A Christmas Gift from McClaughry

Guest Perspective / Published in News and Citizen (Lamoille County, Vermont) 12/24/20

            John McClaughry’s refreshing Guest Perspective (“…Combat Welfare for the Rich” – Dec. 3) gives us timely hope for finding common ground between conservatives and progressives at a key moment. As we celebrate tomorrow the birth of “the Prince of Peace,” dare we imagine the gift of collaboration of Right and Left toward removing inappropriate government subsidization of corporations? One thing we can all peaceably agree on?

            McClaughry, through his Ethan Allen Institute in Kirby, keeps liberal Vermont honest. His acerbic sarcastic commentaries aren’t quite as good from the Right as Jim Hightower’s are from the Left (“The Hightower Lowdown”), but his writing is often entertaining and informative. With Bill Sayre of Bristol and neighbor Bruce Shields here in South East Eden off the Garfield Road, we are blessed with conservative voices to keep us on our liberal or moderate toes.

            The two books he cites reminded me of an earlier gem from 1996 – Take the Rich Off Welfare by Zepezauer and Naiman. These works from Left and Right authors affirm that the federal government has a history of being used for ends not in keeping with the appropriate use of taxpayer funds, whether the outrageous history of sugar subsidies (which gave us the ethanol that fouls our small engines and the high fructose corn syrup that aids and abets obesity) or “never-ending bank bailouts” (McClaughry).

            To craft a new coalition of the willing would take heroic effort and humble deference, to be sure, but politics has always made for strange bedfellows, and the time is ripe for stranger bedfellows, indeed, given the confounding polarization of the country before and since the presidential election. Key to the success of such an effort, clearly, is exiting old comfort zones and entering new conversations with at least an ear to listen if not an interest in learning.

            McClaughry might start with an examination of his snarky contempt for Senator Sanders. He analogizes criticism of bloated corporate executive salaries by the libertarian authors of the new Welfare for the Rich to a “Bernie Sanders envy outburst.” Conservatives like McClaughry who make that kind of naïve, uninformed error about democratic socialism – that it’s about envy – need to walk a mile in the shoes of neighbors here who work hard as self-employed people all their lives and lose half their teeth due to the insufficiency of dental insurance for the common man. Walk a mile, John, Bill, and Bruce, in the shoes of my neighbor who lost her entire savings to a medical diagnosis with an inadequate, high deductible health insurance policy. How about more subsidies for working people? Their politics are much more informed by a thirst for fairness and justice than by envy.

            Vermont Democrats might start with a humble examination their snarky contempt for Republicans, as with the not uncommonly heard “friends don’t let friends vote Republican,” as if it were some kind of disease. Phil Scott has rather courageously shown us a returning remnant of Republican integrity.

            A Christmas gift is embedded in McClaughry’s commentary if we can mine it and refine it. And add a mammoth dose of the humility that comes from a new awareness of the fact that the Prince of Peace had an extremely humble birth in a barn because the innkeeper’s Inn claimed it had no room for peasants like Mary and Joseph.    

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