Hello conservatives! Here's an article for you. You probably don't realize that fair-minded and good-hearted liberals and conservatives are not that far apart on a range of "wedge" issues. Let's examine some of them and see how we might come together!
Values & Virtue
Ethical/Spiritual/Religious Values: Love One Another. Forgiveness. Non-judgment. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.
If you truly believe in these values, and the concept of universal virtue, we are totally with you. However, many conservatives actually do not believe in these values. They only like believing they believe in these values. They have no intention of putting them into actual practice. You've seen them. People waving the American flag who just can't wrap their little minds around the concepts of equality, liberty and justice for all... and people pounding the Bible while actually spewing hate and division and condoning prejudice and violence. If you check, you will note that these people are always conservatives.
There have been many societies through history, continuing today, where the ideals of liberty, equality, justice and democracy were not even a pipe-dream. We Americans are so fortunate that our founding fathers were not only astoundingly courageous, but also students of history. They cherry-picked the very best ideas of political philosophy, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to liberal English law to ideas from the Enlightenment and liberal philosophy to formulate a brand new experiment in human self-governance. Some of them privately doubted that it could last very long, and they were all well aware that it would take continual tinkering, and perhaps a few shocking episodes, along the quest for that "more perfect union." But here we are today, some 240 years later, still trying to stay true to their blueprint, the original American values.
There have always been those who wanted to veer away from that blueprint. There have always been people, so-called "Americans" living within our borders, who would co-opt and distort the intentions of that revolutionary collective. Such serious threats to our American values have also invariably come from conservatives. The impetus to thwart democracy, to divide the populace, to subjugate people and thereby deny equality, to demand conformity and thus shackle liberty, to "conserve" a socio-economic hierarchy and aristocratic domination in pursuit of obscene wealth is a recurring theme in conservative ideology. Such "clan mentality" was soundly refuted by the founding fathers, yet it is the prime organizing principle of conservatism. Indeed, the founding fathers considered themselves liberals, not conservatives. Let us never forget that American conservatives were AGAINST breaking away from King George and Great Britain. The conservatives of 1776 were Tories... defiantly loyal to the British King... and the reigning dominator hierarchy.
Nevertheless, there are some modern conservatives who claim to be philosophically and ethically committed to true American values. And it is with these conservatives that we potentially march hand-in-hand toward an even grander future. These conservatives will acknowledge that the domination of corporations over We the People was one of the primary fears of the founding fathers, and cannot be allowed in a democracy. These conservatives will realize that denying any Americans full equal rights and the same opportunities for the pursuit of happiness is simply un-American. These conservatives realize that even the attempt to prevent or make it harder for citizens to vote is radically un-American. These conservatives appreciate that American values are, in fact, universal values, and that they should apply to all people all the time.
So too with core religious values. One does not need to be Christian to wholeheartedly agree with and support the essential message of Jesus. He implored people to accept each other, love one another, forgive one another, and help one another, no matter the differences, no matter how downtrodden, no matter how damaged. He held utter disdain for wealth and power. Almost all other religions agree! Yet political conservatism has never accepted such a radical, liberal, principle. It is guided not by love and forgiveness but by fear and greed and prejudice. Just peel back the onion skin on any issue, and the un-loving, self-serving conservative perspective will be quickly exposed. Liberals can sometimes be naive in their magnanimity and optimism, but at least their core political ideology is compatiable with core American and religious values. Simply put, if you are conservative and want to walk your talk when it comes to true American and Christian values, by George, we are not against each other, we're with each other!
But we must ask fair-minded, good-hearted conservatives to carefully consider their true values, and duly scrutinize how closely their party and politicians stick to those values. If you see that what they are really propagating is distrust, division, fear, hate, greed, selfishness, ignorance, falsity, conformity, subjugation, inequality, bitterness, hierarchy, violence, unfairness, injustice... when you see that they are pitting you against many or most other groups of people, then clearly, either you have to leave them behind or go ahead and admit you don't really believe in American or Christian values, you just say you do.
Small Government When conservatives speak of "small government," they are entangling two myths: 1) That liberals love Big Government; 2) That there even exists such a thing as "small" government anywhere in the modern world, much less for the dominant nation on Earth.
Like conservatives, liberals want the leanest and most efficient government possible. We don't want the government messing around in our private lives, and we don't want it mucking up things around the world. We want to retch when we hear about government bloat, waste, duplicity, stupidity, ineptness, insincerity and questionable "pork" projects. And our blood boils when we catch wind of corruption whether it's on the left or the right.
Just like conservatives, all liberals want is the government that the Constitution mandates: One of "We the People," which continually strives to form a more perfect union, that establishes justice, insures domestic tranquility, provides for the common defense, promotes the general welfare, and secures the blessings of liberty for us and our kids. That's all. Nothing more.
Now back when the Constitution was written there were less than three million Americans. The country had only 13 states and was less than 700 miles wide. George Washington's annual budget was $5 million, barely enough to fund a high school these days. The Bush family, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump carry that much around in pocket change. There were no public schools. No public transportation. The fastest way to travel was on your horse or by sailboat. No interstate highway system. No power grid. No stock market. The economy of the entire fledgling nation was less than a modern city. The state-of-the-art weapons were the flintlock musket and cast-iron cannon.
