We have just held our elections, and our elected representatives are preparing to govern us. All Oregonians wish to have “good government.” What is “good government?” What do we wish our government to do? What are the criteria by which we are to judge our elected government officials? How do we determine if our elected representatives are providing good government?
American-style government is unique in human history. Our uniqueness is not in the concept of democracy, but in the relationship between government and its people. In the previous history of mankind, government controlled the direction of a society. The American experiment is to put the people in charge of government, to keep the power of society in the hands of the people, and to have the government “serve” the people. The majority of the resources of America’s society are in the hands of the people, giving the people the tools by which to shape their own lives.
It is difficult for many leaders in Oregon’s government to remain true to our founding principles of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Too many leaders believe that government should be in charge, that government should control the majority of our resources, and that government should decide the direction of our society. Look back at the original settlers who came to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in the 1800’s. Those pioneers felt that government and society had become too controlling in their home states. They left and came to Oregon because they yearned for greater freedom. They came to Oregon for land and for the ability to live lives free from government interference. Oregonians have always sought the freedom to live their lives as they wish to live.
What should be the focus of good state government in Oregon?
The first focus must always be public safety. We must be free to move about Oregon without concern of being physically harmed. We must provide law enforcement with all necessary resources, and we must build bonds of trust between the citizens and law enforcement.
The second focus of Oregon’s state government must be to provide excellent K-12 education and training. Compulsory public education is a conservative value that was first established in the American colonies in the 1600’s. Our centrally controlled, highly bureaucratized, one size fits all education system fails far too many Oregon children. It begs for real reform.
Oregon’s state government must ensure excellent infrastructure. Clean water and excellent sewage systems are a must. Our gas and electric energy infrastructure must be up to date and well maintained. We must have more road capacity and better maintenance of existing roads.
A robust economy throughout all regions of our state is the basis of a stable, thriving Oregon. Government must be an ally of private sector job creation, encouraging entrepreneurs to build and grow businesses. The dignity of working in a good public or private sector job contributes to self-esteem, to self worth, and is the basis for a good and successful life.
Finally, our government must learn to be frugal. Our current leadership tells us that the almost $2 billion dollar increase in taxes collected by our state government for the 2017-2019 biennium budget, a very generous 8% increase in the amount of money collected through taxation of working citizens, is not enough to maintain existing state government services. State government says it needs $1.7 billion dollars more, for a total of $3.7 billion dollars. A 15% increase in spending, just to maintain current service levels? While state government needs a 15% increase in revenue, the average Oregonian’s wage increases is only 2%. Oregon government spending should not be growing more rapidly than the wage growth of its citizens. More money for state government means less money for Oregon citizens’ pockets. True respect by a government of its people is wise and frugal spending of those hard-earned tax dollars. Too many state government leaders do not respect the hard work and the generous contribution of tax revenue to Oregon’s government by her citizens. Government leaders just demand more, and more, and more.
As citizens, we have the obligation to understand and to shape the political process to ensure that our elected representatives govern wisely. Wise governing leads to a society with equality, justice, and opportunity for all citizens.