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Posts Tagged ‘fiscal restraint’

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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2010 Elections: Electing Fiscally Responsible Leaders

The U.S. 2010 mid-term elections are tomorrow.  You may be tired, confused and/or angry by all of the political ads and campaigning.  While you may not like all of the candidates, or feel like you’re choosing the lesser of evils, I highly encourage you to vote. 

Each election, people will often comment on how this may be the most important election of your lifetime.  In my opinion, it’s the most important election, because it’s the one you can vote in right now. 

Fiscal policy is an important issue in this election cycle.  Federal, state and local governments are facing huge budget deficits resulting from increased expenditures and declining revenues.  I don’t know that the future of the country will be determined by this election alone, but I do know that the current path is not sustainable. 

The U.S. government can’t continue to rack up trillion-dollar deficits each year without consequence.  There are no easy solutions, but the longer we wait, the more difficult and painful it will be.  The same principles apply to state and local governments.

I will not be so bold as to tell you whom you should vote for.  It’s your decision to make, but when it comes to fiscal matters, let me give you a couple of thoughts to consider before casting your ballot.

  • Look beyond soundbites and rhetoric.  Campaign ads and political speeches are intentionally vague and intended to mollify a wide range of people.  It will take some investigation, but it’s worth the effort to educate yourself about the candidates.
  • Examine voting records.  Although some candidates have never held public office, most of them have held some elective office.  See how they have voted on fiscal policy matters in the past.  Politicians are also notorious for saying whatever it takes to get elected and voting differently once elected.  A prior voting record is probably the best indicator of future behavior.
  • Ask questions.  You may not be able to ask the candidate directly, but you can call the campaign office, e-mail or check their website.  Here is a list of 10 questions you can ask a candidate to help determine if they are fiscally responsible.
  • Be specific.  Politicians talk in generalities.  It’s easy to say you’re in favor of fiscal restraint or a balanced budget, but exactly what measures do they support to achieve it? Speaking in general terms is easy, but setting priorities and making specific choices is difficult.
  • Character counts. It’s impossible for a candidate to address or even know every potential situation they will face while in office.  A person’s character dictates how they will respond when faced with difficult decisions. You may not personally know the candidates, but the way a person conducts themselves during a campaign provides insight into their character.
  • Use wisdom.  There are no perfect candidates, and it may be challenging to sort through all of the campaign rhetoric. If you lack clarity, pray and ask for wisdom. 

I support candidates who advocate fiscal responsibility and restraint, and I hope and pray this election will result in a significant increase in elected officials who are serious about tackling the deficits and fiscal challenges of our nation, even if it’s not popular.  I want people who are more interested in doing what’s best for the nation than what’s best for their personal ambitions.  I hope you do too.