James J. Kilpatrick, the nation's most widely syndicated political columnist, has marked up 38 years in the news business, as reporter, editor and columnist. He is today one of the most widely read, and most widely respected, critics and commentators in the game.
In 1941 he began his career with the Richmond (VA) News Leader. He became editor of that paper in 1949. In 1964 he began writing his column, "A Conservative View." Syndicated by the Washington Star, the column now appears in nearly 400 American dailies. Mr. Kilpatrick also is widely recognized for his work in television, chiefly as the conservative spokesman in Point-Counterpoint on the CBS 60 Minutes program.
His bestselling book, The Foxes' Union, was published in 1977. In 1978, he collaborated with his neighbor, former Senator Eugene McCarthy, in a book of political satire, A Political Bestiary. They are known in Rappahannock County, Virginia, as the odd couple.
Mr. Kilpatrick is a contributing editor of National Review, a columnist for Nation's Business, and a regular contributor to Human Events. He also holds some impressive national offices: He is Number One Pea, Pro Tem., of the Black-Eyed Pea Society of America, recording secretary of his political party (the True Whig Party), and chairman emeritus of the Beadle Bumble Fund for Kidding the Pants Off the Law. He plays poor bridge and worse tennis. His hobbies include vexillology, philately, and swearing at crab grass.
Mr. Kilpatrick delivered this presentation at Hillsdale during the Center for Constructive Alternatives seminar on "The Future of American Labor Unions."
Looking over your schedule of lecturers, so far, I judge that you have been getting a fairly one-sided view of labor unions. Let me put in a few caveats, therefore, because I would not want you to feel that I am here with any particular animus against unions as such.
My first encounter with unions as a working man was early on, about 1941, when I came out of the University of Missouri and became a newspaper reporter in Richmond. There was then no American Newspaper Guild organized at the Richmond papers. Our composing room, of course, and the other mechanical operations were well unionized. The printers union was then and is now a fine union, a very honorable union. We also had a union of the stereotypers. We had a union of the engravers. We had a union of the press men. We had a union of the mailers and so on. But reporters and copy editors were absolutely unorganized.
I went to work at the Richmond News Leader at that time for $35 a week, a college graduate and all that sort of thing. The stereotypers were then making roughly double that figure. Stereotypers are the nearest thing to nothing that ever was in a newspaper operation. They spend most of their time sitting on their backsides waiting for the time to prepare the plates that go on the press and they were making double what the reporters were starting at. This was for one reason only—the stereotypers had a union, and the reporters did not have a union. After a while the reporters did get a union in Richmond, and behold! Suddenly things improved enormously.
Labor unions have done a great deal of good in this country for a great many people. As a young newspaperman I covered the coal mines down in southwest Virginia and West Virginia and parts of eastern Tennessee. I learned something of the life that was lived by the coal mining communities before John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers began to develop some clout. It was a miserable, miserable life, a wretched existence for human beings. And it is still in many ways a hard, cruel, demanding life—the life of a coalminer. But it is infinitely better than it used to be for one reason only—the United Mine Workers.
I don't know at firsthand, but I have read of the conditions that existed in New York City in the garment industry. I have read of the crowded lofts in which women worked, and of the incredible conditions that were imposed upon them. The conditions are now infinitely improved for one reason only—the garment workers' union. So if I am critical, and I will probably be critical for the remainder of my remarks to you, let me put in this much by way of balance—yes, many good things have been accomplished because of the organization and the power and the determination of people in the labor movement.
But it is apparent, or so it seems to me, that something now has gone quite wrong with the labor movement in this country—wrong in all kinds of ways. In a recent article in Harper's magazine my old friend and debating companion, Nick Von Hoffman, a good labor man who trained under Saul Alinsky, undertook to examine some of the causes that have led to labor's decline. He mentioned quite a few. One thing, he said, was that labor had failed to get behind the civil rights movement and to identify itself sufficiently with the black community in this country and I think that's quite true. Organized labor had a great opportunity, had it joined with blacks, to identify itself with a very popular cause. But for one reason or another, mainly because many of the labor unions are as lily white segregated as the Deep South used to be, labor never got involved in that.
