Time to Put Away Childish Things
“A house divided against itself cannot stand…” —Abraham Lincoln
These unforgettable words from one of our greatest leaders were a call to reason and justice to abolish slavery—that great scar on our nation’s history. They spoke to the perniciously divided men who held our country’s future in their hands and were willing to plunge the country into civil war to resist any compromise.
But these words speak to me today with a powerful resonance as I watch the men and women who are supposed to be leading this country continue to abdicate their responsibilities. After eight years of paralysis, with a new administration in the White House and a single party controlling Congress, our politicians in both parties, are still failing miserably to work with one another across the aisle, and to mend the destructive divisions in their own ranks.
This dereliction of duty leaves the government paralyzed and unable to move forward on the most important issues of our day, on programs that would once again get this country going and growing. We even read these days about their being “no adults in the room” anymore when public policy is addressed in Washington. Both parties share the blame for this. We watch in total frustration as our elected officials posture, appeal only to their base, talk out of both sides of their mouths, and do nothing to lead the country.
This behavior brings to my mind a quote from 1 Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up I put away childish things.” It is long past time for those who claim to lead this nation to put away the childish nonsense that they have subjected us to for far too long.
These vital programs cannot wait. The economy cannot wait. We have got to get more robust economic growth. The American people cannot wait.
We have important problems to solve and programs to create to move this country forward. MSCI’s bipartisan advocacy agenda, developed after rigorous consultation with our members up and down the industrial metals supply chain, offers a framework that once upon a time had the support of leaders of both parties. Infrastructure spending, comprehensive individual and corporate tax reform, and free and fair trade top the list.
Infrastructure should be a no-brainer. The American Society of Civil Engineers once again this year gave the United States a D+ for the condition of our roads, bridges, airports, ports and other facilities vital to our health, safety and commerce. Yes, tax reform is quite a bit thornier. But there is no disagreement from Republicans or Democrats that our tax system is unfair and far too complicated. It defies reason that men and women of goodwill could not at least make a start on this tough problem. Likewise, with trade regulation and enforcement. We at MSCI are calling for an integrated monitoring and penalty framework that concentrates not just on single products, but also recognizes the impact of enforcement throughout the entire metals supply chain. Our trading partners who intentionally circumvent the system by bringing in parts instead of substrate must be held accountable.
These vital programs cannot wait. The economy cannot wait. We have got to get more robust economic growth. The American people cannot wait. It is time to clean up the sausage making process otherwise known as making laws in Washington. It is time for a bi-partisan approach to these problems. A time for compromise and working together. No single person, nor extreme wing of any party is going to make any of this happen.
I have no illusions about the difficulty here. This will be a heavy, heavy lift. It calls for a willingness to compromise and build consensus that we have not seen in politics for many years. It calls for political leadership and courage. No less than the future of our country is at stake here. The United States must return to the vibrant, productive, innovative capitalism that made us the envy of the world. The disruptive forces shaping the new world economy, the exponential growth of technology, inevitable globalization, and compelling demographic population changes demand that we as a country put away childish things and get moving again.
You may or may not have heard of the prominent Israeli author Amos Oz, a man who knows just a bit about seemingly intractable political situations. He concludes: “If we don't stop somewhere, if we don't accept an unhappy compromise, unhappy for both sides, if we don't learn how to unhappily coexist and contain our burned sense of injustice—if we don't learn how to do that, we end up in a doomed state.”
Can enough of today’s would-be leaders in Washington hear and heed that dire warning?