Archive for April, 2017

I don’t need a Big Brother

April 21, 2017

There is something about the perceived dichotomy on the right between Big Brother and social welfare programs. We’re seeing the budget for the military likely expanded again. In the past fifteen years I’ve witnessed the rapid growth of the Department of Homeland Security and the acceptance of the government essentially having carte blanche to surveil its citizens and to use the information gleaned from that for whatever purpose they want. I’ve seen off-shore prison sites used by my government when they want to get around things like due process. And I’ve seen the FBI throw itself into the middle of a presidential election to influence the process. All of this represents a growth of government. And it seems the majority of those who make up the right wing of American politics is fine with it.

What they are not fine with is socialized medicine. Food stamps. Public housing. Even public lands, really, unless someone gets to pollute and destroy it first to try to pull a privatized buck out of it. I will unapologetically say that these things represent a growth of government, too, except it’s not a growth bent on killing or imprisoning people.

I will also admit to not knowing why the right supports the former but not the latter. I know there are all sorts of possibilities thrown about from a misguided belief that we live in overly violent times (we don’t) to just a pure one-sided “If it’s my team, I don’t care, as long as we win” mentality.  Maybe it just boils down to the idea that one is for our safety while the other is for freeloaders, though I think it takes a remarkable level of pessimism and disconnect with humanity in general to believe there is just this sea of freeloading ne’er-do-wells looking to take advantage of our kindnesses, and that this sea doesn’t include any of ourselves or the people we know and love. It’s all those other people.

A lot of this post stems back to Trump’s proposed budget that essentially slashed all discretionary spending to things like NPR, NEA, science funding, etc. to throw another half billion at the military. It’s also a reaction to the whole idea that you’re un-American if you ever don’t support spending more on the military.

I do not support spending more on the military. Pay the troops more, sure, but lets make fewer air craft carriers then, since they’re now being said to possibly be ineffective.  Our most effective strategy against ISIS has been making sure the locals are trained better paired up with smaller special ops units and targeted drone strikes.

Before I wrap this up I want to also say that I don’t support things like single payer health care and stronger social safety nets and free university education because I want or need the government to look out for me. I support it because I want to look out for my friends and neighbors and it’s my tax money, too. Knowing that the family down the road wouldn’t have to worry about their finances crumbling if their kid gets leukemia means something to me. I care about that, even if I don’t know them. Knowing that all of our kids could go to university or to a vocational school and not put themselves into thousands of dollars of debt to learn a skill to live better lives (and, in turn, to likely enrich the lives of many others) means something to me. This isn’t wanting my hand to be held. This isn’t being a snowflake or some other stupid disparaging crap.

This is how I define being human.  Caring about each other, supporting each other. Life is inherently unfair, and will always be unfair to some degree. But we have the ability to mitigate that unfairness, to level the playing field a bit to at least provide a minimum degree of safety and assurance. We have the ability to give a damn.

Yes, we’re just too damn lazy

April 12, 2017

At least that appears to be what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. I don’t know about most people, but my wife and I work our asses off working, raising our kids, and renovating our house. We cook most of our meals and do our own minor maintenance on our vehicles. The amount of time we get to spend with each other is maybe 90 minutes a night on weekdays, while the weekends fluctuate a bit because we are continually trying to fit more into our days.

Cowen talks about the midwest knowing the “answers” for why the economy is tanking, and it’s that we’re lazy. Not that we’re overburdened. Not that going to college dumps tens of thousands (if you’re lucky it’s that low) of debt onto you. That those of us who should be in the most aggressive stages of our careers were kneecapped by the financial crisis and still haven’t recovered (and likely never will, as our earnings will be lower at every step of our careers than those who came before us and those who will follow us).

We don’t start new businesses or move every five years or anything else because we can’t.  We have two kids. Right now we have insurance through an employer. We have a roof over our heads. No, that’s not something we can toss to the wind and hope it comes out on the right side. Not when things like Amazon and Wal-Mart make a business putting folks like my wife and I out of business. Not that we could get a small business loan to begin with (circle back to those college loans and now our house loan and, looky there, there’s a mound of debt there). And then there is the shrinking social safety net that the GOP looks to continually chip away at because, I don’t know, Amurica or something.

This isn’t laziness. This is just reality for the majority of us. Our jobs don’t pay enough, our debt load is too high, and there isn’t a good enough social safety net to catch us if we fall. Want us to take more chances? Make us less desperate just to hang on. Make it so we know we can take our kids to the doctor  because we have a single payer health care system. Make going to college affordable for our kids since it wasn’t for us. Maybe invest our tax money into our infrastructure and schools instead of into air craft carriers (though I guess bringing up military spending as a place where we can pull back on our budget makes me a bad American, huh Standler?) .

While Cowen laments white males earning less in 2015 than they did in 1969, instead of saying it’s because America is too lazy maybe it’s because the Right has fought tooth and nail to destroy unions for the past thirty years. Maybe it’s the result of high paying manufacturing jobs off-shoring or being lost to automation. Maybe it’s the fact that the minimum wage has been allowed to fall so far behind inflation that it’s worth less now than it was in 1969, too.

We are not lazy. We are not drug addicts. We are not monsters. We’re Americans. We work hard.

They Get What They Deserve

April 12, 2017

Alright, I guess there was some sort of election in Kansas to see who would take over the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, and the Democrats didn’t get clobbered as badly as they usually do.

Which is good news. And I get that it might portend well for future such races. And it might reflect a growing disillusionment with the GOP. And all of that stuff.

None of which I really want to talk about.

What I do want to think out loud a bit of is just how…blind? Kansan voters must be. They elected themselves a largely GOP local government from the state houses to the governorship. And their state has been in free fall ever since. Their local economy? Sucks. The number of folks with health insurance? Sucks. Their schools? Sucks so bad their schools had to take the state government to court just to get adequate funding.

And they keep voting for the GOP.  They keep voting for the people who have sent their state into disarray. At some point I can’t feel sorry for the midwest. Yeah, changes in our economy have really decimated parts of this country. Yeah, it sucks. But coal isn’t coming back as a big thing in Appalacia. Steel isn’t coming back as a big thing in the Rust Belt. And what factories do open up will employ far more machines than people. And it’s not going to matter how much money we let the wealthy keep in their pockets, or how much of our natural resources we allow them to pollute, steal, and destroy.