Mr. [Patrick] McGrady's position that there is little room for compromise in politics is reckless. Compromise is American. Compromise is what allowed our founding fathers to settle on, adopt, and ratify our Constitution. It is a fundamental tenet of our political system.
All too often, extremist politicians use "principle" as their excuse to refuse offers of compromise and moderation. And lately, it has become popular to cloak that principle explanation under the misguided notion that it is what the founding fathers would have done. Yet, I ask you this: what issue in the 18th and 19th centuries could have been more based in principle than the issue of abolition versus slavery? Our Constitution is not evidence of our founding fathers standing their ground on such a fundamental issue. It is full of evidence of compromise: the fugitive slave clause, the 3/5 rule, and an effective gag order on the issue until 1808. We have a constitution, because our founding fathers were willing to compromise on slavery and a host of other issues.
In light of Mr. McGrady's reliance on a Jefferson quote, one could use the example of Jefferson's willingness to compromise over the assumption of war debt by the newly formed federal government. The core of Jefferson's political beliefs was the decentralization of power. He preferred strong states. It was a principle in which he believed. Nationalization of the debt flew in the face of that belief. Yet, he was willing to compromise on that principle designing a plan that withdrew opposition to the assumption of debt in exchange for Hamilton, the architect of the debt assumption plan, supporting Jefferson's preferred site for the new capital.
Modern day heroes of the conservative movement such as Ronald Reagan have been known to compromise too. In 1982, Reagan famously compromised with Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill to address the deficit. The compromise increased taxes by one dollar for every three dollars that were cut in spending.
I am surprised that Mr. McGrady is so willing to accept the price of obstinance. Certainly, he must realize that refusing to compromise costs the taxpayers of Harford County more in the long run. What Mr. McGrady calls bread crumbs are tax dollars raised, in part, from Harford's families. They are dollars taken from families to provide for schools and infrastructure. Those needs don't go away simply because those bread crumbs don't make their way back to Harford. They force the County government to pay more for those needs, which is in turn reflected in County tax rates. If Mr. McGrady was truly interested in lowering the tax burden of the Harford County tax payer, he would want to ensure that we got each bread crumb our state taxes buy.
Let me be clear. Compromise is not acquiescence. It is not selling out on your beliefs. It is, however, an essential part of progress. We must all acknowledge that while we are firm in our beliefs, we are imperfect beings. None of us possess all of the answers. If we truly want to balance the budget, reduce the debt, and stimulate the economy; then we must be open to discussion and compromise. If we stand our ground, we will only hasten our decline.
Scott T. Gibson
The writer is a former member of the Republican Central Committee, a former director of the Republican Club of Harford County, and a former vice president of the Harford County Young Republicans. He also director of human resources for the county government.