Wanderings – A yellow card for time-wasting

Later this week there will be a community summit about affordable housing in the region where I live. This summit will bring together a bunch of politicians and experts to discuss the problems of affordable housing and homelessness.

These types of community summits, from housing and homelessness to food insecurity and employment issues all follow the same basic script.

Social groups state or re-state the problem(s) the summit covers. Talking heads – namely politicians or many of those whose jobs are to work in social services advocacy full-time – will say what their government or organization is already doing. Politicians who serve in opposition will blame the government and then say what their party will do if elected into power. Community leaders will call for change. Bonus points are awarded if the word “transformative” can be introduced into a mission statement or call to action.

At the end of the meeting, there will be great platitudes for the work accomplished at the summit by those in attendance. There will be some media coverage of the event so it looks like there has been action. More bonus points are awarded for a group photo taken to commemorate the occasion. Then life carries on.

Call me a cynic if you will, but these summits are mostly about the groups “trying” to solve a problem than the actual problem solving. In advocacy and politics, this is considered action. If you equate this to sport, it’s called time-wasting.

Many sports have ways of combating time-wasting. In soccer, it is treated as a serious offense. Think about a game maybe you’ve watched or seen the highlights of on TV. A player runs around celebrating a goal he or she scored. That player jumps into the crowd, the game is delayed, and the player is found to be time-wasting. In a soccer match, that player would be shown a yellow card – which doesn’t sound like much but it means that player is one step away from being thrown out a match – possibly a suspension as well. I am starting to think we need to use these yellow cards outside of the sport now.

There is a lot of time-wasting when politics and society intersect. Most problems we face as a first-world society are not new. The themes repeat themselves every decade and century. Housing, income inequality, environment, food supply, drug-use, education, and so on. Pick your theme and you can look back through the years to see the great strides made, and then progress slowed. In some cases now we even have regression. The buying-power of money has diminished making what would be affordable, not so much.

Often acceptable solutions have consequences. Rent control will combat record high rental prices. But that will also kill off any investment in new construction. Fewer new rental units will be built, causing increased demand and driving up prices. Without rent control, new units enter the market at the going rate, which many in need of a rental home cannot comfortably afford.

Increasing the minimum wage will help those on the lower-end of the income scale, but prices increase proportionately to compensate for employers’ increased wage expenses.

Those are the actions that government-types want, because they don’t solve anything but give the appearance of action. Many of the social activist-types also prefer these types of solutions because if you solve the problems, those who’ve made it a career in advocacy would be unemployed. Yellow cards all around please.

The real action needed to address some issues won’t. Action like escaping the 40-plus year long cycle of the taxes-must-be-lower Reaganomics mantra, and increasing some corporate taxes to better fund social programs. Or not handing out billion dollar subsidies to multi-billion dollar industries, while communities have to fundraise for hospital equipment and use the ER as a family doctor. Yellow cards again please.

Giving out these yellow cards for time-wasting should be helpful. However, I think with the amount of time-wasting involved, the only ones who’d benefit are the companies that make the Yellow Cards.