Why ‘What’s Government For?’

As the election year heats up, we’re hearing a lot about candidate strategies and campaign coffers, the horse race and the hashtags.

But elections are about people. And people are talking – across California and the country – about the multiple challenges we face… the mortgage meltdown, persistent unemployment, the crisis in health care coverage and looming pension obligations, to name a few.

We’ve heard about the Tea Party’s tax revolt, and Occupy Wall Street rallying for the 99 percent. When it comes to the role of government – public spending, regulation, the social safety net – Californians have some deep philosophical differences. Too often we talk past each other. And the shock jocks turn the talking into shouting. It’s high time we move from diatribe to dialogue.

This year could be the most consequential election in a generation. We’re voting for president just as we’re trying to pull out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. We’ll choose our representatives to Washington DC and Sacramento. Recent electoral reforms – an open “top two” primary and a first-of-its-kind independent redistricting process – are upending the political order. And we’re going to see a raft of ballot measures on things like term limits, taxes and Three Strikes.

What do you want for your tax dollars? What do you expect from your politicians? The glossy world of campaign ads and conventions is, after all, about choosing leaders to do the not-so-glamorous work of governing. So we’re putting the question to you, this election year: What’s Government For?