Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

ELECTORAL PSYCHOSIS: OR THE HILLARUMP-TRILLARY SYNDROME

May 25, 2016

I came across an op-ed piece in our local newspaper recently by Eliot Cohen. His commentary boiled down to a call for a third-party candidate. He termed Hillary Clinton “easily the lesser evil” and posited that a third-party candidate would send her a message to “govern from the center.”

A bit later in the week I had a brief political sidebar with a patient (this seems to arise more often these days), and he expressed disgust with the current polarization and voiced a similar wish for more cooperation and a move to the center.

Now, I’ve been persistently perplexed by the rise to the top of two deeply flawed candidates who share at least one thing in common: They have the highest unfavorable ratings of the pack. So what would possess the American public to ostensibly rally around their least favored candidates? The call for a move to the center gelled a theory I’d been harboring.

But first, getting back to the patient, I inquired if he were $100,000 in debt, would he reduce his spending to neutral, “governing from the center,” as it were, or would he tighten his belt in an effort to climb the uphill road to fiscal recovery?

For decades now progressive Democrats and Republicans have doubled down on unprecedented “grow and spend” policies that have become so entrenched that much of the electorate cannot imagine a viable alternative. Many have adopted a similar personal fiscal policy, planning little for the future while enjoying the moment. The lines for $5 and $6 dollar Starbucks’ beverages grow even while we hear of increasing joblessness and a shrinking economy. The illusion of the status quo is buttressed by a growing welfare state supported by unprecedented borrowing, printing, and their associated campaign promises.

But the odd bird of an election we’re witnessing reflects an unease that’s starting to ripple across a growing segment of the country: a realization that things are not working. For many, the solution has taken the shape of a call for an outsider; someone who will do something—anything—differently. For some this “savior” takes the form of a blustering, fist-shaking, non-politician who talks a lot about “winning,” with populist catch-phrases in search of elusive policies and substance. For others, it’s the siren call of wealth redistribution, the indomitable phoenix of socialism and its comrade “social justice,” once again rising from the ashes even as the world watches its demise again…and again. And yet others crave a return to the only normal they can fathom after decades of intransigence, just a few more years of comforting printing and spending, and things will eventually work themselves out. This, even if the promises come from someone they don’t really trust…and who might be indicted. Finally, a growing but stunted group made an aborted attempt to place a voice that spoke to the only solution that makes sense: Shrinking government, reducing spending, stopping crony capitalism, and growing the private sector economy. But this messenger was tainted ideologically. Those on the left are conditioned to see this this viewpoint as espoused by narrow-minded bigots who love only corporate fat cats, and many in the center were put off by exhortations weighed down by right-to-life and other perceived religious undertones.

When faced with the knowledge that something must be done and the one obvious solution you’ve been told is evil, cognitive dissonance occurs, and the paradox creates…the Hillarump-Trillary Syndrome. Side effects include mini-riots at campaign stops and spending an inordinate amount of media time distracting oneself with the pros and cons of a minute fraction of the public’s right to choose which bathrooms they may enter.

A third party candidate? Americans have always been an exceptionally innovative people. Given time, I’m certain we can come up with a someone we like even less.

THE COLOR POLITIC

June 4, 2012

Disregarding the radical fringe on either side of the political aisle, there is large segment of the electorate that is thoughtful, reasonable and informed that sees the world through different colored lenses.

This may be a “duh” moment, but for me it was starkly highlighted again yesterday during a polite but sometimes spirited family debate. My brother is intelligent, well-read and politically savvy. Although only a couple of years my senior, his interest in things politic antedated mine by many years—I remember a poster of then-presidential candidate John Kennedy hanging on our bedroom wall when I was in grade school.

During this highly unpublicized telephone debate he presented his arguments and I mine, neither of us expecting to convert the other. We had common ground on a few important points, agreeing that crony capitalism had to stop and Wall Street fraud must be more effectively policed. We agreed that a reboot of botched anti-monopoly regulation is sorely needed, and tax reform is long overdue. But when I told him that I believed the coming election is, to quote commentator Dennis Prager, a plebiscite on the nation’s ideology, he strongly disagreed. Instead, he began to attack Romney’s record and suggested I spend more time reading analysts willing to call both sides to task.

I don’t disagree that a balance of views is important; in fact, it’s the hallmark of a free society. But I submit that it’s not a question of defending Romney against Obama, or the bad behavior of any Republican against his or her Democratic counterpart. There are sinners in both camps. For me, it’s a question of a belief system—one based on the values that founded the nation versus a progressive agenda that leads us down the path that Europe is following, a road that veers left through a pass called social justice and opens on the cold moraine of frank socialism.

