At the end of each year, many lists are released — from top stories of the year to best pictures of the year to most overused words of the year. I would like to nominate the word “reform” for that last list.
“Reform” seems to have become the magic word in Lansing. If you want support for a proposal, call it a reform. If you are putting out an agenda, call it a list of reforms. Why? Because polls and focus groups have shown that the word “reform” resonates well with the public.
I thought I knew what a reform was, but because it seems to be used in so many different ways these days, I thought I’d better check. According to Dictionary.com, a reform is “the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory.” So I guess a reform really depends on your perspective—whether something is wrong, corrupt or unsatisfactory in the first place.
I suppose if you think the state provides too many services to its residents, then you would consider it a reform to eliminate some of those services. But on the other hand, if you think the state needs to do more to help vulnerable families, it would be a reform to provide increased and improved services.
If you believe that people who make more money should pay a higher percentage of taxes, you would find a graduated income tax to be a reform. But if you believe lower taxes for businesses is more of a priority than tax relief for families, then you would support business tax reform.
Maybe you are in the camp that sees police officers and firefighters as being overpaid and think a mandated across-the-board pay cut is an appropriate reform. Or perhaps you see the need for greater investment in our communities and would support a reform that increases that investment.
I think you get the point. There are a lot of plans and lists floating around Lansing right now under the banner of “reforms.” They might only be a reform in the eye of the beholder, however. It’s important to take a close look and decide if they meet your definition of reform.