Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” Echoing this sentiment Winston Churchill wrote, “We can’t forget the past, without surrendering the future.” Both of these statesmen clearly understood that the most dependable and accurate tool we have for predicting the future is our knowledge of the past. It’s not that history inevitably repeats itself, but as thunder follows lightning, the outcomes of certain actions are easy to forecast. This window to the future is not lost on Mike Haridopolos. While juggling the responsibilities of becoming the most influential Senator in Florida’s legislature and raising a young family, he is also working on his doctorate in history. For Haridopolos history is more than a passion, it is unlocking the riddle of tomorrow’s headlines in yesterday’s news.
SCB: What motivated you to leave academia and run for public office?
MH: It was more of a process than an event. I have always been interested in politics so not long after I was offered a teaching position at BCC, I volunteered with the political campaigns of Congressman Dave Weldon and Governor Jeb Bush. That gave me vital insight into the campaign process. But what really spurred me to actually run was my observation that many politicians were playing the political game, rather than actually solving problems. Politics seemed to be more about winning power than advancing ideas. Basically, I decided I could spend the rest of my life yelling at the TV or I could run!
SCB: Once elected to the Florida House you became part of the “Freedom Caucus.” What is that?
MH: A number of freshman representatives like myself, felt our reason for serving in government could easily be compromised for “business as usual” politics. Therefore, a few of us began to meet for breakfast, to ensure the ideals we came to Tallahassee to move forward didn’t get lost in the malaise of learning to work within the political system. This evolved into the “Freedom Caucus” where we advance our view of conservatism, both on the fiscal and the social front.
SCB: Give me an example of a “Freedom Caucus” position.
MH: One of the things I witnessed and wanted to address was that when the economy was good, government has a tendency to take too much, thus retarding growth; and when the economy is bad, there’s a refusal to tighten their belts and spend less. Our initiative is to put a simple and objective governor on spending which we called the “Smart Cap.” It would mandate that government spending could not grow faster than the average family income.
SCB: Speaking of fiscal policy, what is your view of the President’s “Stimulus Package”?
MH: Well, thus far all it has stimulated is a historic level of debt. The latest polls indicate we aren’t creating new jobs and the specter of inflation is looming on the horizon. This is what flabbergasts me, purely from a political standpoint. If I was to push through the Florida Senate a spending bill, which raised our public debt to unheard of new heights, without giving the members’ time to even read or debate the bill, imagine what the newspapers and the public outcry would be? Yet that is exactly what has happened.
SCB: On a similar vein, the healthcare debate is taking center stage. Recognizing a large portion of healthcare is paid by the state government and since your wife is a physician, you must have some strong ideas. What do you think needs to happen?
MH: First, the idea of being able to purchase health insurance across state lines is one obvious step, as it expands consumer options and the competition. Secondly, tort reform is the elephant in the living room no one wants to talk about. Without it, doctors will continue to practice ‘defensive medicine,’ to ensure they are protected from lawsuits, rather than ‘preventative medicine’ to provide the best care for their patients. Two other ideas that I think are important to consider are Healthcare Savings Accounts and consumer centered health care, where physicians are given the tools and access to monitor and assess a patient’s ongoing health, not just manage a medical crisis when it arises. We change the oil in our car every 3,000 miles because there are strong economic incentives to do so; we need the same kind of incentives and doctor/patient partnerships in managing our health.
SCB: What is the most important lesson you have learned in Tallahassee and how will that shape your role as Senate President?
MH: There is a passage in scripture that says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Early on in the Senate I was probably too aggressive and I had to learn you can’t turn an aircraft carrier around like a Jet Ski. It takes time to build trust and to build relationships, to learn how to work with legislators on both sides of the isle regarding those issues where we strongly agree.