I have used this newsletter to share many of my ideas and thoughts about America and, yes, to point out when we are going down the wrong track. But this week I was reminded forcefully of why every American should be hopeful.
Last Friday, I flew to Meadville, Pa., to join Congressman Phil English at a charity event for the Excalibur Charitable Foundation, a community foundation created by Eric Hoover, and it was Eric who reminded me of the deep truths about hope in America.
Eric was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 22 months of age. Specialists told his parents that he would spend his life in a wheelchair. The Hoovers refused to give up. They kept searching until they found a doctor who believed that a combination of large quantities of buffered aspirin and a lot of exercise to strengthen the joints and maintain their flexibility could liberate Eric from a future of limited mobility.*
Today, Eric runs three companies and has created a community foundation to return to the community some of the benefits he has received from being an American. He has a lovely wife, and his two proud parents were there Friday night at our event. I told them their tough-minded emphasis on making him exercise (even when he didn’t want to) literally saved his life. Eric was proudly nodding and smiling as he hugged his mom and dad.
Dreams are the beginning of courage, and courage is the beginning of hope.
Because Eric had a loving family and a determined doctor, he was able to overcome challenges which would have dramatically altered his physical capabilities. He was determined to make the most of his Creator-endowed right to pursue happiness and he has had a wonderfully fulfilling life.
Eric and his family are better off but, so too, is his community.
I believe that if every American would learn the lessons of Eric Hoover’s life, we would be able to continue to look forward to a better future and have confidence that — as President Reagan used to say — “the best is yet to come.”
Five Reasons to Be Hopeful About the Future
Despite the failures of Washington and the frustrations of politics, there are five reasons to remain hopeful about the future.
Reason No. 1: The Coming Explosion of Scientific Knowledge
We are on the edge of an explosion of scientific knowledge, which will create at least four to seven times as much new knowledge in the next 25 years, especially in the areas of health, energy and the environment. This new knowledge will give us the best hope of eliminating cancer as a cause of death, creating a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease, and developing hydrogen energy or other alternative energy or even a multi-fuel-based economy to meet our environmental, national security and economic challenges.
Instead of focusing on regulation, litigation and bureaucracy as our paths to the future, we should be focusing on science, engineering, and entrepreneurial creativity.
Reason No. 2: The Metrics of Accountability
In the relentless pursuit of achieving key goals as defined by the most senior leadership, metrics are the only means by which the success of a goal can be measured and therefore achieved.
Metrics were used by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his chief of police, Bill Bratton, to revolutionize policing. The result is that today New York City is 75% safer than it was in 1993. Remarkably, it is four times safer than Houston, Tex.
The system Mayor Giuliani and Chief Bratton used, called CompsStat (Computer Statistics), works if leadership makes it work. In the first year, three out of every four New York police precinct captains who refused to adopt the system of accountable metrics were retired or replaced. And metrics aren’t limited to policing: They can be used for learning, for health, and for effectiveness in delivering services. Mayor Bloomberg has built upon the Giuliani approach.
The easiest introductions to metrics are Rudy Giuliani’s book, Leadership, and Chief Bratton’s book, Turnaround. The most fun introduction to metrics is Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, which is about the Oakland Athletics’ use of innovative metrics in picking baseball players (they win their games for one third of the cost of the New York Yankees). Metrics will be a key part of the American Solutions workshops on September 27 and 30 on the Internet. You are invited to join in and learn how they can apply to your local state and federal government.
Reason No. 3: The Private Sector Revolution in Productivity and Quality
In our private lives, we are seeing a revolution in productivity and quality. But in government bureaucracies, we are trapped in a circa 1965 pre-information-age system of decay, inconvenience and ineffectiveness.
If we could get the same productivity improvements in health, learning, public safety and running government that we have gotten in the private sector, we would be the most dynamic country in the world for the rest of the 21st Century. The principles are clear and learnable, but they represent as big a change as Eric Hoover encountered when he went from defeated specialists who were resigned to an outcome of a lifetime in a wheelchair to a determined doctor who prescribed hope by believing in the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.
If we remain trapped in the failed bureaucracies and policies of the past, we too will be resigned to hopelessness. But if we are prepared to break loose and bring into government the systems and principles that are working at metrics-based outcome companies — such as UPS or Fedex (with online package tracking) or the ubiquity of mobile phones (many with cameras, MP3 players and video), the reliability of Automatic Teller Machines (with worldwide access to cash 24 hours a day), or the convenience of charging gasoline at a self-service station — we will reinforce hope by achieving real change. In the private sector, we have had a revolution in quality and productivity since 1965. If we can bring that revolution into health, learning and government, the results will be amazing progress at declining cost.
Reason No. 4: The Entrepreneurial Courage of America
The greatest genius of America has been its ability to inspire people to pursue happiness and to turn that pursuit into entrepreneurial courage.
