By David Beem
In anticipation of the coming presidential race, I thought I’d blog a bit about politics. I know it’s dangerous territory, but the current political landscape has left me feeling stripped naked of any sense of national dignity, and I feel compelled to have a word. This will be a tough read—but I promise to serve it up equally to both sides of the political aisle, as much as I am able.
Remember a thing called compassion? Our national discussion of politics has grown largely devoid of it. We even go so far as to mock those who are down and out. After all, isn’t it their fault that they are unemployed, defaulting on mortgages, or not clever enough to make more money? Isn’t it their fault that they are sick and can’t afford health care, or old and greedily surviving on entitlement programs? Democrats argue that if you listen closely to the rationalizations of those arguing the merits of capitalism and free market—this is the message you’ll hear.
Yet, we’ve all heard the stats. 1% controls the lion share of the nation’s wealth, 9.1% are unemployed (August 2011), and the poverty level continues to grow. (46 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line despite the 16% of our budget spent trying to help the poor.) We’ve all heard the arguments. “Our country’s ‘poor’ have TV’s, cars, air conditioning—how are they poor?” Or: “Our health care system is the best in the world.” “Paying for entitlement programs will bankrupt our country.” There is truth in all of this. (I know—Democrats are
squirming in their seats right now, but true is true and wishing isn’t going to change it.) So we’ve heard all this before, but what we haven’t heard are real solutions.
I get that. The problems are tough. How do we do right by everyone in the country? Rich and poor. Sick and healthy. Young and old. This is a philosophical challenge as much as it is a governmental one, and it was one of the things that concerned our founding fathers when they were framing the Constitution. I get all that—I do. But here’s what I don’t get. I don’t get the hate. I don’t get the demonization of half of the country that ALL of our politicians are guilty of. I don’t get the intellectual dishonesty our politicians—and pundits—engage in in order to sell their non-solutions.
If you’re Republican, you are right to be mad as hell when Uncle Sam tells you that you haven’t paid your share in taxes. (Well, unless you’re filthy rich. Like, filthy rich. If you’re reading this article, then I’m not talking to you. You may like to think I am—you may like to think you’re at the top—but I’m not talking to you. Really. The filthy rich are too busy for the likes of me.)
And since I’m addressing Republicans, let’s talk about the branding of the subject of taxing the wealthy elite as “class warfare.” It isn’t. Don’t argue. You know better. You’re smart—I know you are—so let me explain.
“Warfare” implies contest. So I’ll ask you, how does targeting the top .03% of Americans—asking them to pay the same share proportionally as the rest of us “hurt” our economy? Yet—this plan will fail because it’s branded as “class warfare” and “against the small businesses.” (Who in the top .03% is running a small business, by the way?) Now, I’m sure there are things Obama is proposing that might hurt small businesses, but I can’t tell what they are because I’m too hot under the collar from all the name-calling to hear what the actual ideas are, as proposed by the GOP. The rhetoric is so inflammatory—I’ve lost the substance. All I can do is argue the preposterous rhetoric. To the GOP: if you want the honest discussion of ideas, stop using language like “class warfare” to discuss taxing the top .03% equally. You’re not doing yourself any favors.
No, it isn’t class warfare. There is no “contest” that would make it war. The very idea is preposterous. The wealthiest .03% have long since “won” the “war.” That’s why they’re rich. Calling it class warfare is a gross insult to those Americans who are suffering. The unemployed 9.1%, the 15.1% living below the poverty line, or the 1 million-ish people who lost their homes last year might understandably be sensitive to hear Lindsey Graham say “class warfare” when protecting the rights of the wealthiest .03% Americans. To those Americans who are suffering, our current policies might look more like economic genocide than “warfare.”
And this is exactly where our country’s affliction shows; the uncommonness of common sense has become the norm. “Class warfare?” The branding is so obviously designed to get you hot and bothered—it’s just that most people in upper income brackets, but nowhere near the top .03%, are led to believe that it’s the economic policies of “the other side” that are responsible for the condition of the economy.
And most of those people are likely to vote against their own economic interests because they hear “class warfare” and assume we’re talking about them. (Oh, and as for the .03 %, they’re still fine—in case you’re worried.)
And now for the Democrats.
Democrats—not all rich people are evil. Try to realize that those who earn gajillions each year are likely already giving huge sums to charitable organizations, the arts, their churches etc. They prefer to give this way, where they can be in control of what is happening to their money. Also, when you dig your heels in on entitlement cuts, without really acknowledging that we have to reform the system or else spend ourselves into social program oblivion, it makes your arguments to tax and spend seem shortsighted. Think about how well the stimulus worked, or the last story you heard about a $600 hammer and then think about why the GOP is crying foul over raising taxes. Democrats—how do you feel about how the President has done with all that stimulus money in light of the continued decline of our economy? Yes, Obama’s story is very inspirational—but his performance has been dismal. Yes, he hasn’t seen a whole lot of cooperation from the (party of “no,”) same people looking to bury his presidency now, but the ultimate responsibility falls on his shoulders. (The oldest politicians’ trick in the book: struggle to see that your opponent fails, then point at him and say, “You failed.” Oh stop. I’m talking about politicians—not you personally. Besides, the Dems would have done the same stupid thing.)
On the subject of partisan rancor, here’s something else to consider: How far will our leaders go in demonizing the opposing party’s politics before it turns into a civil war?
“What-what-what?” you say?
This country has been divided along party lines, each side digging in its heels like idiots, for quite some time now. In fact, since I’ve been old enough to follow politics, it’s been this way—but I’m educated “enough” to know that it hasn’t always been this bad. There was a time when you expected your government to function. But people 10 or 20 years younger than me are having a tougher time in school than I had, and may not be aware that the government isn’t supposed to be this idiotic.
(Ah, memories. Remember Newt Gingrich leading the charge to impeach the prez when Gingrich himself was shown to be of even lower moral fiber? These days he’s honorably proclaiming that it wasn’t hypocritical—it was about lying under oath. A distinction for sure, but it’s still one sinner calling an other man “sinner.” Good times.)
The hate and vitriol coming from our leaders on both sides of the political aisle is astounding. And it sets entirely the wrong tone for the country. The modern American citizen carries that hatred deep in his/her heart—but who do we hate? Supposedly we hate approximately 50% of the
nation. I say “supposedly” because we’ve been conditioned to think in this way. We’ve been painstakingly taught to hate our neighbor’s ideals, calling them “un-American,” even though we’re talking about half of the country at any given moment. (No, Bush’s 49/51 win does not signify a mandate—another fine example of intellectual dishonesty. In fact, his “mandate” was the narrowest win in American history since President Wilson’s in 1916.)
So. Do you hate your neighbor? Do you hate the person you know personally who practices politics dissimilar from your own? Probably not. But your elected leaders are telling you that you do.
Go to a public place. Look around the room. Imagine screaming at half of the people in that room in the way you may be tempted to scream at the television. Imagine hating half of those people, now that you can see their faces. Their kids, or their elderly parents. Can you do it?
Of course you can’t. It’s hard to hate someone. In order to really hate them, you’d need to ascribe certain things to them. Maybe imagine
them as being directly responsible for 9/11, or the rise of the Third Reich, both very extreme and dramatic events in human history. But these people are just like you. They’re just like your family and friends. Yet—if you listen to Nancy Pelosi, or John Boehner, (one of those two names probably makes you hot under the collar) you’re supposed to hate half of the people in the room because they’re responsible for electing people
into office who enact the failed policies which have touched your life in one way or another. Still, looking at your neighbor, or looking at the people around you in Church, at the post office, or Starbucks—wherever—you just can’t bring yourself to hate half of them.
So who do you hate? And what do you think about all the hate? Where can all that hatred possibly lead?
You know, hate used to be a big deal. It used to be something our parents talked to us about—warning us against using that word too lightly. “Hatred is different from dislike,” I can imagine them advising. But this kind of distinction in how we use language is long gone. Long, long gone. Nowadays, we regularly liken our neighbor to Hitler—one of the most horrible people in the history of history. At least, we do if we allow our elected leaders to get inside our heads.
I’ll leave you with an article written by Charlie Reese, written for the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper. I believe it was his last article for them. Republicans, Democrats and Independents—read this. I think they are words you’ll find it difficult to disagree with.
545 vs. 300,000,000 People
By Charlie Reese
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them. Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?
Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The President does.
You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.
You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.
You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.
You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.
I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a
congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the
power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.
Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.
The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving
appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.
If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.
If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it’s because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way.
There are no insoluble government problems.
Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.
They, and they alone, have the power.
They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.
Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.
We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess.