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Posts Tagged ‘Holistic Politics’

Public Funding of Political Parties: Yet another nail in the coffin of British Democracy and a giant leap away from listening to the voices that must now be heard?

September 6, 2013 2 comments

Political Party funding has once again become a regular topic of discussion in the media and many will today find themselves asking why the Public may now be required to pay to promote an exclusive list of what are membership-based organisations, when many more worthy causes that bring much better value to our communities could never even dream of securing this kind of help.

Following Ed Milliband’s now seemingly disastrous attempt to re-package a few multi-million Pound Union donations into many more smaller and politically expedient ones from union members who should apparently have been just as willing to choose to ‘opt-in’ as pay through the historical non-voluntary default, it seems that we are again faced with the dubious meanderings of a few politicians who will do anything that they can to make the system work just for them and for the parties that they represent.

Talk of a £5000 cap on donations to political parties would have worked extremely well for Labour if they had managed to manipulate 2 or 3 donations to qualify as the same sum given by a sudden deluge of fee-paying Labour supporters. It is after all rather unlikely that the Conservatives could find a way to do the same.

But Ed missed one vital calculation in this plan and one that no considerate and fully cognizant politician should ever miss – that people will only voluntarily pay for things that they actually want.

The penny of impending political disaster having now dropped almost as far as the current Labour Leader’s jaw, we now find ourselves looking public funding for political parties in the eye as the Westminster set again swans around under the misguided belief that the existence and perpetuity of their ideals and their impractical application should be assured by right and statute, rather than by the will and best interests of the majority of people – which isn’t after all what politics is actually supposed to be all about?

Just this week within the Council where I am an Elected Member, a whole Borough has witnessed the down side of party politics when a bad decision which may have profound effects on many lives for years to come is compounded and enforced by the use of the Party Whip to guarantee that the aspirations and agendas of the few will overcome the needs and potential benefits from alternative and better paths for the many.

De facto funding for Political Parties that even their Members no longer want to financially support will make such outcomes even more likely than they are right now and those politicians who are already awake to these perils will be well aware of the potential cost of this approach to us all.

With the common ground between Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour being that the Leadership of all 3 have lost sight that doing what’s right for all, rather than what’s right for the Party or the idea’s that they specifically hold dear; all of the main Parties now fail to gain the lifeblood funding and support that they need from everyday voters, simply because they aren’t considering the realities and practicalities of what it takes to live, work and survive in our everyday world.

The message should therefore be simple. Large donors will always want to influence decisions and processes for their own benefit and adequate membership level financial support will only ever be assured when those members feel that they are likely to benefit – ultimately just the same.

If any political party is unable to secure that support, its leadership and executive should surely ask the question why it cannot do so and then be thinking about changing the way that it operates so that it can – if it can do so.

Those of us outside the Westminster ‘bubble’ should perhaps be asking ourselves whether the funding crisis that Political Parties are now facing is the best illustration yet that Politicians are out of touch and failing to connect with the critical mass of the population.

If their approach to governing our lives cannot be sustained or promoted without State intervention within a democracy, do political parties really have the right to say that they represent anyone but themselves?

The Cost of Living crisis: – It’s those money men, stupid

August 15, 2013 Leave a comment

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Hypocrisy has become an artform for many of today’s Political class, and talking up politically expedient issues, spinning away inconvenient truths or criticising others for doing no more than they would do themselves has become the apparent norm.

After a media splurge targeting their inactivity in the sun whilst Cameron has been busy making hay under his, Labour have returned to the stage this week focussing their less than lacklustre performance on the ‘cost of living crisis’, giving every indication that this is the ‘issue’ that will steward their return to majority Government in 2015.

If tackling every issue were seen to be as simple as giving it its own branding or strap-line like this and waiting for it to go viral, we would have a marketing man in Number 10 already – which of course we actually do.

Sadly, the ‘cost of living crisis’ is probably the most dangerous issue that any of our Politicians could ‘play’ with, in the run up to the 2015 General Election, and we should perhaps all be concerned by its apparent adoption by the political left in order for it to be manipulated as a vote-winner. After all, the future of most of us is tied up with it, and its genesis reaches far deeper into the fabric of our society than any of our leading Politicians seem willing to contemplate or have the moral capacity and determination to deal with – even if they have apparently now acknowledged it for their own political ends.

