Friday, June 11, 2010

Politics; The Politician and the Voter

We are entering a time in Kansas, and others across the country where some of us are in tune to the mid-term elections. Let me make it clear, I stand for the politics of Jesus; the things that he would have us stand for. I have been registered in both parties, voted for politicians of at least 4 parties, maybe more over my 30+ years of being able to vote. I ran for political office in South Carolina as a Democrat, loosing to a retired postman where I garnished 46%+ of the vote and to my knowledge one of the only, if not the only candidate to ever be endorsed by The Right to Life and NAACP groups in the same election.

I recently, along with approximately 9 others had the opportunity to have breakfast with Mike Pompeo, a Republican Candidate for the Kansas 4th Congressional Seat. His primary opponent in the election is Wink Hartman, a business man in the Wichita area. Also in the Republican race is Jim Anderson, Jean Schodorf and Steven Brunk. The odds on favorites for the Republican ticket however are Hartman, followed by Pompeo. While Hartman seems to have a sizeable lead, with time left in the election, Pompeo is making a run for the seat that has him gaining some momentum. A few recent endorsements of Pompeo including the Kansas Right to Life will have him gaining against Hartman. I also think, after hearing of some of the advertisement plans for later in the election, there will be some positive gain for Pompeo when some of the statements of Hartman are challenged for their truthfulness. I was personally troubled by some who have recently heard Hartman state he will spend whatever is necessary to win the election. Personally, as a common man, who has worked and lived with regular folks most of my life, I have issue with any candidate alluding to their effort to buy an election, currently Hartman is far out spending all other candidates. I don’t care who the candidate is, I want honesty, integrity, and an ear that will hear what I as a voter, I as a supporter of the poor and disenfranchised has to say, and then work to help improve the lives of those individuals. A persons strength to me isn’t always what they will do, but what will they do to help those who are at a point where they are incapable of speaking up for, and standing up for themselves. While some may assume this is a tendency towards Democratic ideals, it simply isn’t true, it is a tendency towards what is right.

Recently, I asked a few tough questions of Mike Pompeo. I knew that in a small gathering of pastors and people whose faith was important, that speaking to a ‘Conservative’ Republican Candidate would put me in the minority. I stated that during the Reagan Administration the deinstitutionalization of Mental Health Facilities hurt the Mentally Ill. As a result of those efforts, many mentally ill persons were placed on the streets which resulted in a substantially high number of suicides. I also stated that through my work with the homeless, while many in the past were homeless due to mental illness or substance abuse problems, (usually hand in hand) many are homeless now due to the economy. We live in a society, where the mentally ill, and the homeless may need the help of others to help them get back on their feet and to get appropriate treatment.

Not to be critical of Mr. Pompeo, but he didn’t give the best answer to the problems. He reverted back to the need of the free-market to fix the problem, and that the more the government got involved, the lack of effectiveness in their approach, often hurt more than helped. I rebutted, right away, that this is not always the case. I brought up the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD) and the importance of the certification process in the development of rehabilitation programs for the mentally ill. I stated that the Transitional Employment approaches used with the mentally ill, when certified, and accredited resulted in an actual larger return on the dollar spent as opposed to a loss on the dollar spent by the federal government. Think about it, while some are critical of governmental programs, research shows, that when appropriate dollars are spent on programs like Transitional Employment, (as certified by the ICCD) the government actually makes money as opposed to looses money. In the past the approximate numbers were that for every dollar spent on Transitional Employment services that the government got in return approximately $1.67 cents. That is a .67 cent profit, more than most every other governmental program. Seems to me, that at a time when the economy is struggling, and there is a need for tax dollars, the economy would be best served by programs like this, that do work. It is a common ground that should bring both Republicans and Democrats together and a program where politicians obviously need to continue to be educated on.

