Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What Are We Doing?

This post and my outrage is not about my personal support of certain issues but rather the time our governmental bodies are dithering on the relatively less important issues.

I am leaving any thoughts on solutions to perhaps a later post.

My frustrations permeate almost all levels of government.

Our school board is bogged downed squabbling about school start dates. The City is yacking about restricting food trucks. County government is bogged down figuring out how to have fair elections. (It isn’t that complicated We know how to do it. We have had fair elections in South Dakota since statehood. Election problems were caused by unpreparedness and election officials’ mistakes – some who took responsibility and some who did not.)  

The State Legislature spends inordinate time on concealed weapons. We have one of the most pro gun concealed carry laws in the nation.  Is security in the State Capitol in jeopardy? Our Legislature wants to abolish the U S Department of Education (which they have zero power to do) and they are spending lots of committee time, discussion and public engagement on restricting rare almost non-existent abortions. Our federal government is playing political one upsmanship putting national security at risk over the debate on the immigration issue.  

Feelings on these issues vary greatly. Feelings on some are intense, some issues are very personal, and some issues are simply political wedge issues. A lot of time, energy, and political capital are being wasted at the expense of much bigger problems.

South Dakota K-12 education is not doing their job. (Before my school and educator friends put me on their unwelcome list remember School people play the hand they are dealt. It’s up to the Legislature and School Boards to effect policy and change. Taxpayers provide the money.) At South Dakota Universities, about 30 percent of South Dakota High School graduates require remedial work. Should not our Legislature and School Boards be having discussions and taking significant action on high school grads not being ready for higher ed?. Maybe our School Board ought to be working not on when school starts but why the school year isn’t longer or standards higher?

In South Dakota our jails are full. Minnehaha County increasingly is spending more of its budget on incarceration costs. The County has noticed some of the neighboring tenant Counties and they may be turning away their prisoners. Brown County also has said they are nearing over capacity. While all the evidence is not in on our Criminal Justice reforms (and they must be given a chance), new jails may still have to be built or criminals turned lose.

Locally exacerbating the jail problem, the crime rates in the City of Sioux Falls have risen dramatically. The City has been reluctant to admit there is even a problem and public safety has been given a lower priority than development issues.  Despite a 58% growth rate in crime, little focus and less discussion has been given this important basic problem?

Federally our most important issue seems to be a pipeline (that I support and think is a no brainer) while foreign policy is dismissed. We may be on the brink or WWIII (or maybe its already started and we just have not recognized it yet). No one seems to be working of finding solutions to our persistent federal deficits or needed social security reforms  whose fiscal magnitude is overwhelming

Particularly frustrating to me is that despite all the effort (public and private) and the billions of dollars that are spent, people are hungry in America. We have literally thousands of federal programs and grants for practically every imagined and even unimagined purposes yet many people among us including large numbers of children remain hungry.

With all the smart people and our smart elected officials why can’t we even fix this most basic welfare need? For perspective, as a national problem where does hunger rate say compared to the 17 percent default rate on Student Loans over $100,000, the oil depletion allowance, or the space program?

The point of this rant is that we need to focus government and politics on our Big Problems not sideshows. Way too much time is being spent on the mice while we ignore the elephants. The elephants being America’s  kids are falling behind in education, our jails are full, and the world is a dangerous place. And Oh Yes, we are spending billions on food assistance but people are still hungry.

We can solve these problems but we must first give them priority; and then summon the political courage, dedication, and statesmanship to solve them