The forked road to compromise
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, November 5, 2015


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 hell.

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 slave-free Maine.

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 poem “Brand.”

“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.”

Hey, Republican 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 Republican consensus.

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 billion.”

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 us.

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 it, right?

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is a weekly columnist for the Salem News and Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

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