BY TOM RAWLES | DECEMBER 22, 2010
The failure to acknowledge failure
Failure is not always a bad thing. At least it means you tried. And, almost always, there is a lesson to be learned from it, as painful as that lesson might be.
But, you have to be willing to look for the lesson and to learn from the failure. America has grown accustomed to failure, almost comfortable with it. But, we appear unwilling to recognize it when it arises, to learn from it and to change directions away from it.
How long must we continue demonstrably failed policies before the people say “enough is enough?” How long will we continue to:
• Adopt grossly unbalanced budgets and spend trillions of dollars we don’t have
• Print money to pay our government’s bills, leading to a never-to-be-paid and fiscally disastrous national debt
• Saddle future generations with an unconscionable tax burden
• Mortgage our national finances to foreign governments and entities
• Recognize that while state and local governments have all had to downsize, the federal government hasn’t even tried
• Treat entitlement programs as untouchable, sacred cows
• Interfere in the mortgage, banking, health care, education, and similar industries, ignoring the truism of when you screw with a market, you get a screwed up market
• Promulgate thousands and thousands of pages of regulations each year that stifle job creation, economic growth and prosperity for all
• Rely upon a complicated, confusing and incomprehensible tax code that costs billions of dollars to administer and billions more to comply
• Attempt to export democracy at the point of a bayonet (or, in the modern language of war, precision guided missiles)
• Pursue unwinnable wars in far off lands
• Fight the failed drug war to the tune of $50 billion a year
• Wage the failed war on poverty despite no progress in 45 years
• Accept intrusions into our personal liberties in the name of security
• Pay homage to the concept that the government is the solution to all of our problems
• Tolerate the idea that the job of every elected official is to get re-elected
• Engage in partisan gamesmanship that puts scoring debating points against the other side ahead of substantive and effective leadership
• Allow our national discourse to be dominated by hatred and fear rather than genuine dialogue and debate
• Ignore the truth that we, the people, are America, not Congress, not the President, not the government, but us; that it is us, not the government, that makes America great
Please don’t be lulled into believing that the Republicans claiming control of the House of Representatives at the last election is a cause for celebration. If we are honest with ourselves, we must remember that these failures have gone unnoticed and uncorrected during many years of Republican control of the government as well as when the Democrats held the reins of power.
There has been no ownership of these failures by either party. Oh, indeed, there has been partisan rhetoric, posturing and blamesmanship. But, there has been no action.
What we need is independent, realistic common sense. And, accountability.
Just to focus on one of these failures for a moment, we can no longer accept mere rhetoric about the budget deficit. We must have fiscal discipline and real cuts. We must spend no more money than we take in. The people we elect to Congress must make the hard budget decisions, putting the country above their own political survival. And, if they don’t do it, we must act; we must send them home at the next election, regardless of party, length of service or personal charisma.
The power lies with the people. Ultimately, so does the responsibility. If we continue to accept failure from our leaders without correction, we are to blame. And, the rebuke of history will be well deserved.
We have the responsibility of leaving to future generations an America better than it was when we inherited it. Right now, neither the elected officials nor the people are fulfilling that responsibility. And that, my fellow Americans, is the greatest failure of all.
Tom Rawles, practicing attorney and member of the Arizona Bar Association, has served a term as a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, a term as Councilmember on the Mesa City Council, and Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressman John J. Rhodes, III.