Sunday, September 23, 2012

My answer to Bryan Henry's "Conservative and Progressive Values: Personal Responsibility" article.

Earlier today, while looking at facebook, my friend Alex Rosenzwieg posted a fascinating link
by the Coffee Party that led to the following article.  "Conservative and Progressive Values: Personal Responsibility" by Bryan Henry.  

Usually, I just read these articles and dash off a response in a minute or two, but for some reason, I took a few minutes to read this article.  There was a lot of this that I agree with, but like most people who appreciate freedom, I had my own thoughts on what was being discussed.
Below, you will find sections of his article, followed by my own thoughts.  In order to facilitate the ease of reading, Mr. Henry's sections will be in quotes "XXXXX", while my own thoughts will be below that.

“Mitt Romney made headlines last week when a video surfaced of him declaring that 47% of the country’s citizens do not take personal responsibility for their lives and are dependent on the government.

Romney should have probably chosen his words more wisely.  47% of the people might have no choice but to depend upon government for their basic survival, and that’s only because our messed up government won’t come together and compromise on ways to help those who need it, without putting the country in debt.  If we were to look at the real number of people unemployed, it would probably be closer to 20%.   However, that is only because the government doesn’t keep track of people who have given up trying to find a job and have dropped off of the welfare roles and who are no longer receiving unemployment.

“Personally, I think everyone should have a right to health care because our society should value human dignity enough to guarantee access to medical treatment regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. I think health care should be an entitlement, in the sense that everyone should have a right to it based on our civil laws and religious values.

As for myself, I can answer from working in the healthcare field for 20 years, that the better hospitals; those owned by churches and religious groups have never turned people down.  I’ve watched people from every spectrum of social strata get medical attention from private physicians up to hospitals, because the people that ran those facilities had heart.  At the same time, I understand a doctor’s desire to support his family and those that work for him, and can’t do that when the government is trying to create more regulations for him to follow, and not paying him for his services.  Not all doctors drive a Mercedes or Fiat.   Doctors have this inborn desire to heal the sick, and need to meet overhead costs in order to do that.

“Health care aside, it seemed to be Romney’s assertion that people are not taking personal responsibility for their lives that upset most people. Why? Because, personal responsibility is not simply a conservative value; it is also a progressive value. The disagreement between conservatives and progressives is over whether or not today’s society provides equal opportunity for success. Progressives argue that today’s society does not provide equal opportunity, which invalidates the outcome of the “competition” between individuals.”

I’m all for equal opportunity, but, when the government steps in and says, “You have to hire based on skin color, or diversity, instead of choosing the best qualified person,” that gets in the way of a person to hire the best people.  In my experience, that just leads to meeting government quotas, and in some instances, only gets a “Body” in the door to get the government off of the business owners back.  I believe that if we educated our children to their highest ability, we’d have excellent applicants for jobs that could lead to careers.

“Progressives argue that today’s society does not provide equal opportunity to all citizens due to a lack of education, lack of health care, lack of affordable housing, and lack of safety.” 

To a certain extent, I agree with that.  It just seems that the government is trying to do the opposite.  When the government tries to get involved in education, they often push stupid ideas, in order to please their donors.  Instead of pushing science, math, English, and technical skills like programming, they are pushing GLBT studies, Women’s Studies, Islamic Studies, and stupid testing methods.  In order to please the Latino vote, they don’t push English as a primary language; when English is the international language of science and air traffic controllers.  By the usage of standardized testing, they have pushed that content mastery isn’t as important as how you take a test.

I’m all for the idea of home ownership, and I wished I still owned my own home.  However, have you been in an area where the government is providing housing?  Instead of the pride that home owners take in something they paid for with their own hands, government housing is usually dirty, disgusting, covered in graffiti, and has dirty needles and trash all over the ground.  Whereas, they treat their electronics with more respect than they show for the place they live.  In some ways, it proves the old adage, that you only take care of what you buy with your own money.

The Lack of safety, is something  that doesn’t require a steady police presence.  In fact, in my opinion, it falls back to the individual or groups that live in a such a place.  Some people won’t agree with this, but when people depend upon government to provide security, there will come a time when that safety isn’t there.  Take for instance, that government housing.  Because people don’t care of the grounds around their place of residence, undesirable people move in, and make even more messes.  Because the people won’t tell them to leave, that brings in crime upon the undesirables, which leads to gangs, and drugs being pushed, and guns with the gangs.  The police’s job isn’t to stop crime, it’s to investigate after the fact.  If the people in the aforementioned government housing took a stand and started to protect themselves, (which usually involves some measure of self protection, such as pistols and shotguns); that, along with policemen showing people the correct level of respect and care for the “Serve and protect” part of their job, probably would make those places safe.  Also, if parents taught their kids to respect policemen, they wouldn’t be so distrustful of authority.  It sort of seems like a vicious cycle, but respect is given where it is earned.  So, the police and the citizens have to give a little.

