Congress fails the Four-Way Test

October 2, 2013 

Rotarians all over the world ask four questions to decide a course of action:

“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?”

The U.S. Congress, with its inability to compromise, has failed all aspects of the Four-Way Test. Can politicians be truthful? Obviously not. They skew the meaning of an action to serve their own purposes. If they are for it, they’ll spin it in that direction. If they are against it, they’ll spin it in another direction. Usually, neither direction comes close to the truth.

And if it serves their purposes -- on another day, week, month or year -- to take the opposite stance, they will. At the front of a politician’s mind is not the Four-Way Test and what’s good for the country. Rather, it’s all about what’s good for their prospects for re-election.

No one can say, with any credibility, that the government shutdown is fair to all concerned. Thousands of workers at Robins Air Force Base and other military installations across the country certainly see no fairness in Congress’ dysfunction. Even those employees deemed “essential” don’t know if they’ll be paid.

Congress certainly didn’t think this action would build goodwill and better friendships. The atmosphere inside the Beltway is more caustic than at any time in our history -- and that’s saying something. Democratic senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, asked a question from the floor of the Senate, “Has Congress gone completely crazy?” The answer is obvious, and there is nothing from this game of chicken that is beneficial to all concerned.

How this will play out is anybody’s guess, but it sets up another opportunity for Congress to display its dysfunction for the entire world to see. In just a few days, Congress will be presented with another choice: Raise the debt ceiling or put the full faith and credit of the United States in the cross hairs.

It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you stand. All would have to admit that this is no way to run a railroad, much less a country.

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