The most interesting poll results I've read lately: “In terms of being a good citizen, 67 percent of voters believe it is more important to do volunteer work for church and community organizations than it is to get involved in politics and political campaigns. Only 16 percent disagree and put political involvement first,” according to a report today from Rasmussen polling.
I'd be willing to bet that the 16 percent lives and works in Washington, D.C.
Most Americans, unlike our elected leaders in Washington, know that government isn't going to solve our problems, and that more and bigger government isn't going to solve them faster. In fact, it's the opposite. We'll solve more problems if government can get out of the way of good people on the ground who are making a difference.
There isn't a problem in America that isn't being solved somewhere, my old boss President George H.W. Bush used to say. He was right. In every city and town in this country, ordinary citizens who know what is best in their communities are helping turn around neighborhoods and rebuild lives. And unlike most of Washington, they don't think that the government knows best. They know that top-down solutions rarely work.
They also know that people in community service organizations, faith-based groups, businesses, and neighborhoods have the smarts, the know-how and the compassion to find solutions to our nation's biggest challenges. They do it every day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 64 million people volunteered last year; a majority of Americans assisted their neighbors in some way.
In that same Rasmussen poll were a few more gems that would go a long way toward solving a few problems:
- Two out of three voters believe that Americans should have the right to select their own Social Security retirement age, an idea I've never heard discussed in Washington. Those who opt to retire early would pay more in taxes; later retirees would pay less. Sounds like a great idea to me. hLet people decide what's best for themselves.
- Three out of four voters believe Americans should have a choice between more expensive, comprehensive health insurance and lower cost plans that cover only major medical expenses. They don't want the government making the decision for them, and I don't blame them. Different families need different plans.
- Nearly seven in 10 believe that parents should have a choice between a regular school calendar and year-round schools, even though a majority doesn't think year-round schools are a good idea. The important thing is they want parents to have the choice; I suspect year-round schools would really be helpful to families in which both parents work full-time and might be a good idea academically for some kids. Again, giving parents the choice is not an idea I've heard discussed in Washington – and it should be.
These are not top-down ideas. They give less, not more, power to the government. Any one of them would give families the flexibility and choice to do what's best for themselves. Policies like these allow people at the grassroots level to solve problems in their own lives – finding more flexible health coverage, retiring when one wants to, taking pressure off of working families – because they're based on the idea that citizens, not the political class, know best. Unfortunately, with the current crowd in charge in D.C., that's not a very popular notion these days.
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