Report from an Unclear Front

bob letcher cccAfter two visits to Ohio’s hearings for Senate Bill 5, and writing still as the person who was treated “ugly” by Tea-Party members when I sat down during a health care reform rally near Ohio State University last Spring, I am struck by how little movement the various “sides” seem to have made in the practice of practical democracy in the period between these two events.

As the headline of Columbus Dispatch read, it was a “clash at [the] Statehouse”—as if it were merely another shootout at some OK Corral. “Vociferous throngs” according to the sub-headline, gave rise to what the Dispatch characterized as follows: “the two sides did their best to drown out the other.” Lots of screaming, little listening, no enlightening: as though the various sides had either actively agreed or passively accepted that in this democracy, volume alone should decide policy.

To illustrate: in the face of last year’s healthcare reform efforts, opponents screamed the inherently violent and hardly constructive “Kill the bill”; now, it’s opponents of reducing collective bargaining rights for public employees who are screaming the still inherently violent and hardly constructive “Kill the bill”. It left me feeling even more hopeless and helpless than I did at last year’s rally; actually, even worse.

That’s because there were other sides. The Dispatch reported, with all that is at stake, that Senator Kevin Bacon, chairman of the committee hearing the bill, offered during his opening comments the cheerleader-like, but vacuous, “This is a true test of democracy.” Now I know how Louis Black feels: WAIT A MINUTE! Wasn’t that the US—ALL of us, both those who screamed “Kill the bill” last year and those screaming it now—who spent the last few weeks, holding forth on what Egypt should do to, in effect, pass Senator Bacon’s “true test of democracy”? And, for their part, reporters faithfully report “Talking Point” answers to cream-puff questions, when posing critical questions is so badly needed.

To illustrate: “Senator, you are an elected LEADER; why did you not lead us toward addressing this debt problem sooner, before it got—dare I say it?—unmanageable?!

What to do? Here are five suggestions, along with an alternative, in case we can’t agree to undertake the five-point program.

  • Adopt Donald Rumsfeld’s advice: If you can’t solve a problem, make it bigger. [Note: Though Rumsfeld probably meant to pour gasoline on the problem, I intend it to mean “Enlarge the context in which a problem is defined, and its solution sought.”]
  • Consider “Consider the Germans”, which advocates for social democracy. The article was written by Thomas Geoghegan, and appeared in Harper’s MARCH 2010.
  • robert letcherIn keeping with Rumsfeld’s advice and Geoghagen’s (perhaps inadvertent) application of that advice, consider some of Karl Marx’s ideas in light of Porter’s reinvention process. Just make sure you cite “Uncle Charlie”.

The alternative? We could all bend over and kiss our knees good-bye. (Knees’ll have to do, as I am not as flexible as I used to be.)

Bob Letcher

Photo by Dave Girves


  1. Mark Thompson says

    Americans were sold a bill of goods that wasn’t good. The selective capitalism under the Obama Administration of allowing overpaid union members NOT to pitch in on the Obamacare bill while passing the costs to lower paid non union people is clearly ‘”Selective Capitalism”.

    The corrupt mobster mentality of the union thuggery from intimidation to violence is an expected reaction towards non organized labor. The VERY people who can afford ” Their fair share” refuses to contribute to the betterment of society, be it Obamacare or welfare. The double standard hipocrites demanding equality is at the same moment greedily hoarding big bucks from be redistributed to the needy.

    Many states prohibit their civil employees from a blue flu walkout. The Wisconsin and Ohio state employees could help balance the states budgets from giving up less than five percent of their all paid medical and another five percent to vest it in a solvent pension rather than pensions that are under water and are mismanaged by their union bosses. The private sector is seeing the government employees as spoiled brats throwing temper tandrums while the private sectors have not had it so good and has been depending on themselves and not putting the thumbscrews to the tax payers.

    • Robert A. Letcher says

      Mark –thanks for commenting. I ask you, though to slow down. Consider your first paragraph:
      “Americans were sold a bill of goods that wasn’t good. The selective capitalism under the Obama Administration of allowing overpaid union members NOT to pitch in on the Obamacare bill while passing the costs to lower paid non union people is clearly ‘”Selective Capitalism”.”

      Your first sentence is clever. But absent clarification of who “sold” which “goods” to which Americans, when and how; along with what counts as “good” and how to distinguish between “a bill of goods that wasn’t good” from one that would have been good, you are simply asserting it.

      Your second sentence is even harder ti argue against, Take away all the prepositional phrases and subordinate clauses, and look include only subject, predicate, and object, and here is what is left: “The selective capitalism… is “Selective Capitalism”: a tautology. The further into your argument you go, the more tangled up your assertions get, and the less I feel like replying.

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