By now, hopefully the Sequester Panic has been resolved and the latest budget troubles in the country have been settled. Or perhaps, life as we knew it is over and the administration’s prediction was correct. There was such apprehension on the news last week that all I could think about was the song from the old television show, Hee Haw, which has the following words: “Gloom, despair and agony on me, deep dark depression, and excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all; gloom, despair, and agony on me.”
As I watched our leaders in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, work the media, the country, and their constituents, it made me question what ethical rules these individuals follow or if they observe any principles at all. No doubt, the Sequester issue was important because it would determine which budget cuts would be in place. But, to the best of my understanding it was only a 2.5 percent cut in the total national budget and it would be in place over a 10 year period.
The purpose of Sequestration was to get a handle on the growth of our national debt, and for the record, congress and the administration have been aware of this deadline for over a year.
During my employment with the state of South Carolina, Clemson University experienced many budget cuts. We were furloughed, travel was cut, conferences and trainings were cancelled, programs were reduced, and early retirements were encouraged. It was not fun, and no one was happy, but the employees understood that there were budget shortfalls and that the cuts were necessary.
Being good citizens, and having no other options; we did what was necessary to maintain programs, and moved on. The world did not end with the budget cuts. The question then becomes why state leaders can implement a financial plan for the good of the economy while federal leaders can not implement budget restraints without mimicking Chicken Little who warned everyone that the sky was falling. Apparently there is no easy answer, but there is an ethical guideline that can be practiced by our national leaders.
More than 60 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, a business man named Herbert Taylor was asked to revive a nearly bankrupted company. The cookware company owed $400,000 more than its total assets and was barely staying afloat. Mr. Taylor responded to the challenge and decided to help the troubled firm. After investing some of his own money in the company to give it some operating capital, he sought inspiration to craft a measuring stick of ethics for his staff to use. As Taylor thought about an ethical guideline, he wrote a statement of about 100 words but decided it was too long.
He continued to ponder the important points and reduced his statement to seven points. After editing the proof, it became four questions that comprised an ethical proclamation that was to revive the troubled company. Later Taylor checked his work with department heads that were made up of a variety of faiths and economic backgrounds. The leaders decided the principles were an exemplary guide for personal and business life. The Four-Way Test was born.
Each Monday at the conclusion of the Kingstree Rotary Club my Rotary friends and I stand, and recite the following statement: Of the things we think, say, or do: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
If a small group of respectable, law-abiding, citizens in rural South Carolina can make an ethical pledge each week and live according to this promise, then surely the chief leaders in the greatest country in the world should do no less. But for now, as much as I hate to be pessimistic, it appears that Washington will not change. Will you sing with me? Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me…