When does compassion, respect for human rights and good sense justify the need for government intervention in the economy and on social issues?
I have tended to stay away from politics. However, the current climate compels me to speak out.
The divide between conservative and progressive views has become more pronounced. Demagogues are on the rise, armed with scapegoating, lies and promises of a return to greatness, security and economic gain for their voting blocs.
Conservative politicians are at odds with the federal government over laws to protect gay rights, voting rights, abortion rights, the right to use marijuana and taxing and spending in general. Large numbers of people deny human involvement in global warming, are creationists and are opposed to gay rights based on religious beliefs.
I am afraid for our country and the future of the world. I fear ultra-nationalism and violence prone religious movements, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu. I seek to understand the thinking of those who would vote for a candidate and party platform that has proven to be in direct opposition to their best interest and that opposes the movement towards expanded civil rights, responsible spending on infrastructure, controls to avoid corporate abuses and environmental destruction and support for the less advantaged. I am appalled by the overt display of fear based anger in political debate.
I recognize my own liberal and progressive-leaning tendencies and how they may distort my view. I am willing to question my values and decisions based on facts and logic rather than opinions and emotions.
Clearly, we have an imperfect system. There is waste and some people do take advantage of government welfare programs. There might be too much regulation, and maybe in the wrong places. Terrorism is a fact of life. There are economic issues that trend towards increased joblessness and uncertainty. The world at large is tending towards chaos.
However, the movement to the Right is ready to throw out the baby with the bath water. They take to the extremes and seem to deny the possibility of finding workable compromise solutions. They are more interested in pursuing policies based on theoretical positions that seem impractical. They are willing to shut down the government and hold tens of thousands of people hostage to get their way.
Right wing politicians have blocked government spending on infrastructure, medical care and programs to help the poor. They seek to reverse social and civil rights gains which they deem liberal, deny human involvement in global warming and stand in the way of gun access limits and limits on corporate abuses. They view coal as clean energy. They blame Obama for destabilizing the world when a quick analysis makes it clear that Bush's war on Iraq lit the fuse.
The conservative platform calls for building walls as opposed to building relationships. Walls have not worked in Berlin or Palestine/Israel. They reinforce division and pen people in as they seek to keep people out.
The Social Welfare Issue
Perhaps most importantly, there is the divide over the government's role in social welfare. Where is compassion and common sense in conservative programs?
In recent discussions I have had with conservatives, I have found that when confronted with questions of how best to address a growing reality of under employment caused by automation, they fall back on welfare cheaters and protectionism. They say what they don't want, speak in generalities and fail to offer practical positive alternatives.
How do you provide education and a better future for children without government spending? How do do you manage poverty? What about the vast majority of those who wish they had jobs and are in need of a livable level of income, retraining, child care and subsidies? Do we let them fend for themselves, live on the street, depend on the voluntary charity of the wealthy or of religious institutions?
What motivates one to deny aid to the indigent? Is it scarcity thinking, lack of empathy, fear of cheats and of demotivating people by giving them what they "should" work for.
Imagine a growing underclass and a trend towards replacing skilled human jobs with automation.
Increasing automation is eliminating jobs that once employed skilled labor. Artificial intelligence and robots are on the rise. In the next decades we wont even need taxi drivers as self driving cars take their place. Computers can prepare tax returns and run assembly lines. Imagine a factory that once employed hundreds of workers being controlled by a handful of technicians and managers. Imagine underemployment as a norm with unemployment rates of 10, 20, 50%.
What are the alternatives to government funded support for a living wage?
What happens when the economy no longer needs paid labor? Do we move towards government sponsored support or do we allow a large underclass to develop and live with the consequences of that?
I am open mindedly waiting for a practical alternative from the Right. So far there is only rhetoric that plays to fear, anger and ignorance and the desire for simplistic solutions to complex problems.
So far there is no real dialogue, only people yelling at one another or refusing to address the issues at all.
We have an election coming. My fear is that people will choose out of fear, anger and ignorance and that we our children and our children's children will have to live with the results of a regime that values force, violence and blind belief over reason. My hope is that the vast majority of the country will wake up to the threat, reject the rhetoric and accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world that can be made better but not by building walls or cutting taxes.