December 30, 2011

Government spending in our lives

Ok, new project for this new year. As many of you know, my operating theory right now is that most anti-government sentiment comes from people who really don't know what government does and conceptualize that government spending as handouts to poor people--or alternatively, as boondoggle programs to build a gazebo in some rep's backyard.

 So, I would like to quantify, if one can quantify in more general terms, the role government plays in our life. I don't mean this as pure partisan exercise, btw. I certainly understand that some of those roles are subject to legitimate debate. Maybe government should not be spending money in these areas. We can talk about that. But for right now, I am looking for examples of government spending in community and individual lives.

 A few parameters for you to consider. I am not terribly interested in those singular moments of porkbarrel spending. The "bridge to nowhere" doesn't interest me nearly as much as the more annual matching funds that communities receive to upgrade their sewers, roads, or police radios. And while I am certainly interested in the safety net spending, I don't want to focus only on that. By all means, send me links to programs like the one Smitty posted a year or so back about a non-profit in Michigan that provides assistance to the disabled poor and receives federal money as a supplement. But I am also interested in programs that assist small businesses, or community development, or agricultural areas. I am interested in how federal science grants have rippled through our entire economy.

Or not. If you have examples of purely private money doing all of those things, I am open too.

So, please send me any examples you can think of. You can post them in the comments, or email them to my blog address.

December 28, 2011

Republicans on the mandate

As I have written before, the mandate makes more sense than any of the opposition to that part of the healthcare bill. We are all in the healthcare game, whether we purchase insurance or not. I don't get why that is such a radical idea.

And it isn't, of course. As even NPR noted this morning, both Romney and Gingrich used to support it. It was only after the appallingly cynical right wing effort to demonize the mandate that it became a political minefield. That is easy to do when you blatantly lie to the American people. As Romney is doing on a regular basis, as this example suggests:
Or, as Romney put it in an interview on MSNBC just last week, "personal responsibility is more conservative, in my view, than something being given out for free by government."
It is one thing when my idiot ex-girlfriend believes that healthcare reform means handing it out for free. She knows very little and obviously doesn't try to correct that. But when someone like Romney uses those words, he is a lying toad. Openly and blatantly lying.

Because they are more conservative than Christian

Becomes that much more clear after this horrible story about LifeWay breaking their commitment to fight breast cancer after they find that the Susan G Komen fund is connnected to Planned Parenthood.

I understand opposition to abortion. I really do. As I have told many conservative evangelicals, it is the one stance from the conservative church that really does make sense. But that opposition has taken an awful twist from principled stance to political rigidity. And, with so many of their stances, is based purely in theory and has little to no reflection of reality. All fine and good to oppose abortion, but when that opposition stops you from embracing legitimate concerns like the life of the mother or incest and rape, then you have lost touch. Nor when you support the right wing's extreme attacks on women's health. Redefine "rape?" Are you kidding me?

Most of the conservative evangelicals I speak to have this view of most policy. It should work, so that is enough. That applies to everything from capital punishment to abstinence only to tax cuts in the face of mounting debt.

I also think that it is increasingly clear that most conservatives don't realize how far to the right their reps have gone. That uninformed electorate is perfect for the Rove/Fox News set, as they can push for the most extreme legislation and trust that their base will assume that anything Republicans do is more moral than the Democrats.

I have had a few conservatives admit as much. Not that it will change anything, and not sure why they still think I should respect their moral sense. If it isn't openly supporting evil practices like torture, it is chosen ignorance about those practices. Which is worse?

December 26, 2011

Ron Paul's newsletters

Fred at slacktivist says it better than me, so go read it. But it is hard to accept that Paul made over a million dollars off these newsletters, bragged about them back in the 90s, but now says that he never read them and disavows their content. Reading the excerpts of these newsletters, you see what many have termed "old school racism." If Paul really don't believe this stuff, that almost makes it worse. That someone would profit off of hateful drivel like advising people to buy unlicensed guns and be prepared to wipe and dispose of them after they shoot an "urban youth?"