The reality for most of us outside Westminster is that we don’t need posturing Politicians and media hype to remind us of the fact that wages are effectively standing still whilst the cost of paying our bills just seems to keep on going up and up, month after month, year after year without any sign that it will ever relent. Many hard working people simply struggle to keep themselves afloat even before they start to consider some of the luxuries that those very same politicians and newsmen probably take for granted.

Real people living in the real world already know firsthand what it is they are experiencing when the letters hit the mat; the e-mails arrive, the phone rings and when they go and shop. When the pay rises, tax breaks and bonuses that they desperately need aren’t coming to middle England and those hovering either above or below Britains poverty line– simply because the Government’s Pot is already exhausted and the Nation simply cannot afford it – these same people need politicians to drop talking up the effects of the problem and start tackling the cause head on.

This task is not one that will lend great comfort to any politician who values their place in history more than they do the lives of the people who elected them and this is problem enough with British Politics today in itself.

Facing the reality that the free market has surpassed its point of balance and therefore the good for which it was intended is not a thought that many in power will want even to contemplate. Therefore accepting that increasing freedom within the markets to pursue infinite profit, whilst that very same action is effectively enslaving great swathes of the normal population within fiscal misery is not a pill that many of today’s Politicians will swallow willingly. But it is there in front of all of them just the same.

Through the creation of the virtual monopolies which are the utility and energy companies; private businessmen, shareholders and pension funds have been given seemingly insurmountable power over the lives of everyone by being able to dictate their own paydays, whilst they go unhindered by Government and Regulators – who have nothing really but the interests of their Industry at heart.

Likewise, ever growing convoluted supply chains, often reaching the length and breadth of the Country or even across Continents allow many different traders, dealers and agents to add their cut to the margins which you would normally expect to see only from producers and retailers, then inflating prices way beyond what they should realistically be.

Further still, those businesses without control or a sizable share of their markets are also having their margins forcefully squeezed by the companies and organisations who do and many of these businesses are the same ones that cannot afford to recruit or pay more than negligible wage rises to the very same people who are now being affected financially from almost every angle you could imagine.

Whilst no reasonable person would argue that businesses exist to make a profit, it is simply beyond logic to add layer after layer of profit onto the most basic and essential of items or services and then expect end users to keep picking up and meeting these overinflated bills without any real additional income of their own to cover these exponential and wholly unrealistic rises.

Companies, traders, financiers and all manner of individuals and entities are in effect ‘vacuum profiteering’, making money ex nihilo or basically creating something from nothing in a manner which could be akin to having the midas touch, were it not for the misery that it is increasingly inflicting upon those who are wrongly being expected to pay for it.

Without those who hold this power over our economy taking steps to regulate and restrict the way that they make profit, they are through their very actions writing an agenda for Government over many years to come – whatever its Political make-up may be, that has the potential to create social and financial problems of a size and scale across our Nation that Government itself won’t be able to afford to put right – simply because the Taxpayer has no money left to fund it.

Such levels of responsibility over the health and wealth of a Nation should never have been placed in the hands of money men in the first place without sufficient safeguards in place to protect the many who could be affected by the unscrupulous profiteering of a few. But it has.

No Political Party should be seeking to take the moral or politically philosophical high ground on this issue as it is a problem which can only be tackled one way. That is by Government stepping back into the free market and taking an actively pro-market or even interventionist approach to regulating market behaviour – should it be so required. The UK needs to retain capitalism but it must also maintain it in a responsible and considerate way that doesn’t destroy the ability of consumers to consume in the process.

By taking just the key players such as the utility, energy and finance companies to task, Government could go a considerable way to putting safeguards in place that would ensure a basic standard of living can be maintained against the minimum wage, and that the minimum wage would then itself reflect a living wage and one that should keep many more people safe from harm and therefore from being a potential burden to the State.

Regrettably, action of this kind does not reflect the creed of contemporary Politicians and the point continues to be missed that wealth creation only works effectively when there are benefits – in whatever form they may be – for all.

Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour don’t want to embrace the answer and neither does UKIP, which is riding high on the tide of discontentment and disenfranchisement that the lack of connection with reality amongst the other Political monoliths has created within the Electorate itself.

