3609– Friday, June 14, 2019 – Citizens: Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare!

A number of years ago (1998), I was hired by the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota as a Principle Planner II.  My job was to help the various units at the council to improve productivity and service.  I had been an independent Process Improvement consultant for the previous 13 years.  My new job meant a study paycheck and less travel.  It was a good way to get out of consulting and into more regular employment.  The people at the council were hardworking and dedicated.  Nevertheless, as Dr. Deming always said, “hard work guarantees nothing.”

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In a short while, I found more waste and useless expenditure of time and taxpayer money than I could have imagined possible.  Even though as a consultant, I had often worked with government agencies from the US Navy to the City of Minneapolis, I was astounded at the staggering amount of fruitless effort throughout the organization and other state agencies.  I had become a liaison for the Metropolitan Council to help coordinate quality improvement agencies for a joint committee that included the Met Council and members of various other state agencies.  I frequently came home and exclaimed to Karen: “My god, if the average citizen saw the waste and stupidity that I see every day, they would grab a rifle or pitchfork and march on City Hall.”  I was dead wrong.

It has been twenty years and the waste and lack of accountability in government is still appalling and “no one is marching on City Hall.”  I often doubt if anyone really cares.  There is an old saying which goes like this:

Businesses get the unions they deserve,

Industries get the regulations they deserve, and

People get the governments they deserve.

 The lack of transparency in government is bewildering.  Transparency and accountability go hand in hand.  However, many cities, states and towns fail to publish their complete financial records on-line.  Yet no one demands to see the records of government spending.

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“Democracy depends on an informed electorate, but due to current practices in both accounting and budgeting, the true financial health of a city can be obscured, and citizens are deceived, or at best misled.  Without access to truthful, timely, and transparent information, how can citizens be knowledgeable participants in their governments?” —  Truth in Accounting

It seems that everyone you talk to is willing to condemn the cupidity and incompetence of most of our political leaders.  Yet, such criticism begs the question: “Not why did we elect these people, but why do we continue to reelect them?”

“Congressional stagnation is an American political theory that attempts to explain the high rate of incumbency re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  In recent years this rate has been well over 90 per cent, with rarely more than 5-10 incumbents losing their House seats every election cycle.”Congressional stagnation in the United States

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These high rates of reelection defy logic since they come at a time when trust in government is at an all-time low.  “We the people” grouse and complain but the fact remains that “we the people” do not demand accountability and we do not enforce accountability.  We elect leaders who soon feel little or no need to represent their constituents but more likely never felt the electorate really mattered in the first place.  Too many of our leaders are fully aware that they owe their first loyalty to the lobbyists and corporations that funded them and not to the “joe or jane” on the street that simply cast a ballot for them.

“Public trust in the government remains near historic lows.  Only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right ‘just about always’ (3%) or ‘most of the time’ (14%).”  — Public Trust in Government: 1958-2019

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I have repeatedly said that we need government.  It would be foolish to think that a community, let alone a nation, could function without a government.  Yet, I can also accept the words of Edmund Burke that “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  I do not say throw out government, but I do say “we the people” have to start making our votes and voices heard.  Too many of our so called “silent majority” simply do not give a damn.

If you don’t give a damn, you will get the government you deserve.  It would seem that this bit of wisdom has become a reality for most Americans.

PS:

I just watched Jon Stewart’s heroic and passionate speech to the House Judiciary on behalf of 9/11 Responders.  This speech will go down in history as a testimony to the difference citizens can make in government if we dare to speak out.  Stewart echoes my call for accountability in his speech.  See:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2QMqsNvWuc

“Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.  Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution.  And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here.  But you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.” — Jon Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

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