So my brother and others who share his views will continue to see the world as bluish green, and I as greenish blue, despite maps looking to define the country as blue or red. We see the same things and yet we don’t.

One of us must be color blind.

TEOTWAWKI

February 20, 2012

I’ve been watching a few episodes of a new series, a semi-documentary called “Doomsday Preppers,” about people preparing for “the end of the world as we know it.” It depresses me. Not the idea of the end as we know it (a downer if ever there was one), but the reminder of how ill-prepared I am. Experts rate the preppers on the various areas of preparedness and the majority fare pretty well. It’s not surprising, since some of them spend most of their waking hours dedicated to the task and have thousands of dollars of stored foodstuffs, much of which they’ve raised/canned themselves, enough to feed as much as a dozen hungry mouths for over five years. I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Saran wrap in the freezer.

All right, we’ve put away a small stash of canned goods and emergency water. We’re not off the grid and, at this time, not on the fast track to getting there. I started reading James Wesley Rawles’ How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It and after getting though about fifteen percent of the book, demoralized by my lack of preparation and skills, filed it under “reference.” As if a digital book and a Kindle will be of any use at the end of the world as we know it. You can see what I’m up against.

But I’m not alone. Although a growing number of us recognize the wisdom of preparedness, most people still regard preppers as a fringe element. Until a couple of years ago I was among them. A few things changed my mind. Foremost, as anyone who has read my prior rants knows, is the sorry state of the economy. While this plays big in the motivation of some of the TV preppers, others cite fears of global oil shortage, an electromagnetic pulse from the sun destroying the world’s electrical grids, or even the sudden reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles and its attendant tectonic shifts (an every 500,000 year event).

Regardless of the motivation, some attention to emergency preparedness seems to me to be a no-brainer. There is precedent for this line of reasoning: With limited evidence for global warming that has created a hypothesis that is widely regarded as fact (in the 1970s it was global cooling), people are willing to accept this as an impetus to change our behavior. Even if the evidence is flawed, the move toward a less polluted environment is laudable (except when used as a smokescreen for a (usually socialist) political agenda). The same can be said of preparing for TEOTWAWKI. In the event of an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or massive conflagraton, assistance and law enforcement may be sidelined for days, or weeks. The more global natural disasters referenced above are admittedly less likely, but taken together may be worth a nod as well. Economic collapse, on the other hand, may have up to a fifty percent chance of realization. Why do I say this? If we’re five to ten years behind Greece, as some experts think, and we fail to change our debt-first, common sense last approach to financial management, who will be there to bail us out? The supply lines in the cities are fragile, and most wealth is digital, a scenario ripe for disaster. A failing European economy and fragile oil pipeline in the Middle East due to political instability could theoretically trigger a slide even sooner. Or a war instigated by Iran. This, to me, seems to be a more imminent threat than global warming.

The truth is, it’s easier for the political class to decry global warming because it’s more distant, seemingly more manageable, and carries with it an aura of nobility. Focusing on the more proximate threat of global bankruptcy highlights their greed, incompetence, and impotence. From the standpoint of the American people, it’s a topic that is perhaps too alarming to face head on.

Is financial Armageddon inevitable? I think we have a window of several years to turn it around. I don’t know if we have the will. I believe the upcoming election is a barometer of that will. If more than half the country feels that leaving the current leadership in place is the answer, it speaks to the ascendancy of an ideology based on equality and parity of ownership (read: wealth redistribution), and to the decline of the principles on which this nation was founded: freedom and parity of opportunity. We’ll have moved from a democratic republic to a democracy, one that has elected social justice over liberty. This will not be self-sustaining.

If the current “management” is thrown out, there is no guarantee of success (spouting an ideology of reduced spending and small government while doing the opposite is the hypocrisy of the right). However, if the majority votes for change and doubles down on it, there is at least a chance it can become reality.

That’s TEOTWAWKI I can live with.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

January 16, 2011

One of the stated goals in the preamble to the Constitution is “to promote the general welfare.” Proponents of social justice will maintain that the burgeoning infrastructure of the federal government is crafted to do just that. It should be remembered, however, that the spirit behind the secession movement that birthed our nation is, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, the inalienable right of  “the pursuit of happiness.” The sister rights, as I’m sure you recall, are life and liberty. Our forefathers were smart. Nowhere is equality of wealth, power, or even the elusive-to-define happiness addressed—and for good reason: it is unattainable and, I contend, not desirable.