Sadly for those who pine for a "small" government, our country has grown a mite. Now we are well over 300 million people and the nation stretches halfway around the globe (all the way around several times if you count our military bases). The annual budget is over one trillion dollars. The state-of-the-art weapons include intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and stealth jet fighters. Our economy is the largest in world history, affecting not just every American but the majority of individual humans on Planet Earth. And if there is anything on Earth more dangerous than our weapons it is our ever more predatory form of capitalism and rapacious consumption. All told, we are the largest and most powerful government that ever existed. The United States is really BIG... in every conceivable way. And each and every year it gets BIGGER and more complex. If, perhaps, the United States could go backwards in population and complexity, then a smaller government might be feasible. But barring some kind of Armageddon, that isn't going to happen. Indeed, right along with technology and human culture overall, our nation is getting more and more complicated faster and faster! With all of this in mind, the idea that the United States of America can ever have a "small" government is not just misty mythology, it is friggin' insane.
Conservative politicians actually know this full well, but in order to gain votes and stir up their anti-government base they keep on spewing the lie that there is actually some kind of attainable "small" government. The really ironic thing is that the conservatives who have complained the loudest about "big" government, and keep trilling for "small" government, are the very same ones who just so happened to expand the government THE MOST over the past 30 years: that's right, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush... the Deficit Twins! Both actually grew the government larger, while Reagan tripled, and then Bush Jr. doubled the national debt in their time in office. Moreover, they both entangled the United States into foreign intrigues in Central America and the Middle East that cost us dearly in treasure, blood and honor, while running roughshod over the Constitution and true American values. Those conservative politicians, you just can't trust a word they say. Unlike liberal politicians who sometimes conveniently forget to fulfill their campaign promises, conservative policitians regularly do the exact OPPOSITE of what they promised. And they think you are too stupid to even notice. Unfortunately, with too many of the American people, they are absolutely right.
It's not even just America we're talking about here. In the modern world, there is no such thing as a "small" national government. Just try to name one. Nor should anyone in their right mind even want such a dangerous thing.
It actually turns out that most conservatives don't want a small government, either. By far, the biggest chunk of the BIG U.S. Government is comprised of just four departments: Social Security, Medicare, the Veterans Administration (V.A.) and the active military. Show of hands... who is ready and willing to dismantle any of these four? Throw in NASA, the Post Office, the National Parks, Center for Disease Control, the National Weather Center, road and bridges, dams, local construction projects, etc., etc. You don't see social conservatives storming the Bastille to destroy those! Oh no, they LOVE getting their Social Security check each month.
Then, of course, you have the paradox of many social conservatives falling for an even BIGGER government that pokes its nose into the sex life of every citizen,
Of course, all of this requires taxes, and that's the rub with social conservatives. They don't like paying taxes. At all. Like zero. "It's my money; I should be able to keep it," is their mantra. So when they dream of a "small government" what they really mean is a government that is actually larger than it is now, but requires them to pay no taxes. Sweet deal. In their dreams!
Now CorpCons are completely different. They don't have to dream this... they already have it! Yes, they keep up the ruse about wanting to lower taxes, but this is just to convince the SoCons to vote for them. CorpCons benefit more than anyone from a BIG government, and they don't pay much in taxes to support it. Mitt Romney's tax rate was 14 percent (less than half of that of his secretary), and the word is Donald Trump doesn't pay anything in taxes (prove it wrong Donald; show us your taxes!). No, CorpCons don't really want a smaller government. They like a big government that gives them boatloads of money, subsidies, cheap loans, and a raft of tax breaks that often allows them to skip out on paying any taxes at all. They like a big government that helps create things like roads and bridges and electical grids and the internet, and makes the world safe for the foreign wheeling and dealing of such as Monsanto, Halliburton and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
What CorpCons mean when they pine for "small" government is that they want fewer regulations. Fewer rule regulating big corporations in particular. They love the Big Government as long as it's not crimping their free-wheeling ways. They even love regulations that stifle smaller companies and/or hurt their competition. But as for regulations on them they argue that these just hold the "free market" down. Let it loose, and the "free market" will take care of everything. The problem is there has never really been a "free market" in history. Oh yes, we've tried giving Big Business a mostly free rein many times. It always ends in abject disaster, as it did in running us into the Great Depression and the 2008-2012 Great Recession. Wanting a "small government" and "free market" are two sides of the same the coin... a system which would allow Big Business to run wild, and stampede over the rights of We the People. Actually, that's pretty much what we have already!
Liberals are not for regulation for regulation's sake. Bureaucratic redtape and silly or out of date rules need to be corrected, streamlined or eliminated. The system should bend in favor of entrepreneurs and small businesses, the real backbone of the American jobs market. But always, always, always, the consumer and the commons have to be the foremost concern for the government. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that calls for assisting or protecting businesses or corporations or wealthy individuals. Instead We the People and the General Welfare are the entities which the Constitution mandates concern.
