Rancor can be thought to be good; as in free speech and opinion differences will inevitably lead to some rancor. But, as I watched Inaugural activities that began the President Biden and Vice-President Harris Administration, I was transported back to the two Inaugurals I attended. Both were upbeat, optimistic, and in various words and phrases called for unity.
There will be plenty of time for disagreement, hopefully the civil kind, but it is clear that President Biden considers civility as government content. In short, if every course change is a flashpoint, we all lose. This will be especially true as circumstances serve up the unexpected.
Poet Amanda Gorman, in her inaugural reading, beautifully summed up our aspirations; light was transcendent. America is at it’s best when light infuses our thoughts.
I penned Son of a Shopkeeper a month or so ago. Noting the difficulties faced by small businesses, I also noted how big businesses operate within a framework of tax advantage. They retain a variety of international experts to help them minimize taxes. Tax specialists guide them through the intricacies of reduction as they move manufacturing, sales, distribution and even headquarters to tax-advantaged locations.
President Biden is recommending a corporate tax increase going from 21% to 28%. Specific tax thresholds can get very complicated and are well beyond these several paragraphs. But, the burden of any corporate tax increase should not fall on the shopkeepers—rates and filing intricacies should be reduced and simplified.
Legislative Acts and Edicts
Aside from the swearing-in the big story was President Biden’s Executive Orders. The quantity and sweep of the orders underscored the failure of the Congress to make laws and the rapidly depreciating reality of Executive Orders. It’s like successive poker games with each pot won and then lost the next night. And, I will add, the conflicting swirl that the governed have to navigate undermines our foundations.
And, avoiding specifics for now, it seems to me that forces within the Biden coalition are urging him to roll back everything that happened in the previous four years. Remember, the last four years happened — they happened because President Trump was voted into office by voters who felt abused by the elite; an elite that often seems to want a perpetual easement on our lives. When significant change moves through elected Representatives — Congress — it is more likely to represent a broader range of living and thinking. We can vote out the Representatives we don’t like, but have little sway over the experts that write executive orders.
Media trust is quite low. President Trump blasted the media almost every day. Fake News, he screamed. Toward the end he even turned on Fox News. And now we have news outlets whose business model turns on attracting conspiracy theorists and a range of grievance victims—move over pornographers.
I spent time at the Federal Communications Commission looking at allegations against media, but almost always the ultimate decision affirmed the Constitutional guarantee of free speech. A revered conservative jurist, Justice Scalia, even extended the freedom to flag burning, saying the act was speech.
In short, seeking legal restraint on speech is mostly a fool’s errand. A wise errand by consumers of news is to be curious — to go beyond the comfortable media that confirm our biases.
And when it comes to social media enforcing blanket bans on individuals or organizations, that too is self-defeating. The companies should, in the world of artificial intelligence, be able to red-flag and curate content that arguably falls outside of the acceptable principles. The principles should be clearly stated.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.