People, places can be caretakers or builders

Published 6:56 am Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I believe we all have a choice to make. We can be caretakers or we can be builders. Neither ideology is necessarily good or bad, but it does reflect on a path or direction we take. When I was traveling through Europe, I visited many churches. They ranged from the Stave churches in Norway, the Christopher Wren churches in England to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

All of them were beautiful and well-taken-care-of, but nobody used them. They are now visitor sites and memorials and very few people attended their services. But they are well taken care of by caretakers. This is in sharp contrast to American churches, where attendance is still quite good even though some may be slipping into a caretaker type of situation.

What is the difference when a church is a builder type of congregation? There is vitality and growth and an excitement in what is going on and what is being achieved. Programs are there for young people, and the emphasis is on increasing attendance and to reach out and touch more people.

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The same attitude seems to prevail in government. Most countries in Europe seem tired and stagnant. The people are asking government to take care of them and they are afraid to venture out, take risks and reap the reward and the benefits. Their tax structures are very high, their production level is very low and they look to the government to take care of them from the cradle to the grave. They have ceased to be builders and have become caretakers.

The U.S. has always been on the other side of this attitude. We have been known as builders, always looking for a new and better way to do things. We have been known as risk-takers, and we look for rewards for taking risks. Currently, 90 percent of all medical advancements originate in this country. Most new jobs in the past have come from the private sector with small business (61 percent) being the primary source of new ideas, the increase in number of jobs and the addition of new businesses.

Is this attitude changing, and do we want it to change? Do we want to be a caretaker nation or a builder of new ideas and growth? I believe we want to be builders, but if we are not careful, we will become caretakers. Recently, there has been growth in numbers of jobs only in the government sector. Businesses here had to become very lean and efficient in order to survive. They are refusing to take on risk and debt because there is so much uncertainty out there because of what government is doing.

Our federal and state government is proposing massive changes and big increases in taxation. How can a business venture out when that uncertainty is facing them? How is the massive debt of both state and federal government going to be paid for? How is the private sector going to compete with government for quality employees when government pays 46 percent more to their employees than the private sector? Government employees can retire at 55 with 30 years employment where in the private economy, you are expected to work until you are 65.

Government is becoming the problem, rather than the solution. They are starving the private sector and constantly looking to punish the successful, while trying to reward those who decide not to work or who fail to take risk.

I ask, “Why are the state and federal government running such huge deficits?” It’s because they consistently look for more ways to extract more revenue from the private sector thus cutting out the ability for the private sector to grow, add more employees and increase salaries.

Are we going to become caretakers or builders? It all depends on your decision when you go into the voting booth. Look for politicians who want to be builders. Ask them how much the government should tax its citizens. See if they believe in private or government ownership. See if they know how to be builders of the economy.

Albert Lea resident Al Arends is a co-chairman for the Freeborn County Republican Party.