Being True to Your Word

By Vic Kohring, February 2, 2018

When I served in the Alaska Legislature, being true to your word was crucial to survival in the political arena. With all the vote trading and "legalized bribery," if you failed to keep a promise, you became a marked man (or woman) and would eventually render yourself useless and ineffective. And for good reason as who can trust a liar? But it's a totally different story on the campaign trail, where candidates make lots of promises simply to get elected and then change their tune once they arrive in the capital city, often with no repercussions.

Strangely, most voters have short memories and forget the plethora of promises by the time the next election cycle rolls around and repeatedly allow candidates to bamboozle them with slick campaign ads, slogans and fancy signs. The typical mantra of "I'm a conservative and believe in lower taxes, protecting the Permanent Fund, less government, blah, blah" is always touted as it sounds nice and resonates with voters. But sadly when pols assemble in Juneau, these promises are mostly thrown out the window. After all, who wants to be the sacrificial lamb and take lead on spending cuts for example, by standing in front of the Big Government freight train? 

Most pols are more interested in their careers than following their convictions. They discover it's much easier kick back instead of rocking the boat of controversy. When I first ran for office 24 years ago, I made pledges to make government more spendthrift and was determined to keep them. But it cost me politically as I became an outcast among my legislative colleagues who saw me as a thorn in their side as they preferred to lay low and stay quiet, fat and happy.

My resolve got me sideways with others simply because I attempted to follow through on my campaign promises, causing me to become something of a recluse.  There's a Japanese proverb that fits the Juneau scene which says, "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down." If one attempts to make fundamental changes through spending cuts and restructuring the state's mammoth bureaucracy, more often than not, they're not only stymied but castigated. 

Nearly everyone who campaigned for the legislature two years ago pledged that they would protect the Permanent Fund Dividend, but look how the bold promises fell flat when the fund was pilfered. Many proclaimed they would reduce the size of government, yet it keeps growing. The operating budget is more than triple what it was when I served a decade ago. And that's with Republicans and so-called "conservatives" in charge. Where are the true Republicans when we need them? Has everyone become a spineless RINO (Republican In Name Only) more interested in staying in office to collect their generous tax-free per diem and jet around on political junkets? 

Moreover, has any alleged conservative proposed significant spending reductions or any type of government restructuring that would run the bureaucracy more efficiently and save money? The last time I remember anything of significance was nearly 20 years ago when House Bill 20 (sponsored by someone named Representative Kohring) was signed into law doing away with the Department of Community & Regional Affairs. The legislation achieved the actual elimination of one of twelve departments that comprised state government - unheard of and the first and only time in state history. 

HB 20 rolled most of the former DCRA's programs into the newly restructured Department of Community & Economic Development (now Commerce). The idea was to deliver the same level of services to the public but with much less overhead and a smaller government workforce including eliminating duplicate programs and trimming the upper reaches of the bloated bureaucracy. Much more of this concept is needed. But is any such thing being proposed and is anyone taking lead? No. All remains quiet on the Juneau front as the gargantuan deficit remains and the threat of taxes lurks.   

From a personal standpoint, being true to your word is an important virtue and a reflection of one's character. Even something as simple as showing up at a time promised is a big deal as it shows respect for others. I've sometimes taken my promptness to the extreme by arriving for an appointment extra early but then driving around until the actual time so that I show up exactly when promised to make a good impression. It's a Pet Peeve of mine when people who fail to keep a promise.  

Some say that as a Christian, you should never make promises, as you subject yourself to being discredited if you're unable to deliver. Instead of promising something - just do it they say, otherwise it amounts to speaking foolishly.  If you do make a promise as a Christian, it places extra pressure on you to keep your word and hence your credibility. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says that "It's better not to make a promise than to make one and not keep it." Smart words.