Walk Away From the Deal


When I was younger, one of my favorite hobbies (when I could be bothered to roll out of bed early enough) was to go to garage sales, yard sales, and flea markets. I loved these things. I was the man for whom everyone else’s junk was a veritable treasure. To this day I have trouble driving past one without pulling over just to see what they might have for sale, even though I never carry cash anymore and my wife would kill me for bringing home anything anyway.

My biggest weakness at these things was my inability to walk away. As soon as I started to negotiate something, regardless of what it was, I was going to buy it. I think just about every seller figured that out and took ruthless advantage of it, because I bought a lot of stuff for way more than I should have (or maybe I just have a lot of pent up buyer’s remorse.) I’ve learned since that the secret to doing well in any sort of negotiation is being willing to walk away, and not just as a tactic, but really meaning it. At some point you have to be able to say, “there is no way I am going to get what I want here, and I am wasting my time by negotiating any further, so I’m going to walk away.” Not only does this work as a powerful tool to get the result you want, it also saves you from buying things you don’t want or need at prices you can’t afford.

I mention all this because I want the guys and gals in Congress to understand that I get it. I really do. It’s hard to walk away from a deal, especially when you’ve been working on it for weeks, months, maybe even years. It’s even worse when the problem isn’t you, or the guy you finally got to come around, or even the other 48 obstinate but well-intentioned folks you had to get on board, but this one last obstructionist jerk who is standing in the way simply because he can’t see how what you’re proposing is so very right for all of America. And there’s so much at stake! It’s not just re-election (although that’s in there somewhere, right?), and it’s not just that there’s a little something in there for your home district or state (but the folks back home do stand to gain a little something, I mean why shouldn’t they), it’s that this is what’s right for the people!

The problem is that a deal isn’t unilateral, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. And even if I set aside all of my cynicism for a moment, hard as that is to do, and assume that all parties involved are honestly doing what they believe is best for their constituents and for the American people as a whole, that only makes things worse, not better. Because sometimes what one guy believes is best is completely and totally at odds with what another guy believes, and there is no compromise, there is no middle ground, there is no resolution to be had, and that’s the sad reality of it. I would actually almost prefer a cold political operator of old, who has his eyes on the prize, willing to cut back room deals to make sure everybody gets a little piece of the action and walks away with something they want rather than these wild eyed zealots on both sides who refuse to compromise on anything because they know, THEY KNOW they are right, and history, or better yet the next election cycle, will prove it.

But the observant reader will note that I said “I almost prefer”. There’s a reason for that. While these tin pot tyrants and modern day Neros fiddle away, the rest of us are finally getting a look at what politics really is, and more importantly I hope that the wider class of Americans are starting to get a sense of the real cost of government. Not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of choices. Because the truth is there are no free rides. For every up there’s a down, for every plus there’s a minus. Even if you’re okay with taxing the rich into oblivion to pay for everything, sooner or later you have to admit it won’t work, because there’s just not enough to go around. Even if you’re fine with gutting every social program in existence, sooner or later you have to accept the consequences of those choices. And the longer our so-called leaders give in to the temptation to go back and forth over their unlikely “deals” and never-happen “compromises” that do nothing but make for good TV, the more we end up paying for things we don’t need and can’t afford. The can gets kicked down the road for another year, the problem gets pushed for another election cycle, and nothing ever really changes.

Do us a favor, oh elected high and mighty. Take a real stand for a change. Take a stand against your own party, your own interests, your own re-election. Take a stand against everything that’s been tried before, and maybe even consider, I dunno, reading some of those endless policy papers you guys always ask for and always say would be “too costly” or are “too impractical.” Offer a new idea instead of a tweak, a rehash, a change at the margin.

And the next time someone, on either side of the aisle, offers you the same old thing in a new wrapper, walk away from the deal.

Other posts you might like:

To Purchase a Little Temporary Safety
We Don’t Need No Stinking Incentives!
What’s Bad for the Goose


4 Comments on “Walk Away From the Deal”

  1. jlmahan says:

    Very well thought out and put together.

  2. shalilah2002 says:

    I’m so stuck in traditional politics I’m afraid to but I know if it’s something I’m really against I’ll walk away.

    • Bob Bonsall says:

      Unfortunately most people (and politicians) are stuck in traditional politics as well, which is why we can’t seem to find a different way. I’ll keep hoping though.


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