A little over a week ago, I posted my thoughts on why the election turned out the way it did. As I wrote,
When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose.
Since then, I’ve seen some postings on various blogs (like these, here and here) that show a few liberals have figured this out. But far too many have taken the wrong lessons from the election, or no lesson at all. The recent kerfluffle over the the way the cast of Hamilton has reacted is one example. The Democrat party’s seeming determination to shift even further left is another. And finally, there is the unending grief I and other conservatives are receiving from the on-line liberal tribe, as well my liberal friends. None of them seem capable of recognizing, much less understanding, what happened in this election.
So here’s a quick synopsis for you.
- Donald Trump did not win this election, so much as Hillary Clinton lost this election. This is an important point to remember.
- This was not an election about issues. Equally important to remember. This was not about emails, Benghazi, immigration, or “identity politics”. In the end, none of that mattered. The great swath of undecideds didn’t break for Trump because they agreed with his plans, or because of Hillary’s probable corruption. They didn’t abandon Hillary because she’s a woman, or out of racism.
- This was an election about attitudes and respect. This is the point that liberals are getting especially hung up about. If the election was about respect, how could the least respectful candidate since George Wallace win? It’s because they ignore the first half of that statement: attitudes. For a generation, the great swath of middle America has endured an attitude from the genteel class that says their values and lifestyle are worthless. This was the year when they finally told the genteel class to go to hell.
In short, for 30 years the vast middle of America was told by cultured elite that they need to respect everyone, but no one need respect them. They were called “bitter clingers” and “deplorable” and “trailer park trash.” Their values, which also happen to be the ageless values of hard work, loyalty, family, church and patriotism, were derided as passe.
Now, as I’ve said, I’ve found very few who lean left who seem able to grasp this simple concept. It might be the heavy indoctrination that turns one into a liberal precludes them from recognizing that heaping scorn on half of the country is not going to endear you to the masses. Instead, I see comments like these:
A significant reason Hillary lost this election was because men (mostly white) came out in unprecedented numbers to remind us – violently & vehemently – that a woman is not welcome at the table.
If you voted for Trump, you might not be a racist, but you support one
The only difference between a Trump voter and a Nasi (sic) is the Nazi has a brain
I’m not saying Trump’s people are idiots, but they can’t spell cat if you spot them the C and A.
And those are the mild ones. The left is intent on casting Trump’s voters as racists, woman haters, gay haters, idiots – in other words, as “deplorable.” When I’ve mentioned that no, most of Trump’s voters are telling you eggheads they’re tired of having their values trashed and lives stepped on, I get replies amounting to, “Who cares? They voted for Trump.”
If I were purely partisan, I wouldn’t much care. As long as the left maintains this tone deafness about America, their electoral chances remain concentrated in the cities. They will never regain any strength in the Congress, and they will continue to lose elections at the local and national level. One of the most shocking results of this election is that Democrats only won 57 counties this year. 57 out of nearly 3200. Now THAT’s deplorable!
But I am not a pure partisan. I am an American, and while we on the right understand the left’s POV (we haven’t been given a choice, really – it’s crammed down our throats), if the left doesn’t understand ours, the country will remain hopelessly divided. Regardless of which side of the political divide you find yourself, I think we all agree that would be a horrible, no good, very bad result.
“The natural distribution is neither just nor unjust; nor is it unjust that persons are born into society at some particular position. These are simply natural facts. What is just and unjust is the way that institutions deal with these facts.” ― John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
Recent events in my own life have forced me to re-examine some of my most deeply held convictions. During the time I’ve been absent from this blog (wait – you didn’t notice???), four events in particular gave rise to self-reflection:
- Crohn’s Disease, with which I’ve done battle for 22 years, once again reared up and forced me to the sidelines
- My eldest son, who was born with a developmental disability, is now caught up in the nightmare that is the state mental health system
- I’ve rented a room to a family that is emblematic of all that is wrong with the way government abuses good people
- Another of my tenants passed away during the night
You’re probably wondering why I would spend the time to ponder what one prominent politician describes as “esoteric debates” when life brings such immediacy. You’re probably wondering further why I would take the time to write about that internal debate. The answer is that such internal debates are neither esoteric nor a thriftlessness exercise. It is by determining if our views are malleable to the events in our lives that we discover if our core values are the result of dogma or the sound exercise of judgement.
