The benefits of hindsight

Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

Like you, I can’t help but read and listen to the political posturing taking place these days as we head in to this year’s pivotal elections. But as you try to validate the points being made you have to draw from your own past experiences in order to keep things in perspective. Let’s face it, Americans are a self-centered lot. We want what we want, and more than anything what we always want is to be on the winning side.

The basic concept of “winning at all costs” has been both a major asset and a motivator for our country and at the same time has been the destructive flaw that keeps our nation from achieving its ultimate potential. What we profess to be as a nation has all too often been compromised by our individual selfish interests. When America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution were drafted, despite serious deliberation, we just couldn’t part with slavery, thus forcing its resolution on to future generations to resolve in a bloody civil war. Of course the Civil War itself, the length, destruction and cost of life was the end result of each side’s absolute certainty of what they perceived as righteous. Looking back today, more than 150 years later, most would acknowledge the “right” won out, but how might we view life today had Lee been victorious at Gettysburg and the South won their independence from the Union?

Several issues flying about the country and the campaigns now need to be dissected and filtered through the lens of yesterday to better understand their impact today. Recently we heard about the third city in California, San Bernardino, to declare financial bankruptcy in the last two weeks, and the city of Scranton, Pa., was forced to reduce all employees to minimum wage. At a time when revenues were more plentiful and growth seemed endless, hiring, wages, benefits and city projects had no limits. Workers rightfully wanted and demanded their fair share. No one wanted to leave dollars on the table, but no one could foresee the future. Winning the best labor contract for their members was the goal for the labor negotiators and even if they could have predicted the impact of those actions in today’s environment, would they done anything different?

Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at dan@denpubs.com

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