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Conservatives, Quit Complaining and Start Walking the Talk: Domestic Agenda

February 1, 2004

As the presidential campaigns heat up this year, I am hearing much frustration on the radio airwaves and from friends who are all fellow conservatives.

In this article, let's look at the domestic agenda and how we can better Walk the Talk. Next edition, I will address the foreign policy agenda.

The concerns: Bush is not spending like a conservative. Examples: More money for the NEA; Drug benefits in Medicare are going to skyrocket the budget; Education, clearly a local issue in our minds, is receiving more and more federal mandates and in some cases dollars; Bush expanded the cabinet/bureaucracy instead of closing one down to start up the new one; …. I could go on but most of you know the list well.

I agree with all these concerns and believe we do have to register them with the elected officials on our side of the aisle. As Ronald Reagan re-taught us, words have meanings: "Tear down this wall", "evil empire". What RR added to those words were actions and that is the point of this article. We conservatives need to continue our talk/complaints/rhetoric, but we need to also start taking actions, i.e., Walking the Talk, based on our beliefs.

If we do not act like conservatives and just continue to moan and groan about how the federal government is screwing us and demand that it change, we are acting like liberals. They see Washington as the great solution provider. We do not.

Yes, Washington can handicap us with over regulation and taxation, but as story after story about American POWS, front line GI's, entrepreneurs, etc tell us, we Americans are more creative and smarter than any strict rules and bureaucracy. We, therefore, need to get creative and use the tools we have to build a conservative way of life and not let federal power hold us down.

How to do this?

Support the arts you want to see flourish. If we want more Norman Rockwell and less Roger Mapplethorpe, let your checks and ticket buying reflect it. The market is our best tool.

Go to your local school board and ask for a copy of their school district's budget. Expect resistance. I did this for the nearby highly rated school district before our son started kindergarten. They stonewalled me. Told me I had to come into the office and look at the budget at the counter. No copies could be made. Etc. All this for PUBLIC documents. When we visited the local catholic school open house, we got a clear "Here is the tuition, here is what you get" picture. You can guess our decision.

Analyze the budget. I did this back in my San Francisco GOIP chairmanship days when teachers were complaining of low pay and found over 100 administrative employees with $100K+ salaries. It became an issue there.

Want to privatize Social Security? Well, you can now do it now for your medical services, so do it! Plan your life like you will not need Medicare. Bush and the Congressional GOP gave us a wonderful tool to control our own lives in the Medicare bill: Health Savings Accounts. You probably know the particulars. My family has been using the predecessor Medical Savings Accounts for two years. It reduces our taxes but also, it makes US make medical decisions, not some insurance/HMO company. We ask what a procedure costs before proceeding. X-rays cost $50, MRI's $1500. Doctor friends tell me privately that x-rays are as effective 90+% of the time. I recently asked my doctor for his advice on what exams I need at age 50. You read the literature and you can add up $1000+ in advice. After haggling and having straight talk discussions, we came up with a plan that costs $100. The lesson here? Take control of your medical requirements. We have the tools to do it. Kids get sick, get hurt, etc. Let them cycle through those things the way you and I did as kids. Running to the doctor every time is sapping out freedom and not training the kids to understand that life has its bumps so learn to work through them.

Lastly, to you conservative businessmen. You don't like Washington bureaucracy, then quit relying on the Department of Commerce and Depart of Transportation and … to get things done for you. Be creative and entrepreneurial and figure out ways to do it yourself. A classic example is the appearance of short line railroads in the country. Federally controlled bureaucracies put such a stranglehold on railroad companies over the years that they could not operate local trunk lines. So, they closed them. Short line railroad companies came in, bought the track/rights and with less federal bureaucracy impeding them, are running them successfully.

My soapbox is starting to sag, so I will conclude. We need to start taking advantage of those conservative "loopholes"/opportunities we have. Let's show Washington we can finance and manage our own health care. Let's show that we can be creative an d fair at the same time. Moaning and groaning only freezes us into complainers not doers, just like it has to liberals.

Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.