Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 31, 2013

ABACUS COLUMN: The charm bracelet

By Larry Backus
Sun contributor

CROSSVILLE — My wife recently found her high school charm bracelet from 1958. There were eight tarnish covered charms. She decided to restore the silver to its former luster by use of a bath in jewelry cleaner. Each of the charms was meaningful and each was sold as sterling at locations locally; such as those for our high school medallion, a baseball and dancing slippers. And, there were five other charms representing visits to locations away from Cincinnati. There was a covered bridge from Indiana, fishing gear from Minnesota, a slot machine from Las Vegas, a sombrero from Mexico, and the latest charm; a Capitol Hill relief from Washington D.C. in 1984. She retrieved the bracelet and charms from their treatment, after a proper time had elapsed, and with high expectation began to carefully wipe the bracelet and charms clean. Then I heard her laugh and exclaim, “I should have known.” The bracelet and each of the other charms gleamed as if they were new. Only the Washington D.C. charm was exposed as thinly veiled tin. 

I seldom write or talk about politics or political issues; although it is a subject that everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Donald Trump seems to be analyzing these days. There was a time when I did write about political issues for nearly five years. I had been elected to a key position of leadership in my community. I was requested to write the township newsletter based on previous writing experience. At the time, the media was not covering the townships point of view on critical issues in dispute with their neighboring city. The township was partly to blame because the township did not have anyone who was willing or capable to write and articulate the issues. During those five years, as much through my writing for the media, as through my service in office; the war of words and political attrition was transformed into a truce and eventual boon for both communities. My goals in public office were developed from the recommendations of residents. Those 11 goals became my goals and when I accomplished each of those criteria, my wife and I decided to retire rather than run for another term. If I had continued in office, I might easily have eclipsed the terms of the person I replaced who managed a quintuplet of four year terms, or I might have been coerced into running for higher office. Then I would have been mired in a world of politics rather than citizenship. Heaven help me, and my constituents.     

It seems much too late to wish a fervent goal of citizenship rather than politics on our state and national political representatives. If I had to classify my politics, I might label myself as a moderate conservative. A title I would be loath to accept since I could also be artfully, aggressively, progressive on issues I believe in. However, being aggressively liberal or conservative in politics is a losing hand to play. It may get someone elected to Congress, however, that person will never make real progress in solving the enormous issues of survivability facing our nation. Progress means negotiating for the benefit of all residents, not merely Republicans or Democrats. Term limits would help. It would help if Congress took a critical look at the executive privileges and perks it has heaped upon itself. It would help enormously if Congress made means testing an important criterion in social security, as well as many other areas where politicians buy votes with taxpayer funding and debt. It would help if we resolved the immigration issue that has become a political football like nearly all important issues facing Congress. If Congress and our current President were to hold a single national vote initiative today such as: Do we remain in office or make room for new people that vow to resolve national issues, target full-employment and reduce the national debt or serve no more than one term; either we would see more legislation passed in record time than we have ever seen in our lifetimes or they would all be looking for a new job.     

I do not believe that “all big” business is bad, wealthy people are greedy or Republicans are stupid. Neither do I believe that “all big” unions are bad, all wealthy Democrats are not greedy but rather progressive, or Democrats are stupid. There are exceptions, of course. Writers who make such a case in their quest for partisan brain washing are not writers I would recommend to an intelligent voter; whether local or national in their sphere of influence. Neither do I believe there are no exceptional state or national elected representatives in office on both sides of the aisle. However, I do take exception with either party leadership when they win a state or national election and make the claim that “we won and therefore we get to make drastic changes to government, our laws and the lives of citizens,” without debate, without review or oversight; this is a path to partisan gridlock and extreme danger for our democracy. Somehow, we citizens need to restore that Capitol Hill charm to its shining luster.