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2010 Elections: Follow Up and Accountability

The U.S. 2010 mid-term elections are officially over.  Whether you are happy, sad or indifferent about the election results, we can all be glad that the campaign ads and robo-calls have ended… at least for a little while.

Before the votes were even counted, some journalists and pundits asked questions or made comments about the 2012 election.  While elections may be good for the news industry, the length of campaigns often creates a fatigue factor.  Most of us want a reprieve from campaigns, elections and politics.

In some respects, this is the way the system is designed.  We have a republic form of democracy where our elected leaders make decisions on our behalf.  There are supposed to study the issues, pay attention to the details, and make decisions, so we don’t have to.

Unfortunately, too many politicians have taken advantage of voters’ lack of attention. Our passivity allows them to legislate in a manner that is different from the platform they campaigned upon.  It’s also how they have developed a reputation as being some of the least trusted people in society.    

In some respects, we are at fault.  Our inattention gives them the freedom to say one thing and do another.  Continuous accountability is much more likely to cause them to stay true to their promises.  Although elections are the ultimate form of accountability, a lot of decisions are made between election cycles, and campaigns and very adept at covering and distorting the truth.

There is no fiscal responsibility without accountability.  Think about what happens if you send your teenager to the store with $20 to buy bread and milk?  Chances are they will pocket the change unless you ask for it, or they may have added candy and a soft drink to your shopping list.  Asking for the change is a mechanism of accountability for how the money was spent.  As another example, assume that you gave an investment advisor $1 million to invest on your behalf.   Would you wait for 2 years before you asked for an account statement or performance report?  Probably not.    

Same goes with elected leaders.  Essentially, Congress has unlimited access to the U.S. checkbook.  Billions and trillions of dollars can be spent on your behalf without your consent.  You can vote them out in the next election, but the money has already been spent.

The 2010 mid-term elections are a good illustration of this.  Voters expressed concern with the size of the deficits and the national debt, and voted out many incumbents.  I’m glad people are taking this seriously, but if we had paid closer attention sooner, we might not be $14 trillion in the hole. 

This is not a partisan issue.  No matter who is the elected official or what political party they are affiliated with, they all need to be held accountable, especially when it comes to money.  Many candidates promised to exercise fiscal restraint and reduce the annual deficits and total debt.  Without you and I holding them accountable, they are hollow promises. 

If we keep them accountable, we should see some measurable progress in the next couple of years.  The election may be over, but our job is still not done.

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