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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Politics: A Critique Deconstructed (Part One)

I've been critiqued!  On politics, if the title of this post didn't make that obvious.  Stephen Wrighton of KrashPad has written in response to my post in September on what it would take for Republicans to earn my vote, and according to Law One of the Internet, I am going to respond (Law One, if you didn't know, is as follows:  "If someone is wrong on the Internet, you must correct them").  I'm going to make this a series of three posts, though, since what I've written is quite extensive and, thus, too damn large for one single post.

Part One

The first thing to do is throw out the stuff that I don't think needs to be addressed at length.  There are certainly things to be said about how Wrighton shortens my list--namely, that he unfairly reduces my list to talking points, which is not what I initially offered--but what I want to focus on are the real meat and potatoes of his post, which I will take down methodically below.

I.  Political Slurs
I am always amused by the way political discussions are often reduced to single terms as if the terms themselves represent a negative.  In the case of Wrighton, he refers to my thoughts as being "leftist" and "liberal," both of which have been used by politicians (specifically those opposed to the imaginary picture of "leftists" and "liberals" they have in their heads) to destroy the credibility of the "enemy."  The problem?  Doing so is a clear attempt to avoid dealing with what is actually being said.  Wrighton, of course, does try to address my points, but by starting out with references to political negatives, he immediately colors what follows in his post.

What isn't asked when someone says "liberal" or "leftist" is whether what is being identified by those terms is actually right.  There are no absolutes in politics.  People from any of the "sides" are not infallible, nor are they wrong all the time.  Being "liberal" doesn't mean one is necessarily wrong.  Nor is being "conservative."  But we'll get into that a bit another day, since there is much more to say.

II.  The Economy
Wrighton responds to my call for a change in Republican economic policies (which you can read at the link above) by saying the following:
First, the economic policy. It's a great thing, to believe that the government can be some grand equalizer, sharing out wealth and handing out bags of gold and food to everyone who stops by. But, that's an unsustainable form of growth. Government can not create wealth. It cannot create jobs, and it cannot do anything but take money from those who do create wealth and jobs, and hand it out to others. Typically and traditionally, we call those who take things they have not earned thieves, and those who wait with open hands for handouts beggars, yet when Congress is involved, we call them the Taxman and Welfare Recipients. But, in a sense, he is right, in that we do not need an economic policy revolving around extending Bush-era tax cuts. After all, those did not go nearly far enough. Instead, we need to cut taxes even more, and do away with un-Constitutional programs and departments. Taxes and Government spending only removes capital resources from out economy.
There are a lot of fairly obvious untruths here:
  1. The government can and does create jobs.  Millions of them, actually (that link is for State and local governments).  We can argue about whether these are "good" jobs, but the fact remains that most of these jobs would not exist without the government (note also that most of the jobs created are for the public good).
  2. The government can and does create wealth.  World War Two.  Look it up.  One of the largest federal spending periods in history (because of the war) and the result from 1940 to 1948?  An increase in personal income, massive job creation, and so forth.  And we seemed to have come out of that quite well considering...
  3. There seems to be an assumption here that people who benefit from tax dollars, such as unemployed people, poor people, and so on, are beggars.  Or perhaps Wrighton is just talking about the massive debt owned by the fed.  Either way, the first is a lie and the second is oversimplified.  People who ask for help from the government are just asking for what they paid their taxes for (unemployment benefits and so on are paid for in our taxes dollars).  There's a lot more to say about this point, but that would take all week.  (To be fair, some people don't pay taxes, and some people do get more back than they put in--though the government makes interest on the money paid in--but anyone who is legally employed pays into the unemployment pool.)
  4. Wrighton assumes that cutting taxes more than they are already will actually do something beneficial for the economy.  The interesting thing?  History proves otherwise.  Trickle-down economics has never worked the way people wish it did.  If companies were willing to take the massive profits they pull in from what they sell to everyone else and trickle that down to, well, everyone else, then America would not have as much unemployment as it did pre-Recession.  The reality?  The tax cuts and Bush's various other policies have actually drastically increased the gap between the rich and the poor.  Median income has remained the same for those in the bottom 40%, while the top 10% have actually acquired more wealth than they ever had before (close to 70% of all wealth in the country).  Where is the trickling happening?
There are also a few differences to mention here.  The first is that the government is not like a thief.  A thief uses the things s/he steals for personal gain, while the government uses the money they acquire from taxes in order to serve the public good.  That includes maintaining forces to protect the nation from outside attacks, and to protect ordinary citizens from lawbreakers.  While the government doesn't always get its spending right, the main objective of the government's spending, with reasonable exception, is to serve the public good.

