Favorite

Can we talk? Can we get anywhere? 

Dialogue is good. It would be even better if someone would venture off script every once in a while. 

Fine folks in Fayetteville of diametrically opposing persuasions have begun holding forums on public issues. It started early in the year when freshman state Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, an arch-conservative Republican who seems perfectly sane otherwise, sponsored that blessedly ill-fated bill to permit faculty and staff members to carry guns on college campuses.  

In a spicy letter to the editor, Tom Kennedy, head of the local ACLU chapter, took Collins vigorously to task for the very idea.

They subsequently talked and found each other non-demonic, as often happens. 

So they put together a community forum on the gun issue. It went well enough that, on Saturday, they held their second forum. The subject this time was jobs and the economy, and they were kind enough to invite me to sit on a four-person panel at the Fayetteville Public Library.  

A balanced pan-el  — two guys left of center and two guys wrong of center — is symmetrical. So it is purposely structured to produce a tie.   

This forum lasted maybe 90 minutes. I can summarize as follows:

The two of us varyingly left of center, an economics professor and labor historian named Michael Pierce and I, believe government has the responsibility and right to tax the top margins of high incomes at a higher rate and to spend for stimulus on the demand side to prime the pump of what is an otherwise dangerously idling economy. We find alarming and unsustainable the growing gap between the few rich and the many poor.

The two wrong of center (or right, if you insist), Collins and affable local pizza mogul Rolf Wilkin, believe the economy will get better from the supply side. They believe it will do so by its own devices through the glories and innovations of the great American marketplace, but only if the government will cut taxes and reduce regulation. They believe the nation can best address the wealth gap by letting the marketplace work its natural and uninhibited magic. 

A gentleman down front quoted a clergyman as saying we would look unfavorably on a parent whose children ranged from the robust and well-fed to the malnourished, and that we should look with similar disfavor on a government whose citizens are so disparate in condition. 

Alas, I knew where that was headed. Collins was sorry for that disparity and said we need to work on it — by cutting rich people's taxes and eliminating business regulations, I'm pretty sure — but that our government is not our parent. Citizens bear more personal responsibility than do minor children, he said. 

There, then, is your debate: Just what is the nurturing responsibility and role of the government, of an economy? 

I'm with Pope Benedict XVI, who recently said, "The economy cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good. The economy cannot function only with mercantile self-regulation, but needs an ethical reason in order to work for man." 

In other words, there must be more to an economy than making some people rich. If some are getting richer while others are going hungry, then the economy has no ultimate point or ethical merit.

There's not much middle ground anymore.

Pragmatic centrist politicians reach to the other side and get only formulaic cant in return. Maybe we simply must choose up and fight this out, to try to find our way out of the woods by walking straight in some direction, any direction, as our moderator, local editorialist Doug Thompson, put it. 

"We're screwed," Pierce, the economic professor and labor historian, concluded. His point was that our political system is so dysfunctional, so corrupted by money, as to be paralyzed, unable to rise to the dire economic occasion. 

Let's hope not.

Favorite

Speaking of Charlie Collins, Tom Kennedy

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by John Brummett

  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • With the oath comes a blindfold

    We need to stop handing out blindfolds to appointees to state boards and commissions immediately on their taking oaths of office.
    • Sep 14, 2011
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Architecture lecture: Sheila Kennedy on "soft" design

    Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd., will give the June Freeman lecture tonight at the Arkansas Arts Center, part of the Architecture + Design Network series at the Arkansas Arts Center.
  • Petition calls for Jason Rapert Sewage Tanks in Conway

    A tribute is proposed for Conway's state senator Jason Rapert: naming the city's sewage sludge tanks for him. Petitioners see a similarity.
  • Health agency socked with big verdict, Sen. Hutchinson faulted for legal work

    A former mental health agency director has won a default judgment worth $358,000 over a claim for unpaid retirement pay and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is apparently to blame for failure to respond to pleadings in the case.
  • Religious right group calls for compromise on damage lawsuit amendment

    The Family Council, the religious right political lobby, has issued a statement urging its followers to oppose the so-called tort reform amendment to limit attorney fees and awards in damage lawsuits.
  • Constituents go Cotton pickin' at Springdale town hall

    Sen. Tom Cotton, cordial to a fault, appeared before a capacity crowd at the 2,200 seat Pat Walker Performing Arts Center at Springdale High tonight to a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. Other than polite applause when he introduced his mom and dad and a still moment as he led the crowd in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — his night didn't get much better from there.

Latest in John Brummett

  • Gone to the DoG

    We're now longer carrying John Brummett's column in this space.
    • Oct 12, 2011
  • Obstruction is the preferred conservatism

    Is there greater conservative virtue in opposing federal health reform, period, or in saying it ought to be implemented locally instead of from Washington in the event we are unavoidably laden with it?
    • Oct 5, 2011
  • A fate not quite as bad as prison for Lu Hardin

    There is no crime in being overly and transparently solicitous for the purposes of aggrandizement and personal political advancement. That's simply acute neediness, a common and benign human frailty.
    • Sep 28, 2011
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Little River County gears up for Sesquicentennial

Historical entertainment planned for joint celebration of three Southwest Arkansas milestone anniversaries

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.
  • Trump and Russia

    If you think about it, no wonder Donald Trump prefers the imaginative stylings of Fox News to the presidential daily briefing. He's pretty much the network's target demographic: a daffy old-timer with time on his hands.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Arkansas voters know what they want

    • It is inappropriate for disgruntled legislators to take revenge upon the citizens of the state…

    • on February 25, 2017
  • Re: Future is female

    • When I try to be pithy I probably come across like an asshole, but there…

    • on February 25, 2017
  • Re: Hating the media

    • Yup, as Jefferson said "Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper"…

    • on February 25, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation