From the Chamber: We have to change now, right here’s how

This column may seem political, it is not. This is about how we make our decisions. It’s about how we represent our views. It’s about how we persuade and how we try to manipulate. It’s about the common mistakes we make that need to be recognized and disregarded. Though many of the examples are political, the core of this piece speaks to the core of our decision making, and if we want to solve wages, climate, social justice, transportation, childcare or a myriad of other issues that affect our businesses and society as a whole, then we need to start doing these things, now.

We have culture re-defining decisions to make, such as how to make healthcare more affordable, how to build more affordable housing and how do we cool the ecosystem, and yet we are so divided we can’t even begin the conversations we must have. I hope what’s outlined below is heard, considered and ultimately adopted by whoever reads this.

Abolish the Birds of a Feather fallacy

Common in the stories that produce the most outrage on social media, and on political-leaning “news” programs, is what I call the Birds of a Feather fallacy. It goes like this: “Look at this ridiculous person (or mean person, or unhealthy person, or morally devoid person), they’re a member of the Pragmatic Party, and therefore everyone in the Pragmatic Party supports this.” It’s taking an outlier of any group and painting the entire group with that broad brush. And it’s ridiculous. Yet I see it daily on news and social media. We don’t do this with other groups, but we do this for political parties all the time- to incite divisions and get more views and clicks. If a teacher gets pulled over for speeding, we don’t say all teachers are unsafe drivers. If a plumber overcomes an addiction, we don’t say all plumbers are addicts. But if AOC or Gaetz says something disagreeable, their entire party gets painted with it.

Let me say now, I’m not responsible for what another chamber of commerce director in the state does. Nor am I responsible for what other columnists write in this paper. Nor am I responsible for what other chubby white men say. Please don’t paint me with views portrayed by others who I may be grouped with on occasion but do not represent me (and we shouldn’t do that for others either).

Ignore polls taken in a vacuum

71% of people want to see a $15 minimum wage according to recent polling. Really? In a poll taken in a vacuum I’m surprised it’s that low. It’s no different than asking, “Would you like to be given a new car?” Of course you would, in a vacuum. Now, what if I told you the new car has an excise tax and registration of $3,000 per year and the car runs on a special gas that costs $9 per gallon? Would you still want the free new car?

What if the question was ‘do you support a $15 minimum wage which will raise the rate of pay for those who continue to be employed, but 20% will lose their jobs and an additional 40% will have their hours cut?’ The point being, policy poll questions are meaningless outside real world consequences.

Here’s my favorite example. 69% of people are in favor of medicare-for-all. Maybe you are too. But how does it compare to the Beveridge model for healthcare? Or the Bismarck model? Or the Simmons model? What do you like about the medicare-for-all that you don’t like about those other systems? Oh, you don’t know about the others. Beveridge is the UK system, The Bismarck is closer to our system, and the Simmons model is a fictional name I created but you likely didn’t know that. And that is the point. We pretend these polls are meaningful when really all they are saying is: People want to make more money working and they want to pay less for healthcare, and I dare say, we knew that before we ever asked the question, because everyone wants that.

Stop talking passively in third person

As a chamber director, I regularly attend statewide business roundtables and panels on business topics. They are extremely valuable, and eye-opening, but I’ve noticed lately a real third-person problem. We’re a large state in terms of acres, but a small state in terms of people- and when it comes to the problems facing this state, there is no “they,” there is only us.

I was on a call last week with business leaders and legislative leaders and people weren’t taken ownership of finding any solutions- they only recognized solutions were needed. Bluntly, if the legislative leaders and business representatives from over five dozen of the most impactful businesses in the state are speaking in the third person, who exactly are they referring to as the problem solvers?

We are the ones we have been waiting for

It’s a raw deal, but we need to give more. More time, more money and more effort. Why? Because each generation before us gave reasons why they didn’t have time to solve these issues. Think about it, childcare was hard to afford 35 years ago when my folks needed a baby sitter. Healthcare has always been expensive. These problems never got solved. Now they’re our problems and, at the very least, I don’t want to make them our children’s problems, because we couldn’t find the time to solve them either.

Next week, I’ll dive into a couple more observations of how we can cut out those things that don’t help us, so we can make finding change easier. This topic is at the heart of how we find compromise and listen to each other, and we need that so much these days. Side note: Thank you to those who reached out about last week’s column, I really valued our conversations on wages.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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