For so many reasons, including protecting us from predatory capitalism, no nation can have a small government. Unless we want to bring unicorns and leprechauns into the mix as well, let's just put the mythical notion of a "small" government in this day and age out of its misery and work together to find ways to keep our really BIG government for our really BIG nation and really BIG economy as "small" and efficient as possible.
Low Taxes Liberals do not love paying taxes. For those of us who don't have that much money in the first place, it can hurt. Sure it would be nice to keep all of the money we earn. Yet, in general, we liberals don't kvetch and carp about it nearly as much as conservatives. That's because we actually believe in America. We take our medicine, willingly if with a grimmace, because we know it makes us healthier as a country, as a society, and that it comes back to us, individually, in many ways. It's a necessary pain so that our national government can do all that it needs to do.
Yes, like you, we have some serious reservations about all that the government thinks it needs to do. Conservatives whined and threatened so much that the federal government no longer provides any funds whatsoever for abortions, even though abortions are perfectly legal. These days conservatives are threatening to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood (a really stupid idea if you truly want to cut back on abortions) and Public Broadcasting. All of these, combined, would save a tenth of a penny when the government is spending trillions of dollars. But maybe the conservatives are on to something. We liberals need to get in on this tactic. Maybe if we whine enough we can get the federal government to close down a big batch of the 800-plus foreign military bases we splurge on for no apparent reason, quit bombing and invading countries just so we can rebuild them, and stop subsidizing dangerous nuclear power plants, and filthy (literally) rich oil, coal, timber, agri-business, insurance, drug and financial companies, as well as the cruel and demonic and unhealthy meat and dairy industries, and slam shut those wide-open loopholes that allow corporations to outsource jobs and pay virtually nothing in taxes. Now that would save some serious cash, and create a lot of jobs.
We're also not terribly wild about the fact that our good liberal "blue" states pay more and get back less from the federal government than the whining and bitching conservative "red" states, who get back more than they put in. If you conservatives had a lick of sense you'd shut your trap and gratefully accept a pretty damn good deal. No doubt the squealing would be heard on Jupiter if the situation was actually reversed. The only reason we liberals don't make a big fuss about the inequity is because we actually believe in helping all Americans, even those who are clear across the country and ignorant enough to want to teach creationism in science class.
Still, just like with the size of government, we don't want taxes to be any more than they have to be. And we damned sure want them to be fair and square, which they definitely are not following 30 years of conservative "trickle-down" (AKA voodoo) economics.
From just after World War II to well into the 1960s, spanning the service of four presidents, including the last decent Republican president - Dwight Eisenhower - the top marginal tax rate on the rich was 91 percent. That's right - NINETY-ONE PERCENT! And regulations on business were the tightest they had ever been. Oh, the carnage of it all! According to conservative mythology, the "job creators" must have left the country and the economy sent spiraling downward. There must not have been a job to be seen.
Nope. Everything was cool. The economy hummed right along. In fact, it was one of the smoothest, most stable, and most equitable periods of sustained prosperity IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD! Banks lent money, but were prohibited from speculating. Anti-trust laws thwarted mergers and ensured lively competition. Unions were strong. All those World War II veterans found pretty good jobs, and the United States of America created the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world! Families - with just ONE person working!! - were able to buy new Fords and Chevies and Studebakers, plus a house, plus health care, plus pay for their kid's college, and eventually retire with a decent pension. Meanwhile, the government doled out free college to millions of returning vets, and we even got a pretty nifty Interstate Highway System out of the deal, plus tons of other infrastructure still in use today. Sweet!
One of those damned tax-and-spend liberals, John F. Kennedy, lowered the top tax rate to 70 percent - that's SEVENTY PERCENT! - in the early 1960s. The economy did not jump to life with the lower rates (as conservatives predicted), but kept perking along with stable vitality, though not quite as strong as the 1946-1961 years with the higher tax. The middle class continued to boom, still with just one spouse working as a norm. Unemployment was less than five percent. The poor had viable hope to move up into the burgeoning middle class. Even with a stupid, conservative-mindset wars going on (the Cold War and Vietman), America still had enough strength and will power to expand the social safety net and land men on the moon. Sweet!
Now that's a little bit of history that conservative politicians, selling their low tax/deregulation snake oil, don't want you to remember.
Here's the real facts, folks:
Following World War II, through two decades of high taxes on the wealthy and corporations, plus strict regulations on banks, the median income of middle class Americans doubled! DOUBLED!
Conversely, every time - EVERY TIME!!!!! - taxes are lowered on the wealthy and corporations, and the "deregulation" craze takes hold, get ready for a whammy on the middle class.
Ronald Reagan lowered the top tax rate to 50 percent, then to 28 percent, and the stock market went wild, but average Americans did not see much gain in their economic condition. Over the 35 years of Reagan's "trickle down" economics, middle class income has stagnated or gone backwards (and that's for those who still have a job), we've had bubble and burst again and again, and in 2008 conservative ideology and low, low taxes (remember, especially for the rich and corporations) ran us straight into another depression - just as low taxes, deregulation and kowtowing to the rich and corporations did in 1929 (and 1921 and 1911 and 1907 and 1896 and 1893 and 1873 and, well you get the picture).
