Grace Ross: Fixing Government: That Would Be Nice!
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Of course, the voters would like government to work. But what we’d really like is for government to do what it must for our economy to work, our lives to work, our education to work, to actually be able to access healthcare when you need it. There are many things that could be fixed.
I think particularly when people are feeling so far divorced from their government, when government seems to serve the interests of the very few people, for the vast majority it’s not even clear that government is even thinking about most of the things in our lives. Of course we all want government fixed for us, for the people.
It was interesting in the last week or two to see two names already out there as announced candidates for 2014. One is for Governor and one for Lieutenant Governor. They rolled out their objective as fixing government because that’s what people want. But no details to see if it is what we want or not yet.
Steve Grossman, the current state Treasurer, has been out talking to people in campaigning mode for a while, and Steve Kerrigan recently threw his hat in the ring for Lieutenant Governor. I’ve had great conversations with both of them and have known their work on and off for years.
While everybody would like to see government fixed, I don’t think it’s a big motivator to go out and vote when something seems to be so hopelessly broken it’s not clear that anybody could fix it. Nor would I want to go back and do research of all of the many candidates in the last decade or two that have run claiming they were going to “fix” whatever government they were asking to be elected to lead. If I did, we probably could trace as large of a percentage of voters disappointed by this promise as any other promise that’s been made in the last couple of decades.
For me, the most fundamental question has to be if you’re trying to fix a government that’s supposed to be by and for the people, doesn’t that mean that the most critical issue is making sure that the people who are in top decision-making positions actually live the lives and personally experience the issues that they’re supposed to be making decisions about?
Certainly if we’re funding and making decisions about public school it would be good for the children of those folks who are making those decisions to actually attend public schools. For those who are fighting for an improved public transportation system including having roads that you can drive on that don’t tear the bottom of your car apart or, even better, an electronic trolley system that would be cheap, good for the environment, efficient, and more effective than most of the ways we all try to get around the downtown of most of the cities in Massachusetts that these would be people who would actually use these systems not drive around in limousines driven by somebody else.
Not to say either of the two Steves, Steve Grossman or Steve Kerrigan are divorced from regular people, but I guess I would put a challenge to them: do not just use buzzwords like “I’m running to fix government.” Fixing government on one far extreme of the political realm means dismantling government completely (except, perhaps for those functions that leave money in the hands of the very wealthiest); over to the other end with folks who these days want to grow government seemingly to fund private businesses to make more money (tax incentives for everything from green energy credits to actually providing the healthcare promised in people’s private insurance packages).
Some of us would like to return to a time when government meant letting decisions be made at the level closest to the people by people they elect: people the voters might actually know locally, actually get to run into and talk to. Decisions that can get made at the municipal level get made at the municipal level. Decisions that can get made by a school committee get made there by locally elected members. Decisions that can get made by local housing authorities are made by housing authorities with locally elected leaders to deal with the local housing problems, etc.
To some extent I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum, do not run to “fix” government because it’s likely to poll well. Say: I am running to revamp this particular area of government in this way or to cut all subsidies that cost money for little return.
Or maybe something more fundamental, let’s start by making government a democracy again.
Pledge to put your time into talking to regular people, spend your campaign money locally and on reaching people not paying huge advertising budgets. And then listen and respond to our specific concerns and words not what the polls tell you to say or even worse, tell you how to avoid saying anything specific we can hold you to.
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