Clashing on Cash for Clunkers

by Dr. David Gruder

Now I’m really confused.

Two of the cornerstones of the Republican approach to ending our economic meltdown include promoting a business-friendly climate and returning tax revenues to citizens. This is because Republicans are strong advocates for the individual freedom side of the core constitutional mandate that government build policies that successfully navigate the fundamental paradox of preserving individual freedom and promoting the common good. (For more about this, see my IntegrityWatch Blog post on Mature Patriotism.)

In contrast, the Democratic approach to ending our economic meltdown revolves around strategies that focus more on the common good side of this core constitutional paradox. As a result, they have advocated government assistance strategies similar to those they believe helped our country recover from the Great Depression of the 1930s. These included increasing the national debt to subsidize social safety nets and fund public works projects.

Enter Cash for Clunkers. Fascinating program. Give money directly back to the people (a Republican concept) by encouraging them to make purchases to stimulate the economy (another Republican concept) in a way that helps rescue the car industry for the sake of the common good (a Democratic concept) and that rewards social responsibility in the form of driving higher gas mileage cars (another Democratic concept).

To me, this program is sheer genius in that it combines the wisdom of the Republican side of the constitutional paradox with the Democratic side of the constitutional paradox to co-create a program that is in integrity with the paradox itself and that neither side would have come up with on their own.

And it’s working wildly well. So well, in fact, that the entire Cask for Clunkers budget was blown in a matter of days when the program was designed to be in effect for a number of months.

To me, this program is a prototype of transpartisan synergy-centered problem-solving. This is, from my perspective as a conflict resolution and integrity specialist, far superior to compromise — or coercion — as a problem-solving strategy.

Now, I know just as well as anyone else that there is no such thing as an effective problem-solving strategy that won’t be fiercely criticized by someone, because in the real world no solutions are perfect. All we get to choose from are solutions that more and less successfully combine our collective wisdom. Cash for Clunkers is the most immediately successful example of combining our collective wisdom that I have seen in a long time. Perfect? No. Far superior. As a transpartisan integrity analyst it sure looks like that to me.

Then, why are the Republicans hesitant to authorize additional funding for this instantaneous trickle-down of government revenues that gives consumers more freedom to serve themselves in ways that support businesses and therefore help rebuild the economy? I’ve not yet heard Republican leaders say that they don’t want to authorize additional funding because they think this model was so successful that they want to instead use more funds to help stimulate similar consumer purchases in other parts of our economy that are also in desperate need of help in service of economic recovery.

So, if that’s not the reason they are hesitant to support a truly transpartisan strategy that is working wildly well and wildly quickly, what is the real reason why they want to put on the brakes? Someone please tell me (but don’t give me the spin — give me the real reason).

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