Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Putting 'Em To The Test

I was invited to speak to a local Rotary Club the other day about money in politics, and with the election right around the corner I ended up talking mostly about election spending in general and all the repugnant campaign advertising in particular. I told them I could think of no other industry that would risk advertising this way.

As I stood at the podium, over my left shoulder was a banner bearing Rotary's "Four-Way Test." Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? The club president was struck by how miserably campaign ads fail the test all four ways, and said so. He was speaking for the group, to be sure. I told them today's politicians don't fare any better on the test after they are elected and turn to governing.

Reflecting on that recent meeting got me to thinking about the common creed I wrote last Friday, and I came up with a five-way test based on that creed and applied it to today's major parties.

Are the parties of, by and for COMMON FOLKS? Not hardly. A royalty has taken over American politics and lords over both parties. Commoners are politically homeless.

Do they demonstrate COMMON DECENCY? Not by a long shot. Both sides seek power through campaign advertising that almost always is misleading and deceptive and often is downright untruthful. It is fantasy to believe power sought dishonestly will lead to decency in governing.

Do they use COMMON SENSE? Rarely if ever. One prime example is the national debt, where one party says cut social programs but increase spending on defense and keep cutting taxes for the wealthy, while the other puts social programs off limits, won't cut defense much but is willing to increase what the superwealthy pay in taxes. Neither's math adds up to anything close to a balanced budget. On climate change, one party is in complete denial and the other is afraid to speak forcefully much less act decisively. One is scary, the other scared. Together, they guarantee the biggest environmental threat of our time if not in all human history doesn't get discussed. Makes no sense considering its importance, but it doesn't come up in debates. Solutions aren't on the to-do list.

Do they find COMMON GROUND? Um, no. They are polarized to the point of dysfunction. The extremists among them regard compromise as a profanity. Moderates are on the verge of extinction. Statesmanship has become an alien concept. The use of wedge issues to divide us has been raised to an art form.

Are they working for the COMMON GOOD? Another failing grade. Time and again government policies are skewed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. The gap between the rich and the rest keeps growing. Income inequality in America is reaching historic proportions.

We need at least one party that owes its allegiance to the whole of society. We need a Common Party.

When we get one, the difference will be black and white.

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