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John Livingston

Stewardship

The three pericopes from Mathew and Luke’s gospels—The Parables of The Faithful Steward (Mathew and Luke) and The Expectant Servant (Luke) and The Unjust Servant (Luke) teach us great lessons about fidelity within our households and businesses, but also the responsibility of –FIDUCIARY and agency that applies to those doing the people’s business in government. The Faithful Steward in Mathew and Luke feels a sense of responsibility no matter how far away his master is and no matter how far away the timeline is for his master’s return. One of the underlying themes is the idea that faithfulness in overseeing the affairs of others should be transparent and not contingent on a higher authority being present to whom one is accountable. We are first accountable to ourselves, but we are also accountable through our conscience to the higher authority of God. Ultimately, we cannot hide from our responsibilities.

The father and mother in a family asked to manage the needs of their children with scarce resources, understand the immediate nature in the ways they will be held to account. How many of us in the early years of our lives when all the kids were in bed looked beyond the next day? We didn’t have time to indulge in much long-term planning, but the husband and wife remained accountable to each other in the way the spent the fruits of their labor, the way they spent money for basic needs and if we were lucky how we could save for the futures of our families.

Same thing with the CEO of a business whose shares are publicly traded and is accountable to the real owners—stockholders. Companies have internal auditing departments, but the stockholders are willing to pay out of company profits for outside independent audits validating that the CEO and management are fulfilling their “fiduciary” obligations. Good CEOs like good Captains of Navy ships look forward to external audits and external inspections because they validate that the “fiduciary responsibility” that has been entrusted to them is being fulfilled. They are behaving as “faithful stewards”. In the end every person must monitor himself to make sure we are also being true to ourselves. It has been said that the easiest and most damaging lies we tell are the lies we tell ourselves.

Stewards can use their talents for good or evil causes. Sometimes people who have been given talents like intelligence, personality, physical attractiveness can use those talents for their own purposes, and not fulfill their “fiduciary” responsibility to serve others. Transparency like audits, does not inform personal immorality or the tendency to serve oneself. Jesus identified the unjust Steward in the Parable bearing his name, as being shrewd and even wise and prudent—the use of reason to manage affairs, but it is in the applications of talents and virtues, the end, that we must judge what is accomplished. Wise and prudent people when acting as unjust and unaccountable stewards can do great damage if they relinquish their fiduciary duties to their own selfish ends.

Two State of Idaho Web Sites are listed below. The first is from the Division of Financial Management and is the FY2024 Budget Request from all seven divisions of Idaho government

https://dfm.idaho.gov/publication/budgetrequests/?fy=2024

The Second is an example of the Idaho Secretary of State Web Page Finance Portal

https://sos.idaho.gov/elections-division/campaign-finance-filing/

I have talked to over a dozen legislators over the past six weeks. It seems to me that government is in the position of “steward of scarce resources” and that citizens are in the position of shareholder. It is after all our money (taxes) that is being deployed to support large programs where I believe there is little transparency. These two documents each are over 800 pages are impossible to absorb and digest and I would bet consultants from the private sector are having to be employed to make sense of these large asks. This is not mentioned in either document and who and how are these consultants paid? The question the first document should answer is where the money is going to be spent. It specifically doesn’t answer the question of how it is spent. We need an independent outside audit of not only the agencies tasked with allocating resources, but also those organizations—businesses and individuals who receive over $100million of transfer payments using those government agencies as conduits.

The second question I wanted to answer was how much each candidate for election in a state office—legislature and executive branches spent on their campaigns. That answer is easy, but trying to figure out if individual citizens contributed, if out of state corporations or non-profits contributed, or if in State corporations (in and out of district), or individual political campaign funds contributed was almost impossible to ascertain. I called the Secretary of State’s office for help and was told that they had just invested in a new software program to help discern these types of questions that cost many millions of dollars and that the old system worked much better—finally some TRANSPERANCY! —and may I add honesty.

My hypothesis when asking these questions is that the two issues are related. I believe and would like to demonstrate that many of the organizations and individuals that are receiving transfer funds are the same individuals, corporations and non-profits that are the beneficiaries of billions of dollars of government transfer payments and State funds. I will even promise to stop writing about this issue forever if this is not the case. Here is another point: It should not be my responsibility to prove my argument. This should be part of the job of my representatives in government. And come to think of it where is the inquisitive press in all this? This is a question that should have been answered a long time ago.

Prudence, honesty, and faithfulness need to be practiced as a habit—especially those who have been given the responsibility of taking care of scarce resources. I predict that as the education budget and the Medicaid budget—all five parts grow by 15-30%/year in the next five years there will be less transparency and accountability by our elected officials and those heading government agencies. Medicaid is a firecracker ready to turn into a keg of dynamite. Remember —cost, quality, access? And let’s not forget that we never had an $18million/2yr CEO at an Idaho hospital until the Affordable Care ACT (ACA)—Obama really does Care. Not about patients, but about big pharma, insurance carriers, and hospital administrators. Costs have gone up to patients and to government agencies that pay premiums. Profits have gone up to suppliers (hospitals, big pharma, and insurance carriers, and access has deteriorated as doctors and nurses are leaving their professions in droves, and our best and brightest want to run hedge funds and not go to medical or nursing school.

When inflation is at 8% and we are promised that the 7% grocery tax will be repealed, and when three elderly couples in my neighborhood have for sale signs up in front of their houses because they can’t afford their property taxes, and when our elected political leaders in special session gratuitously pass a “pat on the head” tax rebate and send over $400million to an education slush fund is it any wonder that they don’t want us to know what is going on? Maybe the answer is hiding in an 800-page report.

When I talk of corruption I think of the parables in Mathew and Luke that inform all of us about STEWARDSHIP. Those representing us in State government are not being good stewards or fiduciaries. If they are I say to them —PROVE IT. Please and with all due respect.

We need leaders in our state government who are worthy of the virtuous people of Idaho. We need a Great Awakening of our people before it is too late, and we look like California. Crony corporatism is only beginning to erode the wealth of Idahoans.

When is THE GOVERNOR’S CUP THIS YEAR? Maybe the lobbyists and special interests can underwrite a breakout session about “Stewardship”?

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