All are right … and wrong on many points

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June 20, 2010

Last month I wrote about comprehensive tax and business reform. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. Vic acknowledged “I would have to pay more taxes, but that is a small price to pay to have this great country have more justice!”   John wrote “you better invest in a flak jacket . . . and a bunch of Mr. Clean . . . tea party is going to rain on you.” Other comments were supportive but suggested modifications, some of which I agreed with and some I don’t.

Only two emailed me with serious objections. Frank called me a “socialist” and wondered why the Midland Daily News prints my “Socialist/Marxist claptrap”. Well, Frank, free speech and freedom of the press are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. 

Frank also wrote that he “could find nothing that talks about cuts in federal spending, and reduction of people on government payrolls.” Well I surely did write about cutting tax abatements and other government subsidies for business. I was not very specific on the latter but much reduction could be accomplished in those areas. I agree I did not suggest cuts in payroll but suggesting ways to cut expenses was not my purpose in writing that particular column.

            John Gault wondered online “How can you be so right about some things and so wrong about others?” Well, that is an excellent question that I will try to answer in this column. The short answer is that all of us, including me, are right about many things and wrong about many others. The longer answer involves an attitude that I think is really harming our country and its future. This particular mindset has been going on for decades but has recently gained momentum on both sides of all spectra.

            That attitude is simply this: “I am right and you are wrong.” Too many of us have that attitude. Another way to describe this attitude is in multiple popular phrases, such as “us vs. them”, “good or bad”, “right or wrong”, “either/or”, and finally “all or nothing” thinking. It all flows from dualistic thinking that is so prevalent in our western civilization and so detrimental to cultural and personal development.

It shows up in institutions, especially religions, where one group says it has the “truth” and others don’t. This attitude makes for very difficult communication between two individuals, families, communities, religious groups, and even world leaders.  This attitude stops a discussion rather quickly. After all, what is the point of continuing to talk when one person insists that he or she is right? This attitude leaves no room for compromise. 

            Another way to answer the question is that you think I am right when you agree with me and I am wrong when you disagree. It would be better if we could both agree that we have different views. Let’s test them and see which one works. Let’s compromise on them and find workable solutions to problems we face at every level of society. I laid out a plan last month for reform. I am willing to compromise on many of my proposals but one point for sure is that we can no longer continue to lower taxes for the wealthy and still expect to balance the budget and reduce deficits.  Since most of our legislators are wealthy they are not going to raise taxes on themselves without grass roots support for raising taxes. Politicians will continue to spout “lower taxes!” to appease the voters but say nothing about what to cut. Lowering taxes is so important to politicians that they are hampered in finding solutions to funding government services. We see that in Midland, in Michigan, and Washington.      

            I have come to an understanding that we all have some of the truth but none of us has it all. We need to work together for what is best for all of us. Although I write sometimes with a passion, I am always open to comments and discussion.