Don’t bash Benson for keeping his promises by John Bachman

Published: Sunday, May 9, 2004
Don’t bash Benson for keeping his promises

John Bachman

Don’t bash Benson for keeping his promises

Gov. Craig Benson is doing exactly what candidate Benson said he would do and some people think that is wrong. Candidate Benson promised that he would act like the CEO of New Hampshire Inc., and he is attending to business.

Benson told us that he would bring his business skills to the governor’s office and find ways to make the state work more efficiently. The election was a clear choice between his frugal ways and a guarantee of more taxes and spending from Democratic opponent Mark Fernald. The voters chose frugal business practices, giving Benson a decisive 20 percent plurality.

The latest controversy to attract the scorn of the Concord Monitor was described in a Monitor editorial that was republished in the May 1 edition of The Telegraph.

The story is that the governor has appointed a committee charged with finding ways to make the state health and transportation departments more efficient, which is perfectly in line with what he told us he would do. The editorial objects to the makeup of the committee, pointing out that there are eight Libertarians, no career politicians and no Democrats. Gasp! How can anything good come from a panel with no career politicians and no Democrats?

Everyone knows that career politicians and Democrats represent the very embodiment of efficiency. I have not looked it up, but I am sure that the dictionary must list career politicians and Democrats as synonyms for the word “efficiency.”

OK, so putting career politicians and Democrats on a government efficiency panel is illogical. So what? State government does illogical things regularly; appearance is what counts, not substance. We just happen to be stuck with a governor who insists that things make sense. He simply does not understand that it is far more important to look inclusive than to staff the committee with people who agree with its purpose and have demonstrated ability to seek creative solutions to problems. Come on, guv, this is your opportunity to create a New Hampshire version of the 9/11 Commission. We can be entertained by public posturing, partisan politics and bobbing and weaving that produces a compromised, good-sound-bite-but-no-substance report just like the nation will get from the likes of Jamie Gorelick. Then you can move on to the next election year farce.

I am beginning to think Gov. Benson will never become a skilled politician; he just does not get it. Or did he get it, hold it up against his campaign pledges and reject it?

The Monitor seemed most upset that he put a bunch of Libertarians on the committee. Libertarians, no less! Doesn’t he know that people who think that government is too intrusive have no public role? There must be something in the constitution that prohibits appointing Libertarians to public positions. Surely our constitution has a clause commanding the separation of state and logic. It must be there somewhere. If it is not then how do you explain the illogic of state government before Benson came along?

State spending rose more than 50 percent during Gov. Jeanne Shaheen-Houdini’s reign, when tax dollars rushed into state coffers during the dot-com bubble. Spend that money! Hire more people! Give

the education lobby what they ask! Do not plan for the inevitable burst bubble, just spend. When the bubble did pop, Shaheen-Houdini nimbly jumped to making John Kerry’s 20-year senate record disappear, leaving Gov. Benson to figure out how to fix her budget mess.

Candidate Benson told us that he would look for ways to change the way government works, and that is what Gov. Benson is doing. Why would he pick Libertarians to help find those ways? After all, Libertarians want to, err . . . change . . . the way government, err . . . works.

The Monitor suggests that the committee needs less of them and more “Democrats, moderate Republicans or others with mainstream views.” Yup, those folks will sure change things, won’t they? What is the matter with you, guv? You are hampering yourself with your silly insistence on acting logically. You must change your ways, not the state’s. Appoint people with a vested interest in the status quo instead of those . . . those . . . change people.

Businesses constantly find ways to improve efficiency, but governments? Naw, it does not happen. Career politicians give lip service to efficiency when campaigning and hope that we never realize that the only things they can do efficiently is to expand government and spend taxes. A politician who reduces the size of government loses power when he does so, therefore, he is loath to do it. His desire for re-election overwhelms any latent efficiency impulses that may have survived the onslaught of job and influence seekers bearing votes.

When a business needs to re-examine part of its operation, it can call for an internal review or hire an external one. The external choice is often the better method, as it brings in people who have a vested interest in identifying real solutions (otherwise they do not get paid) and had no part in creating the mess. That is the path Gov. Benson chose this time.

Good luck, guv. I cannot wait to see the results.

John Bachman of Amherst is a frequent contributor to Perspectives. He can be reached at


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