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Reinventing government: Who has the will?

July 27, 2008|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

I remember hearing the old people tell their stories about the Great Depression. In my attic, I still have some of the old rationing coupons that my in-laws Leon and Ethel kept to remind them of those days when some 11,000 banks collapsed, unemployment was around 30 percent and food was scarce. Many of our citizens had lost their investments in the stock market, and life, in general, was very difficult for most Americans.

As I examine the political and economic landscape today, and the status of our spiraling economy, I wonder to myself if those conditions of the 1930s could possibly repeat themselves in my own lifetime.

People are looking at the large companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are in dire fiscal straits because of some questionable lending practices.

Our favorite uncle is looking for ways to help these lenders, and the economy. You also know there must be some alarm about the economy when the government starts sending you money back.

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General Motors, like Bethlehem Steel before it, is now requiring its retirees age 65 to get their Medical Insurance through Medicare and to buy their own supplemental policies.

Some other strange things are happening.

People see the large amount of debt that the country has accumulated. Foreign countries are lending us money, and buying our properties and businesses. What? Belgium is now making our beer! We seem helpless to stop this self-destructive behavior.

Our citizens continue to watch a government where stories of waste and abuses are calculated in the billions of dollars. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember the estimated waste of taxpayer dollars?

People watch the stock market daily and hope for some recovery.

Two individuals running for president tell you how they propose to fix the problems, when both come from the establishment where many of the problems were created in the first place. For some reason, I don't feel encouraged.

Who really is prepared to step forward to make our government more efficient and less wasteful?

I read in our local paper where people are incensed when a Hagerstown City Council representative gets a warning for speeding in Hagerstown, instead of a ticket. People are upset with the obvious politics of the incident.

One of the interesting sidebars, however, is that the same council member has received some criticism because she has questioned the city's "take home" vehicle policy.

Looking for ways to reduce waste and providing a more efficient form of government should be a daily responsibility of all our representatives. She is apparently taking her responsibility seriously in this regard. The county and state should do the same. All affected taxpayers, in consideration of their tax contributions, should expect some accountability for their dollars.

Before this economic mess is over and done, I suspect there will be bigger issues to tackle than "take home vehicles." Who among our leaders and representatives have the vision to come forward and look for better ways to become more efficient?

In 1992, I remember reading a book entitled "Reinventing Government." This book was written with examples provided on how government might become more efficient. It might be a good idea to retrieve this text from the shelf.

Will there be another economic depression like the '30s?

Who knows? As the confidence of the taxpayer continues to erode, revenues will continue to decrease. Unfortunately, this time around, I don't see any Franklin D. Roosevelt coming to our rescue.

Is it time to reinvent government? I believe it is! Who has the will to come forward to do it? Time will tell.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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