Californians Should Demand Evidence-Based Practice in Policymaking

June 22, 2021 Updated: June 29, 2021

Commentary

Californians, isn’t it about time that we started requiring evidence-based practice from our elected leaders before we dole out more money for programs that haven’t been effective?

In reality, to require evidence-based practice is common sense, as only a fool shells out money without knowing what he or she is getting in return.

Evidence-based practice is the objective, balanced, and responsible use of current research and the best available data to guide policy and practice decisions, such that outcomes for consumers are improved.

The growing frustration that residents, citizens, and voters of all stripes feel with the political process is based largely upon the fact that they no longer trust the judgment or competence of those whom we have elected to office. Decisions are being made in the public arena that the average layperson wouldn’t make, because there is a lack of evidence to help in determining a particular direction.

In other words, we as taxpayers are being asked to accept having to pay large amounts of money for programs where there have not been any measurable results or even any evidence that the programs will work.

All we have to do is take a look at the money that we have shelled out over the past 10 to 20 years for a multitude of social programs, and then look at the results. Are the programs working? If so, wonderful; if not, let’s change course.

If we are the type of individuals/citizens who actually care about other people’s welfare and society in general, and I believe that most of us like to think that we are, then it behooves us to ask the following questions regarding the administration of quality-of-life programs designed and administered by our elected representatives:

  1. Is the program measurable in impact?
  2. Is the program solving the problem or continuing it?
  3. Is the administration of the program effective?

In other words, the philosophy behind the old saying “Show me the beef” should be an underlying litmus test for any and all programs that have been in existence for more than one fiscal cycle.

Now, more than ever, we have a duty to not only ask, but demand that answers be given to the above questions. This is so because too many people in our state and indeed our nation rely on the effectiveness of such programs for their very existence.

Before any program is funded for an additional year or term (if that is the nature of the program), an evidence-based analysis must be done that will tell us how well the program is performing. Is it meeting the goals of the program as sold to the voters?

For example, Californians especially and Americans in general are very generous and patient people, as evidenced by their willingness to spend more per capita than any other society in the world on a problem such as homelessness. However, repeated magnanimous funding of programs that sounded good at their inception but have proven to be utter failures is not a sign of generosity but perhaps naivety, especially when those programs have accomplished nothing but have made the situation worse.

For example, let’s take a look at California and how its governor and elected leaders have approached the homelessness situation.

In the past three years, California has spent well over $13 billion on 41 different programs to address homelessness. At an estimated count of 161,000 homeless people, that amounts to approximately $75,000 per homeless person.

Is the situation getting worse? The homeless population is growing dramatically by the week and is in a state of total chaos throughout California. Consider this: California in 2019 and again in 2020 saw more of an increase in the number of homeless individuals than the total national increase of all other states combined!

Evidence-based analysis seems to indicate that instead of helping reduce homelessness, the prescribed broad-brush approach of throwing more and more money into the problem is not working, but, in reality, is attracting and enslaving more people into that way of life.

Evidence-based analysis is proving that unless the underlying and different root causes of homelessness are addressed in a specific and appropriate manner, the situation will continue to get worse. Show us the results; show us the evidence.

Are there fewer people living on the streets? No. Are the root causes of the various degrees of homelessness being addressed? No. Are our current policies working? Sure don’t appear to be, yet our governor just asked for at least $12 billion more of your hard-earned tax dollars, claiming he will solve the homelessness problem!

As mentioned above, if the programs aren’t working, we must for our own sanity and survival change course. To not do so borders on stupidity and only allows for more and more exploitation of not only reliant homeless victims, but also the very generous taxpayers, by politicians whose only goal is to promote themselves.

One caveat to this concept: Evidence-based analysis relies on the integrity of the evidence being presented. I am not a babe in the woods, and I know well how politicians can twist the facts and figures to suit their own personal agendas. So an analysis of the integrity and accuracy of the evidence itself is primary.

If more people start to judge those in office by their actions and not their words, we can collectively navigate these confusing times by electing responsible and caring leaders who aren’t afraid to fulfill their oath of office, which is to represent the best interests of the people.

Tony Hall is a former supervisor in the city and county of San Francisco.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Tony Hall
Tony Hall
Tony Hall is a former supervisor for San Francisco's District 7.