This is the Change You’ve Been Looking For

I had the opportunity to hear Scott Rasmussen speak last week. The theme of his speech was “change”—as in how policy change happens. The lesson he gave was that policy change takes a long time to happen, and that it is driven not by political leaders in Washington, but that it follows from public opinion.

His example was women’s suffrage. Suffrage didn’t begin with the 19th Amendment, but rather Congress acted after numerous states had already given women the right to vote, and voters’ opinion (given many women were voting already) had clearly shifted.

Rasmussen argued that, though many now will mock “change” as a campaign slogan, Americans do in fact want policy change. Specifically, Rasmussen argues that voters want to see government cut its spending, and he backs this up with polling data.

The problem, he notes, is that total government spending in the United States—federal, state and local— has increased every year since 1955. For historical perspective, the hit TV show of the day was Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.

What interested me is how the national perspective so closely parallels what is happening in Pennsylvania. Last year’s total state operating budget cut spending for the first time in more than 40 years. As a result, Pennsylvania’s economy has started to rebound. And while special interests continue to protest for higher spending, voters want to see this type of change, not more of the same overspending of their tax dollars.