Secondly, says Nick Von Hoffman, labor missed the boat in the matter of the women's movement. And this again is quite true. Here was an opportunity for organized labor to get out in front of a very popular cause, the cause that now is identified not only with the Equal Rights Amendment but with the feminist movement generally. But again labor missed the boat.
Another reason for the decline, I suspect, has been the image of leadership that organized labor projects to the country as a whole. You think about the "leaders of organized labor" and by word-association what image do you get? Well, it is probably an image of George Meany or one of the other bull walruses of the old guard, getting out of a limousine in front of what is known as the Fountain Blue in Miami Beach, lounging around the pool smoking a big cigar. It is not an image that is appealing. As Von Hoffman says, organized labor's image problems also depend to an extent on mass media that regularly depict unions as feather-bedding gangsters, authoritarian bores, and racketeers engaged in the business of entrapping working people in closed shop slavery.
The image is overdrawn, but the thing is: It's not that much overdrawn. There are just enough nuggets of truth in there to cause great embarrassment to the decent people in the labor movement—and there are many decent people in the labor movement. But there has indeed been violence in organized labor and violence is a part of its image. We are seeing it right now in Ohio and in parts of the upper Midwest where trucks driven by the steel haulers—a perfectly legal operation on their part—are being attacked with rifle fire. Murder is not unknown to labor disputes. In the construction unions we have witnessed vandalism and criminal violence that can't possibly be condoned—and is not condoned by the good people within the labor movement.
All this is part of a picture that has contributed to labor's problems. And one consequence is that in all of the polls that are taken periodically of Americans' confidence in American institutions, labor winds up right on the bottom. It's a fairly depressing chart. At one time the majority of the American people had great confidence in only two American institutions. One was the practice of medicine and one was trash collection. The practice of medicine has since declined in the ratings. As a matter of fact the people's confidence has declined in virtually all our institutions—in the judiciary, the Congress, the executive branch, the judges, in the press—but at the very bottom of the list, even under the lawyers, is organized labor. Other evidence supports this poor view in which labor is held. Over the past four years, while we have been adding six million people to the labor force, organized labor has actually lost more than one-half million members. Organized labor now constitutes only about 20 per cent of the total working force. Labor still has political clout beyond its numbers, but the political power of organized labor these days ought not to be overestimated.
Finally on this matter of image: Overall, it is an image of compulsion as distinguished from an image of voluntarism. It is the compulsion of naked force that is involved in the violence of certain strikes. A union will compel a settlement by burning the place down or by tearing up the construction site or whatever. People do not like to be compelled. People do not like to be ordered around, to be threatened, to be endangered as they feel themselves endangered in the case of a strike by policemen or firemen. It is in this area of compulsion that we find the clearest distinctions between human rights and union power.
I was in New Orleans a few weeks ago at Loyola University for a full-blown debate. The question before the house was, Resolved, that Section 14-b of the Taft-Hartley Act should be repealed. (This is the section, as I'm sure most of you know, that authorizes the states to enact their own Right-to-Work laws). The Jesuit priest whom I debated, a great six-foot, 200-pounder, Father Boileau, had been deeply involved for many years in labor relations. He believed passionately in the union shop. Speaking for the affirmative side of this debate, he urged that Section 14-b be repealed. For my own part, I felt just as passionately in the other direction.
I had written out on a yellow tablet a little outline, nicely Roman-numbered, of what I proposed to argue when my turn came to argue the negative side of the proposition. Number I was headed morality, Number II was headed freedom, and Number III was headed effect on the economy. As he and I were sitting side by side at the table, I sneaked a side-long glance over at his notes, just to see what he was going to sound off on, and you will not believe it but cross my heart it is so. His first point was morality, his second point was freedom, and his third point was effect on the economy.