People such as Bill Gates and Roger Ailes who follow their own dreams and create new successes despite the skeptics are symbols of America’s entrepreneurial spirit. Gates dropped out of college and revolutionized worldwide computing with Microsoft. Roger Ailes thought it would be possible to create a populist television news format that was fair and balanced and that it would attract more viewers than the dominant liberal-leaning networks. Again and again, people who believe make things happen.
One of the greatest destructive effects of the combination of bureaucracy and unionization has been the undermining and limiting of this entrepreneurial creativity. We have many creative teachers who would like to do better. But their hopes for our children are crippled by rigid curriculums, stifling bureaucracies and restrictive union contracts. We have many bright young engineers at NASA who would like to propel America into space, but they are smothered in an aging paper-ridden bureaucracy. If we would methodically replace bureaucracy with entrepreneurship and rigid administration with incentives for achieving goals, we would see an explosion of creativity that would educate more children at lower cost and move us into a better future with less red tape.
Reason No. 5: Citizens Out-Competing Bureaucracy
In developing an exciting and productive future, we should offer more prizes to compete with bureaucratic process as a way of getting things done.
Today, we spend billions of dollars at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and NASA on trying to develop the future through slow, cumbersome and heavily planned and papered processes of development. Prizes should be used as a competing method of arousing interest, focusing activity and stimulating creativity. The private sector X Prize for getting into suborbital space was only $10 million, but it generated $200 million in private sector investment at no cost to the taxpayer. Rob McEwen of Goldcorp, a Canadian mining company, established a prize for advice on where to look for gold within its own mine. The top prize was won by a collaboration of two groups of Australians who had never been to the site but used online data offered by the mine. Goldcorp made a huge return on a small prize investment. It was possible, as a FastCompany article points out, because the prize winners were completely outside of the industry’s conventional wisdom. If we had more government leaders and elected officials who thought of entrepreneurship, metrics, prizes and doing what works, we would have a true explosion of effectiveness and productivity, and we could balance the budget easily while actually providing a better education for our children and better healthcare for our citizens.
These Ideas Work in Our Lives Outside Government — And They Can Work to Improve Our Lives in Government
We are on the edge of one of the most explosive periods of breakthroughs in American history. Like Eric Hoover, I am an optimist and I am hopeful. I think America has a lot more to achieve and our children and grandchildren will live in an even better and more exciting future. This is what we as Americans must insist on and this is the premise of American Solutions.
A couple other items are on my mind as well this week.
An Honest Strategy of Defeat
Leftwing House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) was caught on camera describing some of his more militant anti-war activist allies in not so friendly terms. But what is amazing is that he was not describing their mutual anti-war-accept-defeat-appeasement-now mentality. He was objecting to their desire to openly impose their strategy of defeat. Obey, who might be called a “clever and dishonest leftist,” tried to explain that his Appropriations bill for Iraq would so cripple the military that he would have cleverly guaranteed the defeat. Obey did not realize he was being televised, and his cynicism and willingness to cripple our men and women in uniform is chilling. You should see it if you haven’t.
Veto the Surrender Supplemental
If the leftwing leadership refuses to take out the hidden restrictions and crippling requirements in the Defense supplemental legislation, the President should veto the bill and force the country to confront the despicable strategy by which his opponents are willing to put American men and women in uniform at risk for a partisan advantage. He should not sign a bill which cripples our military’s ability to be effective. If the President is clear, the country will understand how bad the bill is. If the President signs it, he is setting the stage for an even more destructive bill in the near future.
Native Americans and Universities are Interest Groups, Too
Finally, a reminder of how deceitful the left is in rigging the game for its political purposes: The recent so-called lobbying reforms just happened to have a giant loophole for Indian tribes and educational institutions. Who could have imagined the odds that once the Democrats seized power that they would provide special favors for Indian casinos, which were at the heart of the Jack Abramoff scandal. But you can bet that the casinos and universities — hotbeds of leftwing ideologues — will be getting more money from taxpayers. Only on the left would these two exemptions make sense. Sadly, the Republicans are so demoralized that no one bothered to point out the absurdity of these loopholes and the degree to which they are anti-taxpayer and pro-special interest. Once again, the 91 swing Democrats got a free ride to help their leftwing machine at no cost back home.
I’ll be back next week.
P.S. — Here’s an update on my speaking schedule for the coming week. Tuesday, I am teaching former Tennessee Democratic Congressman Harold Ford’s class at Vanderbilt. I am certain it is going to be a lively discussion. Then on the same campus, I am speaking to the student life center on American Solution for Winning the Future and how if fits into the current political environment. Wednesday, I am speaking at the Women’s Majority Network in Washington at the National Press Club. Friday, I will be speaking to the National Newspaper Association in Washington. And Saturday, I will be speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Palm Beach about national security and defending the United States from terrorist threats.
* For more information on Arthritis research and treatments please visit arthritis.org.