Monday, November 26, 2007

The Politician's Mindset

Our taxes are too high. Our schools are failing. Why don't our elected representatives fix the problems?! Because, once elected, they become politicians.

Politicians perceive a different reality from the rest of us. To understand why government officials do what they do, we need to first understand their mindset. This is how they think:

  1. Government is the Answer
    President Reagan once famously said that the ten scariest words in the English language were “Hello, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” But that's not the view of most office holders. Next year, the combined budgets of Matawan and Aberdeen , including the school district, will approach $90 million dollars. When you oversee that kind of money, and you have the power to regulate people's behaviors, and your constituency is pleading for you to take action, it's extremely difficult to say no. You become a believer in the awesome power of government. You believe government should do more because it can.

  2. #1 Cause of Failure is Lack of Funds
    $90 million dollars is an extraordinary amount of money. Expressed in one-dollar bills, it would stretch over 8,500 miles and weigh over 140 tons. Yet, nearly every elected official in Aberdeen and Matawan will tell you it's not enough. Why? Because they ran for office to do more, not less. And they come to believe that every problem can be solved by throwing enough money at it.

  3. The Public Can Afford to Spend a Bit More
    Budget increases are always reflected in percentages, not dollars. For example, the school's new Response to Intervention (RTI) program is expressed as a 1% increase in the school budget rather than $600,000 in new annual spending. One percent sounds small. Even five percent sounds small. In the politician's mind, the taxpayers can surely afford these small increases. But, in fact, the increases are huge. If we froze the municipal and school budgets for Matawan and Aberdeen for just one year, we would save $35 million dollars over the next five years, an average of $3,000 per household.

  4. Easier to Do Many Little Things than One Big Thing
    A member of the school board told me that the budget must go up every year but he tries to restrain the increase. A representative of the township told me that there are no plans for reducing the costs of road maintenance or controlling pension fund liabilities. Both people are fiscally prudent. Both people recognize we're among the heaviest taxed in the county. Yet, they intend to raise our taxes every year. Why? Because it's easier to raise taxes than it is to fight the unions, the special interests, and Trenton . Instead, they spend all their time trying to save us a few bucks here and there so that our tax increases are a drop smaller.

  5. Disruption is a Bad Thing
    Every major business and industry goes through cycles of creative destruction. Every cycle has winners and losers but, overall, the general public benefits. Government accounts for over one-third of the United States economy yet refuses to permit any creative destruction within its sphere. Does the federal government really need a law enforcement branch dedicated to alcohol, tobacco, and firearms? No. Is spending nearly half a million dollars a year on four kindergarten teachers really the best use of school funds? Of course, not. Why do they allow it? Because no one wants to fight the system.

  6. Better to Make a Thousand People a Little Unhappy than Have One Person Really Mad
    Politicians count the votes. They can only pursue their pet projects if they have the political clout. Why are special interests treated better than the general public? Because they're passionate and will fight for or against a politician based on a single issue while the general public takes a more balanced (and often apathetic) approach.

  7. Most of the Public is Uninformed, Misinformed, or Ill-informed
    In the politician's mind, there are only three reasons why the public wouldn't support him:

    A) The public knows too little
    B) The public is wrong
    C) The public knows too much (i.e. they know something they shouldn't)

    It doesn't occur to them that maybe, just maybe, the people are right.

  8. Always Be Prepared to Take the Credit or Share the Blame
    If a politician succeeds, the credit is his. If he fails, there are many to blame.

  9. The Public Needs Me
    The politician is a true believer in his personal vision and capabilities; only he can lead us to the promised land.
What can we do? The general public has three demands:
  • That government only do what it needs to do
  • That government only take what it needs to take
  • Competence
To establish these three pillars, we, the public, will have to fight for them. “Don't place your trust in princes, in the son of man, for he does not possess salvation.” (Psalms 146:3) This is a fight that will never end. >>> Read more!

1 comment:

Truth In Matawan said...

Excellent post. It should be mandatory reading for all government officials.