Big Government Be Damned?

OK. So Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are anti-government ideologues. My question: So why do they run for office?

If one does not believe in government, then what do such political candidates believe in? Why spend literally millions of dollars to be elected to office? Why are they there?

What do these anti-government ideologues want? They don’t want the government to do anything for the underdogs of our society.  They prefer for the private sector to do that, some kind of way. But doesn’t the private sector, businesses, want to make money most of all, and are pretty much not concerned with the well-being of those who do the work?

President Calvin Coolidge said that the business of government is business. Some have said that democracy and capitalism, as two belief sets, are not compatible. Democracy as we have come to understand it, or the way many interpret it, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We who believe in democracy have internalized that to mean ALL people.

But capitalism is different. Capitalism seems to adhere more to the line of thought which promotes the “survival of the fittest.” Capitalists scorn those who cannot “make it,” and do not believe that democracy is supposed to mean that everybody can and should get the same benefits. Capitalists promote the thought that the only reason some people don’t make it is because they do not try, especially in America.

True, there are more opportunities for attaining the so-called “American Dream” in these United States, but some people really try to make it and just cannot. Maybe it’s because of extenuating circumstances or personality flaws, but maybe it’s because of something called discrimination. Surely that cannot be ruled out, no?

If it were not for government, people who have dealt with discrimination wouldn’t have had any protection, it seems. Blacks, browns, women …have all had to call on government for help and fairness when business and/or society would not budge. Government acted …albeit slowly …to insure a more level playing field for those who had been essentially pushed off to the sidelines.

So, there IS a need for government.

So, if there was no “big government,” what would happen to those who are making their way to center field now? Would there be a repeat of post-Reconstruction, when blacks, who had made political and economic gains were essentially pushed back into legalized slavery in the system known as “convict leasing?”

The federal government really stayed out of the Southern states after Reconstruction got underway, and slowly, state governments began to return their society to the way it had been before. The powers that be didn’t want blacks, and certainly not women, to have the opportunities that white men had. They didn’t even think blacks should have been freed from slavery.

Big government, then, has its place, it would seem. When people are trying to make money, they want to make money, not babysit or placate people who are having a hard time making it. They want the most work for the least buck, period. Without a big government that cares about people, many ordinary folks would just be out of luck.

That’s not to take away the fact that some people are extremely skillful at pushing against the resistance that comes with pursuing any dream. Some people just will not quit, and they deserve to move ahead. Vince Lombardi once said “winning isn’t everything but it is the only thing.” That is the mantra for many people and it works.

But some people with a little less chutzpah, or a whole lot more discrimination working against them, need help. Heck, even the most tenacious people need help. So if that help comes from big government, that should be OK.

Of course, this conversation is kind of superfluous. Everybody calls on government once in a while, whether or not one is pro or anti-big government. Everyone has a sense of entitlement when something catastrophic happens; then we want our government to kick into gear, and be BIG.  If the government does not, we get indignant.

But we tend to only understand, as human beings, our own needs, and cast the needs of others aside. We don’t even want to think about the “have-nots” too much; we avoid really getting to know why they are where they are, because to see their suffering makes us uncomfortable. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to see suffering.

So we work hard to make sure we are comfortable, and criticize big government it attempts to do things that will make the lives of some legitimately suffering people a little easier. We shut our eyes to the real barriers which spring up in a capitalistic world and society and instead blame those who struggle for the situations in which they find themselves. We regard those who cannot make it as moochers.

Some of them are, and some of them are not. We just don’t want to take the time to make the distinctions and give help where it is needed. We are content to charge the poor and blame the poor for being poor, thus helping to keep them poor, and we defy the government to try to change that reality. We in America have little regard, it seems, for the burgeoning population of older Americans who barely have enough to live on once they can no longer work. And so, many older Americans are living in deplorable conditions, and we will not look that harsh reality in the face.

What does it take to make people in a democracy do what democracy purports to do – to make a society where all people are created equal? Those who do not like such a notion say that to want that is to be socialist. OK, but really, that’s what our United States Constitution says – all men (people) are created equal.

We have a problem in our formative ideology. It seems that there is an untenable tension between capitalism and democracy, and capitalists are criticizing the very political system which has made their wealth acquisition a reality.

A candid observation …

 

Entitlements be Damned

With the fiscal cliff debacle hanging over us, I find myself cringing every time I hear the word “entitlements.”

