Key to Curing the Political Class: Take the Fun Out of Governing

February 17, 2010
By John

Pollster Scott Rasmussen Discovers Cure for Rampant Mental Illness in Washington

Springing Politicians from the Funny Farm?

Ok, so I’m kidding.  But we did learn something interesting this week about the politician’s mindset.  Rasmussen has confirmed what could be the critical fault line in American political culture today.  And, by implication, his findings may help explain why it seems like nobody can cut federal spending or regulation, and why it doesn’t seem to matter who we send to Washington to try.  Like most things that are hard to explain, it comes down to people and their preferences.  Mr. Rasmussen’s survey also points to what we might do to restrain the federal beast, restrain our politicians, and get off our road to financial and regulatory Armageddon.

I hope Mr. Rasmussen will forgive me for extrapolating his findings, but I cannot resist.  First, let’s review his good news.

  • It turns out only 14% of the public at large thinks the federal government does a better job than state and local governments.   Instead, 43% of the public believes local government is most effective, and 19% of the public favors state government.  (The other 25% apparently haven’t a clue, or aren’t paying attention).
  • Furthermore, he found that “fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters believe the federal government has too much influence over state government”.    Given the torrent of mandates descending from Washington these days, that’s a near-indictment of the federal establishment.
  • He also found that “59% of likely voters say states should have the right to opt out of federal government programs they don’t agree with.  Even more (63%) think states should have the right to opt out of federally mandated programs if the federal government doesn’t help pay for them.“  It seems like the lessons of ObamaCare are now writ large in the public’s consciousness.  (source: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/february_2010/43_say_local_government_better_than_feds_states)

Have We Located the Tea Party?

So it turns out that 62% of us favor state and local government – if we want government at all – to solve our problems.  It means only one out of seven American’s think the federal government can function better than our governors and mayors.  It suggests that when politicians in Washington say they want to do something to ‘help’, we immediately discount their ability to perform or deliver to a negligible level.    And it suggests that most people would be more comfortable if that ‘government that governs best’ governed locally, too.

It may also be that we just figured out what the Tea Party really is and could become as a movement.  A Wall Street Journal poll in December suggested 41% of the public had a higher opinion of the Tea Party than of the Democrats or the Republicans (source:  http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2009/12/16/wsjnbc-news-poll-tea-party-tops-democrats-and-republicans/tab/article/).   And perhaps the most significant common thread running through the Tea Party diaspora is near-contempt for expansion of federal authority.

Could the TP become an umbrella group advocacy of local control?  It would seem so.  A desire for local control commands a solid majority of the American people’s attention – so it sounds like a winner from here.

We Finally Figured Out Why Officials Won’t Listen

Rasmussen found something else that may prove to be even more insightful.  When he segmented respondents into two groups – the first being what he calls Mainstreamers (those preferring private initiative over the decisions of political leaders), and those he labels the Political Class (those who favor political leadership over private initiative), he found their preferences for federal government action to be dramatically different.

It turns out that 60% of the “Political Class” thinks the federal government is better suited to solve our problems than the local and state governments most of us prefer.   The good news, according to another RR poll conducted in January, is that only 12% of the public leans toward being part of the Political Class, whereas 81% of the public is Mainstream.

But knowing this, you have to ask yourself an important question:

“Is the Political Class is over-represented in Congress?  In my State Legislature?   In my local government?”

Snagging the Big One: Your Freedom

The answer would appear to be a resounding yes.  We have a political Farm System at work in the United States, where too many of our local politicians have only one goal in mind – going to “The Show” in DC, and becoming one of the Princes of Government there.  And the players in this system are all fishing for new ways to secure Washington as the source of power – for stimulus, for grants, for bailouts, for revenue sharing, for national regulation and control, for taxing power.  And the people who want this are naturally part of Rasmussen’s Political Class.

There is nothing naturally more effective about taxing or spending from DC than there is in your town or state capital.  The only advantage Washington has is the ‘Magic Printing Press’ – the big money machine managed by our friends in the Fed.   And using it to fund Washington’s largesse is a form of larceny that has morphed into a multi-generational looting.  The Political Class must be advocating this, and the system is attracting them like moths to a flame.

Winning Strategy for Candidates in 2010

Politicians seeking office this year would do well to heed what Mr. Rasmussen found.  They would do well to avoid proposals for more federal action and authority.  They would do well to propose ways to help local communities and states help themselves, and gain control of their own destinies.  And they could win if they would give evidence of their intention to govern by not just freezing what Washington is doing – but also walking it back to a more modest, manageable and Constitutional size.

What Can We Do to Change the Game?  Take the Fun Out of It!

The Rough Truth is you can’t just send different people with the same world view (the Political Class view) to Washington and expect a different outcome.  We must find and send Mainstreamers to every level of government, and change the way in which they work so as to inhibit the natural tendency to join (sell out?)  to the Political Class.

