copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert
Americans speak of the divide within this country. Most accept the labels. We are a nation of Red states and Blue regions. People define themselves as Conservatives or Liberals. West Virginian primary election voters, who were asked, reinforced the notion in this nation we are not unified. One fifth of those polled stated, skin color influenced their decision. Former Senator John Edwards often expresses his distress for what he sees as “Two Americas.” The one time Presidential candidate reminds us of why the common folks clamor. The rich get richer while the poor become more impoverished. For some of those who fight to endure, a “gas tax holiday” is thought essential. Others believe such a measure will negatively effect the infrastructure and the environment. In Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 14, 2008 a Black man and a white man stood on a stage together united and equal. Some, in this splintered nation of ours, thought this was a sign. Perhaps, Americans would finally come together as one.
People applauded and expressed a sincere hope for the future. However, what segregates us may not be easily transcended; nor is it obvious and observable. Ethically, Americans are not united. Often the person the public elects to govern does not share their values, although citizens believe the esteemed Representatives do. Rarely do we imagine that there are a myriad of definitions for morality. However, there are. What one person or persuasion thinks rational and reasonable is heinous to another. This is not obvious or observable, for we all feel certain there is but one truth. Nonetheless, research illustrates what we might consider before we hire, the next President/
Holier Than Thou? Employees Who Believe They Are ‘Ethical’ Or ‘Moral’ Might Not Be
October 31, 2007
Bad behavior seems rampant in business [politics], and scholars are divided as to why people act ethically or unethically. Many have argued that ethical behavior is the result of simple judgments between right and wrong. Others suggest that the driving force behind ethical behavior is the individual’s moral identity, or whether the individual thinks of him/herself as an ethical person.
New research from the University of Washington suggests that both of these forces are at play. In two separate studies, Scott Reynolds, an assistant professor in the Michael G. Foster School of Business, and Tara Ceranic, a doctoral student studying business, surveyed roughly 500 college students and managers about their ethical behaviors.
In the first study, researchers asked students if they would have cheated in college in order to score better on a test. Those who explicitly considered themselves to be moral people and considered cheating to be morally wrong were the least likely to cheat. In contrast, students who considered themselves to be moral but saw cheating as an ethically justifiable behavior were the worst cheaters.
“Our research suggests that a moral identity motivates behavior, but that accurate, ethical judgments are needed to set that behavior in the right direction,” Reynolds says. “A person’s moral identity can interact with his or her judgments and actually push ethical behaviors to extreme levels, as we saw with the students who decided that cheating was justifiable and OK.”
According to the researchers, a moral identity specifically centers on a person’s moral aspects and acts as a self-regulatory mechanism that sets parameters for individual behavior and motivates specific actions that are moral.
Previous studies implied that moral identity is “good” when it is associated with and motivates individuals toward socially desirable outcomes such as volunteering and making charitable donations.
Reynolds and Ceranic found that this motivational force needs direction, and that without proper guidance a moral identity can conceivably push individuals toward socially undesirable behaviors.
“Moral identity seems to be more motivational in nature than ‘moral’ in nature,” Reynolds says. “Managers and organizations should not just assume that a moral identity will necessarily translate into moral behaviors.”
Executives and the electorate must consider that a performance may not be as principled as it appears. Adults are only children in older bodies. Babies learn how to get what they want. Boys and girls perfect the practice. Men and women are masters. As we age, Americans, become better actors, not more ethical, merely more expert entertainers, and obtainers.
In a prosperous nation such as the United States, when a baby cries, Mommy coddles her child with the candy he craves. If she does not, mother risks the toddler will throw a tantrum. Dad does not hesitate when his little princess screams, “I want it!” Papa understands a young women’s scorn can be great. Daddy has no desire to be part of a stressful situation.
Parents have learned to pamper themselves. Moms and Dads indulge themselves, just as their caregivers’ cosseted them in their youth. In this nation, people expect to receive. Here, we have more than we need, and the price is right, or it was until the cost of petroleum rose. Granted, many struggled to survive before the bottom fell out of the oil barrel. However, these impoverished individuals were and are virtually invisible to the mainstream. Perhaps, those without never had the opportunity to grasp the notion that the ends justify the means. Nor did these less than distinctive individuals fully comprehend in affluent America if you wish to be successful and fulfilled you must adopt a certain style, an ethical standard.
Give the people what they want and you will get what you need. Presidential hopefuls, New York State Senators, Governors, and those who are groomed for political prominence are fully aware of this truism.
Promise the public a holiday from gas taxes, and perchance they will award you with additional support or a spectacular win. If a political aspirant wishes to ensure greater success amongst the electorate, then pledge to punish those who the people envision as the enemy. Large corporations, whose Chief Executive Officers profit off the petroleum people depend on, conglomerates such as ExxonMobil, are always good targets. It will matter not that experts define the plan as a quick fix. A person who seeks the highest office in the land will not be concerned if members of Congress, friends or fellow colleagues, reject the proposal. Words of woe from Economists will not deter a determined doctrinaire dilettante. When a man or a woman thinks they are correct, experienced, and will be the “best” Commander, then a plan, a pander, are appreciated for the power they yield. Hence, talk of what may be a terminal action. a holiday that might place our planet in peril, will not die.
This truth is evident out on the stump. A month after Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton were harshly criticized by fiscal and political policymakers for a proposed “gas tax holiday’ the scheme survives. Indeed, the rhetoric thrives. Americans are comfortable with cognitive dissonance. They embody this demeanor. Let us have our cake and eat it too.
McCain: I will not shirk, the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges.
Bash: McCain promised . . . To reduce greenhouse gases, he proposes a cap and trade solution which caps gas emissions but allows companies to trade emission credits.
McCain: As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy.
Bash: Portraying himself as a rare species of green Republicans is a regular part of McCain’s stump speeches.
McCain: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR] I believe is a pristine place. I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades.
Bash: But coming to Oregon to highlight his environmental proposals is all about the fight . . . for independent voters. It’s why McCain is using one of his most precious resources — campaign cash . . .
McCain: I believe that climate change is real. It’s not just a greenhouse gas issue. It’s a national security issue.?? End Video Clip) ??
Bash: (on-camera): Democrats and several left leaning environmental groups blasted McCain for what they call hypocrisy. Putting out, for example, that he praised renewable energy here at this wind power plant, but voted against tax credits to promote research. The McCain campaign insists that legislation and others like it collided with another priority, which is to cut excess spending.
Indeed, the dollar dictates decorum. Mores and expediency are often found in monetary policy. In an opulent region, some pray to the Almighty buck. It is no wonder the words “In G-d We Trust” are inscribed on every bill and embossed on each coin.
In this, the most affluent nation on the planet, all, but the hidden few, know it is possible to get what you want and not spend much. Hence the harangue; Americans desperately want to ensure life is comfortable just as it once was. Until now, in this country, petroleum was cheap . . . and that is the way the people like it. Actually, comparatively speaking, the price Americans pay for petrol is still relatively low.
Our countrymen are as spoiled children. They stamp their feet, hold their breathe, pound on the table and say, “Give me, give me, give me what I want, or else!” Just as parents respond to the pleas of their babies, so too do Presidential hopefuls. Moms, Dads, and potential Commander-In-Chiefs may be labeled as leaders; however, often they follow. Ethical standards are often silenced in a time of turmoil. Consequences can often outweigh principled wisdom. We see this logic in our children, and in ourselves.
Perhaps, Americans might take a moment and reflect; are we children being coddled, the parent whose priority is to please, or the individual who will patronize just to get what they want?
Might we ponder when a Commander-In-Chief or a Presidential aspirant presents a plan that benefits him or her more than it does the progeny and the people seven generations from now. Please remember the research; “Employees Who Believe They Are ‘Ethical’ Or ‘Moral’ Might Not Be.”
Consider the scenario. Senator Clinton offers a glorious summary of her experience. She is abundantly able. When her future employer, the electorate, pressed her on an important issue, such as the cost of gas, Hillary Clinton offered her plan to the people who might provide her with what she most wants. Just prior to the primary elections in Indiana and North Carolina, the former first Lady Hillary Clinton called for gas tax holiday.
The Arizona and New York Senators were not the only government officials to suggest that Americans need some relief, even if only temporary. Governors also thought to appease the masses. One day after Economists everywhere pointed to the problems with such a plan, Governors from The Everglades expanse, in the Show Me State, in The Empire area and lawmakers in the Lone Star region signed on to the idea that citizens need a gas tax holiday.
States Get In on Calls for a Gas Tax Holiday
By Damien Cave
The New York Times
May 6, 2008
Slocomb, Ala. – Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida has been fighting to cut 10 cents from the state’s gasoline tax for two weeks in July. Lawmakers in Missouri, New York and Texas have also proposed a summer break from state gas taxes, while candidates for governor in Indiana and North Carolina are sparring over relief ideas of their own.
If experience with such gas tax “holidays” is any guide, drivers would save less than politicians suggest. But that is not necessarily the point.
“It’s about trying to serve the people and trying to understand and have caring, compassionate hearts for what they’re dealing with at the kitchen table,” said Mr. Crist, a Republican.
He added, “I’m supposed to respond to the people and try to make them happy.”
As talk of the possibility increases, throughout the countryside individuals are thankful. To many Americans it seems, finally, politicians are listening to them. The common folk forget that those who compete for elected positions never overlook the fact that the populace has the power to appoint a President, a Governor, or any other policymaker. In a republic, many individuals who wish to “represent” Jane and John Doe have one purpose. They wish to please [placate] the public. If the people are content, the life of a politician is good. If the public is displeased, they will act out as an angry child might.
Actually, parents [politicians] have learned to pamper themselves just as they were indulged in their youth. Mother gives herself a present, or two. She shops ’til she drops. Papa purchases plenty for himself. In the wealthiest country in the world, “Waste not; want not” makes little sense. Here, we have more than we need, and the price is right, or it was until the cost of petroleum rose. Americans, comfy and cozy with convenience do not consider the cost of a gas tax holiday. Ordinary citizens look upon experts as overly protective. Authorities always offer a doomsday scenario when they do not wish to give gifts.
Economists Criticize Clinton, McCain Gas-Tax Plans (Update1)
By Brian Faler
May 5, 2008
More than 200 economists, including four Nobel prize winners, signed a letter rejecting proposals by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain to offer a summertime gas-tax holiday.
Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin and 2007 Nobel winner Roger Myerson are among those who signed the letter calling proposals to temporarily lift the tax a bad idea. Another is Richard Schmalensee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was member of President George H.W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The moratorium would mostly benefit oil companies while increasing the federal budget deficit and reducing funding for the government highway maintenance trust fund, the economists said.
“Suspending the federal tax on gasoline this summer is a bad idea, and we oppose it,” the letter says. Economist Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution is among those circulating the letter. Aaron said that while he supports Obama, the list includes Republicans and Clinton supporters.
If Economists from each political party convincingly challenge a plan proposed by esteemed and ethical persons such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain, how might the people evaluate the dichotomy.? Who might, we the people, the electorate, those who employ a President trust?
Certainly, these political contenders have long been admired. Senators Clinton and John McCain would not have risen though the ranks were they not qualified, quality candidates. Americans can have faith neither, a respected former prisoner of war, or a revered former First Lady, would recommend a policy that would intentionally harm the public. Nor would these leader postulate a proposal that would place the planet in peril. Yet, Economists, and yes, even Ecologists caution constituents that the gas tax holiday is unwise. Hence, Americans are left to inquire, how might this variance be explained?
The answer may not be as obvious as we would wish it to be. We cannot condemn or condone a plan as Conservative or Progressive. While the strategies differ, logistically, symbolically they are similar. Each hopes to allow Americans to continue to consume as they had. A satiated society can and will simply dismiss ethical questions, and ignore environmental issues. A child content with candy does not consider how the sugar rots the teeth. A Mom, who is comfortable with convenience foods, does not contemplate fresh fruits and vegetables might be much more nutritious. A father fine with his fleet of vehicles does not ponder how he pollutes the air.
Americans happy to have a gas tax holiday do not think beyond today. Few recall what was foremost on the minds of the people in the 1970s. As citizens in this country realized the reality of an energy crisis, laws were passed to improve fuel economy. Memories are short. The desire for self-satisfaction is deep. In 2005, near three years ago, a New York Times editorial addressed what was and continues to be true.
There’s no serious disagreement that two major crises of our time are terrorism and global warming. And there’s no disputing that America’s oil consumption fosters both. Oil profits that flow to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries finance both terrorist acts and the spread of dangerously fanatical forms of Islam. The burning of fossil fuels creates greenhouse emissions that provoke climate change. All the while, oil dependency increases the likelihood of further military entanglements, and threatens the economy with inflation, high interest rates, and risky foreign indebtedness. Until now, the government has failed to connect our crises and our consumption in a coherent way.
That dereliction of duty has led to policies that are counterproductive, such as tax incentives to buy gas guzzlers and an overemphasis on increasing domestic oil supply, although even all-out drilling would not be enough to slake our oil thirst and would require a reversal of longstanding environmental protections.
Now, however, the energy risks so apparent . . . have created both the urgency and the political opportunity for the nation’s leaders to respond appropriately. The government must capitalize on the end of the era of perpetually cheap gas, and it must do so in a way that makes America less vulnerable to all manner of threats – terrorist, environmental, and economic.
The best solution is to increase the federal gasoline tax . . . That would put a dent in gas-guzzling behavior, as has already been seen in the dramatic drop in the sale of sport-utility vehicles. And it would help cure oil dependency in the long run, as automakers and other manufacturers responded to consumer demand for fuel-efficient products.
Still, raising the gas tax would be politically difficult – and for very good reasons. The gas tax, which has been at 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993, is painfully regressive. It hits hardest at poor people for whom fuel costs consume a proportionally larger share of their budgets; rural dwellers for whom truck-driving over long distances is an everyday activity; and the gasoline-dependent middle class, particularly suburban commuters, who, on top of living far from their workplaces, have been encouraged by decades of cheap gas to own large, poor-mileage vehicles.
Fortunately, those drawbacks can be overcome. A bolstered gas tax would raise huge amounts of revenue, roughly $1 billion for every penny of additional tax. Some of that money would have to be used to provide offsetting tax breaks to low-income households, such as an increase in the earned income tax credit . . . Eventually, the gas tax would pinch consumers less, as revenues from it are used to finance long-term structural changes to reduce oil dependency, including mass transit and research into alternative fuels and technologies.
Might Americans be ready to consider, a policy that protects a lifestyle of over-consumption is not as ethical as it would appear to be. Those who vie for votes, wish to be employed by the electorate. A candidate may benefit from a simple solution, but what of the Seventh Generation. Will American adults continue to be as children concerned with nothing but immediate gratification?
There is a better way. Truly dealing with global warming . . . The good news is that doing so is far more popular politically . . . Voters overwhelmingly support this objective, and Gallup found last year that 65 percent of voters support spending at least $30 billion a year to do it.
If the environmental movement is to finally translate its rhetoric into reality, it will need to shift its focus from making dirty energy expensive to making clean energy cheap.
Truly, ethical parents who care for the lives of the children in the present, do not indulge, pamper, or pander to the whims of those who have yet learned the art of patience. The best Moms and Dads teach the young, or juvenile at heart, to plan for the seventh generations, Might we all reflect upon the Chinese proverb . . .
As we consider which of the Presidential candidates we will hire, perchance we might ponder. Are solid solutions and ten-point plans as fish in what we are led to believe is an abundant sea of aquatic vertebrae? Might a mentor who inspires us to catch our own schools of trout, bass, and salmon better serve us, the people better? Think of the species yet to be discovered.
As employers, the electorate, we, future fishermen must assess, who truly has our best interest at heart. Which individual shares our sense of ethics? May we acknowledge and act on the imperceptible. Morality is often in the eyes of the beholder.
References, Research, “Realities” Revealed . . .
- Exit Polls: The Race Factor in West Virginia, By Gary Langer. ABC News. May 13, 2008
- Gas Tax Holiday Plan Provides Fodder for Campaigns, The NewsHour. April 30, 2008
- ‘Two Americas’ enough for Edwards? By Karen Tumulty. Time Magazine. December 12, 2007
- The American Prosperity Myth, By Will Hutton. The Nation. August 14, 2003
- Senate backs cutting gas tax during summer, By Jay Gallagher. Star Gazette. May 8, 2008
- Candidates clash on gas-tax holiday. Cable News Network. April 29, 2008
- Clinton focuses on West Virginia; Obama, on future. Cable News Network. May 13, 2008
- Pelosi Comes Out Against Proposed Gas Tax Holiday, By Jonathan Weisman. The Washington Post. May 1, 2008
- Gas tax follies, By Paul Krugman. The New York Times. April 29, 2008
- Transcripts: May 13, 2008. Cable News Network. May 13, 2008
- Gas prices around the world. Cable News Network. March 2005
- Reducing U.S. Oil Dependence A Real Energy Security Policy. Natural Resources Defense Council.
- Gas prices top concerns over jobs, health. Associated Press. MSNBC News. April 29, 2008
- U.S.Census Bureau.
- Gas Prices Expected to Peak in June, By Jad Mouawad. The New York Times. May 7, 2008
- Think you overpay for gas in the U.S.? By Ned Colt. MSNBC News. May 2, 2006
- When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize, By Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham. Social Justice Research. 2007
- Can the Economy Survive $200-a-Barrel Oil? By James Pethokoukis. U.S. News and World Report. May 07, 2008 02:28 PM ET
- Oil Price History and Analysis. WTRG Economics.
- Clinton: Hire me, please, By Scott Helman. The Boston Globe. February 27, 2008 08:07 PM
- McCain calls for a summer ‘gas-tax holiday.’ Associated Press. MSNBC News. April 15, 2008
- States Get In on Calls for a Gas Tax Holiday, By Damen Cave. The New York Times. May 6, 2008
- pdf States Get In on Calls for a Gas Tax Holiday, By Damien Cave. The New York Times. May 6, 2008
- Holier Than Thou? Employees Who Believe They Are ‘Ethical’ Or ‘Moral’ Might Not Be. Science Daily. October 31, 2007
- Clinton Joins McCain in Cricizing Obama on Gas Tax, By Perry Bacon Jr. and Peter Slevin. Washington Post. April 28, 2008
- Economists Criticize Clinton, McCain Gas-Tax Plans (Update1) By Brian Faler. Bloomberg. May 5, 2008
- The Situation Room; Transcripts: May 13, 2008. Cable News Network. May 14, 2008
- Gas-tax holiday debate warns of fights to come, By Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus. San Francisco Chronicle. Friday, May 9, 2008
- Automobile and Light Truck Fuel Economy: The CAFE Standards, By Robert Bamberger. Congressional Research Service .?Updated September 25, 2002
- Gas Taxes: Lesser Evil, Greater Good. Editorial. The New York Times. October 24, 2005