What’s the real problem cursing our politics? "What we've got here ... is failure to communicate."
O.G. politico Chris Matthews chose "Hardball" as the title of his book and show for a reason. Politics should be a competitive sport, like baseball, not an archly staged performance, called, in pro wrestling, "kayfabe." And most certainly not Calvinball.
Yet today’s politics resembles the surrealistic Calvinball. That was an imaginary and nonsensical game invented by Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. Its unruly "rules" are summarized here:
"Calvinball has no rules; the players make up their own rules as they go along, so that no Calvinball game is like another.
"Rules cannot be used twice (except for the rule that rules cannot be used twice), and any plays made in one game may not be made again in any future games. The game may involve wickets, mallets, volleyballs, and additional sports-related equipment.
"There is only one permanent rule in Calvinball: players cannot play it the same way twice. For example, in one game of Calvinball, the goal was to capture the opponent's flag, whereas in a different game of Calvinball, the goal was to score points by hitting badminton shuttlecocks against trees using a croquet mallet."
In other words? Anarchy.
America was founded as a republic. Anarchy is unbecoming.
And unproductive. It does not serve we, the people, or our nation well.
Left and right are talking right past each other. Pity.
President Joe Biden pitched his reconciliation bill as $3.5T (now $1.75T) of "social spending." Framing (and constructing) it that way made legislators from red and purple states nervous. Rightfully nervous.
There was a way for President Biden to keep his left-wing base cooperative while also enrolling pragmatists, such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, and even potentially enlisting some of the Republicans who voted for the bipartisan "infrastructure" bill.
The moment may have passed. But there was, and just barely still may be, a different way to achieve consensus around our shared objective of equitable prosperity.
The way can be found in the work of the late Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker and Ted Schultz: human capital.
That formulation creates a transformational opportunity. It is a road not yet taken.
The concept of human capital allows us to rejigger the formula for equitable prosperity to lean toward equity while fully preserving the ability to bring about prosperity.
Both equity and prosperity are highly desirable. They are complementary, not antagonistic, values.
When Jack Kemp first conjured supply-side economics in the 1970s, America was beset with stagflation and a towering misery index. How bad was it?
On that day in November 1979 that Reagan officially declared for the presidency, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 814. Restoring prosperity then, properly, was paramount.
Yet as Winston Churchill shrewdly observed: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
Supply-side economics helped eradicate (or at least ameliorate) the then-prevailing "sharing of miseries."
Now let’s use good human capital theory, and best practices, to address the inherent vice of capitalism ... without throwing the baby (free markets) out with the bathwater (inequality).
As Professor Becker observed: "To most people, capital means a bank account, a hundred shares of IBM stock, assembly lines, or steel plants in the Chicago area. These are all forms of capital in the sense that they are assets that yield income and other useful outputs over long periods of time.
"But such tangible forms of capital are not the only type of capital. Schooling, a computer training course, expenditures on medical care, and lectures on the virtues of punctuality and honesty are also capital.
"That is because they raise earnings, improve health, or add to a person’s good habits over much of his lifetime. Therefore, economists regard expenditures on education, training, medical care, and so on as investments in human capital."
As for Professor Schultz, as summarized by Pedro Nuno Teixeira at Springer Open: "Schultz blended the results of his own research on the importance of education to private and social development with general statements of past economists ... and the emerging results of younger academics, such as Jacob Mincer and Gary Becker, in order to present a concept of human capital that included five main categories: health, on-the-job training, schooling, adult education, and migration."
Sadly, Washington has devolved into an endless game of political Calvinball. How horrifyingly ... Hobbesian!
Framing the conversation (and constructing the attendant policies) along the lines devised by Becker and Schultz would provide a way for the Donks and the Pachyderms, progressives and conservatives, left and right, to engage in a spirited competition.
Who can formulate the best human capital agenda to bring about a golden age of equitable prosperity? Game on!
Mr. Biden? It’s not too late.
Communicate via human capital!
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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