We are a great nation as a result of those Americans who came before us. Our momentum will carry us for a while longer, but we have begun to wobble. No superhero will appear to save us and it is folly to believe a political party or a President can restore health to our democracy. We face apathy of monstrous proportions, the might of billions of dollars invested in the status quo and a fragmented media that is more entertainment then a tool of democracy. The colonists in the Revolutionary War may have had a better chance for success taking on theBritish Empirethen we have combating our national apathy and lack of civic responsibility. Our challenge is to get people off the couch, block out all the partisan rhetoric and create concrete activities that enable Americans to actively manage our government at the local, State and Federal levels.
Remember, there is no “The Government”, there is only “Our Government”. There are no laws of physics, economics or nature that require our government to be in-effective and bureaucratic, it is what we collectively tolerate. We are irresponsible when it comes to managing our government. Many of us buy our government a new car every year that is nicer then what we can afford to drive ourselves. If our government changed the oil, put air in the tires, drove the car on paved roads, then maybe we wouldn’t have to deliver up a new car every year. Every two years we get a chance to get into one of those cars on the highway, but the steering wheel, brakes, and gas pedal have all been replaced with a lever we can either leave on the left (Democratic ideology), right (Republican ideology) or slam it in the other direction. We then close our eyes for two years hoping everything will magically get better.
We, the people are not in control of our government and nothing will change until we choose to invest our time and effort to manage our government. The most people get involved for the few months of a campaign and than disappear for two or four years. We step away from managing our government leaving the political parties to fill the void. Unfortunately our current election system tends to leave us to choose between candidates who strongly adhere to a Republican or Democratic dogma that is no longer adequately effective in today’s global economy.
Our nation currently exists in an intertwined global economy, strained by a massive national debt and a broken healthcare system combine to render the classic approaches of lowering taxes or increasing government intervention incapable of adequately stimulating our economy. Cut all the taxes you want or let Government spend and spend – either approach provides a measure of economic stimulus, but is no longer sufficient to get our economy moving. If you view our economy as a stone fly wheel, it is now so connected to all of the other fly wheels that the impact from anyone nation is dissipated across all of the fly wheels. This helps explain whyUStax cuts and government stimulus both increased our need for more debt while failing to create jobs and economic activity (the effect of a fast moving economic fly wheel).
Given these economic realities, what can any one nation do? We must control what we can. That is our government, at all levels. As a nation, we need to begin by focusing on that minimal amount of local, State and Federal Government we all agree we must have. Our responsibility as tax paying citizens is to make sure we are getting increasing value and decreasing costs year over year. We need to be the ones who step up and work with all parts of our government to establish what value and success are, since we are the paying customers.
In our system of capitalism, competition and access to information to make informed decisions drive efficiencies (increasing value at lower costs) in the private sector. For our Democracy to be healthy, the citizen tax payer must be an informed, rational and an active consumer. So, we the people, must invest the time and effort required to assure that we are maximizing the value we are getting from our government. Compare the time and effort you invest if you were buying a brand new car (nicer then you can afford for yourself) with the time and effort you spend making sure you are getting the most value from your local, state and our federal government? Now if you got a lemon for that brand new car – what would you do?
Yes, you are only one person and our government is huge and entrenched at all levels. However, we live in a society. For a society to function there must be a division of labor, since none of us has the time to manage and monitor all levels of our government. Herein lies a big part of our challenge. How do we begin to manage all components of our government? For now, one incorrect answer is our current political parties.
While a large percentage of Americans believe either the Republican or Democratic parties are to blame or are the enemy, the fault does not lie with either political party. Both have served our nation in many ways. Unfortunately, the political parties have evolved into multi-billion dollar entities overly fixated on self-preservation and locked into old world dogmas that do not serve today’sUnited States of America. Until our political parties are no longer money machines, the shift to personal responsibility for managing our government begins without leaders or organization. The driving force must always be the individual choosing to invest their time and effort towards driving all levels of our government to deliver increasing value and diminishing costs. If we aggressively manage our democracy, we will remove the excess weight form our economic fly wheel creating a new global economic advantage from having the world’s most cost effective and efficient government. Picture that stone fly wheel, transforming to a light weight, high tech metal alloy, with spokes instead of excess weight, and reinforced rims designed to maximize economic stimulus. Individual commitment to our civic obligations is the only catalyst that will ignite this transformation.
Why? Well, we are no longer an agricultural or manufacturing society, we are a services driven economy. Yes we will always have agriculture and the more manufacturing we have the better, but these days we are a services/knowledge driven economy. In this services/knowledge economy we are the owners and the customers of the world’s largest services/knowledge company – our collective local, State and Federal goverment. The key metric for a services company is to have constant improvements in productivity. As the customers we must demand it, as the owners we must make these productivity gains happen. So here is how we begin to fulfil our responsibilties as owners and customers.
