Political musings

I haven't as yet posted much with the Politics tag in this blog. There's been so much going on in my life with #gradSchoolSucks and WLS and living with rheumatoid disease, that politics necessarily took a back seat. The political climate has certainly changed over the last six months, and I am finding myself getting more and more vocal about politics in every arena as a result.

I'm a progressive liberal, and I'm not ashamed of it. Despite what many may think, this is NOT contrary to being fiscally responsible, or to having personal liberty. I also make a distinction between progressivism and liberalism. David Sirota in his blog "What's the Difference Between a Liberal and a Progressive" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-sirota/whats-the-difference-betw_b_9140.html) states the following:

[...] there is a fundamental difference when it comes to core economic issues. It seems to me that traditional “liberals” in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A “progressive” are those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules.

To put it in more concrete terms - a liberal solution to some of our current problems with high energy costs would be to increase funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). A more “progressive” solution would be to increase LIHEAP but also crack down on price gouging and pass laws better-regulating the oil industry’s profiteering and market manipulation tactics. A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor; A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations and bulk purchasing in order to force down the actual cost of medicine in America (much of which was originally developed with taxpayer R&D money).

Let’s be clear - most progressives are also liberals, and liberal goals in better funding America’s social safety net are noble and critical.

I realize that this puts me in direct opposition to my friends and family who espouse Conservative and Libertarian ideology (both Big-L and little-L). I disagree that the solution to every problem is "remove the government from the equation" and let people sort things out without government interference.  But that doesn't mean we don't have common ground we could start from.

I agree that there are numerous cases of government overreach (a town north of me is trying to impose building restrictions on people who live outside the city's jurisdiction) and government corruption (too many to list). It would be nice if we lived in a society where people could be trusted to do the right thing and the free market corrected all evils. History tells us that's unrealistic, especially when looking at corporations. A lot of the "government overreach" has been in response to egregious actions on the part of corporations. The Department of Labor and the Fair Labor Standards Act for example is rooted in a history of corporations horribly exploiting and abusing their employees. The classic libertarian response of "they can go get other jobs" doesn't wash, since corporations were able to reap huge financial benefits from the abuse and exploitation of workers too desperate to feed their families to go elsewhere.

I used to agree that it was ridiculous for people to have to go through the time and expense of obtaining a cosmetology license in order to braid hair. Until I got more information on the story from my stylist. Braiding hair seems pretty simple, but in actuality there's a lot of information that someone should understand before opening up a shop. Many clients have had irreparable damage because of products and techniques that are not only damaging to hair, but to the scalp itself. Those who set up shop in their garage or whatever don't have assets to cover the results of a lawsuit, so the injured clients are left with no remedy. Most laws have roots in people being harmed, and trying to prevent it whenever possible, even if the history and reasoning is not apparent to everyone.

In short, it all comes down to what kind of society one wants to live in. The lawless Wild West may sound romantic in bodice-ripping romances and old TV shows. I wouldn't want to live there however, because the reality is that people in groups tend to turn alll "Lord of the Flies". I don't want to live in that kind of society, where ultimately whoever is in power makes the rules and the rest of the people have no say in it, nor any recourse for the abuses of those in power. I see government as the only protection available to people in the society. Right now, corporations are the group in power and our political system has been bent to reflect the goals of corporations and the ultra-rich who run them, instead of protecting the people who are the backbone of the country. Abolition of the government "intrusion" into corporate dealings is the absolute worst thing that could happen in my estimation.

Does government need to be held accountable? Absolutely. Should government programs be held to a higher standard for economy and efficiency than they currently are? Absolutely. Are some government programs too far gone to save? Very likely. Does that mean that every government program should be terminated, and all federal regulatory bodies disbanded? No way, no how. Look at pictures of the air over Los Angeles from the 1960s compared to now.

Downtown Los Angeles smog photographs by the Herald-Examiner Collection (1968, left) and Gary Leonard (2005, right) courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library (http://www.lapl.org/#photo-collection).

Federal regulations are responsible for cleaner air in LA, period. There's still needed improvement in air quality in many cities including LA, but the improvements achieved by the EPA and the regulations that preceded its establishment are directly responsible for the ability to breathe at least decent air in our cities. Right now the EPA is fighting to stay operational, as it's under attack by corporate interests. When did corporate interests trump (pun intentional) the health and welfare of the American citizens? The ideology that government is bad is part of what's allowing the EPA to be gutted, instead of fixing what was broken with it (and I admit there is plenty broken).

Ultimately, we have too large of a society with our 320 million people (Census Bureau, 2015) to manage with a Wild West mentality. Too many corporations are trying (and succeeding) to influence legislation to their financial benefit. And yes, taxes are needed to run the government. I'll write more about taxes in another post. "Taxation is theft" is a catchy meme, but it ignores the responsibility people have to support their society, because of the benefits they reap from it.

I want to live in a society where everyone truly can become whatever they want to be. That requires everyone in the society to have a certain amount of safety net. People who have security in the lower 2 levels of Maslow's hierarchy are more able to contribute positively to society. Meeting those needs is a lot less expensive overall than dealing with the negative consequences as a society for not meeting those needs. A healthy population is one that enhances the GDP and drives the economy, not a sick population with a bunch of really wealthy dudes at the top. A healthy population breeds innovation and discovery, because when people are secure in knowing they have a safe place to live, enough to eat, and healthcare they are able to build new businesses, experiment with ideas, and take chances that those scrabbling for a bare existence cannot. How many cures for cancer remain undiscovered because the kid who would have found it dies due to lack of healthcare and decent food?  Crime drops when people have options and safety as well.

So yes, I am in favor of universal healthcare. I've done a hell of a lot of research on the subject over the years, and as a nurse I've seen what happens to people when we don't have it. I'm in favor of providing safe places for people to live, and healthy food for them. I believe it's the responsibility of the richest nation on Earth to provide these things, and excuses as to why it can't happen are just that - excuses. In this current political climate, the excuses aren't even ideological -- they are for the benefit of oligarchs and corporations.

For me, this goes beyond ideology. Until people stop arguing ideology and start working together for common goals they can agree on, the corporations and oligarchs win. If you believe that the perfect society is one with no regulations, we could at least agree to work together to reduce the ones we agree are the worst. If you believe that the perfect society is one where people are free to pursue their dreams with no restrictions, we could at least agree to keep corporations and oligarchs from abusing and financially enslaving them. If you believe the perfect society is one where everyone is treated equally, but you disagree with me on laws for protected classes, we could at least work to stop the abuses that are currently happening.

Instead, the perfect becomes the enemy of the good. Because you and I don't agree on what the perfect society looks like, we fight about that instead of coming together and promoting the improvements we can agree on. The oligarchs and corporations win and we all lose.

I started writing this post today because last night divergent political viewpoints caused a huge fight between me and one of the most important people in my life. I intended to write about how politics adversely impacts relationships. I'll have more on that subject later. Right now what I want to say to anyone who will actually listen is that there is a common ground when we give up the extremes.

Please, for the love of our country and our future, give up the extremes and start looking for commonality.

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