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Where are the Leaders?

Where are the Leaders?

It’s not often that I write a political blog but after a robust discussion with my daughters over dinner I thought that it was about time I put pen to paper. Almost every night I see all the candidates from both the republicans and democrats being paraded across the television…..and I’m in Australia!

To be fair, Australia is also in an election year and our screens are filled with politicians kissing babies, making promises and almost completely ignoring fiscal responsibility. So although this article uses numbers from the USA….trust me when I say that Australia is relatively similar.

So, what can politicians actually do to bring budgets back into surplus, pay off debt and do all the things they expect you and I to do at home? Well, not much actually…..unless they are prepared to tip over the applecart and show some real leadership.

I came across this little pie chart (see below) which really sums up the economic situation quite nicely. It basically said that 84 percent of the budget goes to keeping the lights on in social security, defence, health, debt interest and various tax credits.

USA BudgetIf my maths is correct this leaves 16 percent for potential cuts without the country either going into bankruptcy, riots on the streets or a foreign power invading only to discover that everyone’s dying of some health issue. So what’s in the 16 percent that all of the candidates are so boldly claiming that they can use to “fix the economy”?

Optional items such as; veteran’s benefits, transportation, science, education and research etc. You know, the stuff that actually makes the country work.

So unless, a politician is prepared to tackle some of the big ticket items then deficits will continue to be left to our children. For instance, I’m actually a strong proponent of a nice stable society where people aren’t rioting in the streets because they are starving but I don’t believe in a free lunch.

In Australia, we have something called unemployment benefits. They are a big chunk of our social security budget and are designed to help people that lose their job until they find another one. The problem is that we are now experiencing multi-generational unemployment where the grandparents, parents and children have all been unemployed and have no desire to get work. This is costing the country and really needs to stop as its unsustainable.

If society is paying you money so that you can live, then in my opinion you have a debt to society. Assuming that the person is physically and mentally capable then there are many local tasks that can be conducted by this group of people to help them gain some pride from working and contributing. It’s picking up litter, pruning trees, planting gardens helping out at an old folk’s home. The list is endless. As a society we cannot afford to continue to pay people that do nothing. It will take real leadership to make a change to social security that is both compassionate and realistic.

How about defense…..this is a touchy subject but one that is important. The USA spends just under one third of the total global defence budget and three times more than China, nearly eight times more than Russia and twenty-four times Australia. Before we demand the dismemberment of all of the armed forces due to the enormous wastage we need to stop and consider a few things.

USA Military SpendingFirst of all, the armed forces do an incredible amount of good for society. Although it may blow stuff up the vast majority of its budget is spent on training individuals and giving them a sense of pride. The armed forces are REALLY good at training….they’ve been doing it a long time. We could always put the long-term unemployed into special units called “homeland training” where they can learn basic life skills. Decreasing the rate at which guns and bullets are used isn’t a bad idea either.

Now we have the other biggie in the budget… I know that I’m going to tread on a few toes here but in my opinion healthcare needs to be universal. We have an obligation to each other that means that your level of healthcare should not dictated by your ability to pay. In addition, like all industries, there should be a free flow of health care goods across borders to help reduce the costs of medications and services.

I have no idea why there isn’t mass demonstrations in Washington and Canberra over the fact that the same drugs in Cuba and Indonesia cost a fraction of what we pay. A person’s ability to pay does not give the seller of a monopolistic drug the right to charge incrementally more.

The most important thing that needs to be done to the health budgets of western nations is an allocation towards prevention rather than cures. In other words, spending money on getting the population healthy will reduce the need to spend money on lifestyle related health issues. You’ve only got to look at some of the Eastern countries that have country wide daily exercise programs to realise it’s a good thing.

John F KennedyThe problem is that politicians don’t seem to talk about the big budget items or come up with creative solutions for a better country. Too many of them have forgotten JFKs words, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Sure, he didn’t always get it right but he put out a vision of a better nation.

What most politicians seem to be doing is banking on continual growth and pushing off the problems to the next generation. I’ve got a message for you…..perpetual growth is impossible and the next generation has had enough.

So as people’s of two western democracies, USA and Australia, let’s exercise our right to express ourselves and demand some vision from our leaders. I want a prime minister that has a big audacious goals that aren’t easy but well worth it. I want a leader that is more about investing into the future than robbing it blind.

I look at the daily dose of American debates on the television and I have no idea how my friends in the USA are going to vote. It all seems to have degenerated into a slanging match and the winner will be the person that has the least amount of mud stuck to them. Demand something more from the candidates and ask them to tell you about an American utopia that they have a vision for.

Wouldn’t it be great if our countries had leaders rather than pollsters telling the politicians what to say and how to act? I also want a media that is less concerned about the next sound-bite and more interested into a person’s character and vision for our countries. I feel sometimes that in an effort to sell another advertising spot that the truth is being sorely neglected.

So I’m sitting down with my daughters and discussing what real leadership truly is and I get an epiphany. It’s providing vision in a caring way that inspires a nation to great heights. I then turned to my daughters and said, this is what you need to try to create in your own families in the years to come….


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments. Launches New Website
Saturday Musings - I'm Turning Fifty!

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