde, Tx yesterday that passed), and so forth. If tax increases are the only option to pay for the spending that is absolutely necessary for economic growth (or so we’re told), then let us vote on what taxes we’ll pay and what taxes we won’t. Would you support a bill that states that instead of the Federal government taking one big sum of money out of your paycheck each month, you could elect which section of the government or which programs your money will go to? I would. There’s ear marks for stuff I don’t even know about that somehow I’m paying for. And I’m in the lower middle class. Maybe people who make $50K, $100K, or $250K plus don’t give a rip where their tax money goes. But I sure do. If you gave people the option of where their tax money is going we’d all see what’s really vital to our country in spending and what should be cut or receive private funding.

What about campaign finance? I propose that a law gets passed that puts a cap on campaign spending for any election, national or state (or even county) at $1 million. That’s still a boatload of money, but there are people shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars on campaigning. What does that say about politics in a troubled economy? Some states have unemployment rates at 14% but some politician can spend 1000 times more money than the working will ever see just to get elected to a so-called public office? That’s messed up! Cap the campaigning at $1 million and make the candidate have to come up with other ways to get the word out. Raise money that feeds the hungry or puts roofs over people’s heads. Start a nonprofit that benefits an area for longer than a campaign season. Put money in the hands of struggling business owners to hire new workers and create opportunity. One could accuse the politician of buying votes, but that money is getting spent somewhere. If it goes to lobbyists would the same accusation come? The point is, in a strong or weak economy, a candidate shouldn’t spend an NFL football team’s budget on their campaign. That’s not a public office they’re seeking, it’s something else.

How about public offices not paying a salary more than $30K? Who would seek the position then? Would the money-hungry individual want all that power and no paycheck? I work for a nonprofit organization. We don’t make much money. But we are passionate about what we do. I work with a lot of other nonprofit companies and the people who serve in the big offices there are very passionate about what they do. The paycheck doesn’t fire them up as much as the calling and the difference they make. I don’t do what I do for the money. If I did, I’d be in a different line of work. I say all of this because when the election season runs around, there are tons of stories on who is spending how many millions of dollars in the campaign and how much money people are raising for campaigns.

There are tons of nonprofits struggling right now, doing campaigns to raise money. People help support those campaigns but they aren’t raising the money politicians are. Why is that? Do politicians serve our communities more than politicians and elected officials? I really don’t think so. There’s a problem in our thinking and a problem with how we operate, because what politician has ever been everything they billed themselves as and has done everything they said they would? None. No one can be all things to all people. But we hail them that way, and for some reason have that kind of hope and optimism that they will do all these great things and make our lives better. They do what they can but they don’t do everything. And I think some, not all, are motivated by the wrong things. I know a city mayor that makes $1 a year as mayor. His role is to represent the city to businesses and other officials and he does a great job at that. From the times I’ve spoken with him I know he’s in this for the right reasons. What if Congress worked the same way? We’d probably have a much different collection of people in those seats.

Just something to think about. I have other ideas but I’d like to hear yours. Comment here with your ideas and let’s discuss this thing. What do you think about the current climate in politics and how do things have to change for us to go forward? Otherwise, where will we go?

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Host of the syndicated radio program The Appetizer heard on public radio across Texas and online from our Listen Now link; enjoys conversations, music, food, art, storytelling, and people. Connect with me. Would love to hear from you.

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