After having spent so much time debating Gordon MacInnes — and almost always doing it from diametrically opposed positions of an issue — you would think Tom Bracken, the head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, would be happy to see that MacInnes is retiring.
In fact, Bracken said he not only enjoyed his debates with the longtime fixture at New Jersey Policy Perspective, he felt the state’s business and political communities benefited from their discussions.
“I think any time you have two people who are on opposite ends of the spectrum, that’s a healthy process,” he said. “It’s always good to get two or more sides of an issue so people can make up their minds as to which they think is best.
“We obviously don’t always agree on things. In fact, we almost never do. But even though a lot of times we’re on different ends of the spectrum, I’ve always respected Gordon.”
MacInnes has been president of NJPP for six years, during which time the organization quadrupled its revenues, more than doubled its staff and enhanced its reputation as a source of ideas, the organization said.
That doesn’t surprise Bracken.
“He can articulate his points, he’s always well-prepared and documents his positions well,” Bracken said. “We’ve had some good healthy debates built around facts.”
Those debates, he said, were never contentious or mean-spirited. Or even rude or disrepectful.
That said a lot about MacInnes, Bracken said.
“The real character of a person comes out when you have to handle adversity,” he said. “When somebody has the complete opposite viewpoint of yours, that can be an adverse situation. I think you can really tell the character by how they handle that. If you call names, instead of fighting fire with fire, it doesn’t reflect well on the individual.”
One of their most recent battles involved the debate over raising the minimum wage. MacInnes favored an immediate raise to $15 an hour. Bracken pushed for a more restrained approach.
In debating it, Bracken said he felt the two found a little common ground.
“The bottom line is, we both know it needs to be refined and we both know it needs to go up,” he said. “Gordon’s perspective is that people need to have a working wage. Our position is that it’s got to be something that is affordable in the business community and comes in increments where it can be blended in, so the business community doesn’t get whacked on Day One.”
Trying to find common ground on any issue was tough. But not impossible.
Bracken said he remembered an event at Rutgers University, where they shared a panel on affordability.
“On three or four topics in a row, we agreed,” he said. “Then the moderator turned to us and said, ‘This isn’t any fun.’”