The argument, or part of the argument, as concerns how we get out of our financial crisis, is that the entitlements, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security – are just too expensive and are not sustainable. The Republicans are willing to budge on their desire not to raise taxes for the “wealthy,” IF there are substantial cuts in entitlement spending.

Those entitlements, however, are what help “the least of these.”  I keep wondering what legislators are thinking. How are the poor, the elderly, and those who have worked all their lives and now need Social Security …supposed to live? Because one is poor, is he or she not worthy of being treated with dignity? And because one has grown old, is he or she not “entitled” to expect some financial assistance from the country in which they lived during the days of their youth, working to contribute to its economy?

If spending for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is cut, what happens to this broad swath of people who simply need help? Everybody needs help – even the wealthy. The difference between the poor, lower middle class, and for much of the middle middle class and the wealthy is that the wealthy have more resources to pull from when they need help.  The poor have so little access to what they need for quality of life and, frankly, the wealthy are not concerned about them as regards their reality.  If and when a poor person needs help, he or she is often forced to get money from predatory lenders, who charge them exorbitant interest rates. The poor really do not have a chance. They get ensconced in a downward spiral that goes faster and faster…And the wealthy are not concerned.  The wealthy look for ways to make more profits – even if it is from or on the backs of the poor – and too often turn a deaf ear toward the cries of those who are suffering.

I read a story about a woman who had worked all her life, in a job where there were no benefits, including health insurance. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/gop-obamacare-medicaid_n_2347933.html) She began to feel poorly, but would not go to a doctor because she could not afford it.  She began to look up home remedies, and tried some of what she read, but eventually, not even the home remedies helped. She collapsed on her job and was taken to an emergency room, where it was discovered that the had high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.  The doctor asked her why she had waited so long to get help.

The insensitivity to the plight of the poor and the working poor is phenomenal.

Following this episode, she was able to get Medicaid, and was able to get the medicine she needs to keep her alive, but recently, her Medicaid allotment was reduced because of a state policy that said persons receiving it can only make a certain amount of money; this woman made over that amount, and so her benefits were slashed. Now, she is in the dangerous place of not being able to afford her medicine; the money she makes is just enough for her to pay her rent and utilities.  The article said she is feeling bad again; the fluid is accumulating in her chest again, and her blood pressure is no doubt going up.

Hers is not the only story like this. The elderly, many of them, are not doing much better. It is heartbreaking to think about the elderly who worked all their lives and who now are malnourished because they cannot afford to pay their rent AND buy food. There is something terribly wrong with the way people think – or don’t think – about those who suffer.

And yet, the Conservative hard-liners insist that the aid these people receive are “entitlements” and should be slashed. The very word “entitlement” brings up negative feelings. Anytime anyone says that someone thinks he or she is “entitled” to something, there is a negative undertone that accompanies it. Slash spending, the Conservatives rail, on these dratted entitlements. Former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that 47 percent of Americans think they are “entitled” to help from the government. The attitude is one of distrust  and disdain; the implication is there that the poor and working poor are where they are because of some deficit in their characters.

Ironically, there is a lot of money in poor people; maybe that’s why the wealthy are not so concerned about them. The poor need and want to work, and have been willing, in the past and in the present, to work under horrible conditions for paltry pay. The poor are then penalized for being poor; they pay higher – the highest – interest rates on purchases they make. The wealthy take advantage of them and others who are not so steeped in how America’s financial system works. How else do we explain the antics of mortgage companies, who made millions, maybe billions, off people who were lured into getting mortgages they could not afford?

The attitude seems to be “let them eat cake” while the wealthy go blithely on their way, looking for more and more ways to make more and more money. Meanwhile, many of those same people want the spending on defense to be left alone or perhaps be increased. The stated reason is that we, the United States, need that money to defend ourselves, but the wars we have been engaged in since President Bush got us into them had nothing to do with defending ourselves. The massive spending, causing much of our current indebtedness, was done not to defend America, but to get America in a place where it could dip into and be a part of the huge profits that are available in the oil in the Middle East. By all means, spend money to make more money. It is not good business to spend money on that which loses money – and poor people make the government lose money, they would posit.

The wealthy think they are “entitled” to make more money. That’s what business is, and long ago, President Calvin Coolidge said that the “business of America…is business.”  They poor  and  the elderly are not “entitled” to quality of life, not entitled to help from the country they helped prosper.

That is a really sad commentary on America and its “values.”

A candid observation …