Bill Clinton raised taxes to 39 percent, and despite dire warnings of catastrophe from conservatives, the economy overall did quite well, adding more jobs than Reagan and the first Bush combined. Then Bush Junior came along and cut taxes twice. Conservatives predicted a boon. They were wrong, again... of course. His eight-year reign barely produced a single job... in fact if he had stayed in office two more months (as the economy was crashing), he would have finished with a negative job-creation record. Obama came into office as the world economy (led by the U.S.) was melting down; yet he righted the ship, raised taxes back to the Clinton rate (39%), and oversaw the creation of over 10 million jobs.
Yet - WHOOHOO! - over the past 35 years the income of the top 1% of richest Americans has soared over 400%... CEOs have gone from making around 30 times their average worker's pay to over 260 times as much. Among the S&P 500 companies, the average CEO now makes over $9 million per year. These CEOs typically make more in one day than their workers make in a year. Some of the ratios are by far worse. How about this one: Walmart CEO, Michael Duke, makes more in an hour than most of his employees make in a year!
Before Reagan, the richest one percent of Americans made about eight percent of the country's total income. Today they make twenty-four percent. That's bad enough but doesn't tell the whole story. The top one percent actually control over 42 percent of the wealth of the country. Between 2002 and 2006, the George Bush and Republican Congress heyday, it was even worse: an astounding 75 percent of all the economy's growth was captured by the top one percent.
The ultra rich and their corporations have the game rigged every way to Sunday. They pay lower bank fees, lower credit card fees, get lower rates on loans, have insider information, have most politicians in their pocket, and can take advantage of their own, self-contrived loopholes. And, of course, they have arranged so that they pay much lower taxes than the rabble that actually works for a living. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released only one year of tax returns. Now we know why. On some $21 million of income, he paid a scant 13.9 percent tax. That's because he makes most of his money off investments, so-called "capital gains" income. So Romney and most other of the super-rich actually pay a lower rate of taxation than most middle class Americans. Indeed, why did Romney only release one year of his returns? The strong suspicion is that in other years the uber-wealthy Romney paid ZERO tax! In 2016, the Republican nominee Donald Trump flat-out refuses to show any of his taxes, leading even Romney to suggest, "He's hiding something." Like paying zero taxes? Zero taxes... only two ways to achieve that: either be extremely poor or extremely rich!
Another Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, says that zero is the righ tnumber. At 13.9 precent Romney and his ilk are paying too much! He wants to lower the capital gains rate to zero! That's right. No taxes at all for all of the super-rich.
Whether you are rich or poor, liberal or conservative, if you have any heart at all you have to be sickened by these statistics. And if you have a fair bone in your body, you will acknowledge that the great conservative idea of "trickle down" economics has been a great myth perpetrated upon the American nation, its economy and its people.
It's way past time for us to get back to our common senses. We did great when the formula was: the more you make, the more you are taking out of the economy, the more you pay percentage-wise. Since Reagan we've flipped that ratio. Now the more you make, the less you pay percentage-wise. A tax code that coddles the rich and punishes the middle class and poor is not justice. That's not fairness. That's not American. And it's time for this madness to stop.
Abortion/Pro Life Yes, abortion! You don't like abortion. We don't like abortion. You say you are pro life. So do we. No one is pro abortion. So why don't we combine forces to make abortion as infrequent as possible? Let's fight together against abortion through values, education, maternal and pre-natal nutrition and health care, safe-sex practices, and easy access to modern pharmaceuticals and devices such as condoms and diaphrams. Let's demand stiff regulations that keep our air and water clean, as environmental toxins and pollutants are a major cause of fetus and infant disease, disfigurement and death. Let's end the idiotic war against support programs that actually support many pregnant mothers... of all colors.
The reasons we can't come together on our shared dislike of abortion are twofold, and both are issues on your side of the table.
First, it simply makes no sense to say you are against abortion and then not support methods that are proven to lessen their likelihood. People are going to have sex. That's a given. Many kids are going to have sex, no matter how much their parents preach abstinence (please see Exhibit A: the Palin family). People (particularly hormone-charged young people) will act stupidly. Passions take over. Accidents will happen. Those are all givens. It's been going on since the dawn of humankind. Relying on the sustained practice of abstinence is like having faith in a myth. Come on, now, that's not a solution. Instead, let's work together to make a world where fewer of these instances end up in abortion.
Secondly, it is important for you to realize that today's conservative hysteria over abortion is NOT the traditional stance of the religion from which you base your argument. Both the Bible and innumerable Christian commentators and saints (such as Augustine and Aquinas) make it clear that early term abortions are NOT murder. It wasn't even an important issue to the Republican Party decades ago, when it supported legal abortioin. What has happened in recent decades is that professionals on the political right have exploited abortion as a potent wedge issue and fund-raising bonanza, a perennial bone of contention that delineates the "good" from the "bad," and have skewed far away from the more moderate positions of most of our own American and Christian (and Jewish) ancestors (abortion was legal in the U.S. until the late 1800s) toward the farthest extreme of opposition: no abortion any time, anywhere, for any reason. This stiff, inflexible and uncompromising position on abortion is relatively new in the world, and is mostly a ruse to get you riled up, glean a few coins from you, and, most importantly, strictly divide you from the "other side," the liberals, in the process of convincing you that if they are wrong about abortion, they must be wrong about everything.