It’s time for Politicians to wake up and smell our overpriced coffee before it’s all too late.

image thanks to http://www.telegraph.co.uk

A General Strike will be little more than terrorism in a sanitised form

The saying ‘everything is relative’ is perhaps the most polite way to tell someone that they are being insular; focused only upon the impacts of a wider issue on themselves, or simply failing to grasp that each and every one of us has a different viewpoint and that they could perhaps do well to look at things a different way.

Whilst the possibility has been grumbling in the background for some time, this week has seen the first clear indication that the Unite Union is seeking to take a lead in initiating a General Strike, of the like this Country has not witnessed since 1926. But is this throw-back to an age when Unions may have still possessed some form of genuine purpose actually going to help anybody?

The excuse given for a level of action which is more likely to destroy support for Union Members rather than be of any benefit to it, is of course the measures of ‘austerity’ that the Coalition Government has apparently been taking. It is indeed no secret that these measures are resulting in the loss of jobs and Benefits; but it has also brought an end to the seemingly ceaseless momentum behind enhancement of conditions for professions which are most likely to yield Union Membership.

Even as a former business owner and politician elected on a Conservative ‘ticket’, I myself can see that there was a time when the rights and welfare of workers needed much greater consideration so that exploitation became the exception, rather than a rule in any sense at all.

But we live in very different times and the rights, conditions and systems of support which now exist at every level of business and Government for staff are already far beyond that which the Strikers of the Twenties would have ever dared to have imagined – even in their wildest dreams.

Few businesses would survive today for very long without paying wages that the market can sensibly sustain, or by providing conditions which do not genuinely reflect the value of any role within a business. Therefore, the question that we should now be asking is not whether business and Government should be forcefully coerced into paying more money in wages because of the threat of strike action from Unions, but rather if we as a Nation are already overburdened with Legislation affecting employers and their ability to create new jobs?

I consider myself as being fortunate to know and socialise with people from all walks of life and count many of them as friends. However, it has become increasingly clear that nobody has been insulated against the affects of our age of ‘austerity’, which itself has far more to do with the spiralling rises in the true cost of living for us all, rather than it does the efforts of a lacklustre Government tinkering around the edges of policy, covering cuts with band-aids when the breaks in our whole Society are so very much more profound.

Ironically, it is the very same failure on the part of Politicians to consider the full impact and self-serving nature of their actions (or lack of them) upon others and ultimately themselves that the Unions are now displaying – even by just talking-up the potential of a General Strike. Sadly, the similarities do not end there.

The horrible truth in all this is that neither the Government nor the Unions hold any genuine level of moral currency either in the way that our times of economic hardship have come into being, or by how either would act in their contributions to ultimately attempt to resolve it.

No group that is politically motivated, other than one which is truly and comprehensively people-centric will ever be ethically and morally sound. Until that time, the Unions would do well to remember that even the poorest of our Governments have been elected democratically and by majority votes.

However frustrated any of us feel, there are many more people suffering financial hardship beyond the realms of just those with Union Membership and there are far more appropriate and reasoned pathways to bring about the change that we all now need.

Until Bankers and those within in the City regain some sense of what is right and wrong, Government must intervene so that the many in the world outside do not continue to suffer because of the profit hungry few left within

March 21, 2013 Leave a comment

images (52)The Banking Sector has become an object of hate for many. The accepted perception is that it equates to a world of greed; that it represents all of the bad things that we associate with money in its worst form and that the Sector is immune from the impact of its own actions; a fact demonstrated only too well when private Banks are bailed out with Public Money and bankers get bonuses even when the businesses under their control are failing.

Recent headlines and the role of bankers in the financial crisis and Libor scandal demonstrate a clear need for real and meaningful reform, even before the impact from the domino-effect of unethical practices is considered upon our lives elsewhere.

With Finance and the role that Banks play being so important within our lives, bankers can no longer consider banking services to be ‘products’, as it has never been a ‘product’ that they are providing.

Services are themselves measured by the direct and indirect impact of customer ‘experience’ and the physical risk to all others, and the Banks must now begin considering this in the same way that any other service industry is by its nature required to do so.

