Monday, February 04, 2008

A cautionary word for the 2008 election

The UU Blogosphere is full of hopeful posts about Barack Obama. Perfectly understandable. But they are basing much of their hopes on his ability to change things in America- which is a mistake, and one that could lead to bad feelings in the future. As important as the choice for President is, it’s not the most important choice in front of you in 2008. Not even close.

More important are your choices for House and Senate. The President cannot spend a single dime unless they give it to him, he cannot start a war they don’t give their approval to, he cannot give an executive order they cannot override. In the end, all power is invested in the Congress- even the Supreme Court can be forbidden to rule upon Congressional order. And you cannot depend upon your political party to make a wise choice of candidates; both parties have held power in the last ten years, and neither one has covered itself in glory.

More important still, if you really want things to change, are your local races. A great deal of ink, airtime, and bandwidth will be spent debating the Presidential Candidates’ tax plans, and yet for those of us in the bottom 75% of wage earners, our Federal income tax bills will be meaningless compared to our state and local taxes; many in the bottom 50% with families will pay no Federal income tax at all after Earned Income Tax Credits, etc. It was not President Bush nor Speaker Pelosi who increased my property taxes by $3,000.00 this year, (that’s not the total, that’s the increase), nor was it they who increased the County income tax by 65%- and neither McCain nor Obama will be able to lower them.

Much will be made of the candidates’ education programs- and yet it is not they who build the schools, hire the teachers, select the books, buy the buses- or float the bonds to pay for all those things. The candidates will speak of new or expanded programs for the poor- but it will be the Township (or Ward or Parish, depending on your state) Trustee administering those programs who will make them a success or failure. The candidates will speak of law and order, but it is not they who will decide between new patrol cars or funding the police pension plan. They will talk of bridges to the future- but it will be the local Public Safety and Transportation Commissioners who fix the real bridges we depend upon to get to work.

In Indiana, every facet of government is run by an elected official- counting all levels, we have over 11,000 elected officials. While that’s more than average, there’s not a state East of the Mississippi that has fewer than 6,000- I guarantee that if you look it up, the total number in your state will shock you- especially since I know that you have no idea who they are. Here in Indy, a billion dollars will be spent this year by people no one outside of a few political junkies knows, most of whom ran unopposed... and the same thing is true in your town. Meanwhile, the average citizen votes only in Presidential years- and then says the system is broken when nothing changes.

Let this pattern be broken in 2008. Learn the names of the people who will affect your daily life, and let them know that you know... fix your Ward, your Township, your City, your County, your State- and see how much your life changes, regardless of the presidency!

5 comments: said...

good points
I wish local politics were covered more. I know almost nothing about them.

Cee Jay said...

You make a very important point here! I just attended a local Democratic Groundhog Rally to introduce people to the candidates who would be running in our primary here in OH. I was very happy to see some young candidates with enthusiasm and some great credentials in terms of experience and education.

We also need to remember that we need people of character who are willing to run for office. I am always thankful when I see good candidates from either party who are willing to put their name and ideas out there. Those local offices don't pay that well and the people who are in them often take a lot of abuse from the public. I know the school board does.

Bill Baar said...

The Obama enthusiasts are setting themselves up for a real crash.

He's not going to be so progressive sounding in the general and he's going to carry a lot of baggage from Illinois with him. We could well be having a constitutional crisis in Illinois with a sitting Gov indicted based on Rezko's testimony. It will be a real disaster for Dems.

Joel Monka said...

Discoveruu: Electronic media never cover the local races unless there's a juicy scandal involved, because it's not a ratings-getter. Hopefully, your newspapers will have bios printed on or the day before election day- but I know not all do. Maybe we can agitate for an official Election Board Website, where the candidates can post bios?

Cee Jay: Yes, getting candidates can be a problem. But oddly enough, some of the jobs one's never heard of pay quite well, while even a Mayorality may not- there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to it.

Bill: I agree the hardcore Obama supporters will not be happy when he runs towards the center in the general election, which of course he will. I don't know what to think about the Illinois situation; I'm just not well enough informed.

Steph M said...

Joel: There actually is a website where people can find out contact information about their elected officials - national, state, and local. Includes an area for all the different issues posted entirely by users, too; doesn't seem to be partisanly run. And posts candidate bio info when elections come around -- though, of course, it depends on the candidates to actually give their information.