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My Opinion of Constituents

By John Guy on May 7, 2014 in Civic Blog
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Speech:W&J_Commencement_1929

“I am George Legislor, elected by you, my ‘people’ (voters, electors, constituents, you choose the name).  I here say what I think of you.

“You accuse me of ‘only wanting to be elected,’ ‘not representing the people,’  ‘bowing to special interests,’ ‘being a tool of lobbyists,’ ‘never seeing a tax I do not like,’ of ‘spending your money for bigger government, welfare, pork barrel and pet projects,’ of ‘scandal and unworthy personal life’ (as though my personal life is your business), ‘being a liberal socialist (or radical conservative),’ ‘being overpaid,’  ‘taking vacations at taxpayer expense,’ ‘lying and misusing or misunderstanding information,’ ‘pandering,’ ‘acting in my interest (not yours)’ and generally being a low life.

“You say things you would not say about your friends, family, colleagues, customers, and competitors, though some are jerks or worse.  But you feel license to say whatever you want about me, without research, context, or facts.  Now, my turn:

“First, I routinely talk to people you call lobbyists for special interests.  They, like you, have families, personal needs and points of view.  Like you, they are subject to public policy such as taxation, highway and road repair, pollution and personal safety.  However, unlike you, they are experts.  They know effects of government action; they explain to us who pays and who benefits.  They do not see two sides to every question.  They see multiple sides.  As representatives of an industry or company, they are intimately aware of the social/economic value of their work, and that such values are only meaningful with public support.  The public, you, my people, buy their products or services, or their businesses die.  Their interests are aligned with yours.  Legislators establish the context for their success, defined as filling your needs in the public and commercial market places.  We legislators do not want failure. Perhaps we need to incent with taxes and subsidies or we need to build the road and sewer systems to facilitate a new factory or warehouse. Every day, we wrestle with these issues, and many others.

“On an average each day, I discuss more than twenty five different, unique and independent, legislative issues; I receive more than 2,000 letters (and read those that are well presented, thorough, factual, and have logical conclusions).

“On the other hand, most of you send me complaints or petitions.  You want more health coverage, but protest costs and premiums.  You do not want the power plant next to you, but you want the power.  You want food in your grocery stores, but complain about the system of subsidies and incentives that moves food to your door.  You complain about incentives to oil companies, asking us to tinker with a distribution system that puts gasoline in your tanks.  You want your chuck holes filed right now, but someone else’s chuck hole?   Forget it.

“I am aware of complaints, but do not read them.  Why should I?  You offer no context, no solutions, no understanding of other persons’ points of view.  Your letters are scribbled; your emails are loaded with vitriol and hyperbole.  They reflect no sense of society, no context, no sensitivity to others.

“I respect you, sort of, at least to the extent that I must not offend, because either I or someone else needs your vote.  Yet I am sad for you.  You come to me aggressively with no care for the beliefs of others.  You have no concept of balance and compromise, instead declaring that your view is ‘the people’s’ view, while I, in the intense environment of legislative committees, attempt to find balance between opposing views. Is it not my job to formulate agreements for interest groups to work in harmony?

“Of course, harmony and social stability are not on your mind.  You want what you want.

You are especially aggressive on moral and social issues.  For many of you, a social issue is your only issue. You do not acknowledge, with humility, that gays and lesbians want to get married.  You do not consider that unwanted children start life in tough circumstances. You do not offer support or new programs for those who suffer under the burden of your social mores.

I could keep going, but let me end with this:  If you want me to seriously consider your needs, approach me judiciously, carefully, thoroughly, with facts, and with costs and benefits.  If you shout and attack me personally, forget it.  You have no chance to be heard.

John Guy is a certified financial planner, is author of “Middle Man, A Broker’s Tale,” and president of Indianapolis-based Wealth Planning & Management LLC. He regularly writes for the Indianapolis Business Journal and contributes to the Civic Blog.

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