Is there really ‘no longer enough for all’ in state and nation?

| Kathy Tomlin | July 21, 2011 | 0 Comments

loaves and fishes

Summertime in Minnesota is typically a time to push back a bit and enjoy the blessings of the sun. This summer, however, has been anything but typical. And I am not referring to the weather — more the atmosphere, the political climate that is weighing on all of us.

By and large the issue before us is about the role of government in the protection and promotion of the common good. But the focus of the conversation has centered largely on the scarcity of resources. The predominant wisdom is that there is no longer enough for all.

To be sure, there are huge budgetary concerns related to the aging of our population, rising health care costs and the uncertainty about whether the economy will ever be able to have sufficient jobs to support workers and supply those  workers with a wage sufficient to care for their families. As things currently stand, we are not taking in enough in revenues to deal with the needs of the state.

The business of government

In addition to our concerns about the balance between spending and revenue, we should be compelled to  examine the way we do the business of government in the protection of the citizenry.

Minnesota, in particular, has a long held history that extols the virtues of public-private partnerships in advancing education, human development, health care, social services,  technology and the sciences. In the last 10 years, the Legislature has convened any number of special commissions to study and make recommendations for reform on health care, tax structure, long-term care, education, etc. The problem is that, for the most part, many very solid reform principles and frameworks have been left on the shelf or in the digital file.

Facing these large questions requires long-term thinking and planning. This ability to “re-position” ourselves, however, conflicts with the very nature of our political calendars. Pursuing the two-year election and budgeting cycles focused more on party ideology, party bosses and politicking doesn’t create the space for good planning.

Combined with a mixture of facts and myths, these election months turning into years can often yield  misleading identification of the problems we face and simplistic solutions.

Both the state and the nation need bipartisan leadership focused on the quality of life that we expect to enjoy and how governments can balance reform, a fair tax structure and spending cuts. It seems unreasonable to arbitrarily hold the line on spending without having the conversation about the needs of the state and the revenue it will take to meet the needs.

Looking to the future 

It also seems unreasonable to arbitrarily decide to expand revenue without doing the quality planning that will streamline services and develop more innovative ways of doing the work.

Most businesses and non-profits know that it takes investment to do planning that is thoughtful, engages the right people and communicates recommendations clearly.

It also takes leadership to provide the framework and information to persuade the public about the rationale for the direction, the investment and cost-benefit of not continuing to do things the same old way.

Going forward, it would be good to:

  • Ask for charity — treating each other as travelers along the way, rather than vilifying each other.
  • Ask for patience — while we try to shake the cement of “my way or the highway” from our shoes.
  • Ask for bold courage — because that is how faithful leadership is defined.

Kathy Tomlin is director of the Office for Social Justice of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: Faith and Justice