We have to give it to those professional conservatives, though... making abortion a central plank of conservatism in the 1970s was pure political genius. Cynics might rightly point out that conservative ideology is rarely very compassionate... indeed it is based upon selfishness. So you guys need an issue where you can out-compassion the compassionate liberals, right? Abortion is perfect. It gives you an issue that you can place front and center in every election, and then wave in everyone's face and scream and shout about, and even make the primary litmus test for a Supreme Court justice... but, aside from screaming and shouting, it requires you to personally do nothing to actually support. No sacrifice. No taxes. No legwork. No government programs. No actually caring about that human being once it's out of the womb. Nothing. You don't even have to vote; just scream and shout and call out liberals for being "anti-life." Now that is truly amazing. But it is no way to be a decent human or to construct a modern democracy.
In ostensibly attempting to protect the innocent and vulnerable, we respect your moral stance. We share it to a very large degree. Let's join together to encourage pregnant women to have the baby if they can, and to support them as mothers and/or help with the adoption process. Let's really be "pro life" by committing to support that little human being not only in the womb but by making sure he or she gets a good start in life, and has the opportunities as a child and student to flourish. If we're a "pro life" country, we should relish the possibility of supporting all of America's children. Programs such as WIC and SNAP, as well as Headstart and publicly-funded day care programs which provide sustenance and assistance to millions of mothers and infants, are essential if we want to make it easier on mothers to have and keep their child. These should be no-brainers for full support. Cutting off funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which provide contraceptives and sound advice regarding abortion (plus many other health and medical services to both men and women) is absolutely insane... guaranteeing more abortions, though perhaps in far less safe conditions.
Let's love one another, a great religious and secular idea, which you claim to believe in. Yet we don't always see a lot of love coming from your direction when the mother or child is of a darker skin color or poor. You are filled with zeal to protect and preserve that unseen, unborn fetus, but have little or no interest in helping that mother and her newborn.
Your proclaimed values and "faith" are not well served when you (or your political representatives) attempt to deny a legal service to millions of women by passing blatantly biased (and now judged by the courts illegal) laws regulating (we thought you were against silly regulations) expensive building requirements, or by requiring abortions to be performed in hospitals (rather than the small clinics that are the more practical setting), or by forcing women to watch anti-abortion videos, ultrasounds, or undergo religious counseling (and then adding on top of the unwanted counseling session a waiting period before they can have the abortion), denying insurance coverage for abortion (or for that matter denying governmental assistance), or when you outright lie to pregnant women about the dangers of having an abortion. All of these tactics are not virtuous; they are devious at best, fascist at worst.
But, now let's talk about the term "pro life." Really? You are pro life? If you are, then we are right there by your side. But, ah, we see scant evidence that you are really "pro life" in any broader sense of the term beyond your new-found fanatical objection to abortion. Indeed, you more often seem an abject opponent of life. Let's examine a few non-abortion related issues. How do you feel about the death penalty? You love it. Can't imagine a world without out. The old "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth." No matter that multiple modern studies agree that it doesn't deter crime. No matter that our death penalty puts us in league with 58 of the most backwards countries in the world (like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, North Korea) while 103 more progressive, more "pro life," countries have abolished it. And what about that "forgiveness" stuff that your Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, went on and on about. Throw that out the window when you're seeking vengeance, right? That's what the death penalty is all about: vengeance, nothing more. But when you have a person (even one who has committed the most atrocious crime) under your control (i.e. under arrest and in prison), and have eliminated their ability to harm others, and then still go ahead and kill them, well that's a lot of things but one thing it is no is "pro life." The death penalty is one of the sickest leftovers of Old Testament thinking. It violates one of the Ten Commandments. If it is wrong to kill, then why in the world is the state doing it? The clear message is that sometimes, in order to reap vengeance, it's OK to kill a helpless person. We can never call ourselves "pro life" as long as we are supporting that bad calculus.
What about war? Now it may be true that some wars are "necessary" to defend the nation or our allies, but we have noticed that there is hardly a military adventure you don't heartily approve of. Whether it's Vietnam or Granada or the Gulf War, or wars we have been lied into (Iraq) or even totally illegal secret wars (Central America), you are right there rah-rahing U.S. involvement. A reasonable person would expect that a "pro life" citizen or nation would chill out a bit on the warmongering, which not only kills our own children but those - including the unborn - of the innocent mothers of the lands that we seem to relish invading. Indeed, to this date we do not see conservatives particularly regretful of the innocent citizens of Vietnam or Afhanistan or Iraq who were killed by our misguided and over-zealous military actions. Why, conservatives steadfastly don't ever want to see an American official apologize for dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, killing 200,000 innocent civilians. You can call that attitude pragmatism, or patriotism, or jingoism, or conservatism, but you can't call it "pro life."
