Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why Do We Vote against our Interests?

I respect the Tea Party's energy and political interest.

Some may be racists and haters, as they are portrayed. More, I think, are decent people who are very angry for legitimate reasons, being middle-class working people or retirees caught in an economic squeeze. Unfortunately, the Koch brothers and others have done a masterful job of misleading them about the causes of our plight.

It is not primarily the Government.

It is the obscenely large corporations and banks that control more of our lives than the government does.

Tea Party folks have been persuaded that the solution to most of our problems is to make the government as small as possible, except for national defense.

Let's get real.

Do away with the FDA? Drug manufacturers would sell even more worthless and dangerous drugs than they do now. Food would contain even fewer nutrients and more impurities.

Do away with Antitrust lawyers and banking regulations? Corporations would form ever bigger entities that would control markets so completely they could double or triple their prices at will – and banks could pull even more of the shenanigans and dicey gambles that helped bring down the economy in 2007.

Do away with the EPA and businesses could even more freely ignore the environmental consequences of their actions as they pursued bigger profits. Rivers and streams we've rescued would become polluted again. Some fields would grow too poisonous for food crops, oil companies would be free to put oil wells dangerously close to your water wells, etc.

Do away with the IRS and income taxes? Not only would our roads and infrastructure fall into disrepair, but we couldn't fund even the most basic lawsuits to keep big business and criminals in line – not to mention the Army and Navy.

What about “entitlements”? Folks receiving social security and medicare contributed for decades to earn those, under a deal the government offered them. The government can't fairly break that deal now. Government pensioners, including military folks, have contractual rights.

Most others who receive government assistance are children, elderly folks, disabled folks, and the mothers of dependent children. There's some fraud, but it's minimal It's neither humane nor practical to cut off these programs without disaster.

Do unemployed and perhaps unemployable women who keep having babies they can't support contribute to our economic situation? Sure. But far less than a president who starts two wars while lowering taxes, and far less than banks playing roulette with investors' money, then looking to the public to bail them out because they're too big to fail.

Eliminating those programs would just take out our annoyance with improvidently pregnant women on their kids. Those kids would scramble to eat – and grow up even more disaffected and violent than some youths are today, while suffering after-effects from malnutrition.

Even if you don't consider the poor just as human and deserving as you are, you ought to recognize that they are the refuse of a modern, industrial, capitalist society. The businesses and factories can't use them; but they can't grow their own food or move West as folks once could. They're trapped.
But these folks are not the cause of our economic problems. Economic policies designed to protect the wealthy and increase economic inequality are partial causes.

Of course, part of the problem is the skill shown by those who divert our attention from the facts by dividing us.

This tactic isn't new. Wealthy southern whites pitted poor whites against blacks to continue profiting from a system that benefited only them, Poor whites spent energy on hating blacks that might better have been spent learning to see their society more clearly. (Hitler made scapegoats of the Jews, though in his demented mind it seems to have been more than a mere tactic.) Iranian and North Korean leaders response to the least hint of political unrest by loudly blaming everything on the evil USA. U.S. leaders used to use the Red Threat the same way.

Sadly, scapegoating remains an effective tactic. People live by stories – and the story that it's all their fault, whoever the “they” de jour is, is clear and simple. It also exculpates both the average citizen and the truly responsible parties.

Too, our masters shout about freedom – meaning their own freedom from regulation, not our freedoms. Requiring accurate labels on food doesn't violate our freedom, but enhances it.
For years some politicians have distracted folks from their own best interest by focusing voters' attention on emotional issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and the like.

U.S. citizens who need health care vote against it. After banks and corporations screw up our economy so that we can't get jobs, our Congresspeople vote against extending unemployment payments. Although hungry kids can hardly pay attention in school, and will cost society more in the long run then helping feed them would, our Congresspeople blithely abandon them. Many believe Republican propaganda that the deficit is our biggest problem, and that austerity will defeat it, when austerity greatly increases inequality without solving anything.

                                                          - 30-
[The column above appeared today, Sunday, 5 January, in the Las Cruces Sun-News.  This is a column sure to annoy most everyone: Tea Party members and sympathizers because it suggests they've been misled, and opponents because it credits the bulk of the Tea Party members with good will and sincerity.] 


  1. Peter - This is an excellent analysis on the problem with our political system in general, and the current "party" system, regardless of the party you choose to critique. None of the parties represent my interests because none of them are rational beasts of burden; they seem to be more serpents of double speak, and one-sided views that benefit the few at the cost of many. Austerity should begin with public elected official's salaries and medical benefits - these are the people who have been failing their constituents and they should not be so highly compensated for their "do-nothing" performance.

    To be honest, if you are a thinking person who is well-informed, it is difficult not to be depressed by the state of our nation and politics in general. When you talk to people about politics, they are generally so emotional on the issues that no productive dialog is possible, and so substantive issues fall by the wayside and nothing changes. The so-called "news media" doesn't help the situation a bit.

    A personal note on Obamacare - last year weI had excellent insurance coverage through BC/BS and although it wasn't cheap, we did have the 100% choice of providers and did not need to get pre-authorizations to see doctors. On January 2, we received our first notice that this has changed in our policy, so that the good insurance we once had, is gone, and it will likely continue to cost us more in the future (the price did not go down because of our reduction in coverage). Apparently, this is the progress and change I can believe in with Obamacare. This is typical of my interaction with the government over my 5 decades on the planet, and I don't plan on ever receiving the $36K I've personally paid into the Social Security system from my professional career. My advice to anyone is don't depend on the government for anything, they can't even balance a budget.

    Indeed Peter, I reiterate your conclusion, WHY?

    1. Thanks, Beth!
      Indeed, it is difficult not to be depressed. The one thing I guess I disagree with is the idea that we should reduce salaries of those in Congress. A critical source of our sad-ass condition is that money controls politics. Two points: money can fund a flood of advertising, and it can line a politician's (or his/her friends') pockets; and theirs a revolving door between watchdog agencies and the huge companies they're meant to watch. I wonder if reducing salaries could exacerbate the problem of congresspeople getting extra income from the wrong people? However, I question whether we have to give these folks lifetime medical coverage.

  2. Peter,

    Consider your question" why", from our actual experience for the last 13 years.

    We have now experienced five years of expanding the power of the federal government, even greater than George W. Bush who was no small government president. What have has happened?

    Income equality is worse.

    Financial power has become even more concentrated.

    Employment is the worst since Jimmy Carter. (measured by the percentage of people actually working.)

    Seniors have seen the value of their savings taken by suppressing interest rates.

    We see the abuse of government power. (NSA, IRS etc.)

    Obamacare is a tragic example of complex government not solving a problem.

    Those who favor smaller government seem to have a good argument. Perhaps James Madison was correct?

    Al Berryman

    1. Thanks. Agree with most of the "symptoms" you list (concentration of wealth, income inequality, abuses of government power) but: never sure quite how we seriously make government smaller in our complex society where we need to control as we can Corporate abuses such as impure food, polluted land, air, and water, infrastructure such as roads, and protecting our citizens from military or terrorists. attack, and from poverty and (as best we can) debilitating illness. As to Obamacare, it's a half-assed effort at something we do need, uniform and effective and affordable health care; it was the best try politically possible at the time, and could not reasonably be amended because too many in Congress were committed to trashing it and wouldn't cooperate. Whether it'll work reasonably well or be a joke that undermines for decades oiur efforts to deal with health care is yet to be determined.
      Thanks for reading, and for the comment!