Monday, March 28, 2011

We Deserve Better

I've been reading stories about the London protests over public spending cuts and wondering how this should reflect on the American system and what we are facing now. It struck me that, as a whole, Americans have not been standing up for things like reasonable tax distribution, reasonable spending cuts, and reason in general. There have been isolated demonstrations in response to specific issues (WI is a good example), but the overarching problems have not been addressed in this way, especially not recently. It's as if the people in America don't know or care that they are being taken advantage of.

This really bothers me. I've tried to understand the theory of tax cuts for the rich. I've tried to rationalize the reduction in spending for programs that benefit the poor, specifically medicare and social security. I've tried to wrap my head around deregulation, privatization of social security, continued privatization of health care, and the tax breaks and other handouts given to big businesses and wealthy individuals. I've tried to figure out multimillion dollar salaries plus multimillion dollar bonuses every year despite "economic distress", the poor job gains each month when businesses are posting record profits, and the belief that it's the government that's keeping people from working. I try and I don't understand.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's the government regulation that keeps businesses from hiring because they are worried about losing their money to taxes and overhead costs. Maybe, by giving the rich an even larger slice of the pie, we will see that investment lead to better returns for the millions of lower and middle class Americans currently struggling. And maybe, by deregulating, the quality of our goods and services will not deteriorate for corporate profit; perhaps they will stay the same or get better to promote competition.

I could be wrong, but I don't have that much faith in humanity. For one thing, all of those things require me to allow people to operate on the worst parts of human nature: back-stabbing, greedy competitiveness, a disregard for others, and a self-serving bias that comes before everything else. This is the underlying principle of Capitalism, and it is sad that we promote these traits as methods for success. Secondly, things like fiscal conservatism have been hijacked and claimed to be part and parcel of social conservatism. Recently, conservatives have said that social conservatism means fiscal conservatism. Really? I don't understand how allowing a woman the right to have an abortion, or allowing two men to marry, leads to a less fiscally responsible society. But things like morality, ethics, and opinion have become the currency and battlegrounds of our politics. There's no debate on the ethical ramifications of corporate tax giveaways, but we hear no end to the debate on the ethical ramifications of marriage equality. We as a people have been forced to forget underlying issues, the crumbling foundation that we are poised upon, and are instead told to focus on the peeling paint on the walls of our democracy.

There is no easy solution, but that is what people demand. We have been told, over and over, that if we just vote for candidate X, if we just deregulate, if we just cut taxes for the wealthy, if we just ban abortions and gay marriage, then everything will even out and we will find ourselves on the far side of an economic crisis. But the golden age of America is passing before our eyes because, by making these quick decisions, we are allowing the things that brought us to the top to die away. We are looking for a bandaid to fix a broken arm, and aren't interested in the slow, careful healing that's required.

There is plenty of blame to go around. It is on our shoulders that we have become lazy and blind to our own oppression. We are to blame for allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of. But it is also the fault of those who have taken our money and our freedoms, and have forced us into a cage of misinformation and shadows. And how do we break out? How do we effect the kind of social and political and economic change that will bring us back to prosperity, back to the forefront of technology, economic innovation, and education? I don't have all the answers, but I have opinions. I have hope. Let's stand up, like the citizens of London, for every square inch of our liberties and benefits. Let's not roll over once more and let our future be gambled away for short-term gains. Let's act like citizens of the best country in the history of mankind. Let's act like Americans.

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