The elections of 2012 are behind us, but before I begin treating my new subject, business, and in particular the concepts of leadership, teamwork, customer satisfaction, and employee morale, I will allow myself a few observations on those elections.
Observation 1: Although the election campaigns were seemingly endless, little of substance was discussed. Most of the major party candidates, including those running for president, spent most of their time attacking each other. The message seemed to be, "a vote for my opponent is a vote for misery and hopelessness." Those candidates who did take a principled stand – Ron Paul against wars and military bases world-wide or Paul Ryan for a voucher plan for Medicare, and I'm sure there were others – were instantly caricatured and demonized.
Observation 2: Many critical issues were addressed only at the ragged edges or not at all. The goals, return on investment, and criteria for success of our foreign wars received scant attention. The concept of balancing environmental concerns with energy investments was not discussed. Taxes were discussed, in the context of our federal deficit, but tax reform and the incentives and disincentives of our current system were not addressed. The deficit was put forward as a central problem, when in fact it masks the central issue of government spending and the transfer of funds from the public to the private sector, from young to old, and from those who work to those who do not. Immigration and so-called undocumented aliens received only passing mention even though many of these people have become an integral part of our economy.
Observation 3: Less than two weeks after the election, as we approach an automatic reduction in government spending coupled with tax hikes, the so-called "fiscal cliff," the standoff between the major political parties threatens a re-run of the Affordable Care Act, the so-called "Obama care." In the latter case, early in the president's first administration, health reform was pursued with the objective of insuring the un-insured and those thought to be uninsurable (with "pre-existing conditions"). In the battle over whether and how to do this, a rare opportunity to decrease the cost of the current system (if we can call it that) was missed. The ACA does not address outsized malpractice awards, government subsidies to private industry for health insurance (which drive up prices in general and the cost of insurance for those who don't work for favored companies in particular), and a lack of competition across state lines by insurance companies.
The fiscal cliff offers an opportunity – in the shadow of a growing government burden on the citizenry – to discuss just how big government should be and how we can pay for it without crushing our young workers under unbearable debt and taxes. However, early signs are that one party is obsessed with tax rates rather than tax reform and the other is obsessed with preserving our current system of redistribution of funds from young to old, and from workers to non-workers. Moreover, most legislators are hesitant to reduce the Defense Department budget, even though they know that DoD acquisition does not deliver excellent products or services to our armed forces.
Observation 4: A ray of hope, buried in the election returns, was the showing of the Libertarian Party, the party of limited government, separation of church and state, and individual responsibility; they attack issues rather than people. They represent a necessary force, however small, an island of sanity, and an alternative to the major parties which are living in the past. The Libertarian Party is a force for constructive change, desperately needed now more than ever. Even if it never becomes a "major party," the Libertarian Party is already a candidate to be the conscience of our nation.