Democrats, Libertarians and Republicans, oh my! ’Tis the season for giving thanks and gathering around large, make-shift banquet tables with family and friends typically avoiding a cousin or in-law you deem as politically undesirable.
Of course, you do look forward to helping Grandma with her recipes from the old country, playing touch football with your nieces and nephews, watching the Detroit Lions with your uncle who served in Vietnam, and looking at old photos with your siblings and parents.
Originally celebrated as a feast of gratitude for a bountiful harvest, today’s conventional wisdom dictates this holiday is best digested with an important ground rule: NO POLITICAL TALK.
A recent poll by Reuters reveals one in three American adults plan to avoid the topic of politics all together to keep the peace while they feast this year. But avoidance never solved anything and while respondents say that politics is their “least favorite” topic, perhaps there is a real opportunity to connect on a few hot-button issues.
For the other two-thirds of Americans who do not plan to side-step the issues, there is a way to talk politics while joining hands around the dinner table this year.
With the spirit and intention of that first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Wampanoags and Pilgrims, perhaps we can embrace President Kennedy’s directive of “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
Children are the best guides for polite conversation. Forget the adage that little ones should be seen and not heard, after all, they are inheriting what we created and deserve a voice in what happens next. The key is to keep the conversation G-rated and free of animosity, in other words, talk with the same respect and clarity you would offer a child. Swapping insults and identity politics for kindness and clarity could deliver the sweetest topping this Thanksgiving.
If those around the table cannot agree on whether we should reduce the corporate tax rate, can everyone agree that incentives work? Eight-year old Grace, your adorable niece, is only too happy to eat all her green bean casserole because her mother offered two slices of Grandma’s pie as an incentive. Apple, Microsoft and Pfizer and many other companies might see a lower and more competitive corporate tax rate as an incentive to repatriate the estimated $2.6 trillion held overseas. Lowering the U.S. corporate tax rate makes us more competitive than other countries and would be instrumental in bringing funds back for critical taxpayer services and reducing the now $20 trillion national debt.
If there is a disagreement on whether taxpayers should fund “free” college tuition, can everyone agree that opportunity cost is part of the decision? While your uncle loads up his plate with all his Thanksgiving favorites, he pauses at the bread basket. Indulging himself with two lightly-golden crescent rolls sounds like a great idea but then he won’t have room on his plate for sweet potato casserole. The opportunity cost of two buttery baked goods means no marshmallow-crusted, brown-sugar laden puree. Allocating tax funds that would cover college tuition for all would mean forgoing or reducing funds for K-12 education, infrastructure, homeland security, military defense and other government expenditures.
Focusing on issues and relating them to our own personal decisions is a more respectful and productive approach to politics. Instead of taking sides and repeating rote positions, we benefit from real conversation and working together to reach understanding.
Once we’ve had our fill of dinner and conversation and scan the buffet to assess how to divide the leftovers, the ambrosia is still piled high and the gravy boat is always empty. Much like our beloved turkey gravy, our time together is scarce and most valuable this Thanksgiving.
Michelle A. Balconi is an author and speaker who writes about real-world topics for children. Her illustrated Let’s Chat Books series with Arthur B. Laffer, Ph.D. is a collection of entertaining stories introducing economics and democracy. For more information, visit www.letschatabouteconomics.com