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Aligning Public Objectives with Public Solutions

Original post made by Paul Losch, a resident of Palo Alto, on Aug 24, 2009

There are too many sacred cows.

There are too many things that take on a life of their own once they are instituted, and they don't have Sarah Palin's "death panels" to pass muster over them.

There are too many laws and programs that were appropriately constructed to meet the public good at the time they were instituted, and now are out of alignment with the original objectives, current objectives, but have entrenched vested interest groups that want to perpeturate it them as they are, even if they are not meeting useful objectives for the times we live in.

The National Health Care debate is an example.

The original intent of Proposition 13 in 1978 and its current consequences is an example.

The California prison system and 3 strikes notion is an example.

The public employee compensation and retirement program for most California municipalities is an example.

I consider myself to be a middle of the road guy when it comes to political matters. I cite these examples of how I really question if people have a clear sense of purpose about what the desired outcomes are for the tax paying public and the services receiving public when choices are made.

I find two things objectionable:

--Rabid ideological positions at both extremes that compromise compromise
--Vested interests in the status quo that are almost Darwinian in the drama, survining for their own sake, not the "customer."
In this case the citizens and tax payers

Intellectually, this is much more interesting than following the 2008 Presidential campaign, or following the W White House for the last few years, which was a game of gotcha as best as I could tell.

But there is something troubling about this. I don't have a finger on it, and I will be interested in some thoughtful discourse from others.

Please folks, don't wave the usual polemics or question where I am coming from. That is not what my privilege to be a blogger on PA On Line is about.

Comments (4)

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Posted by Art
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm

"I don't have a finger on it"

Paul, why not? If you can tee it up, you must have some opinions. Clearly, you have an issue with Sarah Palin. Could you explain that one?


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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 25, 2009 at 9:38 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Paul,

I agree with you and also think the tooth fairy has a role in our stuckedness.

The polarizing voices on both sides have no interest in starting with the simple fact that you offered--soemtimes change happens and we have to deal with it. Saying change happens in a "no fault, let's see if we can adapt" voice takes away the ability to make every issue about who is at fault or about debating the last election all over again like you see on Town Square sometimes.

If your main interest is in saying that Obama (or Bush) are complete idiots or that unions (or big corporations) are corrupt, that is hardly a good starting point for solving difficult challenges brought about by change in an already polarized country.

So the highly partisan voices deserve some blame for our stuckedness even though from their perspective they are arguing for deeply held views about what is right.

But it cannot be true that every bad thing that happens is the president's fault or the fault of major institutions. Really bad luck still happens--at least the way I see the world/

But I think the major barrier to handling the changes you talk about--in health care or pensions or most anything that involves money is the large belief by residents in the tooth fairy.

Sure partisans tell us that their solution will cause no pain but as residents we believe so little from elected leaders it can't simply be that we are being led on by partisan politics.

Most of the problems you mentioned are about arithmetic no longer working in the sense that programs or promises made a generation ago are on a trajectory to bankruptcy--whether that is Medicare funding or public pensions or the implications of Proposition 13 in a world where housing prices do not jump 10% every year.

I think the tooth fairy or our hope that that the tooth fairy will junp in so we can avoid pain breeds the paralysis that you muse about.

Now the polarizing voices do argue the tooth fairy's side by telling us that the other team's ideas are causing the pain but our ideas are costless. But again, why should we believe that making the arithmetic in Medicare, public pensions or school funding work will be painless?

For example, I think the debate over health care proposals gives people the illusion that the present system of private insurance coverage is sustainable. This is apart from the debate over what reforms should happen.

Private employer-based coverage has been dropping and costs to employees and their families rising. Nothing is in the cards to change this trajectory unless we make the changes. We are on a path where if nothing is done the employer-based system will slowly die from strangulation of ever rising costs and no incentive for practice reform.

Arithmetic is arithmetic and arithmetic that no longer works is at the heart of most of the challenges that Paul talks about.

Why does this have to be partisan and polarizing unless we really don't believe the arithmetic of impending crisis? and so can continue the back and forth about the last election or public versus private as if nothing has changed worth adapting to?


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2009 at 10:22 am

Objecting to:
"--Rabid ideological positions at both extremes that compromise compromise"
amounts to pragmatism.
Pragmatism has been referred to (by Tara Smith) as a style of thinking marked by four key features:
1. A short range perspective, range of the moment thinking
2. The inability (or refusal) to think in principle
3. The denial of definite identity. Each thing is sort of this and sort of that.
4. Refusal to rule out possibilities. All options are open--indefinitely, nothing is ever off the table.
This anti-principled approach is the source of the problems mentioned.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2009 at 9:09 am

What I see in all the issues you mention, Paul, is a lack of clear & critical thinking. People aren't interested in truth/facts/data. They prefer to get emotional when they hear about Obama's "death panels." Or to scream about a crime wave when they hear that 27,000 people might be released from prison. They choose to believe alarmist sound bites in political ads – which are created to promote fear and alarm.

The internet gives us all kinds of crazy rumors, but it also provides real data if we just take a bit of time to seek it out.

I have a friend who is very intelligent, holds a senior exec position and has raised 2 great kids. But we cannot talk about politics because all her information comes from Bill O'Reilly and Dr. Laura. If I even try to offer a different perspective (backed up with data), she goes non-linear. So it's not just ignorant, uneducated people who fall for the hype.

Let's face it, we're a nation driven by advertising. Politicians are more interested in scaring us than educating us. Also, this is a country of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists and for the lobbyists. Citizens' voices are drowned out by big money.

Remember the bumper sticker "Question Authority"? We need to listen with a critical ear, to take the time to educate ourselves on important issues and to train our kids to think – not just pass STAR exams.


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