Indefensible. Racist. Hateful.

Though, as one of my twitter feeds noted, those who wrote the newsletters might actually get the nomination with the appeal of racism and bigotry in the Republican party.

I sure wish that was funny.

The poor 1%

Merry Christmas, everyone. Back to blogging about politics, I guess, but really I am most interested in the economics of conservatism--or what have become the economics of conservatism. One Huffpo columnist suggested that conservatives really want to make all of America into the Pottersville of "Its a Wonderful Life." Perhaps.

My interaction with conservatives over the last few years suggests that most Republican voters don't want that kind of community, but don't seem to see a connection between good community and an active government. Same could be said about the middle class. Those things just "happen" in conservative minds because of the "free market." Yet, I see no evidence that the "free market" would create anything of the sort. That kind of approach is good at creating very rich people and very poor people, but not terribly good at building a middle class. Also not good at doing things that are not profitable. You know, like giving us clean water and air, or building libraries and hospitals.

As I have said before, I think most of this has to do with conservative voters conceptualizing government programs as handouts to poor and lazy people. If, in fact, most of our federal dollars went that direction, I would understand the anger. But it doesn't. Food stamps, for example, constitute about 1% of combined state and federal budgets.

I just had an exchange with a stranger on a friend's facebook wall that basically reiterates the point. This person claims to pay over 400k in taxes, but has no sympathy for middle class people who are in over their heads in home ownership, or their kids who frequent malls and buy nice cars.

Government money that has helped me, if I acknowledge it at all, is justified because I work for it. Those who get handouts don't. Simple as that.

The Huffpo piece is on point with this. Republicans have successfully appealed to the "I've got mine," crowd who don't really care if others have the same opportunities. That short-sighted approach, however, will be our economic undoing.

December 24, 2011

Streak and Grace

As we close down the year and look back, it has been a bit of a rough one. SOF has worked far more than usual, and that has been hard on her. And me, but mostly her. Losing Streak was really hard. And it still is. SOF did a really nice post on Streak the other day. But we now have Grace.

We didn't want her at first. It just felt too soon after losing Streak. It felt disloyal, and disrespectful. But the woman who wanted us to have a dog didn't take "no" for an answer. She had two dogs--one for my parents and one for us. Finally, we decided that this needed to happen. 

Her name came from an odd source. One of my old high school friends (she and I had, I think, one very unsuccessful date at one point) looked at our puppy pictures on Facebook and said, "she looks like a 'Grace.'" SOF and my mother and I just looked at each other and nodded. It fit.

 I don't think I had thought about it much beyond that. The name seemed cute. But it has taken on more meaning as we have had her in our lives. As SOF said, it sure felt like Streak wanted this to happen. He was always connecting us to others, and I know he would have hated us being sad. We needed grace in every meaning of the word, and we didn't even know it.

We still miss Streak.  But we learned that we could love Grace at the same time.  She could make us smile at the same time we grieved our friend.

Today is Christmas Eve, and I am grateful for so many, many things:  my loving and supportive wife; my family members around the country, and my amazing and loyal friends.

But this Christmas, my big present under the tree is Grace.

December 2, 2011

Austerity to address depression economics?

I know I am no economist, but I am really wondering how Greek and English austerity is really going to help them recover? How does laying off government workers help an economy that is already shrinking? How does reducing the spending money of the people at the bottom help with that either? I ask, partially because I am watching the European crisis and wondering what will happen next, but also because austerity seems to be the GOP's model for recovery.

December 1, 2011

GOP's anti-government rhetoric has consequences

The right wing's vitriol against the government is not new, and probably goes back to the Whiskey rebellion, but the way that the GOP and Fox News/talk radio have decided to profit from this hatred is new. And destructive. And we see that repeatedly, but the GOP still traffics in bashing government and demeaning government workers. Hard for them to be surprised at every turn when people take that rhetoric to its logical conclusion and decide to kill someone.

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