There is nothing truer than the phrase ‘money talks’. But the Banks and Financial Sector have failed to take a long view of their actions and now Government must legislate to provide a Regulatory Framework which allows profitability, but does not do so without consideration of unnecessary impacts and the unacknowledged consequences for businesses and individuals within the wider economy.

Here are a few thoughts:

RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland)

In response to the Banking Collapse, the Government at the time provided money to a number of the well-known Banks to prevent their closure, primarily because of the risk to the money that we all have invested in them.

One of the Banks which was ‘bailed out’ was RBS and this Bank is now effectively ‘public owned’.

Recent talk in the media suggests that the Government is now looking to sell off the Bank. However, with a significant need for a Bank which is not profit, but rather service-led, and can therefore take a more altruistic approach to lending and the provision of the banking services that it provides, Government should now take the opportunity it has to provide a ‘peoples bank’.

By doing so, they can provide the options for everyone that other Banks and Financiers are not prepared to provide such as ‘payday loans’ and higher risk start-up lending without unreasonable levels of interest or surety being required.

This will surely help the economy to progress forward by providing lending and support to small business in a way that other Government-backed schemes simply fail to provide.

A publicly-owned, people-centric bank would provide a cornerstone to people, to business and to Public Services alike when run only with the end-user and sustainability in mind. This is what Britain needs.

Credit Rating Agencies

In a recent blog, I talked about the unrealistic level of influence that Credit Rating Agencies now have upon us all.

Ironically, the UK had its Triple A Rating downgraded soon afterwards and Politicians really must now consider the influence that 3rd parties have in dictating the levels of interest that people pay to borrow from lenders, or indeed if they will be considered ‘credit worthy’ in the first place.

Government lending aside, nobody would sensibly deny that different levels of lending risk exist depending upon the financial history of an individual or business.

But it is often poorly managed lending which contributes to higher risks in the first place and improved regulation must therefore be used to restrict this process.

Through the Bank of England, the Government currently defers the setting of the base interest rate in a way which reflects needs in the wider market. All lending should reflect this rate; be realistic; be proportional and Government should drive Regulation to support this.

Pension Fund Management

Pension Funds are significant Shareholders of well known PLC’s across the Globe.

In the UK, their influence is felt by many of us each and every day through the profits we provide to Companies such as the big Supermarkets and Utility Companies, which is reflected in what few would disagree is a continual and disproportionate rise in the Cost of Living.

Businesses are of course created and managed for profit. But it is not normal for profit to be guaranteed within any business, and neither should the circumstances exist where any business can manipulate a market in order that it can be so.

It is therefore essential that Government Legislate to limit the influence of Pension Funds (owners) on the Management of Businesses which provide essential goods and/or services.

Prices of such goods and services should reflect their true value and not a level of profit that businesses of smaller size and with less influence through market share would not be able to reasonably sustain.

Futures

Buying, selling or speculating on products which do not exist would sound like madness to anyone but those who are actually doing it.

Gambling in its most basic form, futures offer a guaranteed level of income for producers, and the promise of significant profits for those who are prepared to invest in what is little more than thin air over a period of time.

However, they also extend the number of links in each ‘virtual’ supply chain along with the number of businesses or agents looking for a profit. Basic prices for commodities and food are inflated way beyond their true market value as a result and the end-using customer suffers most.

Government must legislate against the misuse of Futures in goods which are essential to daily life such as crops which have not even yet been grown, or energy which has yet even to be created.

Doing so will remove speculation of this type, which always has an adverse affect upon the end users who inevitably pay the most. It will also protect producers and the markets from unforeseen circumstances that nobody can control.

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As with many other industries, the Finance and Banking Sector has simply lost its way. Growing distance from the customer leaves decision makers without any true master other than profit, and this situation can only get worse if it is left unchecked.

Bankers must ultimately be left to make their own decisions. But until they regain ethics; a sense of what is right and wrong and the responsibility not to abuse their position, Government must lead by example and intervene where necessary so that the many in the world outside Banking do not continue to suffer because of the profit hungry few within.

image thanks to http://www.thisismoney.co.uk

Meaningful change for this Country will only be achieved when Politicians accept it is their responsibility to lead us all in doing so

March 19, 2013 Leave a comment

grass-roots-headerMany of us will have grown up with children’s tales and anecdotes which refer to houses built on rock having stronger foundations than those built upon sand. We may have left the stories behind, but the truth still remains that you may be able to fill the gaps, paint over the cracks and reshape the doors and windows on the house built on sand, but its structure will keep moving; the damage will keep appearing in different places and the weight of the constant repairs will soon make the situation a whole lot worse.

