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Oglesby: Find common ground to solve issues

POSTED: February 3, 2009 1:00 a.m.

I may have figured out why we as Georgians and Americans can't seem to recognize the source of the myriad problems troubling society today, particularly in governmental levels from courthouse to the top. We simply pass every mirror with nary a glance. The enemy is us.

Most people understandably look at problems and issues from a narrow, personal perspective but two few seem to realize others are doing the same thing. It apparently never crosses our minds we might find solutions if we all sought and focused primarily on common ground with life's normal give and take, while deliberately minimizing major differences until common ground has been exhausted, and then worked up the ladder from minor to major differences. Examples?

Not only in America, but much of the world, we're lining up hands out for a share of the federal stimulus, bailout or whatever, conjuring all sorts of reasons why we need a share, whether we really do or not. And it isn't limited to the federal largesse. Governmentally, it goes from bottom to top.

City and county officials are lambasting the state for considering canceling a promised property tax rebate that they needed to be able to keep from raising local property taxes or cutting vital services. The state says it's constitutionally mandated to balance the budget, and if the rebate isn't canceled, it will have to raise taxes and cut vital programs.

Nobody's giving an inch and everybody's contacting their state and federal legislators and the governor's office. They are responding to the loudest, most consistent and, most importantly, to blocs most likely able to assist re-election or higher office.

Little seems to be getting done and what little is becomes automatically controversial as we seek people to blame rather than solutions that, alas, sometimes might be contrary to our narrow personal interests.

Don't get me wrong. Just like you, I don't want to pay any more taxes at any level from city hall to Washington. At the same time, I want to pay my combined tax bill from all levels in the most economically efficient way. What that way might be certainly is debatable, with good points from several sides. So why can't we concentrate on developing the best possible consensus on that instead of flailing around demanding our own prejudice (think my way or the highway)?

That's not lack of leadership. Capable leaders exist. Problem is, most still lead in directions favoring their own interests, not the overall best public interest, if it interferes. As said at the start of this ramble, I think the preceding is much of the actual problem but I'm still at a loss of how best to solve it.

Many say term limits. I differ for pragmatic reasons. As many incumbents who originally supported it have discovered, limits actually are counterproductive. It takes a term or two to learn how the vast government really operates, and it is the civil service that really administers it. It can take longer to earn a position and develop allies that will give one the influence to be truly effective for citizens back home and the respective congressional house they serve.

Limits can deprive voters of the right to vote for who they think can best serve them. I've joked through the years I'd like to help Teddy Kennedy out if only I knew how he got in the U.S. Senate. Seriously, if the people of Massachusetts want him, I support their right to him. I wouldn't want people in other states saying Georgians couldn't vote for Ashley Bell, Nathan Deal or Johnny Isakson.

Others say fair tax. That might be it when the problems with implementation are solved. Every time the proposal is updated, faults are improved upon. It is positive to keep the debate going, the improvements coming and a goal of a government that works for the common welfare met.

Ted Oglesby is retired opinion page editor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30506. His column appears biweekly.



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