Saturday, November 1, 2014

Referendum on Compromise

Compromise is not a four letter word.

Alan Simpson, former senator from Wyoming and co-author of Simpson-Bowles Commission Report

What are the 2014 midterm elections about? Charles Krauthammer, my favorite commentator, says they are a “Referendum on Competence”. He may be right but for me, the elections are more of a “Referendum on Compromise.”

Here are some random thoughts on the subject of compromise.

• Americans want something done, and they don’t care who does it. Obama’s approval ratings are low. Republicans are even lower, but somebody’s got to do, and Obama hasn’t done it. It will take compromise. The people know it, but politicians don't get it yet.

• President Obama’s big failing as a President is his failure to compromise. He isn’t a compromiser. He’s a polarizer, as evidenced by jamming through ObamaCare without a single Republican vote. He’s a dithering delayer, not a decisive decision-maker who compromises.

• Recent successful presidential actions have been long on compromise, short on ideology. Examples are Lyndon Johnson on civil rights and Medicare, Richard Nixon on China, Bill Clinton on welfare.

• There’s always a middle political ground - As Robert Frost said in Home Stretch - “Ends and beginnings, there are no such things, There are only middles.”

• Lack of compromise is the root of all unending conflicts. Even if one wins, one should, as Winston Churchill so famously said, "In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill." In Victory, should it occur, Republicans should seek Goodwill, not revenge. The same goes for Democrats.

• “My way or the highway” doesn’t work in a two party system of government: arrogance will always come back to haunt you, as it has with ObamaCare. Blaming others for your mistakes and missteps is a recipe for eventual politic defeat.

• Should Republicans win the Senate, their best path forward is incremental compromise on issues with bipartisan support - approving the XL pipeline, removing excise taxes on medical innovation companies, removing employer mandate penalties for not covering full-time workers, allowing people to shop for health plans across state lines, lowering corporate taxes, now the highest in the world, expanding health savings accounts so people can make their own choices using their own money while setting aside money for retirement, fixing ObamaCare by retaining its best features while rejecting its clunkers.

• Removing barriers to economic growth , the best path to innovation and prosperity and overall social justice with due regard to the balance between trickle down economics and trickle up prosperity. Austerity (levying higher taxes, freezing wages, and regulating commerce) , asperity (harsh political rhetoric and casting blame), and prosperity (being successful financially) don’t mix in a socially-just society.

• Recognizing that incremental, moderate, middle-class common sense compromise will and should beat radical, partisan gamesmanship in a multicultural pluralistic democracy.

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