The overarching theme of President Obama’s tenure is that of “fairness.” Only, in Mr. Obama’s world, the fairness is defined by outcome; one in which those aggrieved receive what they deem to be their just share. This doctrine is exemplified in the policy objectives of his administration. Be it the underlying argument for Obamacare (that the only fair medical system is one in which everyone has health insurance), economic policy, the tacit embrace of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the management of foreign policy (attempting the equal embrace of islamist and democratic ideologies abroad) or dozens of other initiatives pursued, Mr. Obama is clear in how he defines “fair.” Further, his actions (including his insistence on defending the possibly unconstitutional and certainly intrusive domestic spying program) demonstrate a certainty that governmental institutions are the best method of obtaining this measure of fairness while denigrating the roles of other, traditional venues.
Unlike many of the President’s critics, I do not think he is an uncaring ogre bent on instituting a draconian new way of life on the American people. Although we disagree on most issues, I certainly applaud his efforts to afford all people equal protections under the law. I think it is indicative of his nature, in that he actually cares about the quality of life afforded ordinary Americans. I think most of my fellow countrymen have that same feeling and that underlying belief in his nature is the ultimate reason he won re-election – even though most of us remain opposed to his specific action plan.
I also think that more than a difference in political philosophy, we have divergent views on reality and possibility that slice to the core of our differences. The President is what might best be termed a government interventionist. Government Interventionism infects both the modern liberal and conservative movements. It is characterized by a belief that not only can the government positively effect outcomes, but that it should. While conservatives and liberals often have different goals in mind, they agree with the principle of a results-based system. As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter is well aware, I have never subscribed to this view of governance.
My introspection of the past weeks has called me to wonder if, perhaps, this approach is best. One of the criticisms of Libertarians is that we are a callous bunch, uncaring about how life’s travails affect our fellow men. Those who know me personally know this isn’t the case. Of the root causes for my self-reflective journey, two involved people that I know cursorily. Yet, they are people who strike me as somehow getting less from life than their character would indicate they deserve.
Allow me to begin with the woman who died in her room last Wednesday. Although I knew her only a few months, what I did know belied her situation. She worked full-time (a rarity in today’s economy) and was well-respected by both her coworkers and employer, she had a large and close-knit family and she was outgoing, gregarious even. Yet, she died alone in rented room, the victim of a long battle with a chronic illness; in her case, diabetes. From what I could see, it was not a pleasant or painless death. She must have known she was in desperate trouble – I found her collapsed at the foot of her bed, in a position indicating she struggled to get to her door, with her phone fallen from her outstretched hand and smashed into bits. If we live in a results based society, why did she die in this manner? What could society have done differently that would have ensured that at the very least, one of her family would have been with her in her time of greatest need? At her funeral on Saturday, meeting her family and friends and seeing the outpouring of grief that overcame them all, I wondered why a woman so beloved by so many, who had done all society asked of her, should have been subjected to such a terrible death?
The week prior to her passing, I rented a room to a family of four. One room, four people, sharing a kitchen and bath with three other tenants. These are decent people, again doing all society says they should do. Both parents work and the mother attends nursing school; the children are incredibly well behaved (I wish mine had been so well behaved!). But they are victims of governmental bureaucracy as much as anything. The father openly admits to making mistakes when he was younger, which resulted in a felony conviction two decades ago. Since then, he’s done the things we tell him he should do: work to support his family, avoid the drama of street life, return to school and complete his GED. He would like to continue his education, but supports his wife as she works towards getting her degree. This is a family, in short, that is playing by all the rules our society dictates – yet they are reduced to living four to a single room, because it is all they can afford. The welfare system, the one that liberals tell us prevents this type of thing from happening and conservatives insist is too generous, is unavailable to them unless the father abandons his family. It is his decades old prior conviction that denies them access to it. Somehow, this result doesn’t seem fair to me.
