Saturday, November 19, 2011

Compromise, Capitulation, and Congress

G.K. Chesterton once said,"[c]ompromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf; is better than a whole loaf." That line could easily apply to today's GOP controlled Congress. From budget deals where GOP leadership claimed to cut $38. 5 billion  when the actual cut was a mere $353 million to caving on a raise in the debt ceiling and the creation of a "Supercommittee" to deal with spending and budgeting,  the Republicans in Congress have made a habit out of choosing capitulation over principles and legitimate compromise.

Today, an overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted for a "half loaf" balance budget amendment which did not cap spending and too small of a majority of votes to propose tax increases or to override the balanced budget requirements. Some argue that this would be a start towards fiscal prudence, but should such "compromise" be attempted on a constitutional amendment, especially when a better "full loaf" amendment had been proposed by the Senate? To be sure, deficit reduction is an imperative, but if the deficit reduction and spending reduction aren't concurrent, how is supposed to help our economy in both the short and long term? It's a "half loaf" idea when a "full loaf" proposal is on the table.

An example of a solid "half loaf" compromise of sorts, can be seen in the public sector union reforms of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Governor Walker signed into law a bill that reformed collective bargaining rights of teachers that allowed them to still bargain for pay raises, but not changes to benefits. It also only sought to reform the benefits and bargaining of teachers.  Juxtapose this with the reforms of Ohio Issue 2 which included changes to  all public employee benefits and collective bargain criteria, including that of first responders.To be sure, government employees should have to contribute to their benefits, but the sweeping changes of such a referendum makes it hard to achieve incremental progress that would be necessary for such reforms to be made in a purplish state like Ohio.

Given the choice between principles and capitulation, many in Congress and state governments blur the lines between compromise and capitulation. Principles must be married with pragmatic compromise, but never with capitulation.

No comments:

Post a Comment