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Monday, June 8, 2009

Political Fearmongering

This past weekend our church hosted Dr. Terry Cole-Whittaker, new thought guru, inspirational speaker, motivator and someone who just has her head on right. She conducted a few workshops and on Sunday gave the sermon to the congregation. Dr. Terry's main message is that we are trapped in thought and because we are trapped in thought our potential is limited to the thoughts that trap us. Freeing ourselves from negative thoughts and thinking frees us to attain what we desire in life and gives us the freedom to be ourselves and be truly happy.

Advertising and marketing are created and presented to capture our thoughts and evoke emotional responses that in turn cause us to purchase products and services or what we think of someone or something. Hum a jingle, re-use a slogan, repeat what is now known as a "talking point" and the marketers and advertisers have done their job. Punch a certain hole in a ballot and the marketers and advertisers have done their job; always punch the same or similar hole in a ballot and they have really done their job as they have hooked you on a party the same way Phillip Morris hooks others on cigarettes.

Dr. Terry spoke about the fearmongering that surrounds us. Creating a sense of doom and failure if certain events happen or do not happen, many of which are far exaggerated to create false power for those creating the fear. Politicians, especially in California state politics where there is no competition for the elected officials, excel at fearmongering and delivering the message of fear. Their purpose is to get you to trust them to protect and save you from the evil that awaits if you do not react as they wish.
Paramount in the fearmongering process is the budget process that consumes our state every year. Every year members of the California Legislature majority, aided by their friends in the major media in the state, tell us all that we will lose in this state if they are not allowed to spend more money. Eventually a few members of the minority cave in to the pressure and pass a budget that increases spending in California and because the spending was not cut enough services are not expanded enough, and the following year we must spend even more money.

This year we finally have arrived at a breaking point. After a decade of increasing spending against increasing revenue elected officials are finally faced with declining revenue. Incredibly their first reaction is to raise taxes on citizens struggling in a declining economy. They hammered us with fearful messages of taking away funding for education, health care and public safety. With a payroll that has ballooned to 235,000 employees in the state we are told to pay even higher taxes so each of them can keep their jobs, providing fewer services than a decade ago when the state payroll barely reached 150,000 employees.

As the June 30th fiscal year end rapidly approaches and a budget is one again ready to be debated and deadlines missed, and payments from the state to hospitals and local school districts are withheld, we can count on more fearful messages eminating from Sacramento. Messages that we must raise taxes or we will see funding for hospitals cut, but no state employees, funding for schoold districts cut, but no state employees. To protect their greatest financial supporters the majority in the Legislature, aided by the media and the Governor, will give us messages of fear and hope we support their protecting the employment of many in a wasteful beauracracy.

Our state government is filled with inefficiencies and waste. Health care delivery in local communities is severely hampered by state workers and regulations that waste billions of dollars that could, and should, be delivered to local health care providers. Instead tens of thousands of workers are supported at the state level monitoring a system they created so they can have something to monitor. Education is hampered for the same reasons with the state employing thousands of workers who having nothing to do with educating a child, but rather exist to create a beauracracy to monitor the school districts who could use those funds.

Enough with governing by telling us all the bad things that will happen. It is time for our elected officials to quit talking and start working. Instead of putting fear into the citizens of the state put the fear into the managers of all the programs and departments you have created, fear that they need to be more efficient and waste less of our tax dollars or they will lose their jobs. Instead of trying to gain our support by using fear to show why we need more spending, our politicians need to show us the positive results from their working with senior state leadership to pare spending and payroll.

Across the state businesses are making hard decisions to become more efficient and stay open. Meanwhile they are facing increasing expenses from a group of politicians in Sacramento afraid to make those same hard decisions. Unfortunately with no competition in their elections for office due to gerrymandered districts, fearmongering works. Voters always punch the hole with the (D) or (R) next to it--over 65% voting (D) in California, and keep electing the same person year after year after year. Sure the name may change but the person filling the seat is no different than the person who filled it before.

As we approach a new round of elections in 2010 California voters need to ignore the messages of "incumbent" and party affiliation and instead start looking at the person, the actual person, on the ballots. Are they participating in politics of fear? Will they continue the same failed policies and politics that have led our state to where it is today? Did you vote for "change" in 2008 but are willing the punch a ballot for "same" in 2010? Would you rather have leadership that is telling you all the bad things that can happen if they do not get their way, or a leader telling you all the good thing that will happen if you join them and elect them to office?

