Is There an American Center Anymore?

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Is There an American Center Anymore?
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Politics is the one thing for which Einstein did not account in his observations about gravity – the force that pulls objects in one shared direction.  Politics is anti-gravitational – it pushes families, friends and elected officials away from each other.  The anti-gravitational forces are stronger now, and the resulting polarization is worse, than at any point in my lifetime.  I did not believe that anything could be done to reverse political polarization in America.  That was until Monday. 

That’s when the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a $275 “head tax” for every employee of companies making over $20 million in the city.  This tax is not the reason for my believing that political polarization can be reversed.  The reaction to the tax from two companies widely recognized as to the left of America’s diminishing political center, Amazon and Starbucks, is the reason. 

Amazon Vice President Drew Herdener expressed the company’s disappointment by the “City Council decision to introduce a tax on jobs.”  Herdener went on to say that the city “does not have a revenue problem – it has a spending efficiency problem.”  Starbucks spokesperson John Kelly said the city “hasn't been accountable enough to prove it can use the [additional tax] money wisely.”  He added that the city “continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside."  (I leave the plight of America’s homeless for another column.) 

Amazon’s and Starbuck’s statements mirror those I have heard from conservatives across America.  This is encouraging and I acknowledge the courage it took for these companies to approve the statements.  After all, each could be hit with boycotts from George Soros-backed groups that believe the laws of economics no longer apply in America. 

If progressives and conservatives can agree that the more you tax something, in this case jobs, the less you will get of it, on what else can they dare to agree?  Can they agree that government at all levels must more efficiently spend the “people’s money” paid in taxes?  Can they agree to rein in public employee pensions, one of the biggest contributors to higher taxes?  Can they agree to look at the cost side, instead of just the financing side, of health care? 

And my favorite, can they agree that increases in corporate tax rates are borne by consumers in higher prices of goods and services?  After all, if the federal government or State of New York raises PepsiCo’s tax rate, we will all pay more for our Pepsi (in my case, Diet Pepsi).  All taxes roll downhill as higher prices to consumers like you and me.  

Now, a more difficult one.  Can they hold onto their intense and, at times, angry disagreement about the cause of global warming (and even its existence), but agree that putting more hydrocarbons in the air just cannot be a good thing?  (It may be a neutral thing, but it certainly cannot be a good thing.)  This will allow them to get past their anger that is blocking the search for solutions that reduce hydrocarbon emissions without negatively impacting jobs and the economy.  Perhaps there is no solution that will accomplish this, but there is value in progressives and conservatives getting to this level instead of merely stopping at whether global warming is actually occurring.  

Political polarization has caused people to look for points of disagreement to the detriment of the country.  Isn’t it time for Americans to look for solutions on which they agree instead of looking microscopically for barriers to reaching agreement?  I am going to do my part by reaching out to Drew Herdener and John Kelly to see if Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz would begin a dialogue with two conservative business leaders I have in mind to find America’s center.

Steve Hantler is a retired auto industry executive.



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