Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Achievement Test: The sanest piece of poltical writing I've read in months

My brother pointed me to an op-ed by David Brooks: The Achievement Test. If you read one thing this month relating to politics, please make it this piece.

Brooks offers up an alternative to the Cut the size government at all costs or Protect government programs at all costs mentalities. Instead, he proposes we do something wild and crazy: evaluate the choices we make about government not based on buzz words and political posturing, but on whether the choice would generate any good for the country:*

The best way to measure government is not by volume, but by what you might call the Achievement Test. Does a given policy arouse energy, foster skills, spur social mobility and help people transform their lives?

His article gives examples where "Big Government" meets this criteria, and examples where it doesn't. He also shows that the same can be said of "Small Government."

His vision of how the Achievement Test could be used makes quite a bit of sense:

Reframing the argument around achievement wouldn’t end partisan division. Democrats and Republicans differ on what makes an economy productive. But it would allow for horse-trading.

As part of the budget process, Republicans could champion the things they believe will enhance productivity and mobility. Many of these will mean making sure people have the incentives to take risks and the freedom to adjust to foreign competition: a flatter, simpler tax code with lower corporate rates, a smaller debt burden, predictable regulations, affordable entitlements.

Democrats could champion the things they believe will enhance productivity and mobility. Many of these will mean making sure everybody has the tools to compete: early childhood education, infrastructure programs to create jobs, immigration policies that recruit talent, incentives for energy innovation.

And perhaps the key point is this:

The two agendas sit in tension, but they are not contradictory.

I think this point especially has been lost over the past few years. Anything Obama is for, McCain, Palin, Boehner and McConnell have to be vehemently against. Everything from Health Care to whether Obama can give a pep-talk to students has been met with resistance. From what I can see, the use of the filibuster just underscores the problem — when any progress by the other side is a loss, it means that every opportunity to block progress is a win and worthy of this extreme maneuver.

Tension is a good thing. Deadlock due to resolve that the views of each party are necessarily diametrically opposed is nothing but bad news.

Serious, I wonder who I could get to read Brook's article to actually talk some sense into these guys?

*Or as Obama and no doubt others have said: we don't need bigger government or smaller government - we need smarter government

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