A Road to Progress

Fred Morgan, President and CEONot that long ago, being able to work with political opponents on solutions for the good of everyone was seen as something to be admired. President Ronald Reagan had to get help from Democrats in Congress to get tax cuts. President Bill Clinton worked with Republicans in Congress to reform welfare. Yet somewhere along the way, the idea of compromise turned into a political liability. We let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The tide may be turning, at least in Congress. There is a bipartisan effort to fund a six-year highway bill by changing how the country taxes the foreign profits of U.S. companies. While the devil will be in the details, at least there’s an effort to come together for the good of the country. Democrats get more tax revenue, Republicans get a lower tax rate and the public gets better transportation infrastructure. In an otherwise dysfunctional federal government, this proposal, if approved, offers a glimmer of hope for breaking the gridlock that is hurting our country’s economy.

We’ve only to look at the last few years to see the results of an ineffective Congress. When politicians don’t compromise, it leaves a vacuum that agencies are more than happy to fill by creating their own rules. That’s how we end up with the Environmental Protection Agency drawing up overreaching regulations on power plants and degrading property rights to oversee puddles.

Congress should be the ones writing laws that protect the environment without forcing double-digit increases in electricity prices. Instead, the desire to appear ideologically pure meant abdicating any actual authority over regulation.

Now we are all paying the price – literally. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the EPA’s power plant rules because the rulemaking process did not take cost of compliance into account, many companies have already started down the path of compliance. That means consumers will suffer through higher power bills and increases in the costs of all goods as the added expense of production is passed along.

Compromise doesn’t mean abandoning principles. It means getting part of what you want in order to avoid something much worse. It’s better to take a small step in the right direction than to stand still on principle and risk getting pushed back.

This article was posted in The Journal Record as part of Fred Morgan's monthly opinion editorial.

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