Now, I don't want to make it seem like I'm suggesting Obama's policies are the best for the country.  There very well might be a better idea out there, but trickle-down economics isn't the better idea for the majority of Americans.  In fact, that's pretty much the worst idea for anyone who isn't in the top 10%.

III.  The Gays (*insert ooglies sound here*)
As someone who has a personal connection to the Gay Rights Movement and an academic interest in it, I am always amused by falsehoods and discriminatory arguments made against homosexuals.  I don't know Wrighton personally, but based on the language found in the following quote, it's hard to see him as one who isn't using the same discriminatory rhetoric found in anti-LGBT groups across the country:
There should be no difference, from the Government's point of view, between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Yet, that does not mean that two men (or two women) need to be married. There is strong scientific evidence that a two-parent (male/female) nuclear family is the best form to raise children. That is the purpose for which society supports the concept of marriage, and thus two people of the same sex don't need to be in that type of recognized union. Much the same way that the government does not need to recognize when someone marries their dog.
Well, nothing like having people you care about compared to dogs, right?  Oh, I imagine that wasn't what Wrighton intended, but the fact that this particular point ends on a discussion of marrying one's dog is hard to avoid.  Why bestiality is related to homosexual relationships is beyond me.  This would be like comparing love of one's car to love of one's child, with the exception that neither of these leads to illegal activities (usually, anyway).

But where to start?  First, whether someone "needs" to get married is completely irrelevant.  Nobody "needs" to get married.  Nobody "needs" to own a Toyota either.  In fact, there are very few things that people actually "need" (food, water, and shelter pretty much sums it up).  It's not about needs, but about what is right.  The fact of the matter is that marriage is being treated as a religious institution, which isn't a problem unless there are legal benefits for such an institution (which there are).  But let's drop that for now.  Instead, let's talk about the fact that the system in which marriage is placed isn't even consistent.  For example, why is it that heterosexual atheists are allowed to get a marriage license and participate in the union (benefits and all), while homosexuals cannot?  Atheists are not religious, and, thus, are not bound by "religious law."  The law has no qualms granting marriages to atheists, since the law does contain a secular component to marriages (one does not have to be married in a church or by a priest to actually be married).  Homosexuals, as such, should be equally as capable of participating in the legal form of marriage based on the secular nature of the system (even if you ignore the 1st Amendment).

But they are denied on all grounds for religious reasons, which would make marriage--if we go back to the religious thing for a second--a religious institution, and not a legal one.  In this case, there is an either/or.  Marriage either is a secular institution that allows for certain people to participate in religious terms, or it is a religious institution only.  If we're talking about the former, then very few groups can, legally, be excluded from marriage; if we're talking about the latter, however, then all legal benefits for marriage must be removed, since it violates the secularity of the government.  (Oh, and there are good reasons for this secularity.  But we'll get into that later.)

As for the other points:
  1. Very few credible studies suggest that heterosexual couples are better for kids than homosexual couples, and when such studies arise, they suggest that the problem isn't that they are raised differently, but that discrimination from outside groups has significant influence on the psychological well-being of the children.  Again, we've gone from dealing with the problem to displacing that onto something else.  Regardless, the evidence seems to be in favor of homosexuals.  In fact, a number of recent and older studies prove that homosexuals can be just as good, if not better parents that heterosexuals (which is sad news for me, being hetero).  Sadly, most statements and research that argues against homosexual parenting are from religious institutions or groups with clear political agendas.  When the APA considers homosexual parenting pretty much a-ok, you've pretty much lost the battle.
  2. It's about loving families, not patriarchally preserved ones.
That should do it for part one.  Part two will be up a couple days.

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