Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's Wrong With Doing Right? Part 2

Continued From Part 1...


When I look at the country, I see a country that allows for unlimited potential for the individual willing to exert—what has increasingly become necessary for success—a Herculean amount effort in order to overcome social and economic impediments. Granted, many individuals fail because of bad personal decisions, an equal number fail due to the conflicting individual and/or group ideologies of those who legislate on our behalf and their supporters. Needless to say, this creates a paralysis of over-analysis and promotion of individual interests of those whose desires run counter to the greater need. Take for example the need for universal health care.
Whenever someone proposes a solution to the issue of the lack of health care for the 45-50 million Americans without it, I find that ideologically-based hair-splitting tends to come into play to dispute the numbers, or to malign any possible legislation and implementation of any policy addressing that would address this inequality. On the conservative-leaning websites that I frequent, those opposed to redressing this issue often cite “many of those without health insurance are illegal aliens/undocumented residents,” which may be true. But those numbers come directly from the U.S. Census Bureau, and I doubt that there are enough illegal residents to skew those numbers to the point where their validity become questionable. And given my own experiences in working with nonprofit organizations, I personally know far more individuals living without insurance—affordable or otherwise—than those who have any significant level of coverage…and I’ll wager that most of those reading this piece fall into the same dynamic. But many of those of a conservative ideologically are simply not willing to think, look, or even step outside their own personally-held beliefs and experiences to see that there is a completely different reality for a great many Americans, and one not tied to poor personal decision-making (just ask those growing numbers among the Middle Class who are finding it increasingly harder to choose between eating, mortgage, and health care coverage). Such a mindset creates a blind support for any ideology which would challenge such a progressive cause, and invariably leads to demonizing any proposition which would address it. With the issue of health care, one needs only mention tackling this issue with a prescribed solution in order to hear the labels “socialism” or “socialized medicine” in order to maintain a sacred free market status quo that clearly isn’t working for many.
On the other side of the coin, while those coming from a conservative ideological perspective cannot comprehend that the free market cannot solve every socioeconomic issue, those with liberal leanings do not understand that the government cannot either. With respect to this notion, the issue of taxing and spending public money in order to balance social and economic inequities—with the exception of these unprecedented times—is not a policy that can bode well for the country. I’m a firm believer that true change is a matter of unimpaired rational personal decisions. To this effect, funding for programs which assist or supplement those of limited economic means is necessary for some, due to more variables than I can list here. However, I do not condone enabling via social programs. We should assist those of limited means to the point where it is necessary and realistic; just throwing dollars at a problem or disqualifying someone from help just because they make 5 dollars more than the maximum cut-off figure does nothing to address an issue. At the same time, I’m personally more of a proponent of putting curbs and other forms of fiscal restraint on spending rather than putting the brakes on taxing. But these opposing political philosophies of reckless open-spending and the self-serving calls of cutting taxes (i.e., “putting money back in the pockets of the people”) do nothing but add to the lunacy of political inaction. In addition, most of the time, this conflict of ideologies results in half-crafted policies that are borne more out of political compromise rather than pragmatic need.
And because those who hold their political ideologies so dear are unable to think outside the ethos that they create in their minds, their actions become self-serving to the point where they are more a victim of both, their own thinking and circumstances rather than master of either. Perhaps the examples of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman demonstrate this best. Specter’s affiliation switch Tuesday from the Republican to the Democratic Party, and Lieberman’s decision to run in the general election of 2006 as a third party candidate—the former because of his anticipated inability to win re-election in 2010 as a Republican, and the latter because of his loss in the primaries earlier that election year due to his unpopular support of the war in Iraq—exemplify how holding dear to a set of ideological beliefs can reveal the true colors of political self-interest in the name of (primarily) holding onto one’s public office and (secondarily) promoting blindly these beliefs. This sounds more like self-service than “public service.”
It seems every election cycle throughout America, perennial disenchantment with the way in which our elected legislators act on “our behalf” is revealed in our reverberating chants of “throw the bums out!’ Although a good idea, we must more importantly take the ideological elements out of policymaking. We must learn to out-shout, talk over, and ignore the voices of those who feel that governing based on ideology will bring an end to the problems we face rather than simply attempting to address the problems with competent, pragmatic, and logical legislation and problem-solving. While idealism is fine, a My-Way-Is-Better-Than-His approach does nothing more than divide, and allows problems such as inaction to conquer.
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