October Issue: Time and Perspective

This past month we drove to a job site in northern Idaho, which grew gorgeous trees, very healthy bugs (with a bad taste when you inhale them), and gave me a fine coating of dust that still clings to my back bumper after having driven some 600 miles back home. Dust is part of the business of logging during summers in particular, but it had been some while since we were so inundated. I’m hoping I’ll not be sent a real estate tax notice from Idaho.

Also exercising my prerogative as publisher, I was able to head to Southern California to meet and visit a new grandson, Roman Pierce Alvarez who came into the world August 17th, joining his nine-year-old brother and grandson Vincent, and four-year-old granddaughter Shanel Crouse, making three grand kids, wow! Southern California is tolerable from such pleasures, and it's great to be a Grandpa, and it makes me smile in knowing Grandma Crouse is smiling as well. Holding young Roman cradled on my bent knee, smiling at the wonder of that little face brought to mind I’d held his mother in the same manner some 27 years ago as well. Even in the economic doldrums we find ourselves in at present, such pleasures are proof positive that we’re lucky, God smiles on us, and life is good.

Even in perilous times of stress filled economics, take the time to consider those reasons, and treasures, who we spend so much time and effort for.

Deja vu rush to law

We had to have the “Stimulus” bill requiring its being pushed through congress immediately, and rushed through. We had to have the health Care bill also rushed through immediately, a rush, crisis.

And heading to the hill for the trifecta is the “American Jobs Act” bill... Same makeup, same premise: we have to have it immediately, rush this through, Pres. Obama said in his nationally televised speech this past month and why not... the others worked out so very well being rushed to completion, but then again, maybe not, eh?

Pitch man and seasoned social organizer-activist, Pres. Obama tells us with a straight face this $447 Billion spending measure is fully paid for, and will be good for getting Americans back to work. He also returned to his monotonous theme of “class warfare” to tax the rich, in his very best Robin Hood inflection delivered via teleprompter through his golden throat to mesmerize the crowd, all to an adoring group of media fans. Sound familiar? to his credit, after spiraling future generations into debt with the previous “must-pass” legislation this $447 Billion seems somewhat more palatable, whereas before the pervious spendthrift bills it would have seemed a lot more imposing, but he’s so adept at mesmerizing the masses he’s able to read from the teleprompter down his nose at the crowds and have them nodding.

Massive bills, thousands of pages, must pass, rush to judgment reminds me a great deal of a ploy my children tried when they wanted something they felt we’d not accept. The first few at-tempts did not yield the hoped for results, as I’d learned very early in life it's better to read, and fully understand, then consider before leaping forward on most issues. Thus when confronted with a “must do” the assured answer was, “won’t happen today, until I see it.”

Congress, and the American people would do well to follow the same example when anyone, even this President, brings a new “crisis magical bill of cures” to the table, and consider the past performance.

Considering the Obama conceived Stimulus served only to enrich the selected few while sucking cash at an unprecedented historic pace, followed by the health bill many unions have opted out of, and the manner in which both pieces of legislation were “crafted” in the darkness of night behind closed doors, then jammed through congress. This may be better... it would take precious little effort to improve past performance... however his latest sales pitch looks a lot like the past, with the president trying to make this about the opposition trying to prevent an “Obama win” rather than passing this prized legislation. In doing so media seems to miss that this bill is not being sold on its own merits as much as it’s being sold as another Obama popularity vote.

All this blather when what would really help jobs is getting the air of crisis and uncertainty created by this president, and his hate speech on business, out of the way, improving the climate of certainty by stopping the ongoing war against business. While that might be a disappointment for the legal community invested in rules, regulation and writing voluminous legislation in Washington DC, it would help the climate of business, investment, and future, leading to real jobs in this country... imagine that!

More local, more accountable

The other day I was heading to the office a bit late and came across some work being done on the traffic lights at a local intersection, something that falls under the jurisdiction of our state of federal department of transportation. Certainly making sure all is running correctly is a necessity none would find fault with, however what caught my eye were the number of people involved in the operation, all in safety orange (as they should be): one guy was actually working inside the control box doing whatever, and there were three guys also in safety gear standing and observing. Now it's possible this was training, however in a similar circumstance with private industry, as we’ll see with the phone company, when they’re working on the internals of a control box there is one, and on rare occasion two people each of which is actually doing rather than observing.

The problem with the (Department of transportation) Dot’s crew reflects both the culture and attitude within the bureaucracy that makes it incredibly difficult for them to run efficiently as that organization gets further and further separated from local control. no one is accountable, their money is essentially guaranteed, efficiencies are a threat to the organizational mind-set in that achieving efficiencies means reduction in personnel, and fewer people threatens the job status, funding, and comfort zone of those in the bowels of the bureaucracy. The trend is different at the local level where a tight economy’s impact on business is felt personally and immediately, but as one migrates towards country, regional, state and ultimately federal levels, the hands on reality is further and further removed, and only visited during the next budgeting session.