“Conservatives argue that spending money to create equal opportunity is accomplished by “punishing” those who are “successful,” but what conservatives fail to understand is that using tax revenue to create equal opportunity is the only way to provide equal opportunity for all children. Conservatives want to hinder the ability of children to get a good education, have health-care, have housing, and live in a safe neighborhood simply because the children’s parents are “unsuccessful.” The argument, without conservatives being fully aware of it, is this: the parents are “lazy,” therefore the children do not deserve equal opportunity.

As a libertarian, I can almost understand where conservatives are coming from.  To those who work hard to make a living, having 1/4 to ½ of your paycheck go to the government could be seen as being punished for working hard.  This is the fault of our convoluted tax system.  If everyone paid 15 to 20% of their yearly earning, with no graduated rates, it would be more fair.  Doing away with some tax loopholes would also be a good idea.  Or maybe if we taxed corporations like we tax people, it would also alleviate some of this problem.  But, that doesn’t mean double or triple taxing corporations differently. 

I’m all for the government using tax revenues to create opportunity, but I’m not for the government running those programs they are paying for.  Government should provide the funds to private groups, and provide the regulations.  But when government is doing it all, they don’t get anything done.  Just look at the aftershocks of Katrina; Mobile homes sitting in locked parks, when they could have been used to house those displaced by the storm.  Government is very efficient at collected taxes, just not good at running programs.  They get so involved in satisfying their donors that they forget real people exist in the equation.  (take for instance, the fact that the current administration doesn’t count people who have given up job searches as being unemployed, but rather depending upon those who apply for unemployment for their overall numbers.  In my opinion, that is disingenuous and hypocritical)

“.As a society, we cannot determine who deserves what, or who is truly “successful,” until everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Progressives believe in personal responsibility, but they understand that social and economic conditions play a huge role in determining whether or not a child can grow up to become what society defines as “successful.” Many people who view taxation as “punishment” fail to recognize how much their “success” was influenced by their own social and economic situation. They pride themselves on how responsible and successful they are, but fail to see that when they were children they did not teach themselves the K-12 curriculum, pay for their own doctor visits, build their own house, or choose what type of neighborhood they grew up in.

Here’s where, once again, I can see the truth in both statements.  Progressives may believe in personal responsibility, but often go out of their way to take away the consequences of bad actions.  If you sleep around and get pregnant, don’t worry, the government will provide the abortion at no cost.  There’s no equal but opposite reaction, thus no personal responsibility for an action.  Why should a woman not have to face the consequences of her actions?  Now, please don’t take this as I’m anti-abortion, because I’m not.  I’m just pro-responsibility.   An adult takes responsibility for their actions. 

Those who see taxation as punishment may fail to see how much of that wasn’t because of something they did, because it was something their parents did.  Their parents chose the right environment for them to thrive in.  Good schools, private schools, good hospitals, good neighborhoods, were all something their parents did for them, so they could have better than their parents did.

In my opinion, it goes back to the government housing statement and idea.  If people aren’t encouraged to try to make better choices, and depend upon government for everything, then what they want is worth what they pay for, and since they don’t pay for it, they don’t care.  Again, when they take better care of their electronics (which they pay for,) than housing (Which they don’t,) you can see the difference. 
It’s all about personal responsibility, and at some time, a person has to look around and say, “I don’t want to live like this anymore, and it’s up to me to get out of it.”

“Every child should have access to medical treatment when they are sick, regardless of how much money their parents have. Period. Every child should have access to a good school, regardless of how much money their parents have. Period. Education and health care should be guaranteed to everyone. They should be viewed as public goods, something that our society collectively guarantees, rather than private goods that people compete for in the marketplace.

I agree with this, to a point.  Every child should have access to a good school, and excellent medical treatment.  However, the point at which this fails, is usually when government tries to run something.  Imagine what would happen if the government recruited a set of doctors, nurses, and allied health people, and provided them with the money to build a hospital, then got out of the way and let the hospital do what it does best.  After the initial startup, the hospital should be able to survive on it’s own, with the local tax base.   What I see, is government trying to take over health care, and subjecting a majority of the people to one set of rules, while the congressmen get to live by another set of rules.  If the government would stop trying to support the pharmaceutical companies and let doctors heal the sick, it wouldn’t be all that bad.  Again, most doctors I’ve met, want to heal people, but they get frustrated by all the government regulations that hinder their help.

The same thing can be said of schools.  Where once we were at the top of the education chain, we have slipped down to somewhere around the 50%?  When the government mandates that you have to teach sex education and gay studies (to appease the GLBT donors,) and muslim studies (to appease the muslim donors,) try to rewrite history (To appease the unions and big business,) and forbidding the teaching of religion (to appease the atheists,) and fighting against science (to appease the religious donors.) they forget why schools exist, which is to allow students to explore their world and become productive citizens.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember school being this messed up 25 years ago, when I graduated school and went to college.

