Who Gets it Done? Local Government vs. Federal Government
I spent most of Thursday afternoon at a Wasatch Front Regional Council meeting where mayors, city council members, county commissioners and county council members get together to coordinate regional issues like planning for transporation projects, clean air, and other matters that cross political jurisdictions.
Frankly, I was impressed to see our local leaders discuss, debate, and deal forthrightly with problems and issues facing their constituents. Republicans and Democrats cooperated, compromised, and came to agreement on plans going forward. The costs of programs were outlined and they stayed within budgets and revenue projections.
I have similarly watched our state Legislature, governor, and various agencies and offices at the state level. While disagreements can sometimes be sharp, in the end the leaders from both parties and various factions almost always reach enough of a consensus to move forward and get issues resolved. And it happens quickly. Problems aren't dragged on forever. These state and local leaders aren't perfect. Mistakes are sometimes made and have to be corrected. But they tackle problems and get them resolved.
I'm also impressed with the staff people at both the state and local levels. We have top professionals, highly educated, equipped with sophisticated management tools, administering our local governments and state agencies. They are running major programs and doing it very well.
So contrast all of this with what's happening at the federal level, where Congress and the federal administration are gridlocked, spending money they don't have, mandating programs that don't work, and fighting for partisan advantage with an eye on the next election instead of what's best for citizens.
To be fair, some federal programs do operate well. Such programs as the military and international relations are properly within the role of the national government and are effectively administered. But the federal government is clearly trying to do far too much, involving itself in every aspect of our lives, where it has no business, and that's where the partisanship and gridlock occur.
The really big problem is that the federal government has taken over the country's major safety net programs (Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare), but hasn't administered them responsibly, and now they are nearly bankrupt and take up an immense portion of the federal budget. Congress does not have the guts to cut back these programs or raise taxes to make them solvent. So the immense unfunded liabilities continue to grow and will be dumped on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
The answer to many of the major problems facing our country isn't to find a federal solution (which won't happen anyway, given the partisanship and gridlock in Congress). The answer is to devolve responsibility for these problems to states and local governments. I'd rather have 8,000 state legislators and tens of thousands of local officials tackle these problems than 535 members of Congress, most of whom are more concerned about getting re-elected than finding real solutions.
Interestingly, the only note of discord, anger, and frustration voiced in an afternoon of discussion at the Wasatch Front Regional Council, was directed, you guessed it, at the federal government for mandates that simply don't work at the local level.
If you really want to accomplish something in politics, run for the City Council, not for Congress.