Along the same lines, my personal struggle with chronic illness – in particular, a 22 year battle with Crohn’s Disease – has become much more difficult over the past two years. Over that time, I’ve had to shutter a business, spent nearly 8 months (cumulative) hospitalized and watched my family’s wealth get drained until we were destitute. I’ve rebounded some financially, but am in no way near the same fiscal position I was in 2011. Most of those around me think it unfair that my life has taken such a drastic turn, or that my reality is I’m likely wheelchair bound within the next two years and probably blind in less time than that. Certainly I wish there were a better prognosis.
Finally, there is my oldest son, Dennis. Some of my long-time readers are aware that he is what society euphemistically calls “developmentally disabled.” His reality is that he will never comprehend things the way you or I do. His IQ is 54; intellectually his development is equivalent to a second grader, emotionally he is at roughly the same stage as most 13- or 14-year olds. So while physically he’s a strapping 25 year old young man, his mind has yet to catch up to his body. Odds are that the two will never be in sync. This is the crux of his current problem. Because of his condition, he finds it difficult to express his feelings, except to occasionally blow up the way most 14 year old boys will. About 6 weeks ago, he found himself in a situation where he was being teased (not an uncommon situation, unfortunately) and lost his temper. The police were called; they followed protocol and brought him to the emergency room for observation. Which is where the nightmare began. Rather than checking his medical records, the hospital diagnosed Dennis as a violent schizophrenic and packed him off to the closest mental hospital. The doctor (I use the term in deference to his degree, not his competence) there confirmed the diagnosis, again ignoring his medical condition. A competency hearing was held, in which the doctor amplified his diagnosis to include the term “homicidal.” And so my son sits in a mental hospital, not understanding what’s happening or why as we fight to have him moved to another facility and have a new diagnosis issued that accounts for his disability. I’m not sure who would consider this outcome “fair.” If the President thought the justice system was ultimately unfair to the family of Trayvon Martin, I can’t see how he could consider this fair.
In reflecting on these incidents, each with an outcome which seems disproportionate in outcome to circumstance, I wondered if the results would be different were the fairness doctrine imposed by society replaced by libertarian values. Chances are that in three cases, the results would be the same but the perception would be different.
- In a Libertarian society, we would acknowledge that the young lady who died chose to live her final days alone. While there still would be sadness accompanying her death, it wouldn’t be considered unfair that she had neither friends nor family with her in her final hours.
- For the family renting the single room, society wouldn’t consider it unfair that a hard working mother and father would resort to housing their family in these conditions. In a Libertarian society, they would be celebrated as examples of how to face adversity.
- As for my health, nobody would consider it unfair that I’m sick and fated to becoming sicker. Unfortunate? Unlucky? Sure, those sentiments would be common. But the choices my family made in previous years were our own and left us in the financial position we find ourselves. I knew my health was precarious before launching my last business; it was our choice to take that route as opposed to my taking a job in what is a poor economy. Using Libertarian values, we took a calculated risk that proved unwise. But in the interventionist society we live in, we demonstrated incredible recklessness and need to be saved from ourselves.
Libertarians believe that fairness in opportunity is far more important than fairness of outcome. After all, if everyone is free to pursue their life’s goals – if they are truly at liberty – then the outcomes are inherently fair. Differences in outcome will have more to do with natural ability and desire than anything a government can do. While the odds are that the above situations would not be dramatically different than in a Libertarian society, there is one important way in which one of those situations would be better. The people above would be less constrained by a restrictive society. The family in one room may well be much better off, since Libertarians tend to look at most drug laws as counter-productive – meaning no felony record for the father. He would certainly have better employment opportunities without that black mark.
As for my son, a Libertarian society would probably mean all the difference in the world for him right now. Without the modern police state in which presumed innocence is nothing more than a tired cliche, it’s doubtful he would be where he is now.
So, yes, I’ve reflected and pondered. You’ve read my conclusions. You may not agree with them, but I end this period of introspection confident in my core belief that the equitable outcomes can only be guaranteed by the one truly fair system ever known to humankind. That is, that by believing in the individual and providing them with the liberty to achieve to their individual potential, a government does its best service to the governed.