We had a great argument. He contended that Right-to-Work laws weaken the workers' bargaining power and are therefore morally reprehensible at their very core. As for freedom, said Father Boileau, naked rugged individualism cannot be sanctioned when it interferes with the common good. In the interest of what he called genuine freedom, individual rights often are restricted. And as for point three, the economic impact, in his view Right-to-Work laws are union-busting laws. They have no other real purpose. They depress wages and they contribute to industrial unrest and besides—and this was one of his principal points—it is manifestly unfair to permit free riders to enjoy the benefits of a contract negotiated by a union without paying their share of the union's expenses.
To those arguments on his part, I replied somewhat in this fashion—that when unions and management gang up to impose a union shop, compelling every worker within a bargaining unit to join the union within 30 days or be fired, morality goes out the window. I can see no moral position there whatever.
I've been involved in this kind of thing myself, and I resent it right down to the marrow of my bones. I got into television broadcasting around 1970 as a commentator for ABC. After I had done two or three of them as a freelance, I was shortly confronted by a gentleman from the business office who advised me that if I were going to continue doing commentary for the American Broadcasting Corporation I would have to become a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists known as AFTRA.
I had heard about this before, and sure enough, I shortly heard from the union. I never did get a personal visit or even a telephone call just an abrupt letter from the union enclosing a copy of a very formal contractual agreement in which I was directed to bind myself under oath and affirmation to become a member of AFTRA and to abide by all of its rules, bylaws, regulations, its constitution, the whole nine years. I was dragooned into the union. There was a substantial initiation fee that had to be paid, and as it turned out there were very substantial dues that had to be paid semi-annually thereafter. For all this I received no services, no benefits whatever, that I even asked for or bargained for. I have not to this day received any individual benefits out of AFTRA. I didn't want to be a member of the union; I resisted it in every way I knew how, but if I were to exercise a right to work as editorial commentator in broadcast media I was compelled to become a member of that union. My contract a few years later with CBS was explicit on the point. It was required of me, in order to go on 60 Minutes, that I become and remain a member in good standing of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Well, subsequently a very great American, William F. Buckley, Jr., and another great American, M. Stanton Evans of Indianapolis and Washington, went to the mat on this issue. The National Right-to-Work Legal Foundation spent a lot of money and went into court and they won. They won a formal opinion saying that the union shop, so far as it applies to commentators, is simply unlawful. We no longer have to be members of the union subject to the union's discipline. We still are required to pay these very substantial annual dues to provide services and benefits that we haven't asked for. But there it is. At least we now are free from the discipline of the union. We can't be fired from the broadcast media because we are not members of AFTRA. So there has been some gain. But the notion that it is a moral position to impose this sort of coercion upon free men and women strikes me as an absurdity. In my judgment it is absolutely immoral to impose coercion upon people who would like to be free to work at their chosen professions.
Now this is the issue. It is quite simply—freedom for men and women to live their own lives in their own way subject only to the lawful commands of government. But if you please, labor unions are not government. They tend to equate themselves with government; they think they have the power of the courts, of the-Congress, of the executive. There is a certain arrogance in organized labor in this regard. They equate themselves precisely with government. The power to tax, you see, is the power the unions assert for themselves. Well, it is not so. It simply is not so.
My thought is that in a free society we ought to be free to join a union or not to join a union. And we ought not to be subject to the tyranny of the 51 per cent of the bargaining unit in this regard, any more than as free men and women we should be subject to the tyranny of the 51 per cent in a matter of religion. Shall we have a referendum in Hillsdale on whether we can belong or not belong to the Catholic church? Or to the Episcopal church? Or the Methodist church? And if 51 per cent of the voters say no, there shall be no Catholic church, we are out? Or turning it around: If 51 per cent of the people say everyone must be Methodist, we all must belong to the Methodist church?
