A little give …Written by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a modest understanding of economics. I know that Keynesian economists want the government to increase spending to stimulate the economy during a recession. I know that supply side economists advocate lower taxes and less regulation. Of course, to make these concepts work, a fair amount of discipline is required, discipline we seldom see in our leaders. Keynesians are good at priming the pump during economic downturns, but are often reluctant to turn the pump off during economic upturns. This has allowed the size of government to grow large and unwieldy. Many supply-siders are eager to cut taxes and trash regulation but reluctant to cut spending, thus causing huge deficits that burden future generations.
It seems that our political parties give us a choice between “tax and spend” and “borrow and spend.” It is no wonder that the voters are wishing a pox on both houses. Of course we voters must share some responsibility in this. So many of us want things from government but have a hissy fit over the costs of these things. So we send people to our nation’s city councils, the general assemblies, and Congress with the instruction to bring home the goodies while cutting our taxes. There is not a whole lot of logic in this.
Fixing this is another issue. We are up against all those popular economic orthodoxies. Though I may know very little about economics, I do understand a thing or two about orthodoxy. The church is a place were all sorts of orthodoxies rub up against each other. Sometimes this is good. The tension points can create new possibilities for solving a problem or discovering a new way. Many times it is bad. The tension points become lines that are deeply drawn and never crossed. People get stuck, the community can not progress. Folks gets mired in a we-they mind set. We are the good guys that believe in low taxes and individual responsibility, they are the bad guys that believe in socialism and coddling the lazy…or we are to good guys who believe in compassion and caring for those who have need, they are the bad guys who are greedy and only care for themselves. When these orthodoxies get set in concrete, there is no room to negotiate. All we have are cartoon caricatures of each other.
It is quite possible that committing the cardinal sin stated by each economic orthodoxy may be the pathway out of our current mess. Maybe taxes will need to be raised and programming be cut. If this is the case, we better be electing leaders who are not so orthodox in their thinking and are not so afraid of the orthodox in their own political party.
As fate would have it, I was going to share some thoughts on Mayor Mike Bell’s proposals, which included committing the conservative sin of tax increases and the liberal sin of budget cuts. I was going to suggest that the people may have in Bell as a leader who isn’t wedded to any of the popular economic orthodoxies of the day. I was going to suggest that he seems like a pragmatist who was willing to challenge conventional wisdom. Raising taxes in an recession is a gutsy thing. Cutting programs and benefits is equally gutsy. I was going to suggest that this kind of leadership was and is a good thing. I was all set to push the send button to file this column, when I decided I needed a break and an ice tea from Panera. Standing in line at I glanced at the newspaper rack. There it was; the mayor is rescinding his proposal to increase taxes!
Of course, nobody wants to pay higher taxes. Nobody wants to pay more for health care benefits. We want everything we want … at bargain basement prices. But we are living in a time when this is not possible. Each of us will need to give up something for the common good of all. Maybe a little give in our personal, political, and economic orthodoxies is a place to start.
None of this suggests Bell isn’t all those things I was going to suggest. He seems to be a pragmatist that is his own man. The fact that he was willing to consider committing the carnal sin of conservatives: raising taxes, while committing the cardinal sin of liberals: cutting benefits of city workers suggests a man who is willing to seek a different path. Time will tell.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist pastor who lives and works in Bowling Green.