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Rabbi Samuel April Headshot

Compromise is Made of Mutual Concessions

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The Bible relates a fantastic story going back over five millennia ago. Babylon had subjugated Sumer and wanted to build the highest structure in the world. They called it the tower of Babel. In their Semitic language it meant "gate of God." To the non-Semitic Sumerians it connoted "babbling" onomatopoeically. A strange occurrence followed. No worker on the tower could communicate with his co-workers. If one asked for a brick, he received mortar. If Nimrod requested higher taxes for the rich, he was met with cuts in entitlements for the poor. Without speaking the same language there could be no compromise, no concessions, no results.

A compromise, by definition, involves two parties making concessions to achieve a desired result. (It means each side promises with the other.) The Great Compromise of 1850 or Missouri settlement between Southern pro-slavery states and Northern abolitionist ones was effected largely by the work of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. Isn't it a shame that sixty-one years later not one politician in our government could accomplish a similar feat?

The Tea Partiers made a pledge to vote against any increase in taxes, but they insisted upon trillion dollar cuts in expenditures. The president agreed in principle to make certain cuts but resisted massive entitlement ones without increased revenues to balance his budget. He warned that it would be a disaster if Congress failed to act. Many Republicans are on record stating that nothing would happen and they would call the President's bluff. Unfortunately, for all Americans, Standard and Poor's did not consider the political stalemate and inaction to be inconsequential. They downgraded our credit rating. The stock market witnessed an unparalleled volatility that rocked investors.

In religion, it is axiomatic that "Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof." We needed a good umbrella to avoid the default hanging over our heads; the "super six" committee can worry about the permanent roof. Those legislators who chose to ignore the teeming downpour that followed should be forced to give up at least half their salary, all retirement benefits and assorted other perks. The president is equally guilty. Instead of calling his opponents naysayers and insulting them, he should have said "Yea, let them take counsel together." [Isaiah 45:21] He should have allowed his party leaders to sort it out with their opponents; it was not his fight. When he spoke on television to assuage the panic, he only exacerbated the damage, as evidenced by the falling market prices. When Ben Bernanke attempted to reassure investors to stay the course, he said that the Fed would not likely increase interest rates for the next two years. If he would have stopped before adding the last phrase it might have done some good. After he added "the next two years" people realized that he thought our economy was doomed to remain stagnant for the foreseeable future. The market sank even lower.

The election of 2008 was "ABB" (Anyone but Bush) for millions of voters, next year's may well be "ABBO" (Anyone but Barack Obama.) If he is serious about wanting to restore America to its past glory and aspiring to an even brighter future, let him declare as other patriots have done that he does not choose to run for reelection. He is on record stating that he would rather be a one term president if he could not fix the economy and restore sufficient jobs to the unemployed. Well, he has not done so. Conversely, let any Republican nominee forswear his allegiance to any personal pledge. If a candidate takes the oath of office to serve as POTUS, (President of the United States) or a member of Congress, that oath supersedes all previous pledges. When John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the first Catholic President of the U.S.A. he solemnly vowed to remain faithful to his duties as President; that took precedence over his religious convictions. He may observe all of his beliefs personally, but may not allow them to interfere with his public duties. To serve in Congress, one must be willing to compromise. If one is conflicted, resign one position or the other. It is time to prepare now for the "Great Compromise of 2012."