The proposition is of course absurd. The First Amendment prohibits this absolutely. There can be no establishment of religion. To me, at least, the right to work is at least as fundamental as the right to attend the church of one's own choosing. It is at least as fundamental as the rights of free speech and free press. At least as fundamental as the right to petition for redress of grievances. I've thought for a long time that a case could be made under the Ninth Amendment—the forgotten Ninth Amendment—reserving all those rights that are not enumerated anywhere else.
The right to work. I cannot imagine a more precious right in a free society.
On the third point, it is argued by the opponents of right-to-work—they argued it quite successfully in Missouri a couple of weeks ago, when a right-to-work initiative went down to defeat—that right-to-work has a depressing effect on the economy and as a union-busting measure a depressing effect upon union membership. Labor's own statistics fail to support that line of argument. In the 20 right-to-work states, the AFL-CIO is doing proportionately better in terms of getting new members and sustaining its membership than it is doing in the old line industrial states that have no right-to-work laws.
Taking one thing or another, the right-to-work states have healthier economies, wider employment, less poverty, and less unemployment than the non-right-to-work states. The evidence simply is not there to show that right-to-work laws, in and of themselves, have a depressing effect upon the economy.
Let me argue finally the case for human rights. I would argue that there is a very human right to work as one wants to work without having to be compelled to pay tribute to an unwanted labor union. Yes, there is a human right to join a labor union. There ought also to be a human right not to join a labor union. I make those arguments in terms of moral principles and freedom and ethics.
Let me turn to a more mundane field that is perhaps a little bit closer to my daily beat as a newspaperman. That is, to talk about the politics of unions these days, where the unions and the labor movement are going as a political force. We ought to inquire what happened to labor in the 95th Congress and look ahead a little bit to see what might happen to labor's causes in the 96th Congress that convenes on January 15.
Suppose we go back for just a moment to the congressional and senatorial elections of 1974. This was right after Mr. Nixon had abdicated his office in August. President Ford had come on. Then came the pardon. It was a chaotic time politically for Republicans and for the conservative movement generally. In the November elections of 1974, the Republicans ran into disaster: The party lost 49 seats. This was no record, but it was a very heavy loss. It was to be expected in the normal bounce-back pattern of our political history that the Republicans would recover in 1976. The marginal seats that had changed hands as a consequence of Watergate perhaps would change back to their normal Republican constituency. It didn't happen.
In 1976 the Republicans made no net gain at all, with the result that the 95th Congress convened in January, 1977 with almost the margins of the 94th—a margin of 62-38 for the Democrats in the Senate and 292-143 for the Democrats in the House. And of course Mr. Carter moved into the White House replacing Mr. Ford. It appeared on the surface at least to be one-party government, and some of the labor people saw it that way. Andy Biemiller, head of the Communication Workers of America, looking back at the period immediately after Mr. Carter's election in '76, said that labor had great expectations. With a Democratic President and Democrats still theoretically in control of Congress, labor believed the machinery "would produce programs which were important to us and legislation on social programs we've been trying to achieve for six or eight years."
"The feeling was that we had been in a stalemate for eight years because we had a Democratic Congress and a Republican President. Theoretically our friends were now in charge of the machinery."
Well, labor had every right to believe that. Having sat out the McGovern campaign of 1972, when Mr. Meany and his friends lifted not a finger to help their Democratic candidate, the labor unions had come to life in the campaign of 1976. They enthusiastically supported Mr. Carter around and about the country. They gave $8.2 million in direct contributions to candidates for the House and Senate that November. Ninety-five per cent of the money went to Democrats, and labor's efforts certainly were influential in helping Mr. Carter carry such states as Ohio, New York, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.
