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My view: Policies speak louder than words

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FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during his final presidential news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. The Republican-controlled House on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, took its first steps tow

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during his final presidential news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. The Republican-controlled House on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, took its first steps toward strengthening gun ownership under President Donald Trump, moving to scrap a requirement for background checks for Social Security recipients mentally incapable of managing their own affairs. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

Just before leaving office, a still historically popular President Barack Obama told the television program "60 Minutes" he “lost the PR battle,” blaming his party’s electoral losses on a failure to message properly.

If a popular president who enjoyed the vocal support of the entertainment, cultural and media elites feels he has somehow lost the messaging battle, maybe the problem wasn’t the messaging. Maybe it was the message. The real reason the president’s party lost is because his policies simply don’t work.

No amount of good PR can convince people they’re better off without a job. No amount of PR can convince patients that paying more and getting less for their health care dollar is best for them. No messaging in the world is powerful enough to convince people their neighborhoods are safer with undocumented criminals released into their streets.

Margaret Thatcher famously said, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” Mr. Obama and his party lost the argument.

Last time Republicans had the House, the Senate and the presidency, they blew it. This Congress intends to get the policies right. One place we can look for solutions is Utah — where the conservative agenda has long paid high dividends.

If our policies open up jobs, build prosperity, reduce health care burdens and restore local control, no amount of “good PR” from big-government progressives will win the argument. Utah’s federal delegation now has a historic opportunity to get some of the state’s best policy ideas across the finish line. I’m fired up and ready to dig in.

Many of my constituents saw their health care costs skyrocket under President Obama. Utah has always been willing to embrace innovate health care solutions, including the creation of a functioning exchange and the adoption of pioneering Medicaid reforms. I will work to empower Utah and other states to pursue solutions that work for them.

Utah led the way on pension reform guided by my friend, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist. His reforms moved us away from the black hole of defined benefit to a defined contribution retirement system. That change happened humanely and fairly by phasing in the changes over time to protect those to whom the state had prior commitment. As a result, Utah taxpayers will no longer be required to provide pension benefits to state workers far richer than those they themselves will receive. The same should happen at the federal level. On the House Oversight Committee, we will not only pursue pension reform, but will look carefully at civil service reforms, some of which stem from requests made by frustrated government managers in Utah who bemoan their inability to hold recalcitrant federal employees accountable.

One of my priorities this session will be a Utah-driven bill that deputizes and funds county sheriff’s departments to handle law enforcement on public lands. Rural Utahns asked for this bill, which has garnered strong support from other public land states.

During my chairmanship, I have refocused the House Oversight Committee to be more responsive to some of the unique problems we face in the Intermountain West. An Interior subcommittee focuses resources on energy and public land management problems that disproportionately burden Western states. And in this session, we transitioned the Transportation Subcommittee into an Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee that will investigate the relationship between state and federal governments, the way we fund our highways and how we can restore more local control as required by the Constitution.

Utahns have helped shape many other reforms that I hope will gain traction in this session. From criminal justice to postal service reforms and from immigration to privacy legislation, Utahns have promoted policy solutions that can make a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow Americans.

Utah’s congressional delegation is well positioned to leverage our leadership positions and key committee assignments to get these and many other positive things done for Utah.

Prosperity doesn’t come from putting more people on food stamps or qualifying ever greater numbers for Medicaid. Prosperity comes from protecting the individual liberties that enable people to build a business, create a job, invest in themselves and others, raise strong families and give back to their communities. I am proud to represent Utah and proud to advocate your agenda at the federal level.

Jason Chaffetz represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District.