I am a 55 year old surgeon, not a politician. My service the past two years in the State Legislature has been my first foray into politics. I have enjoyed the experience immensely, and cannot begin to express how much I have learned. My basic political philosophy has not changed, but I have learned that complex problems will not always be solved by the rigid application of the same. A successful legislative process requires from all parties the willingness to compromise, in the end, in order to accommodate workable, long-term solutions to which citizens can buy-in. Every issue has a complex history with multiple stakeholders, and a responsible legislator understands this and works hard to obtain a grasp on more than just the superficial political talking points that attach to each.
I am conservative fiscally and socially, but I have an open-minded approach to each issue. I have been wrong more than once, and my life experience has taught me that it is best to maintain openness to fresh information and knowledgeable, informed input from all perspectives. I usually vote conservatively, but do not always vote the "party line". My approach is to do my best to support those positions that represent the best long-term interests of my constituents.
I firmly believe in the principle of keeping government no larger than is necessary to accomplish its assigned functions. It is clear that only government is capable of certain tasks which we are individually incapable of performing. On the other hand, it is equally clear that government inevitably fails when trying to accomplish for individuals what they should reasonably be expected to accomplish for themselves. I contend that government at every level, and especially at the federal, has gone too far in the latter direction. Our government seems to view itself as tasked with insulating us from the inevitable consequences of poor decision making. While it is perfectly right to provide for those among us who are truly in need due to forces outside their control, we are now systematically "bailing out" individuals, institutions, and corporations. Such policy is unsustainable; difficult life lessons are not learned, good decision making goes increasingly unrewarded.
Government is sustained financially by business. When business prospers, every other part of our culture flourishes: job creation, government and its programs, the arts, science, medicine, education. Free enterprise is the creative force that nourishes us. While business should not be allowed to systematically plunder the environment or its customers, we cannot sustain a regulatory and tax environment that strangles business and entrepreneurship.
Public education is under intense scrutiny. Providing tax payer funded education is critical, I think, to ensuring that all our children, of whatever background, will have the opportunity to realize their dreams. It is part of our mission, as a nation, to ensure that all shall have equal opportunity, without guaranteeing equal outcomes. At the same time, providing public education as a function of government exposes it to the whims of political forces that only nominally make quality education first priority. Furthermore, giving control of education policy to government has served to insulate it from those natural forces that would ensure its evolution and improvement. Public education, under current circumstances, is remarkably immune to meaningful change. I submit that empowering parents to freely choose the public school their children will attend, and allowing the public funding to follow the child, will provide the critical influence that is lacking in helping schools to improve their performance. Free every public school, its teachers and administration, to create its own policies, and to experience its own outcomes. Let's compete. This would admittedly create some inconveniences; but remember, it's about the kids.
Health care is the most critical issue of our time. Our technology has rapidly outpaced our willingness to make difficult decisions. Timely access to scientifically based healthcare can often mean the difference between life and death. Life expectancy and quality of life have been extended and improved. Access to health care ranks behind only shelter and sustenance on the list of basic needs. Historically, this is a relatively recent development, and ironically, the success of modern medicine has served to ensure the need for even more health care. Government programs to ensure access for those who cannot afford it, created almost 50 years ago, are necessary and appropriate, but they have not been meaningfully reformed in light of current circumstances. Unreformed, they will soon convert government at every level to nothing more than clearing houses for health care benefits. Necessary changes would include the following:
1. Medicaid must be tiered in a needs based fashion; beneficiaries must make copays and deductibles and thereby be invested in their own health care decisions.
2. Medicare eligibility must be extended systematically beyond age 65; when this program was created, life expectancy was about 65. It is now 80.
3. Medicare benefits must become needs based.
4. Government should not set fees for services in any program; it should only determine the amount of benefits it will pay toward services.
5. Government must get out of the business of mandating what must be covered in private policies, and allow a truly free market for services to develop; this will help control costs.
6. Tort reform is critical to freeing providers to practice according to their training and judgment; defensive medicine is expensive.
7. The doctor/patient relationship must evolve. It is no longer sustainable to allow doctors and their patients to have completely free rein as to how much taxpayers will spend on treatment options. Critical decisions must be made about what benefits will be covered under publically funded programs.