We tend to forget how close that election was. Ohio, for example, was carried by Carter with a margin of only 9,300 votes in 4 million that were cast. In New York the margin for Carter was 289,000 out of 6.4 million. In Missouri Carter won by only 71,000 votes out of almost 2 million that were cast. In Pennsylvania the margin was 124,000 out of 4.5 million cast. My point is that in each of these cases organized labor reasonably could claim the credit for carrying the state for the Democratic nominee—and the four states alone added up to 105 electoral votes. Mr. Carter's winning margin in the electoral college was 297 to 240, a difference of 57 votes. A change of 28 electoral votes from Carter to Ford would have kept Mr. Carter out of the White House. These four states that labor carried for him quite narrowly had 105 votes. So labor understandably regarded itself as sitting in the catbird seat when the 95th Congress began.
But as Leo Durocher once remarked in another context, when he had led his Brooklyn Dodgers to a crucial victory, it all proved to be Poil Hahbuh for de Giants. Consider if you will a half dozen misfortunes that befell organized labor in the 95th Congress.
First came the common site picketing bill. This was a piece of legislation applying to large construction sites where a dozen unions may be working at the same time—the plumbers' union, electricians' union, bricklayers' union, the operators' union, and so on. The law as construed by the Supreme Court now says that no one union can tie up the entire site. If the plumbers' union has a dispute with the plumbing contractor, it does not stop construction everywhere in the whole project. The common site picketing bill would have overthrown that decision of the Supreme Court and would have authorized a single union in a dispute with a single employer to tie up the whole thing. The bill had passed the 94th Congress only to be vetoed by President Ford, but there was every expectation that the bill would zip through the 95th Congress. Labor had Mr. Carter in the White House and all those Democrats over there in the House.
Behold! It went down to defeat 217 to 205 and note the most unkind cut of all: 13 of the freshmen Democrats that had enjoyed labor's financial support defected. They voted against it and thus provided enough votes to kill the bill.
Well, this was a very great shock to my friends of the labor movement, but they figured they might do better on what was known as the cargo preference bill. This was ardently sought by the maritime unions. They had given $150,000 to Mr. Carter's presidential campaign. Mr. Carter was very much in favor of the cargo preference bill. He used his weight to try to get it pushed along. The Speaker of the House came into the well to support it. Cargo preference looked as if it would go sailing through. It sank by 257 to 165, a margin of almost 100 votes. Down went cargo preference to the bottom of the sea.
Then along came Mr. Carter's election package. He had four measures. One of them would propose a constitutional amendment to provide for direct election of presidents—nothing ever came of that. A second bill had to do with the public financing of congressional elections—nothing came of that either. But there were two parts of the package in which organized labor was deeply interested. One of them was known or became known as the Bums Rush Registration Bill. The other one had to do with repeal of the Hatch Act. The Bums Rush Registration Bill was a lovely little gimmick. It would have provided for instant registration on election day. It would have imposed a federal act upon all of the states—they would have two years to get their own laws in line with it—but the idea was you could simply go down to the Bowery or to the suburbs, or anywhere, and pick up any number of persons more or less alive or dead. It wouldn't matter which. You would fetch them to the registrar at five in the afternoon if the polls were to close at 5:30. You would register them right on the spot and they would vote.
Well, this would have been a very great thing—a very great thing for the Democratic party, or so it was assumed. Republicans are not necessarily more virtuous than Democrats in this regard; they are only less experienced. The labor people really wanted this one. And again, the Speaker made quite a plea for it. He worked for it. But it was bottled up in committee and it got nowhere.
The bill to repeal the Hatch Act made it to the floor. A funny thing happened. At a time when the Democrats were off the floor and their backs were turned, fairly late at night, John Ashbrook of Ohio got a beautiful little amendment through. It carried by 229 to 168 and would have undone everything the unions wanted to do. Gorgeous! The labor lobbyists woke up to the situation the next morning, but they had lost their momentum. Repeal of the Hatch Act went nowhere.
