Our Middle is Missing

Posted on 07. Dec, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural, Uncategorized

Who made off with America’s middle? I’m not talking about our collective mid-section (Heaven knows that most of us could stand to lose a bit of that this time of the year). I mean the great middle of our political corpus where compromises are made. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t seem to locate it.

Those on the right say they have it (somewhere in their party platform), and those on the left say they are the new middle! Me, I’m confused. Let’s try to sort this out. If you believe in big government that acts like our guardian angel, the nanny of our entitlement programs, the protector of our civil rights and the arbiter of wealth (who should be allowed to earn what), then that middle is one I don’t recognize.

If, on the other hand, you want less government, fewer entitlement programs (or less in the entitlement pot) for the needy and don’t mind giving up some of our civil liberties – under the Patriot Act, for example – then that one is equally unfamiliar to me.

Combining the two and then splitting it down the middle doesn’t appear to give us a middle either; it just gives us a government that is underfunded and can’t keep the checks coming for the unemployed and welfare, medicaid and food stamps recipients, and it can’t protect our civil liberties because it doesn’t have the resources or inclination to do so.

It’s a little like a retailer that must reduce its store hours due to  dwindling sales and chooses to stay open when people cannot shop. Yes, they’ve compromised, but they did it in a vacuum without polling the customers. Thankfully, most companies are run by businesspeople and not politicians, and while I’m at it, we must stop demonizing them as if they were vampires at the blood bank. That will only give us a shortcut to the poorhouse.

I don’t understand groups that claim theirs is the true middle and insist that that is the place to start compromising, even though their views only reflect the middle of their ideology and not that of their opposite number on the other side of the bargaining table.

No one can compromise from that position, because neither side can agree on the definitions or the boundary lines. If there ever were a time for a King Solomon to step in and adjudicate the dispute it’s now, because our leaders can’t even agree on the severity of our problems let alone the solutions. Turning in front of a speeding oncoming car because you’re in the right only to get T-boned in the intersection doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Each one of us drives defensively because we know that while rules are made to be obeyed not everybody does so. That’s logic 101.

Enough of the analogies. When you’re poor you can’t afford to act like you’re rich. You make tough decisions and cut back on the luxuries to survive and preserve your basic way of life. Most of us aren’t going to send a letter to the electric company or the gas company and say we’re only going to send them half of what we owe them and not a penny more because our ideology dictates it.

America has some tough choices to make right now, and that goes for the well-heeled among us as well as those with worn heels or none at all. We had better get on with America’s business and start deciding what we can live with and what we can live without before circumstances take that decision away from us. I just hope it’s not too late. Half a loaf is better than no bread at all to a hungry man.

- Editor

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