Archive for November, 2009

RE: Are America’s poor REALLY getting poorer?

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

I sent the link in my last post to a group of friends with whom I regularly email about politics — it’s a nice mix of conservatives, moderates, and even a liberal. One of the fellas, who I’d characterize as a conservative Democrat, admitted that he hadn’t thought about the standard-of-living aspect of poverty in America, which he admitted was an important part of the debate on income equality, but added the following “but”:

If one looks at how many Americans are struggling to make their bills, not sure there is a lot of rosy optimism though. After all, just because I bought a washer 7 years ago doesn’t mean I have food today, or can afford to pay my electric at the end of the month. So, not sure how meaningful those measures are if we are looking at survival. Sure they are an indicator of standard of living, but that may not be the dominant concern.

A conservative in the group replied that it’s not about “survival” or the “basics” anymore, but is instead about “fairness,” and even worse, less about what one lacks than about what others have. It’s gone from making sure the poor have electricity, running water, and an education, to, “Why does that rich kid have an iPod and my kid doesn’t?”

I wanted to take it a step or two back, though, because I’m not sure anyone has challenged the notion of even the alleged and fairly-universally-agreed-upon “basic” rights. After all, isn’t it this very notion that created this monster of ever-expanding rights in the first place?

If you say, for instance, that everyone has a right to a basic education in this country (as even many conservatives contend nowadays) — and by “right” they really mean a “benefit” or “advantage” paid for by somebody else — then where do you draw the line? And that’s the problem. You can’t draw it firmly anywhere because you’ve recognized that there’s a line to be negotiated. The line will soon exclude nothing and circumscribe everything.

What started out as a right to a basic education turned into a right to a good education, which turned into a right to a good education where there’s also a good athletic or music program — and so on. And if K-12 is a right, then shouldn’t a college degree be, too? There are plenty today who say so. And from there it’s a small jump to a right to a good job, and then to a good job with “equal” pay (whatever that means), and from there an even shorter leap to a right to a good job with equal pay — that offers health benefits. (Next stop: universal care.) And don’t forget about the right to one’s first home … right on down the line of luxuries to that home not just as a place to hang your hat, but as an appreciating asset! Yes, this is now a right, too.

But we really have a fundamental right to only one thing in this world, in part because it’s the only right no one can possibly enjoy less or more of than the next guy, nor is it something one can feel envious of in another because we all would benefit from it in equal measure: that is, a government that protects us from outside and internal threats to our liberties. No more, no less. The rest is spun as “fundamental rights” by those who don’t understand the concept in the first place — and who don’t care to. All they really mean by rights is some benefit or advantage, bought and paid for by someone else.

Categories: Liberalism, Society

Are America’s poor REALLY getting poorer?

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment


Categories: Liberalism, Society

Has Obama “gone native”?

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Coming from a Washington insider, this sure is naive:

And that gets us to a fear that is growing among some of the president’s most ardent supporters: that Barack Obama, the fresh, think-outside-the-box leader brimming with energy and new ideas, has entered the White House and gone native.

Suspicion is spreading that Obama has lost some of the character that made him special; that he has taken on the ways of this town, thinking in conventional terms dictated by a brain trust and self-serving, entrenched Washington interests that make this city go ’round.

You’d think Colbert King might admit, as other prominent former believers have, that he was taken in and lost his senses — not that in one very short year the president has “gone native.” We all saw it; we all knew the president was no more or less a politician than the others. Why can’t Mr King admit he didn’t, rather than create this fiction that Obama changed?

No matter how charitably one interprets King’s analysis, it bespeaks a dangerous naivete. Not to have seen Obama for what he was is one level of naivete. But to finally wake up and then say, Hey, it’s Obama who has changed, and not that one was wrong? Well, that’s another level.

A little bit of armchair psychologizing clears this one up very quickly: the phrase “cognitive dissonance” comes to mind.

