Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Since You Asked...

A friend writes: "I'm wondering what you think of this video

I found myself agreeing on a few things, like the "nothing is free" and "personal responsibility" aspects.

It also reminded me of the things a parent might say to a child..."

Well, since you asked, here is the heart of my entire political philosophy.

As far as fiscal policy goes, he's got some good ideas. "Forgiving" student loans by paying them with taxpayer dollars is wrong. (And what a perfectly sad picture of the wretched occupy kid! To misquote Jewel, I hate him 'cause he's pieces of me!) I even think bailing out GM was a bad idea, even though it won Obama Michigan and probably Ohio. I am on the fence about Obamacare, but I'm willing to wait and see. Basically, there's still an awful lot about Democrats I like less and less as I get older and this guy kinda nails it.

I am a fiscal conservative. No doubt about it. I am Taxed Enough Already. Government is overly huge and incredibly wasteful and gets more so all the time.


Believing this causes me to vote for Democrats. What? Why? Aren't they the ones who tax and spend?

Here are the last six presidential administrations (basically my life), in order by the size of the percentage increase in the national debt on their watch:

Ronald Reagan 188.6
George W. Bush 89.0
George H. W. Bush 55.6
Jimmy Carter 42.3
Barack Obama (through 2011) 41.1
Bill Clinton 35.6

Historically, Republicans waste more money than Democrats. Republicans do not like wasting money on American poor people. Democrats do not like wasting money on wars. Whoever is in office, some of my taxes will be wasted. But I'd rather have them be wasted here on something that helps our people instead of there on something destructive. Ergo, I am a fiscally conservative Democrat.

This naturally leads me to where this video goes horribly off the rails: foreign policy. Yes, there are bad societies who do horrible things. But it's not our job to kill them all and replace them with good societies. We simply can't go to war with Darfur, China, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Alabama, Mississippi, Pakistan, and Egypt just because they aren't free democracies with full rights for all citizens. The cost is just too high in blood and treasure.

Instead, we must be a model of freedom that other societies will see and want to emulate. Revolutions will happen. They will grow towards us and our way. If we learned anything yesterday and in the last thirty years, it is that the tide of time swells toward freedom. Like the United Federation of Planets, we will welcome these countries to the big table when they are ready. But we must not bomb them in the meantime unless we want dreams of revenge against us to become inextricably linked with their dreams of freedom.

Let's move on to domestic policy and a word about the Republican narrative of personal responsibility, entitlements, and the culture of poverty. The story goes something like this. Ever since FDR and LBJ created all these entitlement programs like social security, the American people have become more and more dependent upon them. FDR inadvertently created a monster, a lazy person who just sits at home and lets the government money roll in and uses it to buy high speed internet, Cheetos, and beer. Times a few hundred million. They choose to live in a culture of poverty supported by the government. This narrative is not completely false. The situation must be reformed.

I believe in personal responsibility. I believe in working hard and having a good life come as a result. I believe in if you snooze you lose. But take a person who is born into poverty. Say they work their way up. The person takes responsibility and doesn't ask for nothin' from nobody. Works two or three jobs. Gets married, stays faithful. Has children they love. The person is scrimping and saving $25 a month for higher education to get a better job someday, providing for their children, basically living on a razor's edge like so many Americans are. Then the person's spouse is killed by a drunk driver. All the personal responsibility in the world isn't going to bring that spouse back, continue to bring in that spouse's income, or fill the permanent hole in those kids' lives.

Bad things happen to good, hardworking, personally responsible people. And when they do they don't deserve to be abandoned by their government.

There has to be a safety net. My theoretical person needs social security and maybe even welfare and food stamps and those things should be there for that person. That is not a waste of my taxes. That could mean those kids go to college instead of living under a bridge. Yes, Democrats perhaps tend to cast the safety net too wide, even to lazy people who just lean back and use the safety net as a hammock. But it's better to cast the net too wide than than to shred it and let everyone who gets unlucky fall.

I finally understand what my seventh grade history teacher Mr. Peck was talking about when he contrasted the "culture of poverty" ideology with the "cycle of poverty" ideology. I tend to believe that government aid will help people break out of the cycle more often than it will encourage them to loaf in the culture. Man, Mr. Peck was a good teacher.

Finally, ever since I started paying attention to such things as a teenager, Republican presidents have brought war and recession while Democratic presidents have brought peace and recovery. That's hard to ignore.

That's about all I got. Like all of us, the guy in this video has got some good ideas and some horribly bad ideas.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Billy, Ya Let Me Down

So Billy Graham. Has he always been a conservative tool and I just wasn't paying enough attention? All these people that I thought about positively during my Christian upbringing. I even put one of his delightful book titles in a GUH song. Geesh. James Dobson, whose book we read as a family to help my transition into puberty. Turns out? Right wing tool. I couldn't listen to him on the radio for two minutes without becoming furious.

These people who take the extremely powerful name of God and use it to promote their pet political agendas really piss me off, especially when I find those agendas un-American, restrictive, and hateful. What makes me maddest is that if someone was to ask me if I was a Christian I would say definitively yes, but I would feel the need to add "...but I'm not a misogynist, homophobic, idiot asshole."

I believe the bible is the inspired word of God; a beautiful, wonderful, endlessly engaging, guiding, and challenging holy scripture that I elevate above all other books. I'm also able to admit that a lot of it is really specific to the time and place it was written and a lot of it is just fucking weird and you can't possibly live by it all.

Perhaps unfortunately, what you CAN do, if you want to, is take any position you want to and support it with cherry-picked quotes from the bible. Whatever else you can say about it, the bible is versatile.

Plus, this country was not founded strictly on biblical values. And despite my own personal love for the bible, I think that's a good thing. Countries that try to mix holy scripture with governance never look like good places to live from where I'm sitting. America was founded to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Some people think that means running as far away from the bible as they can get and I respect their right to do that.

My favorite moment from any of the debates, Presidential or Vice-Presidential, was Joe Biden admitting that his Catholicism told him that abortion was wrong but that he didn't think he had the right to force that belief on someone else. I agree on both points. This is the line that we people of faith must walk as we vote and help to create public policy in this wonderful, amazing, miracle of a country we live in. (I also have a fervent love of America but again there feel the need to add "...but I'm not a etc.")

So how can we solve the original problem, that is that the very words "Christian" and "American", which are both so precious to me, have come to suggest a hateful, misogynist homophobe who would have us living in an Iranian style theocracy? How about if someone says something like this:

I'm a Christian who believes in the bible and I think it's time for America to acknowledge marriages regardless of the gender of the two people involved.

I'm a Christian who believes in the bible and I don't think states or the nation should be making decisions about women's bodies for them.

Whew! I feel better! I think that's what I needed to do. Okay, now you.