What's a promise made without the intent of keeping it? Manipulation. A promise means nothing. Productivity is the only thing that matters, and it must be measured in real accomplishments: measurable actions that move an issue towards legislative enactment.
What's Not Productivity
Giving politicians credit for doing the same things that haven't worked in the past is another form of insanity. Politicians have developed many ways to make it look like they are advancing an issue that are really designed to give them political cover. The following list isn't complete, but it gives us an idea of the kind of activities to look out for.
An infamous example from the 2008 presidential campaign was Sen. Obama’s 2006 “warning” letter to the Secretary of the Treasury about Freddie and Fannie. He constantly brought it up during the campaign to show he was ahead of the curve on the economic meltdown. If you read the actual letter, it boils down to “I have no idea if there is a problem or even what kind of problem might someday occur, but just on the outside chance some kind of problem comes up in the future I’m writing you this letter to cover my ass.”
How much attention do you pay to the junk mail you get in your mail box? These letters are the political equivalent of junk mail. They are opened by some staff member and filed away to never be seen again. The only purpose of writing these things is to give a politician cover on an issue and make it look like they are doing something productive.
It’s easy for a Republican to attach their name to a bill as a co-signer, but does that mean they are working to actively advance the issue? The vast majority of Republicans in the house co-signed the 2007 Fair Tax bill. I have seen hour upon hour of interviews with Republican house members discussing taxes. How many times during those tax discussions did they inject the Fair Tax? The passing mentions could be counted on your fingers. The times they vigorously advocated the Fair Tax can be counted by touching the tips of your thumb and first finger. They co-signed the bill then promptly forgot about it. That's not support, much less productivity.
Preaching to the Choir
The fair tax is an issue that “will never pass” according to pundits. Thirty years ago universal health care was a “will never pass” issue. Yet, here we sit with an expectation that it will become a reality sometime during Obama’s presidency. What’s the difference? In any discussion of health care, Democrats will inject the point that “the solution to this problem is a universal health care system.” They have enthusiastically and without apology promoted their position, and not just in front of partisan, liberal audiences, but in front of every audience.
How does Republicans' productivity on the Fair Tax bill compare? Rarely mentioning it outside of the friendly confines of a Fair Tax rally or newsletter, their work has amounted to little more than “preaching to the choir” (and just enough preaching to secure the choir's vote). That's not productivity, that's pandering.
Letter writing, co-signing, and preaching to the choir are three examples of faux productivity. We must quit giving politicians credit for activities that don't achieve conservative goals.
Defining Productivity Goals
If something can't be measured, it doesn't exist. We need to set measurable goals, and require Republicans to accomplish those measurable goals.
Anyone that has worked in the corporate world for any amount of time is familiar with SMART goals. They were developed to focus employees on specific activities and eliminate the wiggle room many employees abuse so they seem more productive than they actually are. Instead of passively allowing politicians to make promises to us, we'll set goals for politicians and bluntly ask them to commit to accomplishing those goals. We elect politicians to achieve our conservative goals, not their own.
What is a SMART goal?
S Specific. Not “I support lower taxes”, but “I will cut income taxes 10% by June of this year.”
M Measurable. You need some way to define if the action was completed, and it must be in the form of a yes or no question. “Were income taxes cut 10% by June of this year?” If you can't phrase the goal as a yes or no question then you should restate the goal or break it down into a series of more specific sub-goals.
A Action Oriented. “I support lower taxes” requires no action on the part of the politician. “I will cut income taxes by 10% by June of this year” does require action.
R Realistic. “I will cut income taxes 50% by June of this year” is not a realistic promise. Politicians make unrealistic promises, because they know they will never be held to them.
T Time bound. Establishing a deadline allows us to hold politicians’ feet to the fire for not achieving conservative goals (and properly reward them for achieving conservative goals). “I will cut income taxes 10% by June of this year.”
Large goals should be broken down into a series of smaller goals: a goal-set. Your goal-set will become the plan for achieving your larger goal. If you ever determine a goal is too large to achieve, break it down into a series of smaller goals. There is no goal too large to achieve if you break it down into small enough sub-goals.