Winners never quit and quitters never win

Opinion

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Carl Nyberg

In my last tour with the Navy I recruited med school students and investigated misconduct by enlisted recruiters.

Investigating recruiter misconduct made me cynical about Navy recruiting.

The leadership created a system that didn't really get enough qualified applicants to join the Navy, but it did get enough recruits. The shortfall was filled with applicants who weren't exactly qualified.

Recruiters would coach their applicants to lie so they would be eligible to join. When these lies were detected, the recruit invariably suffered.

And if the misconduct was excessively blatant, the recruiter received punishment too.

The supervisors who coached the recruiters in forgery and otherwise wheedling the system never got punished. And the senior leadership never considered the possibility the system was flawed.

They'd point to some recruiters that were making "goal" (read: "quota") and blame the problems on the individual recruitersâ€"the "few bad apples" line.

I modified a motivational cliché to reflect my experience: "Winners never quit and quitters never win, but practical people recognize when the game is rigged and stop playing."

I've also heard, "If you're not winning and you're not quitting, you're just plain stupid."

What's this got to do with Forest Park?

I recently attended the CUinFP forum for park district candidates. I've also chatted with local officials in Forest Park and other communities. The game is rigged against local government and nobody is talking about it.

Most of what government does is provide services. Most of the cost of government is hiring the people that provide these services. The cost of keeping people on payroll is rising faster than the rate of natural revenue growth.

The reason that it costs more to have 30 people on payroll this year than it did last year is that health care costs are rising faster than the rate of inflation.

To make the bind worse, local government has the least flexibility for generating new revenue. The village, township and school districts generally have to pass referenda to raise new revenue. This is less true for county government.

The state is even less constrained on raising revenue and, nominally, it has to balance the budget. (State government has shifted much of the cost of government to the future. This creates the appearance of a balanced budget while saddling future taxpayers with liabilities that force cuts in services or tax increases.)

And the federal government can be completely irresponsible: like having a war, cutting taxes and running unprecedented deficits.

To make things even worse for local government, state and federal governments are cutting their contributions to local governments to reduce their expenses.

When I listen to local officials and candidates, I tend to like them. They're likable, earnest people. But there's a kind of unreality to discussing local policy issues. They talk like being clever and earnest will allow services to continue at the same quality from year to year.

There's always some waste in bureaucracies. It's the cost of doing business. A perfectly efficient bureaucracy violates the laws of human organizations as a perpetual motion machine violates the laws of physics. Trimming waste isn't going to pay for health care costs rising at more than 8 percent per year.

Good ideas about local government can't be implemented if local government is handcuffed by health care costs, cuts in funding from the state and federal government and constraints on creating new revenue.

The Republicans pushed the idea of "local control" aggressively as part of the takeover of Congress in 1994. But one can't control one's destiny without financial means.

At some point local officials should band together and tell the state and federal government that the system is broke and demand a real solution.

Local government has little power to control health care costs. The state and especially the federal government need to step-up to the plate and do what needs to be done to control health care costs.

And for those of you that oppose government intervention on ideological grounds, I ask you: why do countries with government-financed health care spend less per capita and have lower cost increases?

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