Then there is torture. Where were you conservatives when the Bush administration decided to stomp all over the Geneva Convention and commence "inhanced interrogation," which the world understood was torture, soon after illegally invading Iraq? We don't see you religious-right people loudly objecting to those abuses of human life. What we need here is a "consistent life ethic." When you are ever pro-war, and clearly harbor such little respect for so many lives that you condone torture, you certainly have no right to proclaim yourself pro-life!
And what if we more accurately parse that word "life?" Life is more than human life. Life is every life. No matter how religious, you conservatives don't seem to show a whit of concern for any life beyond your own family and friends and neighbors. Since you are so short on empathy for human life, it is little wonder that your treatment of animal life is, quite frankly, appalling. Oh, we know, you love your pets, but your rapacious, gluttonous meat-eating (far greater than any other generations) requires the abuse, torture and killing of billions of animals EACH YEAR! So far, we have hardly heard a pip from you regarding the abuses of the animal factory farming industries, nor do we ever hear you lamenting the fishing out of the seas, the destruction of the rainforest, habitat loss and species extinction. Hey, what do we need polar bears for anyway, eh? Indeed, you consistenly elect corporatists who are determined not to allow anything to come between their precious corporations and a penny of profit. Meanwhile, your lust for actually killing animals is startling, and certainly not for food. It's a sport. It's fun. We know you very well. When it comes to "critters," the ethic is shoot first, ask questions later. And it's anything that moves: rabbits, birds, lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes. Good thing the pandas are in zoos. Sorry, but this crude and barbaric blood lust for no good reason immediately disqualifies you from calling yourself "pro life."
But back to abortion. We have some more problems.
When you say that there should be no abortions, no we can't agree on that. And neither should you... if you claim to be an American.
The idea of making abortion illegal is, in fact, a distorted religious conviction. The idea of not providing sex education and making birth control products available is also a distorted religious conviction. (The idea of withholding nutritional and health support for poor people is NOT any kind of religious conviction; ALL religions support such action. Being against such support programs is plain and simple ignorance, prejudice and greed and certainly un-Christian.)
The majority of Americans do not share these beliefs. And even if an overwhelming majority did hold these beliefs, they would remain religious beliefs, and such a law banning abortion would not stand for long. America is not a theocracy; it is a nation of secular law with all citizens having equal protection under the law.
There is another big problem. Your stance on abortion directly clashes with your steadfast belief in individual rights.
We believe - as you say as well - that the government should not be overly involved in the private lives of people... not the federal government, not the state government, not the local government. Moreover, we believe - and you say as well - that the individual has automony over their own self. And yet the idea that abortion should be banned tears asunder your own core beliefs. No matter how sad an abortion might make us, no matter how it might grate against our religious orientation, no matter how unjust we may consider it, none of us, nor the government, has the right to impose our will and beliefs, to take possession of a woman's body and self, at any time, and force her, without recourse, to carry through with a pregnancy. This idea is theocratic totalitarianism. This is a gross infringement on her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And we as a nation we either believe in these ideals, or we do not. It is very fine and good if your religious conviction guides everything that you do. So you are free to decide for yourself that you will not have an abortion. But you have no right to decide this for anyone else... even your own wife or daughter. You do not own these people! America is ruled by laws that are considered true and just by way of those "inalienable rights," life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not by your religious decree. If you want to live in a religious state that shares your belief that religion should trump secular rights, feel free to emigrate to Saudi Arabia or Iran.
Oh, and you are not out of the factual woods yet. There is the matter of illegality. We've already tried that with abortion, and how did that work out? Not well. Surprise, surprise! How did illegality work during Prohibition? Drinking actually increased! Prohibition lead to women becoming drinkers, whereas beforehand they tended to stay away from the saloons where men usually got their drink. Prohibition made criminals of about 70 percent of the American public. How has the "War on Drugs" worked out? It is an abysmmal and colossally expensive failure. Like Prohibition it has created dirty and violent black markets, and filled our courts and prisons to overflowing, largely with otherwise law-abiding people. Since the start of the "War on Drugs" the flow and use of drugs has actually increased! Exactly the same thing would happen (again) with abortion. We know, for a fact, that abortions have occurred throughout history. That will continue. The question before us is whether we wish to return to back-alley coat-hanger abortions or have licensed clinics where women can have access to safe and modern abortion technicians and equipment. Thinking that abortions will end if they are made illegal is yet another Conservative Myth. Some of the illegal abortions your ideology would create would end in death. When it is your daughter who dies, or is rendered sterile, due to complications of an illegal, back-alley abortion performed by a quack, then we will see your immediate turnaround on the issue of legal abortion... just as we see conservative after conservative accepting homosexuality once one of their own family members comes out as gay.
The sad truth is that one in three American women will have an abortion by the time they are age 45. We can work to change that... but not by criminalizing 50 million women... or by allowing law enforcement into their uteruses in violation of every other American right!
So let us combine our American values, ethical values and rational intelligence to work to drastically cut back on the number of abortions, and show as much compassion as we can to those who undergo such a body-beating, heart-breaking and mind-haunting experience. No one is happy about an abortion. Let's agree to disagree on a philosophical/spiritual level, recognizing that each side owns a key ethical argument, but then join forces to minimize abortions worldwide. Abortion is really one of the last things that should defiantly separate us.