If we really want change for the better, we must accept that just about everything with a Government hand upon it is now built on sand, and has been since ‘what’s in it for me’ career Politicians and party politics started selling us all the idea that an island paradise could be real life for us all and promptly moved everything onto its beach.

You get the idea.

So before anything else, there has to be at least some level of acceptance that it is not the young unemployed, single mothers with 11 children, disability claimants, immigrants, those claiming tax-credits, serial re-offenders, ruthless business owners, public-sector fat cats, unscrupulous bankers, or super-rich tax-dodgers who bear all of the responsibility for what they do.

It is the systems that we have in place which made it possible for them to be there; systems that were put there by many different Politicians; Politicians from all parties in Government at different times who were thinking primarily about themselves and their own electability.

Politicians must now put the fear of losing their position to one side and concentrate on making the best of their period of Office – however short – to deliver results on behalf of the people who elected them.

Seeking Office for what you can do for others and seeing it through on the basis of people-centric policies, rather than political ideologies and personal agendas will reap results surprisingly fast if everyone does the same. When they don’t, you experience problems like Coalition Government and times when everyone else begins to wonder if things will ever stop getting worse.

The current way that politics and Government works is not sustainable for Politicians, or for the very people who put them there. A Career is the story of one person, and Politicians have responsibility for a whole lot more.

Principles for meaningful change in British Politics

March 18, 2013 1 comment

grass-roots-headerMost people think that Politicians always lie and that they don’t have principles.

To achieve meaningful change for this Country, this perception must change. The sense of what is right and the sense of justice which inspired many Politicians into seeking Public Office, must no longer be compromised because of decisions made which are best for the individual concerned, or for the benefit of the Political Party to which they have become affiliated.

When I was first Elected on 2007, I was not alone in being horrified at how quickly it became apparent that decisions were made in Government on the pure basis of what was good for the Party, the Group Leaders, or was most likely to result in ‘good press’ or electability in the long run, before anything or anybody else was ever really considered.

Only sheer weight of numbers would ever result in any meaningful results which went against this non-democratic tsunami, primarily because many ‘junior’ Politicians do not want to risk disfavour or risk losing their Seats because they have been seen to disagree with the Party ‘line’.

This is not democracy in its correct sense and every voter is being failed at one point or another. The way that decisions are made in a proper democratic process is by majority, but the way that majorities usually get formed today is wrong, and this means that we are getting wronged the majority of the time.

People before Politics.

Every decision that Politicians make should be focused on the benefit to the majority of people; not the priorities of the few or of the Politicians themselves.

Practicality before Perfection.

We all like the idea of living in a perfect world, but perfection can only ever be an aim in an imperfect world and Politicians must make decisions based upon their practical impact; not just on what they would like to see.

Policies made in isolation lead to isolationist Policies.

Just as one policy may be used as an excuse not for enacting another, new policies should not be created without consideration of their real impact upon or collectively with others. Politicians now need to review the whole System and not use the size of this task as an excuse for not doing so.

Politics is better when it isn’t Personal.

Politics should never be about personalities and when it is, it is a sure sign that those talking are thinking primarily about themselves.

Fear is no excuse in itself.

Any policy made only with emotion and feeling in mind does not consider the wider picture and the full implications. Too many decisions have historically been made by Politicians because of a climate of fear. Over-reaction and under-reaction can be destructive in equal measure and however emotive a subject can be, emotions are personal and do not reflect consideration for what is best for the majority in its strictest and most comprehensive sense.

One size never fits all.

We are all different and policies must recognise and embrace those differences in all ways, but without recourse to any form of discrimination whether that be positive or negative.

Decisions affecting us all similarly should be made by Central Government, whilst decisions based upon Locality should rest in the Locality with Local People and their Political Representatives.

Central Government has as much responsibility to reflect, consider and act upon the decisions made by Local Representatives as it does have the right to ask others to respect the decisions which are made universally for us all.

Lifestyle choices should be for those living that life.

