2015-05-17 – We’re not as dumb as we look!
By “we,” I mean “We, the People.” Politicians, left and right, love to talk about We the People, from libertarians to Tea Partiers to liberals. But are any of them really for the people?
And by “any of them,” I’m really talking about liberals. Right wing politicians (not the people, the politicians) are so clearly owned by the 1%, that it’s not even interesting to talk about (at least not today). What’s interesting to me is what I call the “liberal problem.”
Liberals talk a good game. They want a level playing field. They want people who work to be paid enough that they don’t live in poverty. They want important things like health care and education to be accessible by everyone. They are alarmed at the increasing concentration of wealth at the tippy-tippy top and the use of the police to massively incarcerate people of color.
I recently saw a post on the Coffee Party Facebook page:
Only 1.6% of US Citizens owned slaves in 1860, when slavery was at its PEAK.
Yet that small 1.6% of rich plantation owners were able to convince the majority of southerners to fight a civil war for a cause that only reduced the value of their own labor and pay.
This sounds to me like the liberals are calling the People stupid. Now, you may say that this is true. I don’t deny that there is truth to it. The Coffee Party cites the 1860 US Government Census as its source. But big lies are always built out of little truth.
The big lie is that the People are dupes. How can you want all these policies that will be really good for the People and simultaneously think that the People are stupid?
Liberals are always appalled that they are unable to get votes from the stupid people.
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Not all liberals are like this, of course. (Only the stupid ones. LOL! Or the ones who, like the right-wing pols, are in the pocket of the 1%.) Some are willing to listen to the concerns of the “other side.” Some are willing to go out and organize in areas that are seemingly hostile. Some honor people’s faiths, rather than sneer. Some stand by the workers of this country, even if they disagree with every jot and tittle of liberal orthodoxy. Some speak truth to power.
Many of the policies that liberals want are, on their face, frightening. It is not stupid to be frightened. Change, even good change, is frightening.
So let’s consider some of the concerns.
Taxes. Yes, my fellow liberals will say that U.S. taxes are low in the developed world. I have two things to say about that. First, is that they always point to the federal income tax, as if that is the only tax we pay. But we also pay payroll taxes, state income tax, state sales tax, property taxes, and whatever other local taxes that may apply. And, of course, there are the traffic fines that local governments use as a kind of draconian and covert tax. Most of these, with the exception of the federal income tax, fall disproportionately on low and middle income people. The very people liberals say they are fighting for. The total tax still may be low compared to Denmark, but comparing Denmark to the federal tax alone is totally disingenuous. Our tax system is broken and when people say “what about Denmark?” you have to wonder.
Which brings me to the second point: what are we getting for all this money? Well, I think we get a lot, but it’s not very visible. Not to people who drive down streets filled with potholes. If you want people to believe in government, you have to fix the potholes!
Where does the money go?
Well, much of it goes to good programs that help people. But a ton of it goes into the military and police without gaining us any additional security. Somehow, liberals get this one confused. The monumentally excessive cost of military and police is due to inefficiency and misplaced priorities. We need an effective military and police. Denying that is just kumbaya idiocy. But throwing money at the problem without any plausible connection to improving safety is an issue that really ought to be addressed. Liberals are afraid of this one because someone’s going to call them weak. We liberals need courage of our convictions.
Then there’s guns. If you doubt that American police are ineffective, just think about the gun issue. We used to think of the friendly policeman on the corner as our bulwark against crime. Well, plenty of people don’t believe that. And they want a gun. Even if owning a gun is dangerous. They don’t trust the police to help. And that’s in white communities. Don’t even get me started on black communities. We spend money on police and prisons for this? You can’t straighten this out if you are afraid of being called weak and you can’t straighten this out without standing up to an entrenched bureaucracy. If you want to get guns off the streets, you better come up with a policing system that makes people feel safe. (And don’t give me statistics. Perceptions are important, too.)
Social issues. It’s not often said, but a great many people fear the so-called “gay agenda” because it seemed to emerge from the sexual revolution of the sixties. Yes, there’s more freedom, but people are concerned about their kids. (The fear came first, the Bible rationales came later to justify the fear.)
Liberals ought to understand this. It’s really a fear of rape. Rape of our daughters and rape of our sons.
Yeah, yeah. Conservatives talk about this in a stunningly weird way. Conservative politicians are stupid on this issue. But the supply of stupidity is not limited.
My point is that there is room for everyone to agree that we want to be free of sexual predators, but somehow we can’t come together.
Or maybe we can.
Of all the liberal programs that has made headway in reaching out to conservatives, it’s been gay rights.
It didn’t start out promising. It used to be the typical “my way or the highway” rhetoric, but then it changed. First we saw gay activists embracing a right to serve in the military. Then we saw the drive for marriage equality.
Instead of pushing opponents away, these activists embraced shared values. The results have been pretty astounding.
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Yeah, the left and right have plenty of issues that divide them. I’ve only scratched the surface. But if we stop calling each other stupid and getting all tribal about it, we might find that the divisions in this country are different than what we think they are. If we stop calling the People stupid, we might find that they stand with us, not against us.
Sorry liberals, you have a lot of good ideas, but you need to get your act together. You can’t be the voice of reason if you are unreasonable. And don’t worry, I still have plenty to say about conservatives.