Satisfying My Craving for Lame Duck

So, where do we go from here? The election is over and, for better or worse, our mayor is off to tackle bigger and scarier problems. But that still leaves us with a lot of work to do. Sure, Lakewood has been named a great suburb, with nationally acclaimed restaurants, top quality schools, a superb library, and a growing arts scene. But there’s always a budget crisis looming and the burst of the housing bubble has left us trying to squeeze blood from a turnip when it comes to property taxes.

Similarly, the national election scene has produced sweeping changes in our governmental leadership. And while the United States is still a pretty impressive place, we’ve got plenty of problems to solve. We’re still living in a land of opportunity, ingenuity, and creativity. But the problem, be it on a national, state or local level, is somewhat the same. We’re suffering from deficit spending, crushing unemployment, and an apparent lack of a clear direction.

But like in a game of Go Fish, I approached this election cycle with only one hope, and I think I got what I asked for: governmental gridlock. But it’s not because I’m a pessimist, and it’s not because I’m for chaos or anarchy. Just the opposite--I believe that the single greatest problem facing this country is a lack of self-confidence, and more importantly, self-sufficiency.

In my opinion, the possibility of a lame duck session leading to a government shutdown could be just the kick in the pants we need. Society is getting far too comfortable handing its problems over to a government too far removed from the situation to really know how to solve it. We keep hearing about how social programs are supposed to offer a “hand-up”, not a “hand-out”, but when you’re doing nothing but issuing checks from an office thousands of miles away, how can you make that claim?

I’m not proposing we go "cold turkey" on government spending, but I suspect the first product of a stalemate in Washington will be a rejuvenated state and local governmental base. I strongly believe that after the initial shock, people will eventually figure out that we don’t need to cycle our taxes through the federal grinder to provide the local services we desire.

We don’t need new federal guidelines to help revitalize our housing stock. We don’t need the government to take our money, only to give it to some bank in the hopes that they will lend it back to us. We need banks that are willing to recognize the benefits of no longer flooding the market with surplus through sheriff's auctions. Just because you CAN foreclose, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your bottom line. The more you sell, the more the prices drop, the more you lose money on your investment. It’s the local banks that get creative in their refinancing and keep their investment intact that stand to make the most as the market turns around.

But that takes personal responsibility, knowing your clientele, and believing in your neighborhood, something that cannot be achieved over the phone or from a corporate headquarters on the other side of the world.

We also don’t need new federal government restrictions on credit cards. We need people to go back to living within their means. We need people to realize the benefit of savings, investment, and putting some money away for a rainy day. But we also need our state and local regulators to get more involved in tracking down the truly criminal. We need to stop beating up honest businessmen, root out the real predatory lenders, and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

But that takes a commitment to the community, and a personal knowledge of an individual’s honor and reputation, something you cannot legislate from an isolated office or decide upon at a national level.

We need to cut our dependence on federal programs, be it farm subsidies, manufacturing stimulus programs, or “shovel ready” construction jobs. If we want a bullet train to Columbus, then let’s raise the money and build it ourselves, instead of hitting up the federal government for funds like a teenager asking for the car keys on a Friday night. There was a time when each state took pride in setting itself apart, and private businesses didn’t wait for government assistance to fill a societal need.

But that will require a people to become truly passionate about big projects. They will have to sacrifice directly, take necessary risks, and stand by every decision. We will have to know what we want, decide what we need and stop settling for what politicians decide to give us.

Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty back in the 1960s, but after nearly 50 years of creating one federal program after another, we’re not really any closer to living in that “Great Society”. It’s not for a lack of spending, it’s because we’ve forgotten one basic principle that goes against everything established in our current welfare state: the government cannot care for people, only PEOPLE can care for people. And the further you remove that responsibility from each of us, the worse off all of us will be.

That’s why I’m happy with the results of this election. I suspect that a Congress that does nothing will quickly result in a society that can do almost anything by itself.

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Volume 6, Issue 23, Posted 8:57 AM, 11.16.2010