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Words from Winterbilt

Are we there yet?

Shannon Bohrer

(5/2017) We have had some changes with our new President some of which were expected and some not. Every time we elect a new President we expect changes and sometimes the changes we expect - do not happen. The election occurs and the government just keeps moving in the same direction, so we always ask why? The obvious but often overlooked reason why changes do not occur as fast as promised, is centered in the fact of how and why our government was created. We have a democracy with three branches of government and it was created to replace the rule of a king. It was intentionally not designed to be operated by a dictator or an individual that believes he/she is a king. It is supposed to be operated like a bureaucracy.

While we focus on the president as if s/he has the power and authority to make the changes, the reality is that the president only represents one third of our government. The founding fathers created our government that by its very nature works slowly and literally prohibits any branch from having too much power. As an illustration of this, our new president started off very strong with executive orders as if the executive orders were written in stone and not questionable. Then – some of the executive orders were taken to the Judicial Branch, the courts. I did not find it strange or unexpected that when the courts ruled against the administration - that the courts were deemed "political". If the courts had ruled with the administration – they would have been seen as doing their job.

Contrary to what some say, the government is working as it was designed, which includes all three separate branches. Some people are unhappy about this. We do have a segment in our society that seems to have an impatient side. It tells them that if they want something – they should have it now. That can work well, until the opposing party is in power. I think it is wise to remember what was once said about our democracy. "If you wake up one day and find that you have everything you want, then you no longer live in a democracy."

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." - William Arthur Ward

While the separations of powers enumerated within our Constitution may inhibit change, there are other factors that affect us. The largest being the congress. Politicians often say things to get elected, never really intending to make the changes after being elected. For over seven years one party voted over sixty times to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and when the party was given the opportunity to effect change, it failed. Why? It is as simple as what the dog does when it catches the car! There was no plan. The rhetoric sounded good and I am sure that many party members believed it. But at the same time much of the rhetoric was for the sole purpose of just being in opposition.

So, instead of expecting the president to make changes, maybe we should focus on the congress. It is the congress that submits bills, produces a budget and allocates the money for spending. When congress does not want to do its job, or possibly they see their job as obstructionist, we all lose because nothing gets done. I really should not say that we all lose, because there are some people that believe it is a good thing when congress does nothing. Of course, the segment of society that believes it can be good thing when congress does nothing - is an additional reason why changes don’t occur.

Another issue for slow change is that just because the winner is inaugurated as president, all sides are still represented. The United States of America is a Republic. A Republic means that the government is a "public matter" in that the elected officials operate the government for the benefit of the public. That means all of the public, not just the winning party. The benefit of the public includes the rule of law that ensures the rights and privileges for all citizens. The government is prohibited from taking away the rights of anyone, which includes the people that voted in opposition. In essence, the rights of the minority are always protected. Our founding fathers created this form of government to protect us, the citizens, from monarchs, kings and individuals that think they should be a king. Since it has worked for two hundred and forty years, I don’t think it will change – and that is another reason why change is slow.

Our government is not unlike a business in that it takes resources, including people, to provide products or services. But while there are similarities, there are also differences. The government is very large and diverse. The government is working on thousands of projects, it employees millions of people including contractors and it is interconnected with state and local governments as well as foreign entities. Anything that large cannot change direction very fast and of course one of the promises was to reduce the size of the government. In theory a smaller government would be more efficient and then changes could happen faster.

"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." - Grover Norquist

Conversely, when a politician tells you that reducing the size of government is a priority, maybe you should ask them what services the government should provide. Then ask what resources are needed to provide those services. It does sounds good that our government is too large and by reducing it we will save money. But before reducing the whole government, maybe we should be asking what services we have and what services we want, then what resources does it take to provide the services. The actual services would then be the starting point to determine the size. Of course, that would be like starting all over again. By the time we figured out what we want, it might be similar to our efforts to get rid of what some don’t want; like the Affordable Health Care Act.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." - Thomas Jefferson

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer