Monday, April 21, 2008

Lessons from York - Points of View

My dad and I made our semi-annual trip to York, Pennsylvania for the largest toy train meet on the East Coast. But this post isn't about that -- it's about different points of view.

With the Pennsylvania Democratic primary coming up Tuesday, just about every other television commercial was a paid political announcement. The Clinton message was all about affordable healthcare, and Obama's was that American jobs needed to stop being sent overseas.

While we were there, the big story in the local paper was the layoffs at the Harley-Davidson plant, a major employer in the area. According to the paper, the down-sizing was a result of declining sales over the last quarter.

As we wandered the York Fairgrounds, we fell into conversation with a local resident who was checking out the show for the first time. We commensurated with him about the plant closing, but he had a different take on it. There had been a recent strike at the plant over the issue of health care. Harley-Davidson had been paying all of their union employees' health insurance premiums, and when it was suggested that the workers pay part of it, they struck.

It was interesting to go from the general to the specific.

The political message: Americans are losing jobs to foreign outsourcing.
The local reality: Harley-Davidson employees are losing jobs because of slow sales.

The political message: Working Americans are in a health care crises.
The local reality: Harley-Davidson workers have complete health care coverage (the ones with jobs, that is).

That's not to say that Clinton and Obama aren't talking about important issues. But from the perspective of the locals affected by this layoff, neither candidate's message quite hits the mark.

So who's right? Well, in a way, they all are. Check out the sources I've linked to. Each one has part of the story. Put it all together and draw your own conclusions.

If we hadn't been in Pennsylvania this weekend, I might have missed this lesson about viewpoints. Now I've got something to think about.

- Ralph

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