It Just Got Me Wondering

Todd Washburn |

Every once in a while I seem to get a bit philosophical.  Not that I am in any way a deep thinker, but when something starts to bother me, I find myself “pondering” it.  Recently it’s been government- Washington in particular.

This isn’t meant to be a political rant or a push for a particular political view.  Rather, I’ve just been thinking about what I was taught government was supposed to do, versus what it seems to be doing.  I may just be channeling my inner 8th grader sitting in history class, perhaps naïvely,  but I thought government was there to handle the big things that individuals and even states can’t do, and to bring a national perspective to issues that might be looked at differently from state to state.  In the grand scheme, it’s there to get things done and make things better and/or work smoother.  It’s not there to do things for the sake of doing things.  The problem is- I think- it may not being doing its job.

We’re in the middle of a national election cycle- and a pretty unusual one at that.  There’s a wide range of views being espoused, certainly more so than most elections.  That’s probably good- let’s get it all out there.  As seems to be the norm, the candidates tend to be polarizing personalities.  I don’t know if that is because it takes a strong personality and view-point to want to run for national office, or because of the political environment we’re in at the moment. In some ways, it probably doesn’t matter.  They’re all flawed, as are we all.  They all have their strengths, weaknesses and baggage.  But here’s what bothers me.  Will they, or anyone elected for that matter, be willing and able to make significant progress on the major issues facing the nation?  We certainly have a lot of them, from Social Security reform to the budget deficit/national debt, to education/workforce training, to foreign policy in a global and more intertwined world.  Feel free to add to the list.

Wall Street likes gridlock.  It likes nothing better than one party in the White House and the other controlling Congress.  It can’t get any better than that.  Why?  Nothing big is likely to happen.  Wall Street doesn’t like sudden major changes.  It just doesn’t.  And Wall Street has gotten what it’s wanted in that regard for quite a while.  What’s bothersome though, to me at least, is that I don’t know if it’s good to live in a perpetual state of doing nothing.  You can’t kick the can down the road forever- eventually you’ll run out of road and be forced to make a decision- perhaps with fewer options than you had before.

I was taught that government ran by compromise.  No one was ever going to get what they wanted every time, and in fact might never get everything they want.  But neither does anyone else.  And that’s OK because in a nation this size you’re never going to get everyone to agree on anything.  We’re individuals with our own beliefs, experiences, and situations- and we see things through that prism.  But we need to understand, and so do our elected leaders, that just about every major decision is going to create some winners, some losers, and hopefully no harm or some good for the majority.  We just have to accept that.  Someone is going to fall on the sword.  I don’t want it to be me, you don’t want it to be you, the politician doesn’t want it to be her constituents, but someone will have to.  It’s not unique to a democracy- all government actions regardless of the form of government create this outcome.

I don’t know what November is going to bring us.  What I hope is that the national conversation between now and then helps to rekindle the desire and willingness for government- on the national as well as state and local level- to return to the idea of discussion, agreement and disagreement, and compromise.  It needs to finally take on the major issues facing us that have been ignored for too long. How they are settled is, I guess, less important than going through a process and coming to a conclusion than does its best to do the best for the greatest number of people.

You may disagree with me on this.  It’s one person’s thoughts but it bothers me both personally, as I look at what we may be leaving my son in the future, as well as professionally when I can’t help clients make decisions because we have no idea what, or if, government is going to do.  I acknowledge that I may be naïve and perhaps biased in my views.  I’m happy to hear yours.  We might not agree on everything, but I’m guessing we’ll agree on a lot of things. We might be able to show Government how things are supposed to work.