Mike Kueber's Blog

September 24, 2011

Good government

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:19 pm
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In Texas there is an old saying that there is nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.  In addition to coining that saying, former Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower also said, “The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity.  Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”  Hightower was our state’s colorful Ag Commissioner until some nondescript, obscure state rep defeated him in 1990 – Rick Perry.

Unfortunately, Hightower’s comments reflect the state of politics in America today, where government has become dysfunctional because of excessive partisanship and a refusal to look to look for common ground.  Instead of trying to achieve progress, too many politicians are focused on their side winning or the other side losing.  “Good government,” which traditionally has meant one that is functional and fair, has become a quaint notion.

A few weeks ago I blogged about a movement called No Labels that is trying to provide a counter-balance to the excessive partisanship  that currently afflicts America, but based on recent news reports, they face a difficult fight.

Earlier this week, Harold Meyerson’s column in Washington Post described a Republican effort in Pennsylvania to rig the Electoral College in favor of Republicans.  They would accomplish this by awarding electoral votes to the winner of each congressional district instead of awarding all of the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the state.  Although this may be a good idea from the perspective of good government, it is being analyzed, and will succeed or fail, on the basis of crass partisanship.

As Meyerson’s column mentions, these machinations with the Electoral College will amplify the significance of gerrymandered redistricting, which is already a travesty of good government.  As reported in the San Antonio Express-News today, the redistricting of congressional districts 23 and 27 is being litigated because it allegedly violates the Voting Rights Act.  Another recent article in the E-N described how Ron Paul’s  congressional district was carved up to punish him and provide a good opportunity for an ambitious state rep to challenge him.  Instead of fighting, Paul decided to retire.

And finally, a recent article in USA Today described how state legislators were employing a variety of techniques to feather their retirement nest.  Unfortunately, Texas was one of the worst violators.  Although its legislators make only $7,200 a year, they passed a law in 1981 that entitles them to a state pension based on the constructive fiction that their salary was actually equal to the salary of a state district judge, which is currently $125,000 a year.  By employing this sleight-of-hand, they have converted a part-time volunteer job into a lucrative career.

Although these examples have significant differences, they all fit in a discussion of “good government.”  Good government has a proud tradition going back to Thomas Jefferson, and then it enjoyed a revival due to NYC’s Tammany Hall.  But it will not magically reappear unless the voters insist on it.

1 Comment »

  1. You have identified two issues here: (1) dysfunctional government due to partisan politicians and (2) politicians who unjustly enrich themselves.

    (1) I have decided that a partisan dysfunctional government may be a good thing for the people. Government can’t do too much to us when politicians can’t get anything done due to their partisan bickering. It was Benjamin Franklin who said: “No man’s life, liberty or fortune is safe while our legislature is in session.”

    A few quotes from Thomas Jefferson on excessive government are somewhat relevant here:

    “I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.”
    “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
    “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
    “That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves.”

    (2) I agree with your issue/complaint about politicians taking care of themselves in devious ways. Another quote from Thomas Jefferson applies here, “Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

    Someone wisely once said: Politicians are like diapers; they both need to be changed regularly and for the same reason.

    Comment by Semolina Pilchard — September 24, 2011 @ 6:17 pm | Reply


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