March 1, 2011

Do we need a middle class?

That seems to me to be the central question before us. I have to say that I always considered it an assumed good that we had a vibrant and wide middle class. That middle provided a stable base of consumers and people who could send their kids to college. That meant a pretty reliable supply of well-educated workers and an equally reliable supply of consumers. This middle could afford homes, cars, and vacations. It is, after all, the place that most people self-identify as their location on the scale.

But Republican policies seem purposefully intended to destroy that same middle class, and I am increasingly unsure that people care. Or perhaps, this is more of the self-identification issue. Is it just that they believe they are immune to these changes because they believe their effort is all that is needed? I suspect that is part of the situation.

My community college student continues to bother me. He is respectful and willing to listen--to a point. But what bothers me is the sense that he genuinely doesn't care about what happens to other people. That comes through with many of our trolls as well. Most disturbing are the Christians who seem to act the same way.

For them, I think, the issue is a truncated thought process, and one that I see in a lot of other areas. The death penalty is deemed moral if it is really executing a killer, and that ends the thought process. Racial or class biases are simply not considered. Reminds me of a colleague in grad school who refused to read past the last page in an essay's assigned length. If that meant he stopped reading before the conclusion or work's cited, then those things didn't exist in the paper and the grade would so reflect.

So, many Christians work their way through the torture issue and decide that if they are torturing KSM, then it is unfortunate, but necessary, and so the thought process stops before they can consider the innocents, or the lack of credible information from such a process. It just doesn't exist for them.

Back to our issue of social justice (which my student said he didn't support at all--sounds like and Ayn Rand reader to me) and taxation and responsibility, the Christian conservative poses to me that there is nothing in the Bible that mandates that government be responsible for the poor. So the thought process ends--well before the Biblical injunctions to tend to the poor, and the shocking amount of resources to actually do so. Or the process stops with dependency and the lazy, and never works through the logical conclusion.

I would suggest that these Christian conservatives would be completely overwhelmed if they found out how much Medicaid, and Social Security, and other Government agencies contribute to helping the poor, the disabled, the sick, the elderly, and those who combine all those groupings. I am tempted to call their bluff, and say, "if you are willing, as a church body, to make sure that no one dies in some alms-house, or that every disabled person will have the care they need, no matter how expensive and, as a church body, you will tend to those--even the ones who don't like your church, or who do drugs, or have abortions, or are gay--if you are willing to commit to that, then we can get rid of Medicaid right now. I am game. I suspect, however, that most don't realize all the things that Medicaid does for the poor, and for nursing homes, and other areas.

We can do the same thing with job training for the poor. You don't get to exclude someone based on race or creed, and you can't make them convert. But if you are willing to do that, and guarantee that you will do it for all of the poor, then let's talk about reducing our "entitlement" programs. You know, those programs that you say with a sneer are going broke.

So let's see it. Pony up, and we can go to Congress and cut our deficit tremendously.


Lancaster said...

The "War on Poverty" has been going on a long time, and yet victory is no where in sight.

Should the government ever get serious about financial responsibility, they could begin by cutting things that are not "social programs". Cut defense spending. Eliminate the Department of Education, etc.. But, that isn't painless because everything the government spends money on has a constituency that makes its living off of that spending. And then we have to hear how unfair it is that we are cutting the jobs of "working people" and how cruel it is that people will suffer because of these spending cuts.

It seems that the easiest thing to do is to just borrow the money until that is no longer an option, or until the interest on the debt becomes a burden that can no longer be carried. And that is what is happening.

I've never lived through the collapse of an economy, but I expect I soon will.

Streak said...

Well, thanks for not actually addressing my questions. Sweet Jesus, is this blog just a troll magnet?

Smitty said...

The "War on Poverty" has been going on a long time, and yet victory is no where in sight.

Same can confidently and absolutely be said about the War On Drugs. And that's a war responsible, in part, to the fact that 1 of every 100 Americans is incarcerated now, and that state corrections budgets consumer 25%+ of available state general funds.

Maybe we can look there?

I mean, if conservative stalwarts like Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan write op-eds about the too-high cost of corrections, and even go as far as launching their own website and campaign to address that spending, then maybe instead of taking whacks at teachers, who perform a vital role in EMPTYING our prisons...we can take a whack at the ridiculous number of felonies, the costly War On Drugs, and the model of corrections-as-business.

All while rescuing some middle class jobs, and getting offenders out who can turn around and start making money as a middle-class slob rather than eating it to the tune of $30,000 a year for being behind bars for writing bad fucking checks or sneaking a dime bag to a concert.

To your questions, Streak:

In Grand Rapids, MI, we have the lovely and massively successful Hope Network. It describes itself as:

"Hope Network is a non-profit Christian organization founded in 1963 to empower people with disabilities or disadvantages to achieve their highest level of independence.

We provide a continuum of specialized care for those with brain and spinal cord injuries, mental illness, developmental disabilities, substance use disorders, and other disadvantages. Our support services include transportation, subsidized housing, and workforce development that utilizes our own manufacturing facilities for on-the-job training.

Hope Network cares for the whole person addressing the social, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

With corporate offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hope Network provides services in 180 plus locations, by 2,300 staff, to people in more than 75 counties. Hope Network serves more than 18,000 people throughout Michigan."

There is a religious community standing up, as you suggest.


guess who gets fed money to HELP stretch their dollar? Guess who gets state money for the same reason? Guess who partners with state=funded state agencies to stretch state dollars further?

If, Lancaster, you guess "Hope Network," you'd be right!

Guess whose programs would shrink and diminish by taking fed and state money out of the picture?

Same answer.

My complete hijack of this post (sorry Streak) is to say: conservative attempts to take whacks as disfavored constituencies drives up our controllable-but-undesirable costs (like CORRECTIONS) while putting greater strain on great community groups like Hope Network, who are challenged to extend programs even further than their massive and generous donor base allows via donations.

Maybe instead of fixes that are politically expedient, maybe we look at institutional spending issues. And that's NOT cutting teachers and all manner of state workers. That's looking at why 1/4 of all available funds are tied up locking poeple up, by just one example.

Streak said...

Nope, not a hijack. And further evidence of what we are talking about.

As I have said, I think there are one hell of a lot of people who call themselves Christians who are just bluffing. If Medicaid and Medicare disappeared tomorrow, they wouldn't give any more than they do now, and the problem would overwhelm the private agencies. Completely.

The other part of conservative Christianity, I think, simply doesn't understand what you just so cogently explained--that these religious organizations can combine their tithes and offerings with tax money and other contributions to actually help people. Since they don't recognize what federal and state money do for them, they discount it.