Thursday, March 16, 2017

An Eye-Opener

“Please try something else.”

A couple of months ago, I began to pay my water bill and saw the city had not credited me with paying my prior bill. I checked my payments for the prior month … could not find one for Minneapolis water. I searched both the bills to be paid and the paid bills bins. Nothing. Ooops! Using my online tool, I paid both bills as quickly as possible.

Remembering that this had happened once before I called the office. They didn’t think they had a problem getting the bill out, saw that I, with one exception, always pay on time and rescinded the late fee.

I began thinking about how to prevent this from happening again. I decided to create a matrix, with months across the top and bills to be paid along the side, and put an X in each cell when the bill for that month for that entity arrived. “What is the best way to do this?” I wondered. “What’s the best tool? Excel? A text editor?” I am a techie and rather enjoyed thinking about how to do this. “Paper and Pencil? Digital? An iPad? My phone? Paper and pencil on a form created digitally?”

As I played with these options, it dawned on me … this had happened twice, with a long time in between. Both times with the same supplier. Both times he removed the late fee. I had decided to add a heavy administrative burden to solve a practically non-existent problem.

Further reflection revealed a far more important truth: the administrative burden I was about to place on myself feels — somehow, please work with me —  in many ways like the burden many people, especially business people, feel in our country today. Government’s response to everything is: regulate. Require reports. Make.people.behave.

I absolutely believe in regulations. I also believe some regulations are unnecessarily burdensome while others are life-savers. But it takes wisdom to distinguish these differences and I don’t believe adequate wisdom has ever been applied. I sometimes wonder if it’s even available.

A couple of current examples illustrate why I wonder:
The sounds-good-let’s-do-it desire to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour — in Minneapolis. It seems obvious that this would be a huge negative influence to anyone considering opening or expanding a business in Minneapolis.

At the national level, in early 2017, the Department of Justice initiated a lawsuit against a neighborhood bank; its crime seems to be making business decisions different from ones the DOJ would make.

We have managed the legislative and regulatory practices in the same way for a long time. The result is layers of bureaucratic burden. Happily, some of these necessarily impinge on the way some would live. Unhappily, some of them just impinge.

In the 2016 presidential election, both major candidates promised change. As reported previously ( political meanderings, election reflections, if hillary wins, more political angst, this election year, and our democracy is fragile )
, Donald Trump scared the bejesus out of me. Unreported previously, Hilary Clinton’s message of change struck me as possibly trying different things, but with the same methodology that has gotten us where we are. Nothing fresh. I pulled her lever even while my gut, along with Donald Trump, was hollering, “This will result in more of the same. Enough is enough; please try something else.”
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