Sunday, August 14, 2011

Uncompromising

Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times has written a piece about why national politics in the U.S. are so resistant to compromise. Multiple factors contribute to this problem, but for me this one is key:
Every time I see surveys saying people want compromise, I just kind of chuckle,” Mr. Smith said. “To me a question like that is more a gauge of people’s frustration with the process than it is necessarily a true indication that people are willing to accept any sacrifice in order to come to some agreement.”
J. Walker Smith is chairman of a marketing firm. If anybody should understand this country's psychology, it would be a marketer.

Also in the Times, Gretchen Morgenson wrote an op-ed piece masquerading as news about Thomas M. Hoenig, the retiring president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Hoenig has been a lone dissenting voice at the Fed, calling for overlarge banks to be broken up and for denying government insurance to financial institutions engaged in "risky activities". We can see how well his common-sense admonishments have played out at the Fed and elsewhere in policy-making circles.

Hoenig also made an observation that echoed Stolberg's piece.
Another important theme for Mr. Hoenig concerns the mistrust that has arisen as regulators provide favors to powerful institutions while asking other industries, and ordinary Americans, to accept less.

...

If there were a sense that everyone, big and small, powerful and weak, would be asked to sacrifice, we might be able to agree on a way forward for the economy, Mr. Hoenig said.

“We have to bring a greater sense of equitable treatment,” he said. “When we do that Americans will say, ‘Yes, we are all in this together.’ ”
Maybe that's the bottom line underlying J. Walker Smith's cynical yet accurate observation. We're not interested in compromising because we don't see any equity in the burden-bearing.

How much have the Koch brothers and their kindred spirits helped the rest of us in this economic downturn?

(And it ain't class warfare if it's true.)

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