Political Rhetoric Undermines Noble Goal of Town Halls

By Tim Tirplett, Editor-in-Chief

MSCI’s Manufacturing First! town hall meeting in suburban Chicago April 19 was a wonderful display of political theater—at times entertaining, at times difficult to watch. Several hundred businesspeople turned out to show their support for American manufacturing and to hear the views of elected officials and political hopefuls.

As current chairman of MSCI, Bill Jones of O’Neal Industries urged the institute to undertake a major initiative to inform, mobilize and energize its constituents on a grassroots level. The goal is to combat what he and MSCI see as threats to U.S. manufacturing: higher taxes, burdensome regulations, punitive legislation and an anti-business attitude in the nation’s capitol. “I’m concerned about our industry because of the weak economy, the erosion of our manufacturing base and the war on free enterprise being waged by our president, Congress and others in Washington,” Jones said.

This war on free enterprise manifests itself on several fronts, he said, in the form of damaging legislation such as the recently passed health care bill, the threat of onerous new regulation by such agencies as the NLRB, EPA and OSHA, and the anti-business rhetoric from so many leaders in Washington. “I don’t see this as an anti-Obama or a pro-Republican view, I see it as a pro-business view,” he added.

Bob Weidner, president and CEO of MSCI, pointed to the need for a more collaborative dialog with elected officials and expressed his fear that new legislation will hurt American manufacturing in unexpected ways. “With the massive new regulation and legislation that is coming down on the business community like a fire hose, God knows what the unintended consequences may be,” he said. Referring to his father who was a doctor, he suggested that leaders in Congress should take their own Hippocratic oath and promise “first do no harm.”

To its credit, MSCI invited representatives from all political parties, including a couple from the Green Party, to spend five minutes at the microphone outlining their views. Almost all abused the privilege and tried to out-talk the others. Many people left as the speechifying droned on.

Despite the open invitation, there was but a single brave Democrat who joined the discussion. Clearly, this was a largely partisan gathering, and the “us vs. them” rhetoric fell far short of a healthy debate. MSCI plans to host other town halls around the country, and I urge you to attend. But don’t expect to hear both sides of the story. Town hall meetings are easy. Meetings of the mind are hard.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016