“To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.” Things That Matter, Charles Krauthammer (reprinted from the Washington Post, July 26, 2002
When we discuss economics, politics or social trends at family gatherings, in the coffee break room or with friends during holiday gatherings, the polarity seems more intense every year, not less. Talk flows back and forth with hammer blows of conflicting facts and less and less listening from either side. How do we resolve the seemingly irresolvable? How do we compromise on issues built on inviolate, but contradictory core values?
The progressive decries the widening gap between the rich and the poor, which is undeniable. But over nine million formerly well paying industrial blue collar jobs have fled to emerging second and third world countries, and with production goes innovation. Those nine million jobs have been replaced for the most part by service sector jobs or retail, and rare is the instance that those relatively low skill jobs pay anywhere near as much as a trained machine operator or union car assembler. The gap grows, but it is facile to make the assumption that the exploitive business owner shoulders all the blame. We who benefit from lower prices at the cash register vote with our wallets and with the unintended consequence of hurting the highly paid, middle class blue collar worker.
Demonstrations at Walmart to pay its workers more than the current average $17,500 sound rational on MSNBC. The underlying economics that drive the decisions by management to set wages are more complicated. Stocking shelves at Walmart with made in China or Mexico sweaters cannot pay as much as practiced loom operators knitting those sweaters once made in the former textile mills of the Blackstone River Valley in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Raising the minimum wage reduces hiring and harms the opportunity of those with few skills entering the workforce, where they will learn how to show up on time, to work diligently and improve their proficiency.
If Walmart decided tomorrow to raise the pay and benefits of all their workers $6,000 per year, it would no longer produce a profit for its owners and would not be viable as an ongoing business, having insufficient resources to compete, replace trucks and pay the light bills. If they raised their prices to accommodate the higher pay, the customers would soon be over at BJ’s or K-Mart buying their Chinese made sweaters and jeans where shelves are stocked and cash registers staffed with lower paid workers. Or consumers would buy fewer sweaters because they can’t afford the higher prices.
Raising the minimum wage to a “living wage” is terrific as a campaign slogan, but implementation without repercussions is a tricky business. NAFTA is a two edged sword.
“Cowboys games at AT&T Stadium can consume up to 10 megawatts of energy, more than is used in three hours by the 3.7 million residents of Liberia.” Kevin Kerr, Sports Illustrated 12/30
American “exceptionalism” is a commendable slogan and core belief as well, but can our citizens reasonably expect that having 4.5% of the world’s population and consuming one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper is sustainable in a global economy with the other 95.5% wanting their fair share of resources? Do we believe it is prudent governance to hinder development of domestic sources of oil through fracking while continuing dependence for oil on those who hate us? Does it make sense to hinder a pipeline from our closest neighbor and ally, which own of the third largest reservoir of oil reserves in the world? Do we really believe this will prevent Canada from selling this oil? The oil will be sold, and likely to those who burn it far less efficiently and cleanly than our more closely regulated industries and vehicles. Does this truly advance the cause of fewer hydrocarbons poisoning the atmosphere?
“I have seen great intolerance shown in support of tolerance.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Under the flag of “diversity,” the personal freedom in Western culture and in the United States has been under attack for nearly fifty years: especially the freedom to live out religious beliefs that do no harm. Jack Phillips, a baker in Colorado, politely declined the business of a same-sex couple who wanted to buy a wedding cake. The Left espouses diversity of belief and practice except when it comes to anyone who disagrees with the tenets of their own secular faith. Rather than simply going to another baker (of whom there are many), the couple sued Mr. Phillips and received a court judgment. He was fined. If he refuses to pay the fine or bake a cake, he can be sent to jail. This is not discrimination in the workplace or hiring practices or bullying or any of the other injustices that have been redressed in the courts. Jack Phillips chose not to participate by baking a cake and was punished by the court. How soon will churches be forced to perform marriages that violate their core beliefs? Will those churches have to get out of the civil marriage business, as the Catholic Church was forced out of the adoption business, closing down the largest adoption provider in the country?
The American Civil Liberties Union recently sued a Catholic hospital to force it to perform abortions. The Left for years had a mantra stating that, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” Apparently that doesn’t hold true if a hospital chooses not to perform one.
“I’ve always felt that a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting points of view he can entertain simultaneously on the same topic.” Abigail Adams
Mrs. Adams was a superb communicator married to a superb communicator. Their letters to one another are a priceless legacy. She was also a lot smarter than most, including most especially me. I have a difficult time, as do many, trying to “entertain simultaneously conflicting points of view.” – More than ever when those points of view are almost fundamentally irreconcilable. Compromise may not be possible. e.g. How do we reconcile an issue when one group sees only “women’s reproductive rights” (who can oppose someone’s constitutional rights?), and the opposition sees murdered babies who merited protection and nurture? A Solomonic solution is not possible.
How do we reconcile political viewpoints when the Attorney General lets slide Black Panthers caught on video tape intimidating voters at polling places, and then goes hard after the Little Sisters of the Poor for upholding their rights of personal conscience against the Obamacare monolith mandating abortifacient drug coverage? How do we find compromise when one side is convinced the opposition is naïve and a little stupid, and the other side sees their opponents as evil incarnate? How do we reconcile opposing views in which one side perceives exponentially expanding government both in size and scope as a grave danger and the other envisions it as the road to Utopia? There remains little common ground upon which to stand.
This post started with a Charles Krauthammer quote, and it will end in one from a 2012 Washington Post column reprinted in “Things That Matter.” Read the book.
“(President Obama and progressives are) equating society with government, the collectivity with the state. Of course we are shaped by our milieu. But the most important influence on the individual is not government. It is civil society, those elements of the collectivity that lie outside government: family, neighborhood, church, Rotary club, PTA, the voluntary associations that Tocqueville understood to be the genius of America and source of its energy and freedom.
Moreover, the greatest threat to a robust, autonomous civil society is the ever-growing Leviathan state and those like Obama who see it as the ultimate expression of the collective.”