The view with age-enhanced perspective

Friday, October 28, 2022

As we grow older and gain a broader perspective of things political, many of us find ourselves increasingly immune from the constraints of party influence. We have watched waves of populism swing back and forth like a pendulum, while more significant trends, good and evil, plod along slowly and unstoppably toward outcomes beyond our control.

After witnessing multiple political cycles over a span of many years, it becomes painfully evident that party platforms are shaped less by ideology than by sheer political calculus. The lines between governance for the common good and the need to win the next election cycle become blurred, and political messaging is taken over by pollsters and media wizards who, as Machiavelli wrote, practice the ďdark arts of politics.Ē

Realizing the only trends that matter are long-term, itís a bit like looking at the earth from outer space. We donít see the trees and the mountains, or the crime and the traffic jams. We just see a few bits of land poking out of a sphere of blue water, in the middle of a large, infinite, dark universe. The larger perspective that we gain almost makes getting older worth the trouble.

As heavy and serious as all that seems, a lighter view also comes from acquiring a greater perspective. We have seen candidates come and go. We have seen hot topics suddenly pop up, only to be forgotten just as quickly. We have seen that if a debate canít be won on its merits, human frailty, or simply an allegation of human frailty can be exploited to undermine an opponent. Itís at this point that politics takes on the attributes of a spectator sport and those of us who were ideologues in our youth gradually become passive viewers of what often resembles a bar fight in an old western movie. We want the good guy to win, but the flying bottles and breaking chairs make it far more interesting.

I recently watched an interview with our outgoing Senator (and my fellow RINO) Ben Sasse who, in his embittered retreat from public life, made an interesting observation. I havenít been able to find the exact quote, but he basically said that only about 15% of the population cares about politics, and most of them are weird. As someone who has spent much of my life stuffing envelopes, planting yard signs, and attending conventions, I canít say that I disagree.

We are an odd lot indeed. Thinking that we are driven by a greater cause, we serve when called upon and provide support when we arenítĖuntil we get out of line and start thinking for ourselves. Political parties, by their very nature, arenít big fans of independent thought.

Sasseís crime is that, like many of us, he thinks we should be able to have good policies without putting up with buffoonery, which is to say that he did not particularly care for our former President. Personally, I donít think I would have voted for the impeachment of Mr. Trump as he did, but Mr. Sasse leaned libertarian, and I agreed with him more often than not.

If you think that the right holds a monopoly on buffoonery, have a look at initiative 433 on your election ballot which asks, ďShall the Nebraska statute establishing a minimum wage for employees be amended to increase the state minimum wageÖ.Ē Proponents of the initiative drone on about ďhardworking NebraskansĒ who cannot make ends meet, which is noble enough, but they pile on by portraying those hard-working Nebraskans as parents who canít feed their families or pay rent. Surely, no American with a beating heart wants to see the children of hardworking Nebraskans homeless and hungry, do we? Just make an X in the box with a number two pencil, and the kids will have a plump goose this Christmas.

Itís all high-minded and gallant, but the conservative influences in my background tell me that entry-level jobs arenít intended for family breadwinners; that a lower minimum wage allows employers to offer jobs that will allow unseasoned workers to gain experience. Iím still on board with that part. The argument that heads of household in minimum wage positions are eligible for tax breaks and social programs that we are already paying for, strikes me as being a bit callous. Iím less inclined to be swayed by that brand of rhetoric.

What amuses me about initiative 433 is the absolute tone-deafness of the timing. Do the backers who put the question on the ballot read their newspapers?

Do they know that we are already on our way to double-digit inflation? Do they know how low the unemployment rate is in Nebraska? More to the point, are they able to find campaign workers at any price?

The hard, cold facts on the ground tell us that our low unemployment figures are forcing employers to compete for workers, and they do so by raising wages. The government didnít compel employers to do it. Our (somewhat) free market is doing that for them. When supply doesnít meet demand, prices go up. It works the same for people as it does with gasoline and milk, and in Nebraska, we simply have more jobs than people to fill them.

The more salty and cynical view is that the people behind 433 understand exactly what they are doing, and may be more interested in the demographic that will turn out in force to support an increased minimum wage. On November 9th, or whenever the smoke clears, it will be interesting to see if there is a correlation between the performance of 433 and the turnout in Nebraskaís Second District.

I donít have substantial ties to the Second District, and I donít hope to be working for minimum wage anytime soon, but Iíll be watching to test my theory, and whether or not my age-enhanced perspective is right or wrong.

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