Running for political office is interesting, to say the least! The conversations that I have with constituents often yield unexpected insights and frequently result in book recommendations. Among the books that I’ve recently read are “The Price of Inequality,” by Joseph Stiglitz, and “The Shock Doctrine,” by Naomi Klein, both of which detail the reasons for the vast divide between the “1 percent” and the “99 percent.” And while I could enumerate the often-heartbreaking details of these books, nobody likes a complainer, and I’m afraid this, too, is what I’m hearing a lot of lately as well.
So, no complaints, just solutions. But first the problem: the people on the “right” – often conservative Republicans – talk about eliminating regulations so that business enterprise can prosper and then money can trickle down to people with less. The people on the “left” – often progressive Democrats – say that this doesn’t work, our rights as humans are being trampled on and the only way to ensure some sort of economic parity is to guarantee benefits to people, minimally free, or subsidized, health care and education. But which way is correct, whose interests are more important, and why do people seem to be so angry and convinced that the “other side” is bad, ignorant or indifferent? This is the heart of identity politics, by the way, characterizing entire groups of people as one way or another, versus people who have many opinions on many issues that often do not align with one political or social leaning.
My challenge as a candidate for Congress is to find a centrist approach, one that is down the middle so that both sides can feel heard and reasonable people who are willing to compromise will feel compelled to do so. I think I have some solutions. In a word: choice. Choice equals liberty, and liberty equals freedom, which equals democracy. When it comes to some of the biggest issues including health care, education and crime, giving consumers a choice in whom they buy services and product from will inherently increase standards and lower prices.
Take health care: If a patient knows the price of a service being provided and can direct his/her insurance or cash to the lowest price, or best service, then the consumer benefits. The same applies to education: When a parent can decide where to send his/her child, whether to the local public school, a charter, STEM or parochial school, then the students will ultimately receive the best education possible when competition is part of the equation. With crime, if you decriminalize “victimless” crimes – marijuana use in particular – you allow people to choose what they ingest in their bodies and instead of treating people like criminals, those who become addicted can be treated for a medical condition. Our criminal justice system can then focus on capturing and incarcerating people who harm others. It is important to remember that any program that is automatic, where a check comes no matter what, lacks an incentive for the provider, recipient or certainly politicians to improve, optimize or economize.
If we want harmony, opportunity and security for all, then we need to bring some equilibrium to the equation and become better shepherds of our resources and that which does not belong to us. Because “government money” is actually money taken from “the people” whether they like it or not and redirected in ways that cause most people consternation today. If you want to have a say in how your money is spent addressing the problems of society, then seek out the candidates who are not beholden to parties, but ones who address principles and genuinely seek to simplify approaches that are sustainable and compassionate.