So how do we create conditions where Mainstreamer power is paramount?  Rough Truths says take the fun out of it.  Here are a few ideas that might be worth considering:

  • Term limits:  Political Class members hate this one.  They say you need decades of service to understand the complexities of government, and we need them to guide us.  Rough Truths answer to this claim:  Balderdash.  The fact that this idea buries the needle deeply in the red for the Political Class types tells you what you need to know.  Do it now, by Constitutional Amendment if necessary.
  • No publicly funded pensions for elected officials:  If there’s no financial afterlife to elected office, they’ll be likely to stay a while and then leave for a real job.  The idea they’d have to live among us without a safety net might encourage politicians to endorse policies that will help private citizens.  Let them worry about the value of their 401(k)’s, too.
  • Higher salaries, no benefits:  End the Prince of Government problem.  Rough Truths has no problem paying good talent well.  But the ‘total life care’ package these guys live with in DC separates them from reality, and makes staying there too attractive.  Turn off the freebies, give them a little more money, and make them spend it like the rest of us.  They should know what a gallon of milk and a haircut costs, shouldn’t they?
  • Smaller spending bills:  The Political Class loves big things, and especially big spending bills.  When spending bills reach a certain size, no one can read them (as we’ve seen) or understand what has happened until months after they are passed.  So it becomes a frenzy to sneak in every statist dream spend item either party could imagine into these monster bills.  It’s where we get earmarks, bridges to nowhere, airports in uninhabited areas, federal honey bee farms and research on Brazilian teen sex habits.   So how about we limit spending bills to no more than 5% of the annual budget at the state and federal levels.  The Political Class will despise this – but that makes it a guaranteed winner for us.

Fat Cats Look Good in Your Money

There are lots of other opportunities to take the fun out of governing for the Political Class.  We could force votes on tax and fee increases.  We could actually force them to tell us who gave them money – not just unnamed PACs and interests.  We could force real-time disclosure of their staff sizes and budgets.  We could force them to disclose the number of new government employees they are authorizing in bills, and keep count.

But the key to getting Mainstreamers in charge – and keeping them there – is to make the Political Class’ preferred games unplayable and no longer rewarding.

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4 Responses to “ Key to Curing the Political Class: Take the Fun Out of Governing ”

  1. Grocery Clerk on February 18, 2010 at 1:36 am

    I still say it isn’t ObamaCare, because he DOESN’T CARE! How many times has he said “My plan”? “My plan will…” “With my plan…” “My plan won’t…”. HE DOESN”T HAVE A PLAN! He hasn’t written any plan, he hasn’t even read all the crap that is in the two chambers’ bills that are out there.
    Why?
    Because he doesn’t CARE about about your (or ANYBODY’S) healthcare.
    It’s the same reason why he doesn’t have any curiosity about Climategate.
    Why does he push forward with Cap&Tax and AbismalCare without knowing the real need, or what’s in the legislation, or what might be the unintended consequences?
    I would suggest that all he cares about are the INTENDED consequences.

    And what might those be?

    There is only one thing that TARP and STIMULUS and Cap&Tax and ABISMALCARE and owning GM and on and on have in common.
    It’ not like I’m the first one to get this, it’s not like I’m even at the forefront of this awareness.
    But it’s time we share the knowlege with those who just don’t get it, or don’t think they want to.

    So what’s the common thread?

    Power.

    Power and Control. Government Power and Control.

    Oh, the sales pitch isn’t directed at that. It never is. The appeal is ALWAYS far more broad.
    It’s about caring, it’s about the children, it’s about fairness.

    How often do these acts of legislature accomplish any of those ‘noble’ goals? Have they ever?

    What’s the one thing they always do accomplish – from the Progressive Income Tax, to the New Deal, to Social Security to the Great Society, and on,and on.

    Power. Federal Government Power and Control.

    So please, don’t call them ‘democratic’ when they’re not – they’re just Democrats. Vehimently in pursuit of an agenda which is not democracy. And certainly not the republic that our Founders gave us.

    And don’t call it ObamaCare.

    It’s Obamadoesn’tCare.

    G.C.

  2. JoJoTo4 on February 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    What I’d like to know is how a person that has never held a job or business in the private sector, go right into politics and become a millionaire, on a job that pays about 60,000 a year? I think this is the only question! As far as Federal Government vs. local government we all do not live in one place in this country, we are diversified, 50 states 50 different ways to live we are not quite the same! I think local government might know what’s best for its people. Now California wants to stop calling animal’s pets and call them life partners! Does this mean my life partner gets to share in my benefits, insurance and so on? I personally think that there are more important things to look at, but leave it to California to waste more money they don’t have, at whose expense? You got it, yours! Should there be a law suit brought against Al Gore and others for the global warming lie, I think it’ in the making! We will just have to see how many friends he has, that will determine if he gets away with it. We do need to talk more on the Nuclear Power issue. You’ve got the ball run with it! Keep up the great work John there may be a talk show in your future! The John Mac hour! LOL no seriously!

  3. momof3 on February 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Once again John, you write brilliantly! I would like to point out however that it is important to take the fun out of state governements also. Did you know that the elected officials in DC as well as California (probably other states too)receive an extra “stipend” for each committee they ever serve on, both while they are in office and when they leave… It is a racket! Who approved this salary strucutre anyway? I don’t recal it being on any ballots! Is it more of their self-governing (inept-governing)?

  4. Often Wrong on February 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    First of all, for the record: you rock.

    Second of all: there was a wonderful game in the 70s called “success” you could win by amassing money, fame or power. For some strange reason our intelligensia believes that money and fame are despicable and political power is glorious. They have far fewer brains than the average 5th grader from the 70s did, because we could see back then that all three were clearly false Gods.

    Just another proof that the Ivy league are a bunch of inedible vegetables.

    La haim!

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