Taking Action

By Louis Avallone

So, there we were, at a local restaurant being seated. The music was loud and lively, the wait staff was busy, and every table filled the room with conversations of every kind. And as we unwrapped our silverware and paper napkins, we made a curious discovery: There was a person’s name, handwritten in ink, on the backside of the paper napkin band. “Why is there someone’s name written here, Dad?,” came the response from the 7-year old son seated at the table. Well, it didn’t take me long to understand, and after confirming with the waitress, we soon all knew.

“You see,” she said, “Every night, the wait staff wraps the silverware and napkins together for the following day, and we place our name on the backside of the paper napkin band so that if a set of utensils was incomplete, or not clean, we’d know exactly who was responsible.”

Of course, this got me thinking about the increased accountability for those who did their job well at that restaurant, and the better results that obviously must have followed, from such a simple, inexpensive idea to measure results, and take the personal responsibility for them.

After all, whether you are managing a business, or a family, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. It’s the reason that baseball players know their batting average, and why advertisers measure the number of people who respond to an ad. It’s why golfers keep track of their scores, and why students want to know their test results. If they didn’t measure their performance, how would they know if they improved?

As much as that makes sense to you and me, there are far too many folks in Washington that simply don’t get the principle of accountability. You see, there are trillions of tax dollars raised and spent by Congress each year, and almost no accountability for their results, or the value received by the taxpayers.

And to add insult to injury, Congress hasn’t passed a budget since 2009, even though the Budget Act says it must do so by April 15 every year. Literally tens of billions of dollars go unaccounted for every year, disappearing down bureaucratic black holes.

And there are lots of examples of this unaccountability. From the estimated $72 billion in improper payments made each year, to the $25 billion annually spent just maintaining unused or vacant federal properties, to the health care fraud that is estimated to cost taxpayers more than $60 billion annually, our federal government is the model of unaccountability, and the undesirable results that necessarily, and predictably, follow.

There is perhaps no corporation that comes close to the scope of fraud, waste, and lack of accountability than our federal government, and yet most folks stand idly by and vote for bigger and bigger government each election cycle. A government that spent over $593,000 to study where in a chimpanzee’s brain they get the idea to throw feces and that spent $200 million to fund a reality television show in India to advertise U.S. cotton.

So, here’s what I was thinking: Would the bigger government folks in Washington sign a “napkin band” of their own, just like in the restaurant? Would these bureaucrats in Washington be willing to be accountable to families living paycheck to paycheck, and explain why they allowed the 2% payroll tax cut to expire at the end of 2012? Would they sign the back of the “napkin band” that raises your federal and state taxes to finance Medicare and Medicaid, when fraud and waste is the real source of the problem?
You see, as a people, if we are to govern own affairs, either directly or through representative government, we must be informed about what our government is doing, and measuring the results.

The reason is simple: If we don’t hold our elected officials accountable, then elections and the will of the people have no meaning. That’s why that simple “napkin band”, with a person’s name scribbled in ink on the backside, serves as a simple reminder that what works best, works simply.

So, what if we all wrote our name on the back of our ‘napkin band’ in life?” Lots of folks, like you, already do. It’s the doctor that writes your prescription, or the bank officer that approves your loan. It’s the teacher who signs your report card, or the air conditioner repairman who comes to your home. Isn’t way past time for our federal government to do the same?

Now, are you ready to order?

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