Labor also backed the President's proposal to establish an Office of Consumer Representation. This may not have related directly to labor, but it was part of the whole liberal legislative program that labor presented to the 95th Congress. And as in these other instances, there was every reason to believe that this Office of Consumer Representation bill would pass with ease. It had passed the House three times before. A similar bill in the 92nd Congress had cleared the House by 344 to 44. In the 93rd Congress it passed by 293 to 94. In the 94th Congress—getting closer—it still passed the House by 208 to 199. The bill also had gone through the Senate in the 94th Congress, but Mr. Ford indicated he would veto it and the Democratic leadership didn't have the votes to enact it over his veto, so it stopped there. Three times this bill had gone through the House, and now labor had a Democratic President and everything looked lovely. What happened? The bill was defeated 227 to 189. Down it went and 101 Democrats left their President on that particular vote.
Finally, the principal bill that labor wanted in the 95th Congress was known as the Labor Reform Act. It was not an honest label. There wasn't much reform in it, at least from the point of view of the business community, but labor got it through the House with the President's enthusiastic backing and it went over to the Senate. The bill would have greatly improved labor's prospects for winning certification elections, by speeding up the time table in which such elections may be held. This was important to labor. In the past five years labor unions have lost more than half of all the certification elections—the organizing elections—that they have conducted. That's a terrible record. In the same period they also lost two-thirds of the decertification elections, an even more melancholy record. This particular labor reform package not only would have speeded up the certification process, it would also have imposed very severe penalties upon employers who were found by the National Labor Relations Board to be engaged in unfair labor practices. The bill would have permitted the Democratic President to pack the NLRB with two more members of his own choosing. It would have required employers, in effect, to give the sun and the moon to labor organizers coming upon their premises to campaign for union membership. As I say, the package passed the House but it got over to the Senate and there the proponents could not get it past a filibuster. They never could muster more than 58 votes in favor of cloture. And after six cloture votes the Labor Reform Act went back to the cemetery of recommittal. There it was interred for the balance of the session.
There were other things that befell labor. On the matter of the minimum wage, labor wanted automatic indexing but couldn't get it. One of labor's great causes was the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill to reduce unemployment and inflation over a period of five years. By the time that bill was passed it had been so watered down that it amounted to little more than a resolution that honesty is the best policy—an absolutely meaningless bill. Labor earnestly supported the hospital cost containment bill. It too was defeated.
Suppose we look ahead to the incoming 96th Congress. I'm just about to stop keeping tabs on the Congress in terms of Democrats and Republicans because I think the labels have gotten to be absolutely meaningless. For the record, it looks as if it will be 59 Democrats and 41 Republicans in the Senate, about 276 Democrats and 159 Republicans in the House. The figures are quite misleading. The significant thing in the November elections was not that the Republican party as such gained three seats in the Senate. The significant thing was that the conservative cause gained about six. The tendency is still to think of all Democrats as a bunch of free-spending liberals and all Republicans as a bunch of rock-ribbed skinflints pinching the dollar. This just isn't true. We have some Republicans who can outspend practically any Democrat that ever came along. And vice versa. So I think Conservatives gained about six seats in the Senate and about 20 in the House.
Let me digress a little more. All kinds of things are happening to our two-party system in this country, but we're not yet fully aware of the damage that is being done to a system that has served us well since the day of Adams and Jefferson. The two-party system is being steadily dismantled, so denigrated and disregarded that it more and more becomes a system of form and not of substance. At one time in our political history a party performed all kinds of local functions of patronage. If your son wanted a job as a motorman or a street sweeper, or your daughter a job as a clerk or secretary at City Hall, you got that job through your party. Of course you could lose it that way too. Political parties also performed certain welfare functions—the scuttle of coal in the middle of winter or the turkey at Thanksgiving time. If you were having a party or a ball, typically it was at your precinct headquarters. The political parties used to arrange for a rally in the park; they hired a band and they hung up the bunting.
