Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Better Explore Policy in the Era of Trump

Listening to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Charlie Rose, I’m struck by how confident he seems and how he really enjoys being told how he’s the patriarch/architect of the conservative agenda. 

I really think I may have misjudged Speaker Ryan and his reaction to this very divisive election. He truly believes the country has united behind his party and their platform as well as connecting with the message communicated by President-elect Trump throughout the campaign.

It’s rather myopic. It’s also potentially a warning sign that what this Congress and this White House will produce is going to be a massive overreach, a rollback of progress recently achieved, and will have some very unfortunate consequences for the American people, our national economy, and our national interests. 

There is a stark disparity between reality and perception in America. The financial and daily stressors for average Americans has simply not been soothed or resolved with the progress achieved since the Great Recession in many areas of the country. 
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Also, the way we discuss our lives, our government, and recent history has changed considerably over the last decade. 

Facts are too often ignored in order to sustain strongly held beliefs and opinions. 

Many demonize those they disagree with or even perceive they disagree with on issues. Every statement, every speech about a political opponent is cherry-picked, often taken out of context, in order to buttress an entire argument against someone or some issue.

The far left is as guilty as the far right in how they behave in discussions on policy and politics. If we’re ever going to resolve our longterm problems, we have to begin to see those that disagree with as not being the enemy simply because who is President. 
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Simply being against everyone and everything becomes white noise. There is some common ground with at least some of these nominees. Maybe, we can become more informed about the nominee, that nominee’s capacity to make change, and what, if any, areas of common ground we might share. Certainly, finding a way to diminish the temperature of anger and outrage with some context and understanding may yield some space to make better change. 

Certainly, Ryan has some credibility on tax reform. However, the way he frames the argument is that tax rates on businesses are too high when many of these businesses don’t pay any taxes. 

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Absolutely, smaller, individual business owners get railroaded, both with federal and state taxes, both in income and property taxes. However, the effective corporate tax rate is much lower than the stated tax rate. If corporations and big business did not enjoy such extraordinary tax welfare and tax shelters through the tax code and Congress, we could have a rational discussion about where tax rates should actually be. Until we clear out the tax code, it simply is too difficult to have a clear and coherent discussion about reform and tax rates.

Healthcare reform is similar. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) was never a government takeover of the healthcare industry, nor of health insurance. Both sides made false claims. One side would do nothing to reform it while the other could do nothing to fix it. Now, the American people are left with the resulting chaos and mess. 
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We just cannot continue discussing these issues as if we’re all enemies. As if someone who challenges our views and our positions is somehow our enemy. 

It’s simply not working. 

Not for us, not for our families, not for our communities, and not for the country as a whole.

Yes, the policies someone passes, supports, or promotes we may find damaging, dangerous, or destructive. Equating the policy with the person is the problem. 

What is the objective or intention of a policy? Usually, there’s an understandable reason. When we attack the messenger, it does nothing but increase division on the issue. If we can understand the root causes for the desire or need for a policy or as to why a group embraces a policy, then we have a chance or at least more of an opportunity to find a better solution together. 
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The reason people gravitated toward Trump on some issues is because he addressed underlying fears with seemingly tangible policies based on authoritarian, strongman principles. Build a Wall. I Will Keep Them Out. Only I Can Do It. Don’t Trust Anyone Else. 

Demeaning and dismissing anyone does nothing but isolate them, further entrenching and strengthening their views. When we do this within our own circles toward Trump and his supporters, which is exactly what Trump did during his campaign rallies, all we’re doing is furthering the antagonistic and poisonous atmosphere that we’re all going to be living through over the next few years. 

I, for one, want to do something constructive about what’s happening in my community and in my country. 

I want to understand people more, not less. I want to reach out to more people. 

Let’s do this together, because doing it apart has never worked.

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