"Not Invented Here" is recognized as a pretty dumb way to
run a tech company. It doesn’t work so well in politics, either.

In the biz world, it refers to a company’s unwillingness to
make use of technology or innovations that someone else thought of first,
figuring it can’t be that good if we didn’t develop it our self (see also:
Let’s Reinvent the Wheel).

In politics, a similar attitude is standard operating
procedure when it comes to budgets, legislation, proposals and just about
anything else that comes down the pipe. Not only can’t it be that great an idea
if someone from the other party thought it up, but no way, no how are we going
to let the other guy snatch any political credit for it.

A case in point can be seen in D.C. right now, where
Republicans seem to be willing to fight tooth and nail for a tax increase
President Obama wants to block.

If the GOP had put up the plan to continue the year-old
payroll tax reduction for workers, it would be "Go, team, go" for Republicans
in Congress (although the Democrats then likely would have balked). But it’s
different when Obama proposes that tax cut, especially near an election year.

There are plenty of equivalents in California.

Back in 2005, for example, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
proposed spending $18.2 million to provide poor school kids with fresh fruit
from California farms.

Kids, fresh fruit, local farmers; in the real world, this is
a slam-dunk. But in the political world, not so fast. The Legislature’s
Democratic majority quickly rejected the plan, mainly because Schwarzenegger’s
name was on the proposal.

Republicans in Sacramento know that they’re never going to
get a major legislation passed without a Democrat’s name on the bill,
regardless of its merits. If it’s something voters are going to like, the folks
in charge aren’t going to let the credit go to the other side.

In the ever-more-partisan worlds of Washington and
Sacramento, the question now isn’t whether a bill is good or bad for the state
or the country, but what its political effect will be on the Democratic and
Republican parties. And when there’s an election in the offing, that
all-too-often becomes the only consideration.

It’s a knee-jerk reaction, which is so much easier than
deciding a policy question on its merits.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown suggests cutting a business tax
benefit and using the $1 billion in new revenue to boost jobs by cutting the
sales tax on the purchase of new manufacturing equipment?

Republicans come out minutes later and say the proposal is
dead, without all the bother of trying to determine if it just might work as

The result, not surprisingly, is gridlock. But worse than
that, it leaves the party out of power rooting for disaster, regardless of the
pain that can inflict on the voters who elected them.

That’s how you get someone like Rush Limbaugh saying, "I
hope Obama fails," even before Inauguration Day. Never mind the cost four years
of failure will have on the country. That’s nowhere near as important as
scoring political points and getting a boost in the next election.

There’s nothing wrong with pointing out where the guys in
charge are screwing up and suggesting to anyone who will listen that you and
your team would do a better job. That’s the way the system works and the reason
we have elections.

But the almost gloating tone of the press releases the GOP
opposition machine fires out every time the economic news turns sour (and the
ones Democrats sent when it was Schwarzenegger and President George W. Bush at
the helm) suggests way too many politicians are forgetting why they were

Voters, both in California and the rest of the nation, want
their elected officials to do whatever it takes to improve the state and the
country, which means backing the best, smartest and most effective economic
plans and legislation, regardless of who originally suggested it.

It’s the results that matter to most Americans and they
don’t much care who gets the credit.

John Wildermuth is a
longtime writer on California politics.