I like smart people. I like to talk to them, listen to them, probe and challenge them. I like to find out if they are book smart or real smart – the former referring to education, and the latter referring to application. I’m not much into book smart people – they tend to be one dimensional, reciting what others who came before them have thought and said. I am into real smart people – they are fascinating and most of them are multi-dimensional.
My personal physician is one of those people. Real smart. He is your basic Renaissance man – skilled in his chosen area of expertise and well read and thoughtful in a multitude of other areas. When he is curious, he studies. When he studies, he thinks. And when he thinks, wondrous thoughts flow with facts, rationale and unassailable logic. I am a generally healthy person so my annual physicals routinely morph into discussions of topical things. We do politics, religion, ethics, economics or whatever else is happening on that day. I am usually exhausted by the time we finish and I spend several days thereafter trying to put all that I have learned into workable order.
And that brings me to Dr. William “Bud” Pierce. When a friend of mine asked whether I would meet with Dr. Pierce, the Republican gubernatorial candidate I readily agreed. I like smart people and well educated people are a good place (but not the only place) to begin.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, Dr. Pierce is a gentleman and a gentle man. He is warm, polite, and unpresumptuous. Those are assets in the difficult field of medicine that he has pursued – oncology. His patients are living with (some dying from) cancer – the diagnosis that most of us dread. They need someone that is not only knowledgeable but also compassionate.
Those are also assets in the difficult world of politics which requires advocacy, compromise and, most importantly, an understanding of the “drivers” from the other side. Dr. Pierce has demonstrated these qualities in the past – most notably in negotiating a compromise between doctors and trials lawyers regarding dealing with malpractice claims. An article by Chris Gray in the Lund Report noted in part:
“Months of negotiations produced . . . ‘the holy grail of medical-legal politics’ — an unlikely agreement between the two traditional foes – voluntary confidential mediation, administered by the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, where hospitals and doctors come clean about medical mistakes with patients and their families while reducing the need for court battles.
“’Bud was truly masterful at getting doctors and trial lawyers to work together,’ said Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, a Roseburg pediatrician and former CEO of Architrave Health, the parent company for the Douglas County coordinated care organization.
“’Doctors wanted to put a limit on lawsuits, tort caps — I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I got people to work together and see what we could agree on,’ Pierce said. ‘It’s not traditional tort reform, but it’s great for patients, it’s good for providers, too.’”
Dr. Pierce’s achievement indicates an understanding that in politics change is incremental. While it is important to adhere to fundamental principles, it is equally important to ensure progress on difficult issues. It is emblematic of the old saw, Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. The good step taken today becomes the foundation for the next step tomorrow. Really smart people understand that, enunciate that and practice that. Dr. Pierce is a really smart guy.
Second, Dr. Pierce is unafraid to lose. That means that in pursuit of an idea he will not let his personal ambitions deter him in the pursuit of progress. It is more important to pursue solutions than it is to pursue an office. That also means that special interests won’t control him. It also means adherence to an ideology won’t blind him to the opportunities for progress. Dr. Pierce is a really smart guy.
Oregon faces significant challenges – challenges that have been ignored or made worse by over three decades of Democrat administrations. Challenges that have been made worse by the public employee unions who control the Democrat party and who have blocked reform and accountability at every turn.
Those major challenges include an unfunded future liability for the Public Employees Retirement System that now exceeds the biennial general fund budget. Earnings from current investments are declining thus exacerbating the situation. It is a problem that effects both state and local government as well as school districts. At the request of the public employee unions, legislation was enacted that mandated that employer contributions to PERS be made before any other payments, including additional teachers, new books, upgraded technology and everything else. School districts are robbed of the choice between more teachers or greater benefits for union members.
They include a failing public school system that has brought Oregon from one of the best states to one of the worst states in academic achievement in the public schools. Throwing more money at the problem has not resulted in any improvement. In fact, while the amount of money dedicated to schools has increased annually, the performance has decreased. And the teachers unions have resisted every attempt at reform including merit pay, charter schools, and teacher accountability.
And they include a failing public infrastructure – primarily highways and bridges. Oregon has spent billions on light rail with no appreciable reduction in traffic congestion. In the period of time since Oregon’s interstate highway system was built the population of Oregon, and particularly the Portland metropolitan area has doubled and yet not a single new lane of traffic has been added in the entire period. The result is that I-5, I-84, I-205 and Highway 26 are virtual parking lots at any time after 3:00 PM in the afternoon and not much better during the morning rush hours.
Those aren’t the only problems facing Oregon but those are the three that effect the broadest swath of citizens. Dr. Pierce has spent time thinking about those problems and crafting solutions. Those solutions can be found on his web page. And the best part of those solutions is that he did not have to call the public employee union bosses to see what he should think or say – unlike his opponent, appointed Governor Kate Brown (D).
Ms. Brown is the exact opposite of Dr. Pierce. She is not a likeable person. Her own party rejected her when she sought to become president of the Oregon Senate. Her handlers – the public employees union bosses – do the best to keep her away from gatherings where there are interchanges between her and the audience or reporters for fear that her personality will be on display. Ms. Brown is unimaginative in confronting Oregon’s problems. Her solutions are the same as the public employee unions – don’t change, spend more money – after all, the largest amount of contributions to Ms. Brown’s campaign come from the unions.
Oregon is at a crossroads. Three decades of uninspired leadership by a succession of Democrat governors have resulted in the following:
- Higher taxes
- Higher spending
- More public employees
- Increased public employee benefits (healthcare and PERS)
- Higher unemployment than the national average Lower income than the national average
- Lower academic achievement in the public schools
- Higher dropout rates in the public schools
- Highest obesity rate in the West
- Crumbling infrastructure
- Massive spending on failed projects (think CoverOregon and the Columbia River Crossing)
- Reduced transparency in government coupled with a myriad of scandals and conflicts of interest
What was once among the best governments in the nation has, under three decades of Democrat leadership, been reduced to Chicago – without the organized crime. One lackluster, uninspired governor after another – unless you measure inspiration by the amount of money they are willing to spend on the same old solutions.
It’s time for a change. It’s time for new solutions. It’s time for a really smart guy. Take the time to meet Dr. William “Bud” Pierce.