Standards in politics should apply to everyone equally

The switch from Daylight Savings Time to Eastern Standard Time invites us to discuss “standards” and why they are important to the ongoing progress of civilization.

Eastern Standard Time was a product of railroads. A uniform time standard was set to insure that trains ran on schedule. With the advent of the eight-hour-workday standard, Daylight Savings Time was instituted to allow workers to do outdoor farm chores and to have a few daylight hours left for leisure activities … Suppose, however, that there were no standards governing time. What if Boston adopted Daylight Savings Time while Atlanta, Georgia retained Eastern Standard Time? Imagine the mess that would create …

A local grocery store has an entrance sign that says “Our high standards begin here”. This informs customers that their products conform to certain guidelines of food quality and safety based upon the standards of the Pure Food and Drug Act that was passed in 1906 in response to Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle”, a work that exposed flagrant abuses in meat-production that posed a threat to public-health …

Extreme right-wing “tea party” activists and some left-wing anarchists share a common (and sometimes virulent) dislike for standards. Why is this? It’s mostly due to ignorance – an unwarranted fear that uniform guidelines might impose upon personal “freedom” or result in “dictatorship”. These misguided folks romanticize the “good old days” when standards didn’t exist and governments, corporations, and people “did their own thing”, often at the expense of their fellow citizens … Yes, some standards are flawed – i.e. “one-size-fits-all” medical procedures or overemphasis upon standardized testing in schools – but most standards were established for valid reasons and are what Martha Stewart might call “a good thing” …

There were no national standards in early America. The Articles of Confederation allowed states and even communities to print their own currency, violate property rights, and impose discriminatory laws against their citizens. Laws differed from region to region resulting in universal chaos (some folks thrive on chaos). Perhaps the first real example of “standards” in American history was the mention of “certain inalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence (although the author of that document, Thomas Jefferson, didn’t always practice what he preached in regard to the rights of slaves, women, and Native Americans). In 1787, The U.S. Constitution established a set of “standards” for the operation of a national government. Those standards still exist today. Again, standards represent the path away from anarchy toward civilization …

Right-wing extremists oppose EPA standards. Serial polluters hate these standards as well and spend hundreds-of-millions of dollars that go into the campaign coffers of government-hating Congresspersons (an “oxymoron” if there ever was one) to gut clean air and clean water standards. The polluters never seem to think of spending the same amount cleaning up the messes they sometimes make … The extremists hate the standards set forth in many laws and programs from the reforms contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to recent Common Core learning standards adopted by many school systems. They oppose the Affordable Care Act because it sets certain standards for national healthcare and insurance coverage. They prefer instead a status-quo that allowed insurance cartels to impose higher premiums for women and to deny coverage on the basis of “pre-existing conditions” … These same reactionaries hate “minimum-wage” standards for workers. They and their donors prefer the “standards” one might find in places like China where workers have no rights, work long hours and receive little pay for their labor … Right-wing bigots in the House are currently poised to oppose ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) a measure that would set standards that would prohibit the firing of LGBT employees. The list of standards hated by reactionaries seems endless …

Standards are often connected with “practices”. Uniform practices are disliked by cheaters who prefer a less-regulated system where they can dodge taxes, avoid regulations and award special privileges to their friends … Some alleged “Christians” profess to believe in the standards contained in the Ten Commandments, but don’t always adhere to the one that forbids “bearing false witness against thy neighbor”. Members of the current “do-nothing” Congress favor one set of standards for themselves and their supporters, but a different set for most Americans. An example of this would be a Congressman making $74,000. for working only 106 days a year who habitually refers to unemployed persons, the “working poor”, disabled persons, or public-employees as “lazy” or “unwilling to work”. One cannot avoid comparing these alleged “legislators” to the “pigs” in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” who changed the standard that “all animals are equal” to read “all animals are equal, except for pigs who are more equal than other animals” … The members of this latter group are not “anarchists”. A more appropriate term would be “hypocrites”!

Fred O’Neill lives in Marietta.