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Lessons in How Conservatives Should (or Not!) Legislate and Help Citizens in Need

February 15, 2004

One of the lessons we conservative voters have learned since 2000 is that Republican elected officials still have in their heads that being conservative means doing something the Democrats do but "better", i.e. spend more than the Dems would.

Let's look at two recent and familiar examples:

1. The increased spending in the federal budget for education, a pet Democrat objective. Bush and our Congress have done that more than any other president and/or Congress. We all know that increased spending does not solve the education problem.
2. The increased Medicare drug benefit. Estimates now claim this one benefit will add $1 trillion to federal spending over the next ten years. We all know that in 10 years the Medicare drug "problem" will still not be "solved".

Instead of spending this article rehashing all the ways the above could have been accomplished without acting like liberal spenders, I will focus on two issues that are close to home here in Tennessee. I hope to show how elected GOP officials can avoid the trap of thinking only like a liberal when compassionate issues arise.

Carrier Corporation recently announced that it is closing a 1000 employee assembly plant located 35 miles north of where I live. That is 1000 men and women out of well paying union jobs. Assuming an average family size of four, then another 3000 people are personally affected. That is a lot of grocery store revenues, property tax revenues, school kids, etc. The initial reaction (fueled by union officials) was that here is another example of Bush selling out good paying jobs to foreign countries. WRONG! Carrier is sending most of the work to Texas and Virginia and yes some to Mexico. So instead of acting like a liberal and blaming BIG BUSINESS and the GOP and NAFTA and …, let's look at a good conservative approach to the problem. (P.S. The only people to blame are the consumers who want to pay $1200 for a new central AC unit instead of $2000!)

First, it is a real problem. 4000 Tennesseans are threatened by the decision. The solution is to quickly and immediately mobilize (like we do for hurricanes and tornados) state community colleges, job retraining programs, local banks, and many other affected institutions to plan to help the employees begin redirecting their skills and careers. In Tennessee there are multiple programs of retraining that for the most part sit idle, so let's put them to work and demand that they perform. Multiple careers in a life time are the norm not the exception these days. Constant schooling, not just ages 6-18/22, is a requirement for all of us to grow in our careers. Losing a job you like and re-directing your career is not always fun. It may require relocating and different expectations. I know because I did it 10 years ago. And it has worked out well.

Another compassionate issue here in Tennessee is the cry to eliminate "junk" food vending in the public schools. The state legislature is pontificating about it daily. Who can argue with the thought here? It seems so "the right thing to do". The conservative response here should be that IT IS NOT THE STATE LEGISLATURE'S BUSINESS! Schools should be a classic institution of local control. My peeve with federal education spending is that it insidiously saps local control from the community. If citizens in a school district want to rid their schools of "junk" food, then let them force the issue. If their school boards refuse, then run candidates that will do it. "For the children" is a liberal disguise for centralizing whatever the issue. Stand up to it.

(Last article I stated that I would continue my thoughts on how to act like a conservative in the foreign policy arena. I had to move that article out one more edition due to a research problem that is slowing down the writing on that article. Look for it 3/1/04.)

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.