KARA boardmember David Strand made public policy on children’s issues in Europe & has written an extremely clear piece on the effectiveness of preventative public policy vs “cleaning up” after poor public policy.

Here it is in it’s entirety.  Read it and see if you agree that taxpayers would save enormous downstream costs by the judicious use of preventative and developmental care for young, struggling families.

DFL Minnesota 8th Congressional District

Press Release #11

March 2, 2012

An Open letter from a former businessman to his State Representative and the Majority Leaders.

Our local state representative recently requested ideas for government reform. It prompts me to respond to her, along with House and Senate leadership, on a subject that involves billions of dollars in ongoing waste and presents opportunities for vast improvements in Minnesota’s ability to be productively competitive in our global economy. With a background of managerial and executive positions in multinational corporations, I can offer successful strategies that have relevance in government and public policy.

Benchmarking is essential to any private sector business for sustainable competitive success. Creativity is not the monopoly of one government organization, just as it isn’t for one business organization. Benchmarking is used to measure performance using a specific indicator  that is then compared to the performance of others. Benchmarking is the strategy that expands the opportunity for creative solutions.

It’s well known that both the United States and Minnesota societies have inferior conditions compared to other competing industrial countries and competing US states. Examples are rates of poverty, uninsured health care, public school performance, infant mortality, prison incarceration and economic mobility. Benchmarking of competitive organizations uncovers improvement opportunities without wasteful experimentation.

A second essential is understanding the difference between operating expenses and strategic investments. Both involve outlays of money, but they are otherwise completely different. Strong businesses control operating expenses, but carefully protect investments. Nothing is as important in business than the development of strong human assets. Similarly, societies that neglect health care and education investments for their citizens are doomed to failure.

A third essential is understanding the importance of long term strategy. Any private or public sector executive can make short term results flourish by ignoring long term strategic investments. I have witnessed businesses being harvested and generating wildly successful short term profitability while condemning the business to disaster over time.

The executive that deliberately does this gets rewarded, gets out and then disappears-leaving behind the wreckage of a destroyed business. This is routinely done by venture capitalists whose objective is to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time.

I have an example of benchmarking from a post retirement experience in Hennepin County, where I worked for two years as a volunteer guardian ad litem for the Juvenile Court. One of the largest budget items in Hennepin County is the cost of the child protective system. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent in corrective and restorative costs as a result of cleaning up after child abuse and neglect. My benchmarking study involved living in Denmark for half a year.

Compared to woeful neglect of the needs of young families in the US and Minnesota, this study revealed the success of preventative public policies that provide universal health care, universal maternity leave, and universal access to professionally staffed nursery school. This is developmental child care, not custodial care so often chosen here because it costs less. Taxpayers would be saved enormous downstream costs by the judicious use of preventative and developmental care for young, struggling families.

An example documented in Minnesota is the research done by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank under the direction of economist Art Rolnick. His team found that there is no better return to the taxpayer than the investment in high quality early childhood education. When our lawmakers intentionally ignore this highly relevant research, they do a disservice to their constituents. This is an example benchmarking, the difference between operating expenses and investments and also the value of resisting the temptation of ruinous short term gain.

What is so desperately needed in Minnesota is public sector leadership to make the tough choices required for investment in our state’s future. Billions of future taxpayer costs are in the balance.

Will the current majority party in the House and the Senate provide that leadership and join with the governor to invest in Minnesota’s future? It will require telling the truth to Minnesota citizens. There is no free lunch. There is no cutting our way to success. We either invest in our future or we will leave behind the residue of a crumbling hulk of a once leading, once proud Minnesota. Which will it be?

David Strand

Aitkin, MN

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1 Comment

  1. So this is also happening in the fabled U.S. of A. And we in India (Odisha state) thought only our government leaders are insensitive towards children’s rights of health and education. Just sample this-
    This current year (2012-2013) the Odisha State budget, maintaining its shameful trend, has proposed 2.51% of GDP for school education and 0.70% for heath sector. These allocations are traditionally branded Social Sector expenditure, not futuristic investment for human resource.

    The situation in our part of the world is more frustrating in that around 50% of the general population is illiterate and poor. Hence voiceless. The vocal minority has abandoned the public education & health systems in favour of expensive private options. This leaves our representatives free to do whatever they choose with taxpayers’ money, unlike in the U.S.

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