And if you really want to be "pro life," why don't you actually study more closely to what Jesus had to say. He said NOTHING about abortion or homosexuality. But he railed against the rich and powerful and the unjust, as well as those who are big in pride. Instead, he said to forgive those who trespass against you. His concern, as well as the first Christians', was for the poor and downtrodden. There's something really rotten in our country right now, and the real enemy is before you. Take the mote out of your own eye and go after the blasphemers Jesus went after.
Indeed, we encourage you to expand that compassionate, nurturing impulse to actually born children, to the poor, and to animals and the rest of the biosphere. That is, if you really have a compassionate, nurturing impulse that extends beyond your immediate family and friends. Basing your self-identity as "pro-life" solely on your opposition to abortion doesn't prove you have a truly compassionate bone in your body. Join us, and actually help people... in the womb and actually born.
Protecting the Environment We've noticed that you conservatives get mad when the neighbor's dog comes over and poops in your yard. You are correct in thinking, it's just not right. It's not justice. It raises all kinds of issues like property rights, accountability, and the general welfare of the community. Well, we get mad when corporations do essentially the same thing to OUR land, air and water.
Except this is actually exponentially worse. The doofus with the dog may not even know where his pooch is pooing. He doesn't gain anything substantative from it, except perhaps avoiding having to stoop down and pick it up. And, or course, there is no serious damage done (your grass may actually like it). Corporations, on the other hand, know exactly where they are taking a dump and who they are pooping on. They reap untold TRILLIONS of dollars pooping on OUR land, air and water. And the damage they leave behind is literally incalculable in both dollars and harmed lives. They reap the profits... and then leave us to clean up the mess... often a toxic, devastating mess.
If you love your country - and we know you fair-minded, good-hearted conservatives truly do - then you'll join us in protecting OUR national resources from the corporate pirates who want to exploit, extract, despoil and destroy, then take their money and run, leaving us holding the bag of crap.
Here's just one way that these mega-doofuses and their political friends play us for fools: A fir tree may be worth hundreds of dollars, and our national forests have lots of them. So a theoretical Republican president - let's say his name was Ronald Reagan - says to his timber industry buddies and big-time contributors, "Hey, we'll sell you all those trees for $1 each." And the timber guys say, "Well, that's a pretty good deal. How about building the roads up the mountain for us, as well?" And the Republican president says, "Sure, why not. Government should be good for something." And so, We the People sold our beautiful and valuable trees to the corporations for $1 each AND paid for the logging roads to be built, then sat back and watched as huge swaths of forests were clear cut. The timber guys took their money to the bank, laughing all the way, then loaded those trees on to boats headed for China, where they came back to us as crappy furniture. Then the rains came and the forest wasn't there anymore to soak up and hold back the water, so the hillside mud all washed down into the streams, killing salmon and other fish and debasing entire eco-systems. In this scenario, the corporations and their political cronies made out, China made out, while you and me and the American people got dumped on.
Much the same story plays out in many other ways: in the strip-mine removal of entire mountain tops, in the boondoggles, shenanigans and pollution of oil companies, coal companies, nuclear power plants, chemical plants, animal factory farming and other industries which internalize profit and externalize the cost.
Now the word conservation comes to mind. Hmmm. This is suspiciously similar to the word conservative. They are kindred concepts. They both mean to keep, preserve, protect. Why aren't conservatives better conservationists? Rather than wanting to conserve old social, political and economic hierarchy and institutions, why don't conservatives want to protect and defend God's beautiful Planet Earth, our home. Everyone should want to do this. What is the most important thing we can leave to our descendants? A clean and healthy environment. Without that, all these other things that conservatives and liberals fight about won't matter at all.
Corporations Are Not People/Money Out of Politics "Corporations are people, my friend," proclaims Mitt Romney.
When did that happen? When did corporations become people? It's not in the Bible. It's not in the Constitution. It doesn't pass the common sense test. Do you remember voting on it? No, there was never any vote. Did Congress pass a law? No, Congress never passed a law. Did some conservative like Harding or Coolidge or Hoover or Reagan or Bush decree it? No, they did not. Was there a Constitutional Amendment that established the rights of personhood to corporations? Nope. Was there a landmark Supreme Court decision that granted such status? No, there was not.
Here's how it happened: corporations became people as the result of a Supreme Court clerk's error. That's right... a CLERK'S ERROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In 1885, the Southern Pacific Railroad argued that it should not have to pay taxes to Santa Clara County (CA). The railroad presented several different reasons why it should not have to pay the tax: because of this and that, and this and that, blah, blah, blah... oh, and also because of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment? Wasn't that the amendment that granted full citizenship and equal protection to black Americans following Reconstruction? Yes, that Fourteenth Amendment. As part of its argument against paying a pittance in taxes to Santa Clara County, the railroad maintained that it shouldn't have to pay taxes that people don't. It should be protected, just like black people, by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court mulled it over and a year later ruled that the railroad did not owe any taxes to Santa Clara County because of a jurisdiction discrepancy. The decision was not based upon the Fourteenth Amendment. But a court reporter placed into the official record: "The defendant corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution..."