I generally try to leave religion out of this blog. Religion is a deeply personal matter and I’ve always tried to respect that. While I make no attempts to hide the fact that I am a Christian, I also realize that our great nation has people of many faiths (and some with no faith, although I find that puzzling) and not everyone shares identical beliefs. My original intent here was to discuss politics and sports. It has since evolved primarily a political blog (I still blog about sports; you can catch my writing at Zell’s) and one aimed at policy matters. But as you may be aware, I recently suffered a setback in my battle with Crohn’s Disease and spent some time in the hospital. Such stays allow you a chance to reflect on things more deeply than you might otherwise, and as a result of that reflection I decided I cannot stay silent on the sudden intrusion (and misrepresentation of Scripture) in political discourse.
One of the tag lines that liberals love to toss around is “what would Jesus do?” The intent, of course, is to paint conservative thought as mean, bullying and anti-Christian. In a world where Scripture is often used to further political ends, conservatives are just as guilty as liberals, of course. But the sad reality is that the archetype of liberal thought loves to use misguided perceptions of Christ’s teachings in an attempt to show conservatives as hypocritical.. Two recent events are incredible examples of just how liberal political use of Scripture has perverted its lessons and meaning.
The first was the President’s invocation of Luke 12:48 in his National Prayer Breakfast speech on February 2. He said,
“I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense. But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.'”
This gave me pause at the time. The President claims to be a Christian, yet used this particular verse to justify raising taxes in the name of charity? There are plenty of verses regarding the concept of charity. 1 Timothy 1:5 is an excellent example of the Christian view of charity, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” But since the verse is a description of charity not mandated by government but rather as a demonstration of faith, it hardly fit the political bill.
See the reason the particular verse cited by the President made me sit up and take particular notice is that it has nothing do with charity or taxation. It is part of a parable Christ was telling the disciples regarding the types of punishment that would be meted out during the Second Coming. The parable begins in verse 42, in response to a question from Peter. Jesus had just told the disciples the parable of the Thief in the Night, which he used to describe the timing of the Second Coming, and Peter asks in 12:41 if Jesus is only telling this parable to believers or to all people. Christ then describes how Christians are held to a higher standard than non-believers. While all men will be held accountable for their sins on Judgment Day, believers who purposely misled the unfaithful through their actions will receive a special punishment. That is what he is referring to in 12:47-8, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
I was, and remain, deeply puzzled by the President’s misuse of this piece of Scripture. There are only two possibilities for him to use it in the context he did. Either he is not a Christian, or he has been seriously misinformed regarding one of the most important passages in the Bible. If the former, so be it – but he shouldn’t suggest he understands the meaning behind words that hold no particular relevance to him. If the latter, he should seek a new church, one that actually hews to Scripture and do so immediately.
The other odd policy decision regarding faith that made headlines was the President’s seemingly insane attempt at forcing Catholics and others to accept mandated birth control, in direct contravention to their doctrine. I am not Catholic – many of their teachings I cannot find Scriptural reference for (such as the veneration of saints). Yet, I still found the method he arrived at the decision to be puzzling. Catholics believe contraception to be a sin and there is a Scriptural basis for this doctrine (Geneses 1:28 and Leviticus 15:16, in particular). So why was it so difficult for the President to make the exception he made on Friday part of the original HHS decree, especially when the Catholics in his administration warned him beforehand that such move would essentially be sticking his thumb in the eyes of all people of faith? Again, the only answer I can come up with is that the President, his protestation to the contrary, is either not a man of faith or has received seriously deficient spiritual counsel.
This brings me back to the beginning of my post. What would Jesus do? Jesus was not apolitical – the Romans would have cared less about him if he were. No doubt, Jesus would have been fired up at the President for misrepresenting his teaching. Given that Christ was first given to instruction of those who should know better, he would have asked the President to define how he could simultaneously claim to be a man of faith, and in the same moment blaspheme? That would have been very akin to his questioning of the Pharisees over their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:41-46).
So, I’ll now sit back and wait to hear replies, either from the President or his liberal supporters. I suspect, that much as the Pharisees were unable to answer Jesus, I won’t hear a peep from the liberal masses.
Every once in a while, a bolt from the blue comes along and provides you with instant clarity. I just had one.
Yesterday, I noted this quote from the Partisan-in-Chief: “Republican policies are an approach to government that will fundamentally cripple America.” I thought Obama was simply trying to stir up the radical left with that oddball statement. After all, Republicans may be trying to streamline government (and dragging the Democrats along, kicking and screaming) but they’re hardly out to cripple the nation.
And then I realized he made that statement at a LinkedIn open house. And followed that up over the weekend by telling the Congressional Black Caucus to “Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do.”
It seems our post-partisan, post-racial President is ready to not only toss aside post-partisanship in an attempt to hold onto power. He’s now throwing away the idea that we’re one nation, ideally color blind. Yes, he’s out there riling up the black community by (1) scaring them into thinking Whitey Republican is going to take away their jobs (although, with real unemployment in the black community hovering around 37%, there aren’t that many to take and (2) Whitey Republican is going to cripple their America. You know, the one the rest of us refer to as the welfare state but the one the liberals love to think of as the “real” America. The Promised Land in the Genesis song where everything comes easy, you just hold out your hand.”
I said yesterday that this election strikes me as a battle for the soul of the United States of America. After further reflection, I think that may be the greatest bit of understatement in my life. This isn’t a battle. It is an all-out WAR.
A positive development in our politics is that attention is finally turning to the debt and the annual deficit. In case you aren’t aware of the raw numbers, the deficit for the past two years has ballooned to more than an aggregated $3 trillion. That has raised the national debt to more than $14 trillion – or, about $123,000 for every household in the United States. I give President Obama credit for finally listening to the nation and recognizing the seriousness of the problem. It marks a dramatic turn for him, seeing as how he spent more in his first two years in office than his predecessor did in eight.
In his speech last week, the President didn’t mince words: he expects the “wealthy” to pay substantially more than they currently do while he continues to spend like a drunken sailor on things only a drunken politician would consider necessary. Lo, the blogosphere and networks have focused on the President’s new Medicare proposal (more on that tomorrow) and how yes, the “rich” should pay more. After all, the argument goes, the middle class is paying higher rates than the wealthy and that is just unfair. It certainly seems a winning political argument; after all, who isn’t for soaking the rich?
This makes for good sound bites and good politics, but bad policy. I realize that in some regions the Democrats definition of “wealthy” (a family earning $250,000/year) might make sense. But in others, $250,000 per year is simply middle class. Upper middle class, to be sure, but hardly wealthy. In the New York metro area, a family easily achieves a combined $250,000 in income with two public sector workers. It is even easier to reach if one person sells cars and the other works in the local bodega. The same holds true for San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major metro areas around the country. This is really a call to arms in class warfare, the destructive political game played by Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, with disastrous effects for the nation – though those effects weren’t felt until decades later. Even liberal icon FDR understood the dangers of the game and generally shied away from playing it.
Fortunately, the IRS keeps records on the truly wealthy and the rest of us. The latest data they have is from 2007; but since the one tax policy liberals love to hate – the “Bush Tax Cuts” were already in effect – it makes a good statistical reference point. You can find it here. In it, the IRS keeps tabs on the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the country and compares their rates to the rest of the taxpaying public. They began tracking the data in 1992, so we have a 15 year window in the way tax policy evolved through both the Bush and Clinton eras.
At first blush, it seems as though liberals may be on to something. The IRS calculated the effective tax rate on the top 400 earners as 26.38% in 1992, rising to a high of 29.93% by 1995, and then steadily dropping to 16.62% by 2007. But statistics are wonderful things; anyone can quote a number out of context to prove an argument and this is exactly what the liberal media is doing.
First, I give credit to the IRS for doing what nobody to the left of center has bothered doing in their arguments. Their numbers reflect 1990 dollars ,thereby accounting for inflation (in mathematical terms, they normalized values). So, if the truly wealthy were paying lower effective rates, then the government should have been taking in less money from them, right? Not so fast: in 1992, the IRS collected about $4.5 trillion; by 2007 that figure rose to $14.5 trillion. Why? Well, in 1992 not a single one of those 400 returns reflected an effective tax rate over 31%. By 2007, even with the hated “Bush Tax Cuts”, 55% of the top 400 had an effective tax rate of at least 35%. The lower overall tax rate for these taxpayers is reflected in the fact that 35 of them paid no tax – an effective rate of 0%.