While we all have the same rights and obligations as citizens, we are not all the same. In addition to different skills, abilities and interests, each of our individual situations will always be different. The legions of retired Americans possess an un-parallel level of experience and relationships, including large extended families. Our youth have the most to gain or lose along with proportionally more free time to invest in our nation’s future. The middle generations who can be hamstrung with raising children may have less time to invest, but should feel the parental responsibilities of not saddling our children with unnecessary hardships from our lack of investment in managing our government. Everyone needs to step up and contribute however they can.
Unfortunately, no supercomputer is going to figure out what each of us should be doing and send us periodic assignments. However we have inherited the core ingredient that can propel our nation out of our current quagmire and accelerate our economic fly wheel to generate perpetual national prosperity. We are Americans and we are facing a national challenge. The world says we cannot do this, but we can accomplish anything if we as a nation accept the challenge of re-engaging the great democracy our founding Fathers created for us. No obstacle is too high; no goal is out of reach, nothing can stand in the way of the American Spirit when we are united and committed as a nation.
Sparks of opportunity from 9-11, the financial meltdown, to the recent politically driven debt ceiling “crisis” have failed to ignite a critical mass of Americans to unite around our civic obligations. We now must either begin the journey down the hard road or wait for an even worse event to wakeAmericaup to our obligations.
There is no blue print for transforming apathy to self-reliance; we will need to figure it out one step at a time. Here is a brief list of some of the actions we can start with. It is by no means comprehensive or detailed; the idea is to help get some of these actions started as the first turns to restore momentum to our economic flywheel.
· Locally (town, city, county) for every major department establish annual goals and measurements. While no one wants a bad fireman when their house is on fire or the lowest cost medic, but we need to measure or benchmark how good they are and what they are doing to get better at lower costs every year.
- Build local “Civic Leagues” that can map out how all parts of local government operate (process flows) and how citizens engage. Independent of newspapers, develop a system for assuring that individuals attend all public board meetings and generate a very short and quickly digestible statement of the key points.
- Insist that every elected body begin each year with publically stating six (6) measurable goals (town/city leaders, State legislators, Federal legislators) that will be accomplished each year.
- Develop annual job reviews for all elected officials. Not voting records, but what did they personally contribute and accomplish each year. Include inputs on how well they worked with peers and subordinates.
- For all US Congress members include how effectively they manage their office budgets and implement a customer satisfaction score for their responses to direct constituent’s requests and communication. There should be year over year improvements and best in class rankings.
- For all State and Federal government departments help them have unique and clear mission statements and annual goals with measurable performance metrics and when possible to show a cost per service.
· Engage every local community so that the effectiveness of our investment in schools is measured on each child individually progressing one or more grade levels of ability each year. School systems should be measured on each grade’s ability to succeed when they arrive at their next destination (new school, college, military, first job…..)
Notice how none of these activities are based on any sort of political ideology, but a focus on assuring we are getting the most value from what we invest in our government each year. This will help us eliminate accumulated government that provides low value, improve essential government that is under-delivering and focus incremental investments on critical deficiencies.
It is not easy. It first requires that we choose to create the time to work together with our friends, family, neighbors and others in our counties and State. There will be massive amounts of resistance from special interests groups and those who have spent millions of dollars to mold the status quo to best serve their interests. Fear not for the lobbyists, as they are generally well educated, entrepreneurial and resourceful enough to find new ways to profit once we the people are directly managing our government.
The national drive for cost effective government should unite our nation on the power of working together and we could then begin to remove the massive brake that leans on our economic fly wheel. In theU.S., the business of medicine is broken and we can leverage our new culture of demanding information and self-reliance to drive for cost effective and efficient healthcare services. With this break removed and our transformed economic flywheel spinning at accelerating velocities our economic engine can launch the next battle of aggressively paying down our bloated national debt to a rational level. We say a rational level, since a balanced budget can help control runaway spending, however, we should not deprive our nation of the financial power from leveraging long term debt for strategic long term infrastructure investments.
If you have read this much, you have now done more than many fellow Americans. Sadly, these ideas will die on this page unless you make a conscious choice to invest your time, skills and effort to manage what you get for what you spend on our government.
- What can you contribute and what do you like to do?
- Can you organize, create websites, or network with people?
- Can you attend local board meetings?
- Can you organize information that is quickly and easily understandable by time pressured people?
- What can you do to help carry the burden of our civic obligations?
Remember, the American Colonists put their lives on the line to create the freedoms we now enjoy. Countless other Americans have sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedoms. Generations of families have endured these harsh loses and our veterans continue to bear their burdens of service. Our children will continue to serve and make sacrifices for our freedoms. Our annual sacrifice of our time to manage our government pales in comparison to the sacrifices of those who have come before us
There is no place for spectators inside a healthy democracy, so the next move is yours. It is your money and your responsibility to assure we are maximizing value. To stop the wobbling and escape from this downward spiral our behavior must change if the United States to continue to be a great and prosperous nation.