Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Do We Measure Success?

It seems everyone has a different way to measure success. The Democrats held a party to celebrate the achievements of the 111th Congress which included healthcare reform, financial reform, a massive stimulus, and other various government bailouts. The only reason to hold a party is if the Democrats felt their laws and policies were a success. Apparently, the Democrats measure of success is simply passing any bill that adheres to their ideological principles. But bills such as healthcare reform have to pass the test of time to be successful. When the authors of the healthcare reform and financial reform bills admit they do not know how the legislation will work in the real world – How is that a success?

When the social security act was passed in 1930s, it was considered a success. When Medicaid, Medicare, and other entitlements passed in the 1960s, they too were considered a success. But if we look at our current budget, it is hard to say that these entitlement programs are a success, especially if the government is spending more than it takes in to support these social programs. And what’s worse, no one is willing to reform the programs to make them more solvent. So it begs to reason that when the new healthcare reform bill starts to negatively affect the nation’s financial wellbeing – will anyone have the fortitude to step forward and reform the bill? I seriously doubt it! But it is important to remember that the healthcare reform bill will become a burden on our federal budget; it is just a matter of time.

There seems to be a commonality with these massive entitlement bills that Congress has passed over the years – they fail the test of time. Why do they fail the test of time? The main reason is that bills are written for the current time period. In other words, there is no strategic vision and therefore, the bills fail to incorporate risk mitigation plans to keep up with the changing times. For example, legislation routinely forgets to take into account growing populations, especially those living in poverty, and other trends such as rapidly increasing life expectancies and the overall aging of our population.

I have a much different view of success than our legislators. Success means the projects, proposals, laws, and bills must pass the test of time. They must be successful over the entire duration of the process. Apollo 11 was not a successful mission because they landed on the moon. No, Apollo 11 was a successful mission because they not only landed on the moon, but they returned home safely. As a climber, I see many people celebrate on the top of peaks. I never celebrate until I return home safely. There are thousands of climbers that have died descending from peaks. In fact, most deaths occur on the way down, not up. This makes sense because climbers are more tired and more susceptible to make a critical mistake. The same is true with legislation; its solvency becomes more susceptible to failures the longer it remains the law of the land.

Success is not the planning or implementation of a bill, piece of legislation, or a project. Success is the ability of a bill or project to adjust when faced with adversity. Success is ability of a bill or project to overcome and mitigate risks especially when faced with unplanned extenuating circumstances. Success is the ability of a bill or project to remain on course. For instance, it is not a success to climb Everest only to die on the decent and Apollo 11 would not have been a success if the astronauts did not come home alive. It is the same thing for bills and legislation; they must achieve their goals throughout the lifetime of their existence, not just on day 1.

Liberals may see this essay as a reason or excuse to measure the success of our Constitution and to say it needs to be adjusted over time. This is not the case, the Constitution contains our rights and civil liberties, and this does not change over time.

My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

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