Overall, the truly wealthy combined to pay 2.05% of the taxes in 2007, nearly double the 1.04% they contributed in 1992. In actual dollars, they contributed nearly $23 billion of the government’s total tax take of $1.1 trillion. Those who make up this class are certainly already paying their share and the administrations attempts to paint them as sore winners can only result in flat out class warfare.
We do have a revenue problem, since we’re spending more than 4 times what the government is taking in. A better focus would be on the 45% of Americans who currently do not pay any income tax. Certainly, if you’re gross income is below the poverty line for your region, you shouldn’t be expected to pay, but I doubt 45% of Americans are living in poverty. That certainly seems much fairer and also guarantees that those currently benefiting from living here also gain equity in the system.
However, I doubt we’re going to find $1.6 trillion in revenue by asking everyone to pay their taxes. We still need deep spending cuts just to get the 2012 budget balanced. Tune in as I tackle those issues throughout the week.
There are numerous reports circulating on the web that Fidel Castro has seen the light. According to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Castro told him “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
Huh? What? The leader of the Western Hemisphere’s oldest communist dictatorship admitting communism doesn’t work?
Shock value aside, you have to wonder if (a) Fidel is losing his mind or (b) he’s finally seen the light.
Here’s guessing (b). A little later in the article, Goldberg reports his interpreter said, “I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”
That’s a WHOA moment if ever there was one. One of the last communist dictators on earth acknowledging government control of the economy doesn’t work. In case you’re wondering, even though Cuba has instituted some economic reforms the country is hardly a bastion of capitalsim. The typical worker earns $20 a month. In the same article, Goldberg describes how the Havana Aquarium was opened especially for Fidel. Just so he could watch a dolphin show. Oh, and all the employees “volunteered” to work on their day off, including the aquarium’s director (who happens to be a – hold onto your hat – nuclear physicist.) You can’t make this stuff up.
The question that went unasked in the article is, if the leader of the Cuban revolution realizes that the socialist model failed, why hasn’t the Democratic Party here in the USA? For that matter, why hasn’t our President? This report came out on the same day that President Obama looked to Trotsky and Lenin for political inspiration. He invoked class warfare (tax hikes on the wealthy) and suggested stronger government intervention in key industries is needed to get America back to work. It’s kind of sad, actually, that the last great communist dictator understands what the leader of the free world fails to grasp.
Of course, if Obama and the Democrats get their way, we could wind up with the one thing Cuba can lord over us Americans economically: full employment. Of course, we’ll all earn $20 a month. Oh, and we’ll all have to “voluntarily” give up our days off whenever the President wants to watch a dolphin show.
Besides, who doesn’t want a 1958 Chevrolet in the driveway?
One of the more intriguing topics to come up for debate in this election cycle is the issue of “Park51,” more commonly referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Despite President Obama’s insistence that his presidency would represent an ascension past the culture wars that have defined American politics since the founding of the nation, this has become the flashpoint issue for 2010.
Like most cultural issues, this one pits two core American values in opposition to one another: our first amendment rights to congregate freely and the freedom from having one group impose its values on any other, as described in the ninth amendment.
Under the First Amendment, the members of the Cordoba Initiative certainly have the right to peaceably assemble, to worship their god and to disseminate information about their beliefs. Those are their stated reasons for wanting to build their edifice virtually on top of the Twin Towers site. They say that they want to foster an understanding of Islam as a religion of peace, not terror. In other words, by building on the site they have selected they hope to heal the wounds many feel are directly causal from an intractable religious dogma that preaches the destruction of all things and people not Muslim. In the Cordoba’s view, that opinion of Islam is distorted and incorrect. But in their attempted healing gesture, they are demonstrating an incredible callousness towards the very society they hope to inform.
What they forgot is that for most Americans, our only exposure to Islam is what we’ve seen on TV, and foremost among those images is the image of the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground – and the Muslim world celebrating the wound inflicted upon the “Great Satan.” 9/11 was not an attack by one nation on another – unlike any assault since the Middle Ages; this was purely a religious war being waged by Muslims acting in the name of Allah. Even if the impression upon our nation is incorrect and this is merely one sect of the religion striking out at their perceived enemy, there are better ways to inform the American public than by pouring salt into the wound. Of course, it isn’t the first time the leader of the Cordoba sect has demonstrated an incredible lack of sense when speaking to the his adopted country: this is the same Imam who, in the days immediately after 9/11, essentially blamed the US for the attack. He is also on record attacking Israel and defending Hamas, to the point of helping sponsor the June provocation.