Senator McCain makes a joke; Democrats run with and turn it into policy

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

During the “Cash for Clunkers” debate, Senator McCain quipped on the Senate floor, as he spoke in opposition to the economically nonsensical idea, “Why not cash for refrigerators?” Employing a bit of  metaphor, hoping to make a serious economic argument against the program, what he didn’t realize is that serious Democratic policymakers, incapable, apparently, of grasping irony, were listening. Indeed, Senator McCain, they said, why not cash for refrigerators.

I don’t want to speak for other conservatives, and I’m not even sure I’m speaking for myself here; I’m just thinking aloud: But conservatives might be a little more open to the idea that the rich should pay a little more than others to, let’s say, help the poor afford health care or pay their rent or go through a job-training program if … and this is a huge if … they weren’t already being strangled for nonsense like this. The middle, upper-middle and upper classes work overtime every year for this, Democrats? To help people buy nicer fridges and stoves?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Democratic Party: any room, any room at all, for individual responsibility?

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’ve racked my brain for a single aspect of life that the Democratic Party does not believe is subject to state control, a single aspect of human happiness that is the individual human’s own responsibility.

This is a terribly important point: Democrats don’t believe in the concept of individual responsibility. It’s that simple. It’s not that Republicans take the concept to a higher level, or that Democrats accept it as crucial but emphasize other principles as higher. It’s that Democrats dismiss the notion entirely. Failures and shortcomings are always qualified: if So-and-So failed, was it because she was abused as a child? If So-and-So is characterized by Shortcoming X, Prior Incident A, B, or C must explain, and therefore justify, it. There’s always a reason. (Except, of course, if you’re guilty of white-collar crime. In such cases, there’s no such thing as a mitigating circumstance and no amount of emotional or physical abuse as a child could possibly explain or justify this evil.)

Totalitarianism is defined very simply: absolute control by a highly centralized government. And there are two kinds of totalitarianism. There’s hard totalitarianism, and there’s soft. The former is easy enough to find – the former U.S.S.R., Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Saddam’s Iraq, and Iran today. The latter isn’t discussed as often, but it’s no less important or consequential because, as the distinction implies, it’s no less totalitarian; it’s simply totalitarianism via the more pleasant, scenic route.

I submit that the Democratic Party platform is the perfect example of soft totalitarianism, since there is no aspect of American life that it sees as beyond state control. Even the single tribute it pays to unadulterated freedom – the right to an abortion – comes with the implicit backing of a totalitarian government that inflicts this vision of freedom on the majority of Americans who want nothing to do with the procedure: women should be free not merely to have an abortion, but to have one on the taxpayer (or insurance-premium payer) dime. So even where Democrats say men should be free, it’s the kind of freedom that comes at a cost — usually borne by someone else or some other group in society that has to go along with the program, or else.

I’d love to be proved wrong. I don’t like the thought that many of my friends believe the state is all-encompassing and human life is subsumed by allegiance to it, but hey, if the shoe fits …

Categories: Uncategorized


November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

On climate change, I’ve vacillated between skeptic and agnostic; I’ve never leaned believer, though I have strayed left enough to admit that the science might be there to connect carbon to temperature — but not left enough to be convinced it’s a connection worth worrying much about. Either way, I have always maintained that there are a lot of good reasons for conservatives to support kicking the oil habit. It’s dirty, we’re running out of it, and most of it happens to sit under people who hate us.

But the transition should be made naturally. Especially since it’s not merely that we’re unsure of the science — worse, we’re unsure of the scientists and whether we can even call them that.

Categories: Uncategorized

Biden: “I’d spend a trillion dollars of your money so I can sleep well at night. What?”

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Okay, he didn’t really say that, but the same idea was behind what he did say:

“We may be wrong,” Biden said. “But the point is, we believe in what we’re doing.”

My brother today called this the politics of sincerity. That nails it. And I’ve said on this blog and elsewhere for a while now that only from the left will you ever hear in any and just about every crisis that we must do “something, anything,” the implication being, of course, that what matters isn’t so much whether what we do makes any sense but is instead that some action is taken.

We can thank Joe Biden for his unthinking honesty. We now know that Democrats care far less about what works than they do about looking busy. I guess I’d be fine with it if it weren’t on our dime … or trillion.

Categories: Uncategorized