Compromise n. a
settlement by mutual concessions, v.t. to settle by compromise;
expose to risk.
— My grade school dictionary.
People who get all warm
and fuzzy when they hear the word “compromise” probably went to
kindergarten, and have it confused with “share” or “kindness” — and
then somehow they got through all of grade-school without ever
meeting a bully.
I didn’t go to
kindergarten, and I don’t remember ever being bullied, perhaps
because I looked like someone who would retaliate, which I am. But
thinking back to my Catholic school education, I don’t recall the
nuns talking about compromise at all: they were into right or wrong,
goodness vs. sin, God vs. the Devil; in the last case, compromise
meant a stay in Purgatory instead of a direct train to heaven or
And what is that third
dictionary definition, from my childhood dictionary: “expose to
risk?” I haven’t seen that anywhere else. So to compromise is to
expose to risk — to give in, though the result may be regrettable?
Wait, I remember the first
time I noticed the word “compromise” — it was in High School history
class, when we studied the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In case
you’ve forgotten, there was debate between pro-slavery and
anti-slavery factions within the U.S. Congress, and across the
country, which had 22 slave states, and 22 free states. Missouri
requested admission to the Union as a slave state. So, Congress
compromised, granting Missouri’s request but also adding a
Yay, compromise! They
reached across the aisle and agreed on slavery for Missouri. Of
course, the risk they took with the ongoing compromises was that
someday there would be a Civil War that would kill 620,000 soldiers.
Bet the dead soldiers and all those who endured slavery for another
40 years celebrated the concept of compromise.
In college I read Thoreau:
“The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my
soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is likely to be my
good behavior. What demon possessed me, that I behaved so well?”
And then Henrik Ibsen, his
“Everyone now is a little
of everything; a little sin, a little virtue; a little good, a
little evil; the one destroys the other, and every man is nothing.”
budget/debt ceiling compromisers, as you agree to another two years
of increased budgets, increased debt on future generations: do you
want to be morally nothing, like the Democrats and President Obama?
So it wasn’t until I got
involved in politics and government policy that I so often heard the
three c-words: Consensus, compromise, capitulate.
The first is one of those
bottom-up words, as the new Speaker Paul Ryan just reminded us: for
future budget/debt ceiling processes, he wants to work with his
Republican House members to find consensus on issues for which they
can fight together, instead of the compromises that have recently
become mere capitulation by Republican leaders.
Instead of just saying No,
he wants the Republican Congress to find its own solutions to the
problems of the day, including the replacement of Obamacare with the
better health care system that should have been offered during the
2009 debate. However, he sensibly says he doesn’t plan to do
immigration reform until Obama is gone, since he can’t be trusted.
Just saying Obama can’t be trusted is a good first start toward
So there are two solid
Republican points of view on last week’s budget/debt ceiling vote.
In the House, Ryan stated that this vote was a bad one but with only
two days to go until the end of the budget year, there was no time
to make a fight for the right — Obama would veto, the votes to
override weren’t there. I understand his point, and appreciate that
he has a plan.
The Senate concurred with
this opinion, though two-thirds of Republican senators, including
candidates Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, refused to compromise once again
on charging our grandchildren for today’s overspending. They are
right, this is wrong. Irresponsible. Immoral.
As Cruz noted about the
Republican leadership’s decision, “You can’t let the perfect be the
enemy of the good. Where’s the good? Leadership’s position is that
with Republican majorities in both houses, we should spend more,
roughly $80 billion, than we did with the Democratic majority, $63
But even though the
compromise (do the wrong thing again, fix it with Paul Ryan’s
leadership later) passed, it wasn’t of course enough for most
Democrats and the president, who will continue their accusations
that Republicans won’t compromise; when a lie works, “morally
nothing politicians” keep repeating it.
Knowing this, I would have
voted against raising the debt ceiling myself, and accurately blamed
Obama for any repercussions. As with the Civil War, the longer we
wait to address the real problem, the worse the correction will be.
Compromise works only until the bad in the bad deals catch up with
Raising the debt ceiling
again is a bad deal; making it a two-year capitulation is a really
bad deal. The point I guess is to get through the 2016 election
without a debt battle: The right thing to do is to use the debt
issue to explain to voters why Republicans should be elected to get
the national debt under control.
The new budget is a bad
deal: more overspending, but in the wrong places. With ISIS getting
stronger in the Middle East and China and Russia flexing military
muscle, Democrats held defense spending hostage in order to get more
money for their “gimmee free stuff” constituency. With Obamacare
trying to socialize our health care system, cuts were made in
Medicare payments to doctors, where there is already a shortage of
physicians willing to take Medicare patients. And then there are the
insults to our intelligence: putting off funding of the government
pension liabilities until “later.”
Never mind. The
Republicans compromised, and American voters will reward them for
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead is a weekly columnist for the Salem News and
Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.