Monday, February 14, 2011

Left and Right Realities

My Conservative friend (I only have one…) sent me an email after reading my last post, “If You Cut Us, Do We Not Bleed?” He said that my view/understanding of America’s economic reality is naïve, which amuses me. It always amuses me when people counter differing views with “you’re naïve” or “you’re unrealistic,” because it’s just a polite way of saying “Stupid, you understand nothing.” I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; it’s certainly how I feel about Republicans and Conservatives. And for the record, I feel similarly about many Democrats; I no longer know who or where Liberals are, but I’m not sure I’m in sync with them either.

Here’s what I do understand – at a very basic level. Republicans/Conservatives do not believe in government, especially “big” government. They don’t like it, they don’t trust it, they don’t see the purpose in it. Democrats/Liberals do believe in government – and taxes to support it, including more taxes from the rich than the middle class, working class or poor. Dems and Libs want government to help people and further civilization; Repubs/Conserves think people should help themselves and civilization should be left alone to find its own footing.

Paul Krugman, in his Op-Ed piece “Eat the Future” in today’s New York Times, is witty and sage in his observation that Americans want to cut whatever doesn’t have an impact on them personally, and, we as a nation are remarkably ignorant about how much money we actually spend and on what. He calls the Republican proposal “a plan that would save remarkably little money but would do a remarkably large amount of harm. But perhaps he’s being naïve.

I believe in big government. I believe in “socialized medicine,” free education (from K-12 to a PhD), generous benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. I believe in hearty support for public housing, the arts, new energy research and initiatives, climate change initiatives, and meaningful foreign aid. I believe in the Feds helping states and cities. I believe in the rebuilding of broken infrastructure. I believe in taxes, especially on those who have a shit-load of money. I believe companies that outsource American jobs should be penalized, and that non-documented workers should be given citizenship and the right to work. In short, I believe in all the things Republicans/ Conservatives oppose, from free abortions for the poor to climate change initiatives to free and open media, including the Internet. I’m not naïve in these beliefs, I’m simply opposed to the imperatives of profit-based and free-market-oriented capitalism. I think there’s too much profit at the expense of decency, and being just and humane. I think we should share the wealth. I think I’d rather be dead than alive in the America that Conservatives want to create. I believe in being well informed, voting, and being active in civic affairs. I believe in doing the right thing – by which I mean caring more about people and their welfare than about what’s good for business.

The upcoming budget battle will provide ample opportunity for us to become familiar with the federal budget and how it actually works, what percentages are in fact applied to what areas of concern, endeavor and responsibility. I encourage all of us to do so, and let our senators and Congressional representatives know what we know and what we want. Most of all, I encourage all of us to be naïve, if being naïve means being caring. If we lose that, everything else is just a countdown to a bad ending.

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