Now on the above, let me be clear, I believe it important, and responsible, that as opposed to saying the government messes everything up, we should be honest, they mess a lot of things up. But on the things they get right, we have to support them, and be knowledgeable of them. I believe the certification process for the mentally ill through the Fountain House Model Programs, through the ICCD, such as Transitional Employment has to be fought for and advocated for. To insure the success of the model, the model should specifically be taught, expected, and followed through on as it is the programs that differentiate from the specifics that end up costing money. You see I would personally advocate for Government oversight here. Establish and support programs that work, whether the states keep the money to fund the program or the federal government is not as much of a concern to me as actually doing what is necessary to help those who can’t help their needs. We have to educate our politicians as to these types of programs that do in fact work. We have to also support the process of evaluation and certification that insures these programs get it right. It is one of the reasons I strongly support the ICCD, and discourage funding of programs that tend to experiment, and be more for the professional than they do the consumer of services. When the consumer of services realizes that the program is to their advantage, to help them get to a place of accomplishing their dreams and aspirations, the research is clear, those programs work. The piece meal work plans of groups like Good-Will that provide sub minimum wage work for many is not acceptable, and actually costs the government money it can’t afford to spend. Yet, instead of being educated on what works, we throw everything into the bathwater, including the baby, prior to throwing it out.

In the past, I have had the support for these types of programs from both Republicans, like former Congressman Steve Largent, also a Republican, and Democrats on both a state and national level. These issues should not be a Republican or Democratic issue, the care for the poor, which I also indicated, at the risk of offending some present at the recent meeting with local pastors, and Mike Pompeo is not being done by the church as they are commanded to do. The issue of giving more back to the tax payer, allowing them to have more of the money is not what I believe to be the best solution either. I am confident, more money to churches, or tax payers won’t have as much of an impact on the poor as we may think. In reality larger buildings, and nicer cars or other possessions will be built or purchased but not as much will go to help those we are commanded to help. I as a tax payer, as an American, still have the right, to express my concerns and positions. I have, and will continue to do so, and then educate the populace as to the response I receive. That doesn’t mean I support higher taxes, in fact I don’t. I do support funding and providing financial assistance to programs that work, like Transitional Employment. The truth of it is, there is already a huge problem in the spending of federal dollars in such federally funded programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The problem is, the states have various methods of interpretation. On federal dollars, there has to be government oversight and assurances that those dollars are being spent as required. Again, I am talking specifically about programs, like Transitional Employment, as certified by the ICCD, that clearly work. If it don’t work, as many government programs don’t that is another story. This however is why I specifically mentioned that Mr. Pompeo visit programs like The Breakthrough Club in Wichita where these programs are working, yet state interpretation, and distribution of funds and the requirements for those funds, often makes things far more difficult than many could imagine, not because of the Federal mandates, but the states inability to determine appropriateness of funded programs.

Let me be clear, there was something about Pompeo I liked, you know what it was? It was his honesty. I am aware of many politicians, being dishonest about possessions they report to support or not support. I also liked the fact that he took the time to talk to me some privately after the meeting was over. He volunteered to spend some time with the homeless with me, I appreciate that, and I will appreciate it more when he does it. Heck I would invite every candidate, every pastor to come with me to visit the homeless, tell them their position, explain to them what you will, or won’t do to help them.

Here is the challenge, as I know some will disagree with me on certain aspects, on certain candidates I like and so forth. Here is what I say, get out and meet the candidates. Stand firm to your convictions, and then educate others as to your experience. You see this isn’t a post to debate certain political issues; it is a post to let folks know that I made the effort to get to know a politician running for national office in our area and to educate them about programs I know works, and people I know need service and help. Those same opportunities are available to you. I am grateful for friends like Harold Roesler who let me know about this opportunity, and took the time to invite me. Take advantage of those same opportunities in your area. Check out the candidates, see when they are doing things in your area, and go meet them, talk to them, and ask questions, get them off the typical political diatribe, ask specific issues about specific areas. Let me be honest here, I don’t care about certain religious beliefs of the candidate personally. While I appreciate the fact for example that Mike Pompeo has been a deacon in his church, taught Sunday School and those types of things, I am also reminded of the Epistle of James where I am told that faith without works is dead. You can tell me about your faith, but I would much rather see your faith in action, action that includes doing what you can to help a person in need.

As stated earlier, I would relish the opportunity to take any politician, whether for city, county, state or national office down to meet the homeless I have worked with. Some of us will vote for those we may disagree with on some issues because of their willingness to educate themselves and show concern for others or positions we care about. It is long past due, we as Americans need to remember, we live in a representative government. Our politicians, our government are supposed to work for us.

The following is the candidates for the Congressional 4th District in Kansas. I have listed web sites for each of those I could find.

Mike Pompeo
Jim Anderson
Wink Hartman
Jean Schodorf
Steven Brunk


Raj Goyle
Robert Tillman – no web site located
Jim Ward – no web site located


Susan Ducey

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