Leaders, liberals and laggards

Posted: Jun 15, 2005 12:00 AM
Leaders make things happen. Liberals stop things from happening, and laggards wait to act until someone else acts first. Leaders, liberals, and laggards are all present in our nation?s Capital, where our elected officials are supposed to work on fixing our big issues. Unfortunately, the leaders are way out-numbered.

As a practicing leader for thirty-five years as a business executive and author of three books on leadership, I have documented the three critical things that leaders do to solve problems. After further experience and analysis it is clear that liberals and laggards in Congress do the exact opposite of what should be done in order to stop aggressive policy solutions or keep aggressive solutions stuck in neutral.

Let?s first note that getting elected to Congress does not make you a leader. Being chosen as the Senate or House Minority Leader because you have survived more re-elections than your party colleagues does not make you a leader. We see evidence of this fact daily on the issue of restructuring the Social Security system. Namely, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) consistently attack the idea of optional personal accounts, but offer no alternate solutions.

The first critical thing that real leaders do is remove barriers to understanding a problem and its solution. Liberals create barriers to cause confusion. The Social Security system has been on a path to insolvency for decades. But despite President Bush?s leadership on fixing the problem, the liberal Democrats in Congress have dug in their heels to obstruct any real solutions. They even went so far as to say that if the president takes his solution off the table, they would then come to the table and talk. That?s liberal code for no new ideas, no solutions and nothing new to talk about.

The second critical thing that leaders do is ask the right questions. Liberals ask the wrong or misleading questions. Laggards don?t even bother to ask questions. Six media polls (ABC, CBS, CNN, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Associated Press) recently asked essentially the same question, ?Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling Social Security?? With that wording of the question they received the result they were looking for. Nearly sixty percent of the respondents said they disapprove.

It was the wrong question because the president is not handling Social Security; he is trying to restructure Social Security with optional personal retirement accounts. Further, when the president?s name is inserted in the question, people who voted against or dislike the president will disapprove no matter what the question.

On the other hand, when a Fox News poll asked the question, ?Do you favor or oppose giving individuals the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in stocks or mutual funds?? the result was the exact opposite. When the question focused on the issue itself, sixty percent of the respondents said they favor giving people the choice.

Third, leaders inspire the best in people, which is to believe in themselves. Faith in individual liberty and choice produces solutions to problems for the common good of the people. Liberals incite the worst in people, such as jealousy and envy. This produces divisiveness, dysfunctional social systems, and bigger government for the good of their political party. Laggards do not inspire or incite people. They just ignore people.

The Social Security system will not fix itself, and the crisis cannot be solved by raising taxes and reducing benefits. The president has made the issue a priority, but liberals and laggards want to stonewall the issue to avoid facing the painful truth.

We are all thankful for the few real leaders we have in Washington, D.C. They need to hear from us on a regular basis that we support them in their fight to do the right thing for our country. I believe they can be successful with the persistence of the voting public.

Former Congressman J.C. Watts once told me that seventy percent of those elected to Congress are just happy to be there. They are not leading and they are not following. Either way, they are just in the way of solving this nation?s most challenging issues of restructuring the Social Security system and replacing the tax code.

My grandfather made his living as a farmer. Just before he would take a wagon load of produce into town to the farmers market, he would say to everyone standing around the wagon, ?Them that?s going get on the wagon. Them that ain?t get out of the way.?

Leaders can lead if liberals and laggards would just get out of the way. But it will not happen without a vocal and persistent public.