Inequality – Part 5

June 28, 2014

Second idea? How about a bit of strategic planning. When you Google the term this definition appears:

Strategic planning is an organization’s process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy. It may also extend to control mechanisms for guiding the implementation of the strategy.

So, and I mean this with respect, really, where the f*ck are we going as a nation? Does anybody know? Got a map?

Reduce the deficit, create more jobs, Mars by 2025 (I think that was just a one-off speech) … and that’s about it, pretty much. No set of goals, and no plans for getting there.

Part of the problem rests with inequality, and the way in which it has insidiously divided us. I’ve written before about different times, when the boss and the workers had children in the same schools. When we talked about a 20-1 ratio between CEO and “bottom of the company” wages (as opposed to the ratios between 173-1 and 1795-1, as reported by Michael Hiltzik last October in the LA Times, in CEO-to-worker pay gap is obscene; want to know how obscene?), when our sons went to war together, rich and poor. This inequality makes a set of shared goals very difficult, for a chunk of those who are “haves on steroids” like the present system.

Not all of the very wealthy are happy however. The hot new piece I read, just yesterday, is titled The Pitchforks are Coming … For Us Plutocrats and appears in the July/August edition of Politico. So there is the potential for a coming together about where we are going, maybe even with some leadership from people high up on the food chain.

I’ve “done” strategic planning several times. It’s a process. It’s messy. There are always people in the room who can solve the issue in about 10 minutes. I’ve also been involved with strategic planning processes that worked well until it came time to follow the plan. Then, not so much.

But on a couple of occasions organizations with which I was affiliated went through the strategic planning process, reached a consensus about direction, goals, and the broad strategy for getting there. Then, the staff and board developed tactics—the means—for accomplishing the goals. Voila! It worked.

I’m no fool, even early on a Saturday morning. Getting 300,000,000+ people moving, much less moving in a similar direction, seems like an absurd proposition. Daunting, no; just absurd! Yet, just in the last few days I heard about new levels of renewable energy usage in Germany and other European countries. (So no one thinks I’m “in the tank” here’s Germany hits 50% solar, Ireland 50% wind by Craig Morris for Renewables International, questioning just how much usable energy renewables provide.) Somehow, these countries made decisions about energy, and they are following plans that are leading them to lessened dependence on fossil fuels. We can “yackity-yack” about the success level and anything and everything else, but they are moving forward, and doing it collectively. (Here? When Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, he removed the solar panels his predecessor had installed. Boy, did he show us!)

One of the great weaknesses of modern day governance has been the failure to engage and expect anything from our citizens. When we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush did not, in fact, ask us to “go shopping”; others put those words in his mouth. However, neither he nor anyone else asked anything of us. And no one else has asked us to do much of anything for decades, save “supporting our troops.”

What we’ve got is “same old, same old,” top-down, gridlocked failure, with nothing expected of us, and no meaningful way for any of us to be heard. This can’t go on, ad infinitum.

So what might a national strategic planning process look like? I don’t know, but I can certainly imagine a set of structured town halls, facilitated by people who make a living facilitating meetings. Let’s find out what people want. What they are willing to do. What they can do.

Once we have some data, smart people can put a set of plans together. Here’s how we get from here to there. Here’s what it might cost. And here’s what you’ll have to do. Yes, you, Mrs. and Mr. American. It occurs to me that we have ceded this space to politicians, financed by billionaires, who can say whatever they want to say, as long as they can say it in 30 seconds.

We’re failing, fast. Our systems are not up for the challenges we face. So let’s try something different. And about inequality? I’m pretty sure any new approaches which come from an engaged populace will lead us away from our present path. Pretty, pretty, pretty sure!


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