Would You Meet Your Killer Halfway?

The third little pig was the obstructionist in the family.

Lazzaro’s assessment packs in much to unwind. First note that compromise is associated with positive connotations – typical, moderate, independent, reasonable, rational, prudent, thinking, fair. These are common correlations in our political discourse. Compromise is inherently moderate, the defining characteristic of independence, the mark of a rational thinking person, a badge of fair-minded prudence. Naturally, unwillingness to compromise reveals opposing characteristics – extremism, obstruction, intransigence. Nevermind the context in which a compromise occurs, or the details of what it bodes. Giving up is the new American way.

Of course, upon applying a cursory amount of thought, we realize that compromise should never be an end unto itself. Context matters. Long-term consequences must be considered. Greenblatt is correct insomuch as governance requires compromise in many instances. Nevertheless, the overriding objective of governance according to our Declaration of Independence is the preservation of individual rights. Where one party seeks to tread upon life, liberty, and our means to pursue happiness, compromise makes as much sense as meeting your killer halfway.

While each man hails from an opposing political party, former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Democrat Erskine Bowles agree that the deal reached to avert the fiscal cliff leaves much to be desired. Specifically, the co-chairs of President Barack Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform agree that spending cuts are necessary to address the national debt. The Hill’s Sam Baker details:

“This thing isn’t going to do anything, really,” Simpson said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

He said tackling the deficit will still require significant spending cuts, especially to entitlement programs. Simpson lambasted Senate leaders for not working together, and he noted that increases in lifespan are rapidly straining Medicare and Social Security.

The spending cuts enacted in the Budget Control Act and last week’s tax agreement solved about half the problems, Bowles said. He said Congress needs to cut about $1.6 trillion more in spending and raise about $600 billion more in revenues by closing loopholes.

Here we have two men unlikely to agree on the details of where spending should be cut and in what amounts. Yet they agree that spending must be cut. That is a context in which compromise is possible, where any result gets the nation closer to the Tea Party goal of fiscal responsibility. When it is agreed that spending must be cut, haggling determines only the degree of the fix. On the other hand, the question of whether to cut spending cannot be answered with compromise. The decision is binary. Spending will be cut, or not. The Tea party stands on that hill, ready to die for spending cuts.