By refusing to reconsider their position, the Cordoba Initiative ignored the nation they are hoping to educate and thereby, gain further assimilation. It shouldn’t be that difficult for them: suppose a group of extremist Lutherans attacked Mecca? And then the Catholic Church built a large cathedral on the site? Would the Islamic world understand the differences between Christianity, radical Lutheranism and Catholicism? Most likely not – and the local bishop would be considered an idiot if he were to expect any local support.
By stepping into the middle of this muddle, the President turned up the heat on the issue. Perhaps he meant to. Perhaps he miscalculated. Either way, the mosque became definitive of a larger issue; namely, how does a subset of American culture successfully integrate into the mainstream? Is it through legal channels or gradual acceptance? It seems the left wing of the American body politic, as it often does, chose the method of legality: of asserting one constitutional right over another. In so doing, both they and the Cordoba’s have turned their mosque into a temple of rights vs. right and given the nation a new wedge issue. By embracing the intransigent side of the debate, the President has assured his party will bear yet another millstone on their way to the November elections.
There’s been a lot of talk lately, from both the left and the right, that most of the jobs lost in the current recession are lost forever. Robert Reich is a well-respected former Labor Secretary for President Clinton. In his article The Future of American Jobs, he contends that American jobs were permanently lost to a pair of factors: technology and outsourcing. Technology allows companies to increase employee efficiency (more employee productivity at lower labor costs); outsourcing is enabled by technology that enables foreign workers to remain competitive with Americans and can be closely monitored using new technologies. Although philosophically opposed to Reich, James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation reaches the same many of the same conclusions in Reduced Investment and Job Creation to Blame for High Unemployment. The only difference in these two articles is that Reich focuses on job losses, while Sherk focuses on job creation. But in both articles, the authors contend that both near- and long-term unemployment will remain at or near 8%. ( I wrote about the disappearing jobs phenomenon earlier this month)
There are many causes for this, of course, beginning with the fact that United States (and most of the developed world) began moving earnestly away from labor-intensive manufacturing economies towards knowledge-based service economies in the late 1970’s. Although well aware of this, nobody did much to prepare the citizenry for this fundamental economic change. Much as the US experienced a dramatic cultural and demographic shift in the late 19th century as we moved from an agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy, we are experiencing the same now. Policies over the past 30 years at both the federal and state level, rather than focusing on restructuring education and employment policies, were largely concentrated on sparing the status quo. Although the days of a high-school dropout being able to get a well-paying job for life at the local manufacturing plant ended a generation ago, we’ve continued to subsidize both the labor unions (who rely on perpetuating this myth) and the educational systems (whose labor unions and administrators have been resistant to changing the formulas they’ve worked under for 6 generations). As a result, we have a large segment of the population that is ill-suited for the type of work the modern economy provides.
Both liberals and conservatives in this country (and other Western nations) are calling for a return to 20th century economies. Liberals believe that the US can return to a manufacturing-based economy, if only certain policies are enacted. Some of these include: engaging in protectionist trade policy (apply punitive tariffs on goods produced in low-age countries); requiring a percentage of all goods sold in the US to be produced in American factories and tightening labor and banking regulations to “protect” the American worker. Conservatives are championing reduced immigration, business credits and lower taxes as the way to spur manufacturing growth. Both of these approaches – or any combination thereof – is wrong, immoral and ill-conceived. They are intended primarily to appease the 60% of Americans whose jobs will disappear or have disappeared in the past three decades.