Most of the personnel on the front lines of the bureaucracy who actually work with the public are pretty good to work with in that they’re exposed to the on the ground realities. The problem is firmly entrenched with the hunkered down management and leadership who many times display an open contempt for those they’ve been hired to serve... for them the “entitlement” mindset is alive, well, and they’ll do their very best to maintain their lifestyles and let “the little people” who pay their salaries “eat cake.”

That’s what’s taken the priorities. Government should be involved in: funding and maintaining infrastructure, public safety, and providing a safety net for those least able to protect themselves who really need services to survive, and placed those needs after the needs of bureaucratic management.

The harsh reality is effective government needs to run efficiently and accountably, and we’ve had it demonstrated through the bloating of governmental entitles from education, to regional, state and federal entities, that the further control is from local hands, both efficiency and accountability plummet with good reason: as the organization grows more insulated from the electorate, no one is accountable.

The cost of “hating” politics

For all those wall flowers who, with misplaced pride, profess, “we are not political,” or that they “hate politics” because it is confrontational, and stressful, note what we outlined in the paragraph above. it is a vast fantasy that by removing yourself from politics, the debate, the meetings, and conversation that you’ve improved your situation and removed yourself from harm’s way. Quite the contrary, in that non-participation in and of itself, is action... you’ve not only forfeited your rights by failing to weigh in, you’ve given all other points of view far greater weight in your absence, effectively giving comfort and strength to everyone else, friend or foe.

The reason our politics can be incredibly inept and infuriating comes as a direct result of so many reasonable people withdrawing from the fray, which leaves the feared “extreme’s of both the left (yes, missed by media, but most assuredly there and firmly en- trenched), and right” who are more interested in a win for their point of view at any cost rather than reaching an accord through reasoning that actually works.

All those wanting to “opt out” of the system are not showing their moderation but cheerfully joining the line of other lemmings in casting their own and their children’s futures into the abyss. The result of one’s non-involvement in the political debate, from which comes not only our elected class and our public policy.

In the end, as revolting as it may be, our elected representatives are a reflection of those who participate in the political process. When you fail to participate, you surrender any chance of influence, while increasing the strength of opinions different from your own. We get exactly what we deserve.

Certainly we can change it, but that requires direct involvement by at the very least voting, but preferably taking the additional steps of supporting candidates, or becoming a candidate so your point of view is represented.

One of the few things we saw as positive from Pres. Obama’s campaign for the presidency was the number of people who got involved in the political process.

Similarly, the ground swell of support into what’s been dubbed the “tea Party” re-energized a large mass of voters getting involved in the process not only in tossing some truly “over the edge” politicians over the cliff in the last election, but pressing both the administration and congress into an active debate and change in direction on federal spending.

Involvement and active debate is essential in our form of government. author of the Declaration of independence and past president Thomas Jefferson noted, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance” and vigilance means involvement in the process.

Founders had it right

As time moves along we are more convinced that local governance is far and away the best way to increase participation, efficiency, and control, thus the primary reason the authors of the Constitution put the real power of government at the local level, and specifically limited the scope and power of the federal government. That formula worked well until the new Deal, when the national government began its massive growth, which then was boosted even further by the Second World War. Since that time we’ve experienced several such growth spurts, as we well know.

Eight decades later we have the tail waging the dog, and an explosion of personnel, agencies, laws, rules, regulations and spending, particularly with the current administration, that’s poured molasses into the gears of business and is doing its level best to strange the goose that laid the golden egg.

Restoring control to local jurisdictions where those who benefit or suffer from their own decisions is a far better governance model, and has a lengthy history of success, better use of resources, more responsive and adaptable in setting priorities and pruning outmoded, over-bloated, or dysfunctional programs.

Media malady

The precipitous plunge in fortunes of our national media, from the electronic to print, is a sign 5 of the times, and the result of their leaving behind the very product, which gave them value to begin with: diversity of opinion, in depth investigation, and thorough coverage of local issues.

Media’s “one-speak” in homogenizing news and opinions, which so frequently mirrors one another has greased the skids of their own demise, and their general distaste for business, while embracing government largesse placing their ideological bias above the long range health of their communities has seriously eroded their place of trust with the public, with good cause.

Thus its particularly laughable that media is giving financial opinions and advice, scoffing at other industries for being unwilling to change with changing times given they cannot upright their own sinking rudderless ships.