“Politics is the art of taking money from one group of people and giving it to another–preferrably those who vote for you.”

I don’t know where that saying came from. I remember we talked about it in a political science class I took a long time ago. It does seem to convey a reality that goes back several thousand years, though.

I have not followed the contest for the Republican nomination for U.S. President very closely–just some snippets of news and headlines. And recently there was a flurry of news when President Obama gave his State of the Union address. And the news headlines from that debate juxtaposed with news headlines about the economy started me thinking–always a bad thing.

Staring at reality

The headlines and first paragraphs of the politicians talking did not match the economic news the paper was reporting the same day.

First, Dr. Henry Cloud in his book “Necessary Endings” identifies three types of people–the wise, the fool, the evil. Let’s forget the evil one right now and look at his definition of wise and fool. The wise person sees reality and adjusts to it. In other words, if reality says I’m either wrong or going the wrong direction, I change. The fool sees reality and bends it to fit him. In other words, if reality says I’m wrong, then I’m not reading reality right and must change it to fit my perception of it. For example, in our fitness center there is a scale. It does not give a consistent reading of your weight. People will get on several times looking for it to give the weight they want. I’ve even seen people adjust the balance part to set the scale differently.

As I was just reading in David Allen’s (Getting Things Done guy) book “Ready for Anything,” J. Krishnamurti said, “Discipline does not mean suppression and control, nor is it adjustment to a pattern or ideology. It means the mind sees ‘what is’ and learns from ‘what is’.”

Root Cause Analysis

Then it dawned on me–they all are discussing symptoms, not causes. The topic of the day is cutting the budget in order to balance it. But everyone seems to revert back to that political science maxim that I quoted above. They all seem to think they can achieve the objective by cutting other people’s federal benefits.

First off, I saw this equation from an economic analysis:

(cost of fighting the wars) + (cost of Bush tax cuts) = (amount of the deficit)

No one really acknowledges this. Those of you who are around my age will remember the economic problems of the late sixties that bled into the seventies with Lydon Johnson’s refusal to ask for American people to sacrifice to fund the war in Viet Nam. The program was called “Guns and Butter”–that is, we could do both. Well we couldn’t.

Same thing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and Obama did not ask the American people to sacrifice to fund the wars. We tried to fund the wars along in addition to other programs without raising taxes. Hmm, don’t think that worked, either.

But more to the point, it just seemed that everyone was talking symptoms. What if they applied root cause analysis to the system. I bet that there is so much overlap in offices and regulations that huge cost reductions could be achieved. I understand how huge and complex Washington has gotten. But we just keep papering over problems or try to solve with grandiose schemes.

We know what happens when we do that in business–it suffers or fails.

It’s not about cutting abstract dollars that you can use to score debate points with your constitutency. It’s about digging into the foundations. But, that is hard work. Probably won’t get you votes next year.

Oh, well, back to the campaign.

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