Posted: April 30, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There are times the "soft bigotry of low expectations," to borrow the presidential expression from the second George Bush, is not all bad.

Look at Ken Simpler. All he really had to do as the new state treasurer was not be Chip Flowers.

Simpler actually came into office with more fanfare than that. As the first new Republican elected statewide in Delaware in 20 years, he found himself being mentioned for governor even before the 2014 election returns became official.

He had the smarts not to go there. This was unlike Flowers, who spent his antic-filled single term as the Democratic treasurer acting as though he thought he already had been elected governor.

Instead, Simpler went to school to figure out what he could accomplish with one of the lesser statewide offices. He had some leeway. His most fundamental task was over as soon as his signature was ready to go on the state checks.

He has kept a low profile, but there is something about completing the first "100 Days" -- which was April 16 for Simpler -- that makes officeholders think there ought to be a public reckoning.

So under a subject line reading, "A Report on My First 100 Days," Simpler e-mailed a newsletter out on Wednesday.

Everyone knows what a political newsletter looks like. It has photos of the officeholders with youth sports teams and multi-cultural collections of constituents, shows them helping little old ladies across the street, and in the case of the state treasurer, probably includes some helpful hints on saving money. Take your lunch to work!

Not Simpler's. It was news. In a letter. Without pictures. Three pages long.

"I said, 'Let's Make It Simpler,' but not simplistic," Simpler quipped.

Even as dense as the newsletter was, it left out some of Simpler's accomplishments:

--He did not go to Alaska.

--He did not engage in a power grab over the state's purse.

--He did not go to a New England Patriots football game with the deputy state treasurer.

--He did revert to referring to his section of government as the "Office of the State Treasurer," instead of the "Delaware State Treasury," as if this was the second coming of Alexander Hamilton.

Simpler's newsletter was not a place for political potshots.

He was calm about the recent decline in the state's revenue projections, noting, "Any government that can't figure out how to address a 0.5 percent budget shortfall has bigger problems."

Chicken Little, he is not.

He was similarly cool about the Advisory Council on Revenues, on which he sits, and its mission to conduct a wholesale evaluation of the way the state gets its money, cautioning, "And don't be too cynical. Notwithstanding its name, this is not the Advisory Council on Raising Taxes."

Throughout the newsletter, there was the Zen of Ken Simpler (the final example is a distillation of two longer sentences, but the others are pure Simpler):

Politics, and sadly governing, is to a large degree a tyranny of the "now."

Good finance is good government.

There is too much fussing over how much spending or taxing and not enough discussion about the value we get out of the spending of our tax dollars.

A good finance system allows us to solve today's problems in a manner that will not create tomorrow's crises.

Delaware thought it was getting a new treasurer. Who knew it was getting a philosopher, too?