The preferences and actions of individuals should never be questioned or put in doubt so long as they do not compromise the physical safety, security, lifestyle and freedom of choice of others.

A crisis of conscience for one, is no excuse in itself to prevent the lifestyle choices of another and Government should never support it as such.

Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one

AU491810_942longThe word ‘business’ conjures up different meanings for different people, depending on their background and of course what exposure they may have had to its use or application.

Most will agree that its use as a term suggests enterprise and methods of working which would sit snugly within a commercial environment. But should this word actually be applied to the modus operandi of any form of Government when the two terms are completely incongruous?

Much is made of the idea that the best people to run Government at any level are those who have a business background. One of the current arguments against the demographic makeup of our MP’s today is the substantial lack of solid business experience possessed by those who lead the Country from Westminster, with the accompanying notion that MP’s who have run or owned businesses of their own would somehow automatically have an almost esoteric level of understanding and midas touch which would solve just about any problem. They wouldn’t; they don’t and they never have.

With years of Local Government experience as both an Elected Member, an Officer and from working within 3rd Sector Organisations alongside, I have also often heard the term ‘business case’, ‘business plan’ and the idea often suggested that Councils are now run ‘like a business’ in meetings.

The problem with this is of course that the political leadership and members of Councils rarely have ‘hands on’ experience of running any kind of business you could draw reasonable parallels with themselves, and when they do, it is often the case that it has been so long since they did so, that any lack of an appreciation that time moves on or that things continually change will soon erode any tangible benefit.

Perhaps worse is the ability that Officers and Civil Servants have been gifted by political demographics and the opportunity to use such terms in plans, which are then taken as read by those who simply don’t know any better as being a true ‘business case’, when such ‘business’ cases could never be any such thing.

Recognising the differences between running a business in its purest sense, and running Government under the delusion that it can be run as business has never been more essential for today’s politicians, because neither Central or Local Government are businesses, and the people running them have to stop believing and behaving like they are.

A business is of course run for the profit of an individual or shareholders. All decisions will normally be made with the form of pay-off that they will receive firmly in mind. It can be expanded or changed to meet the demands of customers as it sees fit, and a business can choose which customers it may wish to target and how much profit it will seek from delivering any particular product or service. Its revenues are never guaranteed.

On the other hand, Government does not run to make profit, but to provide services and support for all those which it has been elected to serve.

Run properly, Government would not actively target any particular group of customers to provide a different quality of service depending on the feedback or profit that it gets from that group, and would work to meet demand for services as best and prudently as it can, well knowing that it has a duty to do so without seeking payment from one customer to pay for the benefits of another, or to irresponsibly borrow money from lenders that it knows it doesn’t have the appropriate levels of revenue to comfortably repay.

However, Government revenues – as long as they remain sensible – will always be guaranteed, and it is with this significant difference that come the even greater levels of responsibility than no one business should ever realistically be able to have.

One of the greatest dangers facing us as a society comes from the fact that politicians at all levels of Government have either failed to recognise these basic differences and therefore maintain them, or have willingly abused their ability to raise revenues to cover badly managed services or implement policies without any due regard to striking the balance for every member of this society or in applying fairness to all, while they have given every thought to political expedience and electability.

The British political system is broken, because it has adopted those very same values of a profit-making business, which are to further the interests of that business. For politicians, this comes in the form of power, whilst they have ignored the basic rule of business as they have done so; the rule which states they must deliver profit to every single one of the shareholders rather than to themselves. Profit in this sense should always be seen as the delivery of the same results for all.

So if our politicians really feel that they have to treat Government like a business, they then must also realise that if they continue to keep raising the fees on the same old products time and again without offering new products and value for money, they will soon price their offerings way beyond the purse of the people who normally pay, and the cash will soon start ceasing to flow.

Government is not run for a financial profit, any more than it should ever be so for the bottom-line benefit of just the ‘staff’.

Whatever their backgrounds, experience and level, politicians must remember that they are the managers; the facilitators; the decision makers; not the beneficiaries themselves – and especially so where the end profit is not even perceptively the same as what it would be for a business.

The time has long since passed when the electorate could continue to live decent lives, whilst those within Government continue to focus on the end result for themselves. Government is not the same thing as a business, and should never be run like it is one.

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