Vox Populi

In the day-to-day business of managing a retail jewelry store or jewelry manufacturing business, it’s easy to lose track of external events that affect us personally and professionally. It is, I suppose, the artificial pressure we put on ourselves that forces a focus on what seems to be immediately important to us personally. One day we wake up to find a new government rule, regulation, or law and say to ourselves how in the hell did that happen?

The nature of our busy lives permits us the excuse of saying that’s why we have a representative democracy. Our representatives, senators, and state legislators are there to handle issues and represent us and craft solutions to the problems of contemporary life.

What brings all this to mind is an interesting comment from a reply to an MJSA bulletin on having members write to their congressional representatives and senators on the subject of estate tax reform. The writer questioned whether it was appropriate for an industry organization to voice an opinion on a controversial topic and, by doing so, offend a segment of the group.

Like so many matters under discussion in Washington, the national debate on the estate tax sees the left and the right yelling at each other via sound-bite journalism rather than forging a compromise that reflects respect for both sides of any question. Our national representatives on both sides of the aisle are so busy running for re-election that they forget they are there to solve problems first by doing the peoples’ business. Running for re-election should be second on the priority list.

Individual members of industry associations do have an obligation to speak out on a regular basis to their elected representatives. Members of the retail community should voice their opinions on topics that affect them, including taxes on Internet jewelry sales as well as the estate tax. After all, both the jewelry retail and manufacturing businesses are made up of many relatively smaller businesses. Both issues affect the 24,000-plus jewelry stores and the 3,500-plus manufacturing businesses in the country.

The American Revolution was fought because the American colonies had no voice to influence King George’s tax policies for the New World. Congress seems to get the word very quickly when there is something of concern to a large segment of the voting public. Representative democracy is a great thing to see when a public consensus forms. Interest groups have their place in public debate, but nothing really re- places a sincere letter expressing a well-reasoned personal opinion by a constituent to a representative or a senator.

Few of us have the ability to express our views on such matters and attract significant public attention. Warren Buffett in a press release announced his decision to provide 85 percent of his estate to the Gates Foundation and to members of his family and thus avoids a significant estate tax payment. Your letters and e-mails to Congress on the estate tax or any other topic that you believe is important makes democracy work. Choose not to participate and you get exactly what you deserve.

frankdallahan@comcast.net