People are diverse. They have different personalities, aspirations, work ethics, intellects—the list goes on and on. While every right-thinking citizen would wish no one to suffer the misfortunes of ill health, poverty or starvation, and would agree that a safety net or hand up is a hallmark of a compassionate society for those that fall on hard times through no fault of their own, I see the liberal and conservative elements of our society differing significantly on matters of degree. Liberals, by dint of a philosophical viewpoint that appears to feel that the financial inequities in the world, and our country in particular, are so great (and much of it “ill-gotten”), desire a large redistribution of this wealth through an aggressive implementation of taxation and social programs. I’ve addressed in part the outcome of such a paradigm in my prior rant. Conservatives largely feel government has grown too large and intrusive and is interfering with the economy and accumulation of wealth, also known as productivity, and encouraging a climate of dependency and entitlement.

As with most dichotomies, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, although that middle can be vast, and the means of reaching the “truth,” nebulous. So I can only address the issue by exposing the values that turned me from young, idealistic liberal to pragmatic conservative. In the transition, however, I haven’t lost my idealism; far from it, I feel it is strengthened. It’s just assumed a different form. It has morphed from a concern for the individual to a concern for his or her values.

The founders built a wildly successful nation on an experiment in meritocracy that has had no equal in the history of mankind. Its ascent has been astoundingly fast, and, I’m afraid, its descent may be as rapid. It was based on values of liberty, a belief in a higher power, and a philosophy of hard work and self-sufficiency. It was sustained by a desire to help one’s neighbor, also known as charity, and an equally strong aversion to receiving it which was seen as failure. Look around the world now. In Greece, the government said it’s running out of money and must reduce salaries. Did the people say, “Oh, I guess we’ve taken too much from the till; we must work harder”? No, riots occurred. In France, the government said the workers could no longer retire at 60—the age was raised to 62. Did the people say, “Oh, perhaps a guarantee of such early retirement was too exorbitant a gift to expect relative to our productivity”? No, they rioted. Here in California, as the state teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, the voters have re-elected the same people whose policies have brought us to the edge. It is noteworthy that large segments of the population are on the government payroll or dole, and unions remain a powerful lobby. One may argue that a substantial part of the failure of this system is due to government waste and corruption but, if anything, it only reinforces my argument.

Granted, there have been some dramatic and welcome social gains in the centuries since out forefathers’ time. I’m not recommending a return to the evils of slavery, institutionalized racism, and second-class citizenship for our women. But “throwing the baby out with the bath water” isn’t the way to perpetuate the success of the greatest social experiment the world has known. To do this, we have to re-examine our values, and our family structure. I believe that, fundamentally, we have to “down-size.”

I’m not sure if we have it in us. I hope and pray that we do.

Next: On family and “down-sizing”

GETTING NOTHING FOR SOMETHING

January 10, 2011

Since there must be balance in nature, if someone gets something for nothing, someone else must get nothing for something. “Yes, Virginia, there’s no free lunch.” All right, I’m mixing quotations or aphorisms, or whatever. When the top 5% of taxpayers pay almost 60% of the tax burden, it’s clear they aren’t getting what they’ve paid for; somebody else is. For supporters of social justice, this is just that. Why shouldn’t those that have so much help those that have so little? I can think of several reasons.

First, someone or something must define what too much is and to whom and in what amounts this “excess” should go. When the decider is the earner, it’s called charity. When it’s the government, it’s known as taxation. When we rely on the latter, a disturbing amount of this redistribution, undertaken both by men and women of good intentions and by others with personal and less than savory agendas, translates into billions of dollars funneled into the pork bin. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about millions of our hard-won dollars funding one or another absurd program. And these “representatives” do the job with such exuberance that they have to borrow more than all the earners make.

Second, it’s almost impossible to get a large bureaucratic organization to surgically implant the funds where they need to go. I often wonder how many people are paid to do little or nothing so they can continue their slothful existence and self-centered behaviors uninterrupted, for every truly needy person who’s either disabled or fallen on hard times and needs a leg up so they can again become productive citizens. Does the government really have the ability to make this determination?

Third, and most important, when the government takes your money, they are taking away a piece of you that hardly anyone, if anyone at all, talks about: your charity. For every dollar they take and decide to give to someone they consider more needy, you lose the ability to give that dollar of your own volition, and the attendant blessings that come with it. Your soul, if you believe in it, is cheapened. “Oh,” but the preachers of social justice will say,”if the government didn’t redistribute it, what’s to guarantee that the ‘rich’ wouldn’t keep it all?” And perhaps they are right. But I don’t believe it. I’d rather give the good people a chance to step up to the plate than give ever larger sums through a program of burgeoning taxation to people who don’t need or deserve the “excess.” Who’s to say where the greater evil lies, in the uncharitable earners who aren’t giving their fair share, or the greedy receivers, who aren’t producing their fair share? At least the former aren’t taking what isn’t theirs.

And both will have their sentences decreed in a court much higher than the federal.

Next: Societal values and bringing things closer to home