First of all, thanks to technologies that were not even conceived a century ago, the modern world is more tightly interwoven than at any time in history. When combined with the fact that the days of imperialism ended with WWII, it is now impossible for any nation that relies on exports for economic vitality to successfully engage in protectionist trade policies. Imposing excessive tariffs or limiting imports in any way will, in the end, prove counter-productive as other nations reciprocate the move. Many persons in what we often derisively refer to as the “developing world” consider the steady income provided by manufacturing economies as a vast improvement in their situations. Despite wages that are considered substandard in the west, the mere fact that workers have a steady source of income – and therefore, food and shelter – provides a sense of security previously unknown. This was, by the way, the same attitude that drove many former tenant farmers to migrate to cities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the US and Europe. This was despite the advance knowledge that most would work in conditions that we find abhorrent and for wages that we can’t countenance today. Combined with the interactive nature of modern economies, no nation can afford to block goods coming from these nations.These types of policies were tried during the heights of the Great Depression – the result was over 50 million human beings killed in the greatest conflagration in history. Secondly, imposing inane limits on immigration will rob the US of a tremendous source of energy and vigor, both of which are priceless commodities in the new economy (and I suspect that very vitality is what many are afraid of). Finally, any restructuring of tax and revenue policies that ignore the modern economic realities in favor of a long passed age robs the emerging job market of strength and future generations of Americans of a sorely needed simplified tax code.
So, if the modern economy in the West will not be based on manufacturing, what will we do in the future? Where will the jobs come from? Well, first of all, not all manufacturing will be permanently off-shored. For several reasons (including national defense), there will always be some sort of manufacturing in the US. However, the reality is that as a percentage of employment and average compensation, American manufacturing will never return to the halcyon days of the 1960’s and 70’s. The new economy will be services based and requires a more educated and more flexible workforce than the one that currently exists. I realize that when I say “services” many people conjure visions of hotel maids and McDonald’s cashiers. Those type of jobs have always existed and will always exist, but nobody should think we’ll become a nation of gas station attendants. What I’m referring to by services are the types of positions that require more brain power than brawn power; fields like medicine, technology, research, aerospace, education and banking are all services. All are creating jobs right now. The problem is, their growth is restricted by a lack of skilled workers. It’s a fact that none of your politicians want to talk about, because they know in large part they’re directly responsible for this fact.
The answers about what to do for the next generation of Americans is pretty obvious and I applaud President Obama for starting education initiatives that may prove fruitful. (I’m no fan of the President, but you have to give credit where it’s due). However, there are 2 generations of Americans now in the workforce and a third about to enter, whose citizens are ill-prepared for the current economy. The big question is what do we do about restoring some semblance of full employment, and at tolerable wages now? The first thing is for the labor unions to understand that the world has changed and they need to get with the times. Once, the antagonistic approach between organized labor and business in the US led to a system that worked well, in the contained system that was the US. Once the US was no longer the dominant player in manufacturing, though, the unions failed to keep up with pace of global economics. It is long past time for them to seriously engage foreign governments and labor markets -by working to raise living standards oversees, they can reinforce those standards back home. Secondly, our own politicians need to work in ways that remove the yoke of debt from our collective shoulders. The projected national debt for 2020 equates to $150,000 for every family in the US – or more than 3x the anticipated per family income for that year. That level of debt is unsustainable and is largely driven by “entitlement” spending – Social Security and the new Health Care package. It is past time to revisit how these programs are funded before they drive the entire nation into bankruptcy. Until debt projections are reduced, funding for projects needed to revitalize the economy cannot be pursued. In the same vein, the political class needs to be honest about the limits of government intervention in economic policy – aside from fiscal and tax policy, there really isn’t anything they can do for immediate and sustainable growth. At the moment, fiscal policy is stagnated -interest rates are at zero. That leaves tax policy – which will not unfreeze capital markets. However, by implementing a strategic tax policy in coordination with a debt reduction plan, lawmakers can relax market tensions by demonstrating long-term fiscal sense.
However, even if the various entrenched factions were to begin immediately putting these ideas in action, the near-term effect would be negligible. We would still need high spending on unemployment compensation and other safety net program to prevent our society from devolving into absolute chaos. I would like to add a caveat to this spending, though. One thing obvious to anyone who’s driven any road in Pennsylvania or watched a manhole explode in New York City knows our infrastructure is aging badly. I would offer those receiving government assistance the option of either attending training in a new field or showing up for manual labor repairing our bridges, schools and the like. This recreation of the WPA would at least prevent the nation from just throwing money down a rat-hole.