During my 63 years of life, much good has occurred in our world. I was born in Germany 11 years after WWII ended, the son of an enlisted American airman and a German mother. The Cold War that I was born into has ended. The mass extreme poverty of Asia has been nearly eradicated. America has not experienced a great war with tens of thousands of casualties since the war in Vietnam.
Great progress since the issues of the ’60s and ’70s
Legal discrimination has been nearly eliminated in America, as we strive to eliminate the discrimination that we find in the human heart. Opportunities continue to improve for women, and for people of color in America, greatly benefiting our people and our society.
Our air and water are much cleaner than when I was growing up in the 1960s. Our forests are protected. While we face the challenge of carbon reduction and unknown future environmental challenges, we appear to be on a good path of stewardship for our environment.
We have never been more prosperous. Employment and personal wealth are at record levels. Our net savings rate is increasing, and for most of us, our financial status is improving.
Working Oregonians and Americans are to thank—Not politicians
We can thank all of this to the hard work, the can-do spirit, and the fairness of America’s citizens. We can thank the people in the trenches, the people who go to work day in, and day out. The people have created peace, the people have made a fairer society, and the people have improved our environment, the people who have created the goods and services that have powered our prosperity. The people have been working steadily for change, prosperity, and progress.
While many political leaders enjoy talking about how their leadership has improved our society, our cultural and social success is primarily due to the hard work of the American people, NOT DUE TO THE RHETORIC AND “WORK” OF OUR ELECTED POLITICAL LEADERSHIP.
New problems in Oregon need new solutions, new leaders
Despite our many successes, there is an angst, an anger, an unease, in America, and in our home state of Oregon. In Salem, more and more of our citizens are living in tents on public land; there should not be one person living in a tent on public land! Our drug-addicted and mentally ill go untreated, and many live on the streets.
Despite rapid population growth, we are unable to build new transportation capacity, no new bridges, no new roads. We continue to increase K-12 education funding, but despite this only 80% of our high school students graduate, and only about one in three of these students tests at grade level in mathematics and reading by the 11th grade.
Two-thirds of health care is government-funded (single-payer), yet consolidation in the health care industry has led to the monopolization of health care delivery in many areas; health care regulations increase daily, and medicine becomes more and more unaffordable each day for our people.
Our housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, mainly due to government regulations which have increased the cost of land, and the cost of building housing.
The cost of higher education and training is ever-increasing, and many of our young people face decades of paying a significant amount of their income in student loan repayment during their working years.
Our PERS public employee retirement system, seemingly unable to be reformed, pays out lavish retirement pensions to public employees far exceeding pensions available in the private sector. The funding for the system is barely sustainable now, and we will face a brutal financial reckoning at the next financial turndown.
The sad truth is that the majority of our “unsolvable problems” are found in areas of predominant government involvement and government control, with the passage of each new law and regulation to “fix the problem” making the problem worse.
With higher taxes comes less freedom, less independence
Our taxes are ever-increasing, making our lives more difficult. Out of a 12-month work year, the average worker contributes approximately 4 ½ months of their work income in taxes and fees to our government. This leaves 7 ½ months of our income, from our 12 months of work, to support our living, support our aging parents, to educate and raise our children, and to put away money for our own retirement.
The best solutions come from the ground up, not top-down
While older and younger Americans differ on their interests including participation in traditional organizations such as church, professional organizations, and civic organizations, they remain united in their value of hard work, and in a belief of reward for work, their love of family, and their love of our country. Our history shows that only the people in the trenches of life can solve our problems if given the chance. What is preventing us from solving our problems, and moving our society forward?
The answer is that our poorly performing government is preventing our people from solving our society’s problems. The vast bureaucracy built to sustain our government is consuming our resources, and the tens of thousands of government rules and regulations are preventing our people from solving our problems.
In his book, Try Common Sense: Replacing the Failed Ideologies of the Right and Left,¹ Philip Howard argues that we are being prevented from problem-solving in our neighborhoods, schools, and jobs by a government that increasingly micromanages our interactions in all realms of society, rather than giving us general rules and allowing us the freedom to solve our problems. More and more laws, more and more administrative rules are written to make life better, but instead, turn problem-solving into satisfying checklists, and problems are not solved. We need practical leaders who will give us the freedom to solve our problems, and to improve our society.
From DC to Salem, the ‘political class is failing
Too many of our political leaders have come from the political class, well-educated and experienced in the art of politics, but many have little or no practical experience in business, the trades, or in the professions. These political leaders believe in top-down government, where they have the answers, and they must pass more and more laws and regulations to solve the problems, and to improve society. They do not realize that the only real solutions for difficult-to-solve-problems can come from the people in the trenches of life, facing the problem, empowered and supported by their government.
Political rhetoric, smoothly delivered by professional politicians, and more laws and regulations passed by them, will not solve a single major social problem. What will help us to solve problems is to elect practical people proven in the trenches of life, who will use their common sense to ALLOW OTHER PEOPLE IN THE TRENCHES OF LIFE to solve our most vexing problems. Let us find and elect such leaders.
¹TRY COMMON SENSE: REPLACING THE FAILED IDEOLOGIES OF THE RIGHT AND LEFT by Philip Howard, W.W. Norton and Company (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-324-00176-8.