Dr. Terry's message is very true in a democracy, we get what we desire and what we think we desire. Our government failure is a result of voter failure to discern the facts from the messages. To reward the politics of fearmongering that has proven successful thereby perpetuating the message and the process have proven successful by the voters and therefore will continue--until voters decide to stop listening to the messages delivered by those with the most to benefit from our believing those messages.

We can attain what we want--honest governance, solid public fiscal management, safe streets and schools, quality healthcare and education. We can attain these things as soon was we as a people decide to elect those people who want the same things. We can attain these things as soon as we decide to quit electing those who enrich a few while impovershish the many, trapping them in fearful thinking and reactions.



Charles S said...

I don't know if you intentionally omitted the use of entitlements to buy votes by our current slate of state leaders, but many of them, from local to federal, use this tactic. As a society, it seems that the "masses" have succumbed to the level of asking "what's in it for ME"? Marketing and advertising has achieved its goals by planting this question in the "masses'" mind.

The successful politicians are always able to promise/offer something, but rarely delivering. Until we can get beyond this mentality of "NOW" and start planning for the future, we are doomed. The "I want it, and I want it now" behavior with easy financing and lots of forgiveness has diminished our values and sense of responsibility and accountability. Keep of the good work, always thought provoking.

Gabriella said...

Dennis, I love your blog. It is always very thought provoking and inspiring. This particular post is very inspirational and I couldn't agree with you more. It is time that we the people determine our movement forward and free us from this "fearmongering".

Our elected officials are always telling us that Armageddon is upon us if we do not continue to tax and spend ourselves into oblivion. If we vote no on taxes our children will become illiterate, healthcare will be obliterated, the streets will flood with criminals, and my oh my the sky will fall.

Well, the more money electeds get, the poorer they perform. It's not about money. It's about integrity and public benefit. Things our electeds have long forgotten. Time to clean house and start over. If our children become illiterate because there is no money for education, if healthcare is obliterated because there is no money, if the California sky falls because there is no the fruit of our electeds labor...not the lack of generosity of the taxpayer. It's time we stand up and let all our electeds be counted in taking full responsibility for this economic downspiral.

We need them to quit squawking and start working. We, the people know our potential is unlimited and must demand the same of our electeds to pursue our unlimited potential.

Consequence for failure to perform...change the legislature to start...elect citizen legislators who have jobs in the real world, and let's pay them for the time they work - 120 days worked gets 120 days paid. Now, it's 120 days worked with full time pay. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Anonymous said...

Cal Poly Pomona sent notification recently that summer school was cancelled at that campus due to budget issues. Any students wanting to take a course to graduate or to complete a prerequisite have to do this later and Fall schedules need to be modified. Now you can call this fear mongering, but I think it is related to union issues. In my opinion, there has been marginal reductions in administrative expenses at four- year state colleges as the union prioritizes exactly what employee positions can be eliminated if funds are not available. Over 40% of faculty teach part-time and they are the first to go. That means fewer courses, larger classes and longer time for students to complete requirements. Full-time administrative staff almost never get laid off so % of expenses for administration by definition rise. The only way to cut this unnecessary expense is to close the school during the summer and furlough all unnecessary administrative FTEs. Now the Democratic politicians are not directly responsible for this administrative waste, but properly negotiating with the union is difficult without political support.

As to too much administrative costs, there are many social programs where fraud is contagious, such as paying family members to take care of their disabled relatives. We need to monitor whether workers are getting paid for actual work or submitting excess time or have deceased relatives. There is too much fraud in Medicaid program as well. Hopefully, the Governor will simply eliminate the entire family care program and tighten access for Medicaid patients to get admitted to nursing homes. The middle class can't afford to pay for nursing homes, why are lower classes entitled to it?

John Greet said...

Whenever the Governor threatens to "close down State government" I roundly applaud the decision. What we need is a lot less governMENT and a lot more responsible governING.

Whenever government gets "shut down" it's done so by closing so-called "Non-essential functions, programs and services".

The obvious question for me is: If they're non-essential, why is government doing or providing them in the first place?

If we can afford to shut any government operation down without significantly compromising public safety, public health or infrastructure maintenance, then that's a government operation we shouldn't be paying to operate at all.

Those truly and ultimately responsible for these current fiscal challenges are not the elected, but the *elctorate*, a majority of which consistently votes in such a way as to attempt to permit government to be all things to all provide them with funds and programs and services that they either cannot or will not lawfully acquire for themselves.

The Founders never envisioned this to be governments role in society.

How truly far we have fallen.