Personal Responsibility column: Legislation can’t create what doesn’t exist
The primaries are over. The campaign bombardment has begun and is only going to intensify.
Elections are necessary in our political system, and campaigns are a required byproduct, but the secret is using a byproduct efficiently. Successful campaigns work to create points of contention that are not as they initially appear. As voters, this requires caution and diligence.
A hiker in Yellowstone emerged into a large meadow. A grizzly immediately charged from the trees on the other side. Petrified, all the hiker could do was drop to his knees and pray. “Lord, I know I haven’t always been the most religious and faithful, but if you could make this bear stop, I will be forever grateful and promise to be a better person.” Much to his surprise, the bear skidded to a stop a few feet away. “Lord, thank you, thank you.” Then the bear began to pray. “God, bless this food that has been set before us.”
A few changes from the campaign status quo would be productive.
Limit campaign length and exposure. Two years aren’t necessary to determine who to support for national office. The $6.5 billion spent in 2016 on the presidential and congressional races is more than excessive and only serves to financially benefit the media. Historically, there isn’t necessarily any relation between spending and victory. Clinton spent $768 million and Trump $398 million.
Facilitating person to person communication and debates would seem to be more effective. Somehow, the Supreme Court determined that campaign spending qualified as free speech, making a definitive spending limit difficult. An equally effective method, with a degree of legal precedent, would be to limit a candidate’s media time or space. This would serve to not only effectively limit spending but also limit the current frustration of repetitive ads.
It would assure equity. Elections would be less about the personal wealth of the candidate or their ability to generate large contributions and their accompanying donor influence. It would help our country return to the founding fathers’ intent of a citizen legislature.
If a candidate can’t convince us in X number of hours, maybe they aren’t a great communicator. It would make campaign strategists more judicious and responsible in their use of time. Each of us would have to be responsible to pay attention in order to obtain the information needed to make a sound decision.
Prohibiting a politician from campaigning for others while in office would be similarly logical. I understand free speech, but it would be nice to have a full-time politician focused on working for us.
A candidate shouldn’t bring up a problem, a point of contention, unless they have a solution. It doesn’t take talent to identify a problem; we’re all good at that. It takes talent to provide an effective and workable solution. It’s not fair to say we need to change without providing the route to that end.
As a corollary, candidates can’t advocate a solution without providing the method to fund it. That’s reality. The free lunch doesn’t exist. The fairest way is for those benefiting from the solution to pay for it, but such is often impractical. But we can’t keep increasing taxes on small business or individuals without economic ramifications. A unique approach would be if the funding required an increase in taxes, it must be accompanied by a like reduction in another area. Governments wouldn’t care for this, but we all learn to live with a budget.
Candidates shouldn’t make a campaign issue on what ended up being a bad decision in the past. They should focus on what can be done now. The only way to avoid making mistakes is to never make a decision. We need people who have a history of being willing to make decisions; willing to act. Failure to act doesn’t generate wisdom. Absence of action isn’t leadership. We don’t need leaders who die; cause of death: exhaustion, from running from problems. We have experienced that. We need people willing to take a risk, try a solution and learn from the result. We have to be responsible enough to not only allow but encourage them to do so.
Candidates should realize they can’t legislate technology. When they try, it only shows their ignorance and lack of consideration of the ramifications. An example, would be the regulation requiring 54.5 miles-per-gallon fleet average by 2025. It’s 2018, and the only cars close to 50 mpg are short distance electric vehicles, none of which are designed to haul quantities of people or product.
Simple math dictates a 30 mpg vehicle would necessitate a corresponding 74.5 mpg vehicle. Such regulations are originated by those who don’t live in rural America, need to transport kids and equipment, require a pickup for their job, or live where snow requires four-wheel drive. Manufacturers have a responsibility to supply vehicles meeting those needs. In response to this, one senator responded “raise the price to where they can’t afford to buy them, then the companies won’t make them.” Hardly practical, realistic, promoting family or in touch with economic reality.
Similar ramifications can be seen in California’s regulation requiring 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, including advocating the decommissioning and draining of Lake Powell. Scientists determined such was impossible without a 200 percent increase in power cost, without using nuclear and additional hydroelectric sources. Legislation can provide a goal, but it can’t create what doesn’t exist.
It is our responsibility to determine which candidate best represents our respective viewpoint. Changing aspects of the campaign process would help in that regard.
Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. He recently retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. Comments and column suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.