This afternoon (Wednesday night in the US), President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.

After barely a year in office, Obama is on political life-support, and political, business and labour elites seem determined to lock the nation into policy gridlock.

With Republicans now holding 41 votes in the Senate, and therefore able under Senate rules to block any action, and Democrats and Republicans alike pandering to home state interests, Americans can kiss good-bye to meaningful health care reform and global warming legislation. Partisan bickering could even jeopardize economic recovery, with implications beyond US borders.

To understand how gruesome it looks, read this NY Times column — Adults Only, Please — by one of America’s most principled and “big picture” columnists, Tom Friedman.

Any lesson for us here?

Friedman talks about the difference between “situational values” and “sustainable values.” The former legitimize whatever behavior a leader or business or other institution can get away with in the moment, whatever the wider or longer-term interests of their community.

On the other hand, as Friedman puts it: “People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”

What a great dictum for elected leaders everywhere, at every level … including right here in Hawke’s Bay … I will act as though I will always be here!

Here to pay the full bill if we borrow.

Here to see the full environmental consequences of our actions … or inaction.

Here to see the worsened problems our society will face tomorrow if we fail to bite the bullet today on a whole range of issues … preventive health care, school leaving, alcohol abuse, among others.

In this local election year, watch for the politicians who act as if they will always be here.

Tom Belford

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  1. I wonder if Mr Friedman has a touch of Maori blood in his whakapapa as he espouses what many Maori have been saying for generations ….to councils….to resource managers….to town plannners….to Boards of Enquiry….to the Maori Land Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal……

    Governments,Councils, Corporations and developers will come and go but we will always be here….

    tika tonu ….ake, ake, ake..

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