Saturday, November 5, 2011

Whose Interests does Government represent?

Do Government officials actually listen to the public, or do they spend most of their time listening to special interests? Special interests is defined by the media as the private Sector.  American media concentrates on the attention special interests get before Congress, but is that an accurate assessment of what actually occurs?  In the 1990s I spent quite a bit of time in Olympia, the state capitol of my residence, and even traveled to Washington DC to develop support for an urban renewal project in a poor run-down community near my residence.  I attempted to link the Public Sector and Private Sector in a project to restore the economic vitality to this community.

One thing you learn when you seek out your Public officials is that you spend a great deal of time waiting.  Like sitting in a hospital emergency room, you see who gets priority and how long each visitor gets to spend with their Senator or Representative.  In fact, you even get to see how much importance a Senator or Representative gives to various types of visitors.  As each visitor leaves sometimes the Senator or Representative gets up and takes them to his office door or gets their jacket and even escorts out into the main corridor.  At other times when visitors leave the office, the Senator or Representative already has his head down, sitting at his desk, looking at the items from his in-box.

Although my observations are clearly not comprehensive enough to draw any conclusions, they may prompt some challenge to the almost cliche conclusions of the media about the attention Public officials give to special interests.  My little sample concludes the people getting most of the time with Public officials are members of the bureaucracy.  Public officials seem to spend an inordinate amount of time meeting, reviewing and crafting legislation to give direction to the various agencies of government.  Likewise, the agencies of government spend an inordinate amount of time lobbying for their "pet" projects.  In Washington DC it was extremely rare to be in an office when a private citizen visited an official.  In fact, it was rare to come across anyone from the Private Sector.  Of course, I was from the Private Sector, but I was invited on the trip to secure funding for the local transit agency and city.  Consequently, I was rarely given a speaking role in drama playing out around me.

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