Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Really Great Idea

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has issued an interesting challenge to the business community and to all citizens concerned about the state of the U.S. economy and the dysfunction of government. He has suggested that all political contributions be withheld until politicians begin to do their job.

Further he has called upon legislators to return to Washington, D.C. immediately (not waiting until September) and dedicate themselves to bi-partisan efforts to create jobs in the U.S. economy, laying aside their obstructive, self-serving agendas, designed only to get themselves reelected. He is calling upon them to enter talks without preconditions and collaboratively work to resolve the persistent budgetary impasse that has plagued the government for months.

What a terrific idea! It is doubtful that all contributors will join Schultz in boycotting political contributions, but if enough significant donors do so it could have an impact upon the way politics functions in the United States.

Teachers, parents, and employers have known, forever, how destructive intransigence can be to a common endeavor. The student, child, or employee who stubbornly refuses to cooperate, or does so only on his or her terms, must be persuaded to cooperate or must be removed from the enterprise. Otherwise their attitude will breed dissention and discouragement in the whole group.

And yet the citizens of the United States have looked on helplessly while single Senators have held up the appointment of federal justices, blocked important political appointments, and refused to allow crucial legislation to even be debated, declaring openly and explicitly, their desire to see the present administration fail so they can elect someone of their choosing in the next general election. A small group of Representatives have taken the entire government hostage until it agrees to its agenda. In any normal setting such behavior would be called “bullying” and would be viewed as destructive, if not criminal.

But Schultz’s proposal shows that the electorate is not helpless. It holds power over the resource politicians most understand and desire, money to fund their campaigns for reelection. We can only hope that his call for a boycott of all political giving is heeded and the flow of cash stops immediately. No, we can do more than hope; we can determine to withhold our support if we are cash supporters. But even beyond that we can let our legislators know that we will withhold our vote for any candidate that appears to value anything above the achievement of a cooperative, productive government focused on creating jobs and economic well-being for the people they serve.

We can communicate to our legislators that political compromise and cooperation is not viewed by us as a weakness but as a strength; that solutions incorporating ideas from various places on the political spectrum are most likely to gain the cooperation needed for success, and are most likely to endure when political fortunes turn and new people are in leadership. In other words, we can tell the recalcitrant “children on the playground” that we will no longer tolerate their petulant obstructionism. Either they will play cooperatively, fairly, and productively, or we’ll give them a “timeout”.

There is much more that our politicians need to be “told”, but one lesson at a time. At this moment in time they need to hear that we view them as stubborn and immature children. And to bear that message home to them we need to tell them that their “allowance” is being withheld until they clean up their attitude and begin to play cooperatively. It they don’t, we will take stronger measures in the near future – at the next election.

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