In some instances, if the government gave vouchers to the people, and let them make their decisions, then the good doctor’s would succeed, and good schools would grow and expand, while those that don’t offer anything, would disappear.

“Conservatives are currently defunding pre-school, eliminating college grants, and gradually eroding the funding for K-12 public education by emphasizing standardized test score accountability, supporting the expansion of for-profit charter schools, and promoting a voucher system. If pre-school is not available to everyone, if K-12 public education is privatized and if higher education continues to rise in cost, then the inequality that emerges within the next generation can hardly be considered the result of fair competition between people who had equal opportunity to succeed. The people who will succeed will be the people with money and they will continue to argue that they should not be “punished” for being “successful” and society will continue to become more unequal.

In my opinion, Conservatives are being stupid in defunding pre-school, and eliminating college grants, and depending upon standardized testing for accountability.  I believe that  a quality education starts with the things kids learn in pre-school.  They learn sharing, how to make friends, and how to be good citizens.  Pre-School is a place where many people can help; from the local play-school to the church run parent’s day out programs that work to teach kids how to read and write and be good citizens. 

I can sort of understand why some people want to defund college grants, since our government is pushing for the grants going to illegal aliens, instead of going to our own citizens that could really use them.  When the local colleges are giving discount to illegal immigrants, instead of people who live there, legally, then I would probably want to stop that funding myself.  It’s just another case of the government trying to create a condition favorable to their person being re-elected, and that just pisses me off.

I have been against standardized testing for almost 20 years.  Some people, myself included, don’t take test well.  I do better on essays and practical application, than just by book knowledge.  Again this is a place where the government should butt out of it, and let the independent school districts set their own goals and decide who passes or fails, based on those criteria.

Part of me, likes the idea of a voucher system.  It would allow parents to send their kids to school where they could actually succeed, instead of forcing them to stay in failing schools.  If progressives are actually serious about individual responsibility, shouldn’t a person’s education be part of that responsibility?  If other forms of business are allowed to compete, why shouldn’t schools?  Wouldn’t the better schools actually grow and take over the failed ones, and make that community better as well?  As for the cost of College going up, that’s not necessarily a function of being conservative or progressive, it’s a function of how much a college wants to succeed in a particular field.  I also see that as something that can be fixed by allowing the market to handle it.  Colleges that make their curriculum readily available to all people will succeed, where colleges that keep going up in tuition, will soon go under because nobody can afford to go there. 

In my opinion, unless your goal is to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a scientist, not everybody needs a college degree.  Because in our push to make our children gravitate toward the higher paying professions, we forget about teachers, farmers, ranchers, and basic manufacturing, which always need people, but nobody wants to do that type of work. 

“Progressives believe that education and health care are a right, not something to be earned. Education and health care are what make possible truly fair conditions for individuals to compete for success. Conservative arguments for “choice” and “competition” are really attempts to preserve existing inequality and increase corporate profits. Progressives reject the idea that everything is about competition and profit. Progressives and conservatives agree on many values, but disagree on how society should be governed. What type of society do you want to live in: one where the common good is at least part of the goal (progressive) or one where everything is governed by the profit motive (conservative)? Mitt Romney is a businessman who views the government as a business. He intends to cut spending (education) and externalize costs (health care) in order to make the business as profitable as possible. Profitable? Yes, as profitable as possible for the wealthy and the corporate elite.

Like Progressives, I believe that education and healthcare are basic rights, but unlike them, I don’t believe that the vessel that will bring that about, is more government, it’s actually less interference in what the people know they need.  Having fair conditions is a great goal, but as long as the government gets to decide what’s fair, we will always be held hostage by special interest groups that donated to political parties. 

Like conservatives, I think that competition and innovation will lead to a better system.  But I don’t think that success is measured by who has the most things or profits. 
Since progressives and conservatives agree on many values, maybe we need to meet in the middle and decide on how we can arrive at that goal.  But can we, as long as we are held hostage by a duopoly that has a stranglehold on the big elections?   Maybe if the democrat party would actually start setting budgets and sticking to them, then conservatives might come over to agree that profit isn’t all it’s about.

So far, the senate has not set a budget in four years.  The House of representatives have somehow learned how to work together for the betterment of our society, but it’s the liberals in the senate that don’t want to play by the rules.

Personally, I want to live in that “shining city on the hill,” that President Kennedy spoke about, not this squalid dump ground that liberals are creating.  I sincerely believe that once government is trimmed, and congress actually starts doing it’s job, “taxation and regulation, and non-interference in people’s lives,” we’ll get there.  

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