I had just been thinking about how I usually don’t agree with people who proclaim that in the interest of fiscal responsibility government should be run like a business.
While my usual retort is that government is not a business, that it is the framework for our civilization and it is an institution which we mutually fund to provide ourselves, the public, with various services (well I usually just say it is not a business), I got to thinking the other day that what with the constant problem of our lawmakers enacting spending programs way ahead of available funding, maybe in some sense it should be run like a business.
I was thinking we need to change the way that we make laws so that it is required that any legislation requiring spending must provide for the funds within the legislation and/or provide for a matching reduction is some other area.
And while I was pondering this I heard the news (on Tuesday) that Sacramento area politician Dave Cox had died of prostate cancer at the age of 72.
I recall that when he was running for what I believe was his first elected office (or one of his first), a member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, I was the editor of a suburban weekly newspaper. I recall that he proudly proclaimed that one of his qualifications for office was that he could read a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement.
Cox was an insurance agent (and still ran his business during his political career) and a right-wing Republican, typical of the Sacramento suburbs (well, maybe Mr. Cox was not typical — I understand he built up quite a reputation).
He spouted off the usual litany of conservative talking points, but he did sound sincere.
He once told me that he did not mind if someone did not agree with him. He said he just wanted an opportunity to tell his side. My memory of what he said was “If in the end someone doesn’t agree with me, I just conclude he ‘s not buying my program”. That seemed appropriate for an insurance salesman, I thought.
Mr. Cox won his race for the county board and went on to take a seat in the state Assembly where he served as Republican leader for a time and then he moved on to the state Senate.
All the obituary stories have his opponents saying he was a tough customer, but fair and quite gracious once the arguing was over, or once he made his case.
As I noted, he began his political career by serving on some local public boards and soon moved on to the state legislature. I found that not to be uncommon in the Sacramento area. Local politicians there are close to the big time at the capitol.
(I recall interviewing another guy who said his business was owning self storage facilities. He served on some local boards or committees and the next thing I knew he ran for an won a seat in congress — another suburban conservative Republican.)
But back to Mr. Cox. He was by all appearances a self-made businessman who had an interest in government and who adhered to a pull-yourself-up-from-your-own-bootstraps philosophy and political ideology. He maintained his business, but also worked at the people’s business. He fought his nemesis, the Democrats, tooth and nail.
But at the end of the day, he tried to be civil and get along with all.
Now contrast that to someone else who got his start in the Sacramento area.
One time radio DJ and small time talk show host Rush Limbaugh worked for a local radio station in Sacramento and discovered that when he ranted against and made fun of Democrats and/or liberals he got a lot of listeners. The more bellicose and mean spirited and cynical be became the more his audiences grew.
Eventually he moved on to a bigger gig. He became the top radio reactionary right-wing political spokesman of the nation, promoting ill will and himself and not really much of anything else.
Limbaugh got the bigger name for himself and made a fortune.
Mr. Cox maintained his principles (he had some), maintained an insurance business, and did the people’s work.
We need more people like the late Dave Cox.
I also recall that for a time while I put out that suburban newspaper I had the “help” of a copy desk on the larger parent newspaper. One of the stories I wrote about Mr. Cox carried a headline written by one of that crew. He complained that it was not accurate and not even supported by the story. I agreed. He called it “intellectually dishonest”. I think he was being charitable at that — it was just bad and wrong. Lesson: if you want something done right, do it yourself — I went back to doing it all myself.