All this is gone. Television now permits a candidate for the House to speak to 100,000 people in their living rooms instead of to 200 in the park. Political parties no longer do much fund raising in presidential elections; that's all been taken out of their hands. They no longer have much to do with cultivating candidates for public office, pushing them first into a city council, then into a board of aldermen, then into something else to move them up the ladder. That function of the parties is gone. Civil service has taken over patronage. Political parties no longer have much to give in the way of rewards nor much to impose in the way of discipline.
And yet we have not thought about what we are going to put in their place. If we abandon the Republicans and the Democrats, do we go into pressure groups, political action committees, single issue politics? I don't know. But the two-party system as a system is sick and we ought to think about where we are going with it.
In any event, my side, the conservative side, did pretty well in November, though I don't think it was an overwhelming conservative mandate. The union people suffered a number of setbacks. The AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education endorsed 30 Senate candidates; 18 of them lost. The United Auto Workers backed 17 Senate candidates; 10 of them lost. Labor had some winners in the House, but it had lots of losers too. By contrast, conservative political action committees did pretty well.
I think we can translate some of this into specific expectations over the next two years. My guess is that because of these political changes there is not going to be any consumer protection agency. The hospital cost containment bill will have a great deal of trouble. The national health insurance package that Mr. Carter supported in his campaign—the same full-flown plans that Senator Kennedy is pushing so ardently—I think will go nowhere. Welfare reform? I don't believe it will get through. The Labor Reform package? No way. 1 doubt that a bill to repeal Section 14-b of Taft-Hartley will even be offered. If it is offered it won't even get to hearings in committee. The Bums Rush Registration Bill is a thing of the past. So is cargo preference and so is common site picketing.
Hanging over the 96th Congress like a great shadow will be the spectre of inflation. Politically—never mind what it is economically politically this is the greatest problem that Mr. Carter has to cope with. If he cannot get the rate of inflation down to something in the neighborhood of 5 or 6 per cent, by the end of 1979, he may be in very serious political trouble in 1980. His party could be in quite serious trouble also. For this reason even those members of the House and Senate who were most firmly supported by organized labor in the 1978 elections are going to be hesitant about voting for any new spending programs that would add to the deficit. Mr. Carter promised at his press conference the other day that he would take as a goal to get the deficit in the next fiscal year down under $30 billion. That may not sound like much of a goal, but when you have been talking about a deficit of $60 billion, believe me, it is progress. Mr. Carter is whooping it up for austerity, and he will have lots of help. For all these reasons I don't look for a very strong showing by organized labor in the 96th Congress. I think it probably will be a poorer showing even than labor had in the 95th.
This prospect suggests great responsibilities and opportunities for the conservative community with which Hillsdale College is identified. The business and industrial community generally has won about a two-year respite. I wonder myself what they will do with it. Because if the conservative, business-oriented community becomes complacent—if it rests upon its oars, sits back, and says well, we just won everything we wanted—this pleasant prospect could turn into disaster very quickly. For many members of the House and Senate owe debts to the labor unions and these obligations could be called in. But my guess is that the next two years will be a time of restraint, and I think that probably is going to be a good thing for the country. We can use another two years for a breathing period. I am fond of quoting Carlyle in this regard. He once wrote, in effect, that the happiest hours of mankind are recorded on the blank pages of history. That's not bad. I look back at the Eisenhower administration, for example, and it was a generally happy time and it was a fairly blank time also. So if we should have in the next two years of the 96th Congress a time that is not all that innovative, or not all that bold and imaginative—not all that forward thrusting—a fairly blank time, I think the Republic will be well off. But willy-nilly, the Republic will survive.
Copyright © 2011 Hillsdale College. The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.” SUBSCRIPTION FREE UPON REQUEST. ISSN 0277-8432. Imprimis trademark registered in U.S. Patent and Trade Office #1563325.
© 2007-09 Hillsdale College. All rights reserved.