Pension crisis: Bevin blew it

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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There is political arrogance, and there is leadership. And if Governor Bevin truly wanted to fix the pensions, he should have shown less arrogance and more leadership.

Political arrogance is believing you are always right, and therefore everyone should just listen to you. Political arrogance is refusing to listen to other voices, and only including the voices that agree with you. Political arrogance is putting forward a solution based only on your own desires and the input of your own party and your own lobbyists and your own donors, then telling anyone who disagrees with you that they are too stupid to see how wonderful your solution is.

Leadership is focusing on the problem, not fixing blame. Leadership is naming the problem honestly, and trying to find the best solution. And leadership is getting ALL the stakeholders to the table and working together to craft a solution that meets as many needs as possible while also sharing the pain.

There is political arrogance, and there is leadership. And if Governor Bevin truly wanted to fix the pensions, he should have shown less arrogance and more leadership.Click To Tweet

When the Governor said “we’re going to fix the pensions” there was hope that a reasonable, constructive solution was possible. Instead, the “we” that the Governor referred to was only him, a few Republican leaders, and various entities anxious to either get their hands on the pension money or to destroy public education and institutions. Oh, and the consulting firm paid to recommend what the Governor wanted.

And when the blowback became a whirlwind of angry teachers and public workers, the Governor repeatedly insulted anyone who disagreed with his proposal, instead of stepping back to rethink, or – what would have been a minor miracle – stepping forward to listen.

It didn’t have to be this way. A leader would have convened a bi-partisan, multi-interest working group, and slogged through the work of first agreeing on a set of facts, then on the analysis of those facts, then on a solution that treated all parties as fairly as possible.

Imagine if the press conference last fall had included the Governor, the leaders of both parties in both houses of the legislature, and the leaders of the groups affected. Imagine if they had brought forward a solution that preserved the promises made to teachers and public workers, while also gradually digging us out of the pension hole we are in. Imagine if that solution had included ways to raise revenue, as well as compromises from various factions in order to make it work. In other words, imagine actual leadership.

Instead, we got a draconian solution that placed all the pain on the teachers, the other state workers, and whole swaths of the state budget. The teachers, especially, were presented with a solution that was immoral, based on the fact that it moved them into a market-based solution with no Social Security safety net.

Leadership is hard work. It takes interpersonal skills, listening skills, negotiation skills, and personal investment. It takes time, and sweat, and more time.

Political arrogance is easy. All it takes is coming up with a plan that checks off the bullet points of your political cronies, then announcing that plan and telling people “I’m in charge, and you’re not, so I don’t care what you think.”

Matt Bevin had the opportunity to show real leadership. Instead, he displayed political arrogance, then doubled down on it when challenged, wrecking his opportunity to be the leader we needed on this issue.

Governor Bevin, you blew it.

Matt Bevin had the opportunity to show real leadership. Instead, he displayed political arrogance, then doubled down on it when challenged, wrecking his opportunity to be the leader we needed on this issue. Governor Bevin, you blew it.Click To Tweet

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