And that's how corporations became persons. No vote. No law. No case. No common sense. By mistake. It just happened (though there is deep suspicion that the whole scenario was rigged).
Corporations were ecstatic. This opened up new worlds of legal possibilities for them.
To this day there has never been a court case that specifically addresses the question of whether corporations are people. Yet conservative justices and courts have managed to slip language into various decisions, most recently the notorious "Citizens United" case, that certify that corporations are entitled to the same rights as people.
Of course the idea that corporations are people is absolutely stunning, so stupid, so over-the-top, so overwhelmingly dangerous in the scheme of a democratic nation (with a predatory capitalist economic system) that it is true insanity that this notion ever saw the light of day... much less somehow weasled its way into becoming law without consensus, without vote, without debate, nay, without even a peep of discussion! It just freaking happened! Perhaps tomorrow we'll learn that some court clerk has decided that gold bullion bricks are people, too, and each should get to vote!
Talk about "activist judges," there has never been a more egregious abrogation of justice, not to mention common sense. To a real person this is simply insane. Corporations are not alive. They are not made of flesh and blood. They are not born of a woman. They have no biological parents. They do not breathe air. They do not eat and drink. They do not need to go to the bathroom (though they do dump on us frequently). They can reproduce asexually. They can eat and merge into one another. They never sleep. They are potentially immortal; there is no particular necessity that they must ever die. Sometimes when it looks like they are dead, they can be resurrected. This has only happened a few times with real people. They have no conscience. They have no morals. They can commit crimes at will, including murder, and find themselves with barely a slap on the proverbial wrist. Corporations can't be put into jail. None has ever been given the death penalty for a crime. Conservative judges say corporations have the right of free speech... but they don't have the right to vote. Go figure. Is that just an oversight that will soon be corrected? How many votes should a corporation get? Just one per company? One per employee? One per stock share? Corporations can be in more than one place at a time. Actually, they can be everywhere at the same time. They are comprised of hundreds, thousands, even millions of actual living persons. In sum, the facts would seem to describe corporations as something almost diametrically opposite of a real person.
Yet, legally, corporations are people. Thus, in "Citizens United" the five conservative judges of the Supreme Court ruled that a person's (i.e. a corporation's) "free speech" could not be abridged by laws restricting donations or spending not directly affiliated with a political candidate. So donations directly to candidates are still regulated, but (wink-wink) not those to political action committees (PACs). Sweeeeeeeeeet! For the corporations. And for very rich people. Not so much for the rest of us. Or for democracy.
Corporations run our lives. They tell us what to eat, what to drink, what to want, what to believe. The know everything about us, and they keep on coming up with new ways to get their fingers into our bank accounts and pocket books. They've bought off all the politicians, who write the laws and have appointed judges throughout the land, including on the highest court, to rule in their favor. They tell their henchmen politicians to appoint stoolies to agencies that are supposed to regulate them. They've rigged the game so no matter what happens, they win, and we lose.
We, the real People of the United States of America, must come together to insist that corporations are not people, and that the money that has so corrupted our democracy must be stricly regulated. Either all campaigns must be funded solely by the tax-payers, or donations from actual real persons cannot exceed a reasonable sum, say $500, per candidate or per ballot measure. As well, media buys from campaigns must be more strictly regulated to curtail the ridiculous avalanche of content (which itself is a prime factor in the ever-escalating cost of elections, providing a negative feedback loop of corruption), as well as the maintenance of a balance of viewpoints.
Of course, it's not just corporations who are taking fully advantage of our newfound principle that "money equals free speech." Filthy rich individuals are more than happy to get in on the influence peddling, too, particularly on the conservative side. For instance, the conservative Koch Brothers are promising to spend ONE BILLION dollars on the 2016 election to make sure that their preferred politicians get into office. That should make any fair-minded person puke! Of course, we liberals despise such a system; our arsenal of super-rich patrons is miniscule compared to the conservatives'. Yet, everyone - of any political stripe - should carefully consider what a slippery and dangerous slope this really is. How would conservative voters like it if they were outspent ten-to-one in elections by the liberals? How about Communists? Since Oklahoma is already terrified about Sharia Law coming to their state, about the only way that could happen is if a ridiculously rich Saudi sheik decided to buy a local election! How do you feel about "money is free speech" now?
The whole idea of dollars equalling free speech is simply ridiculous. How many of us have tens of thousands, much less millions, or a BILLION, to spend on influencing elections? Not very many. Why would the democratic majority sit idly by while their governing power is usurped by these titans of industry - often coveting laws and regulations (or deregulations) that will actually harm the common person and the commons? The concept is irrational, demonic really, and we liberals need you conservatives to voluntarily give up your perennial fiscal advantage to craft a more perfect union.
The corporations (including media) and the super-rich will not like this, and will fight like hell to protect their monopoly over democracy. We the People - liberal and conservative - must run them over, as we can, and we eventually will.
Personal Responsibility Liberals are all about personal responsibility. In fact, our idea of personal responsibility is far deeper than that of most conservatives. You see, we don't believe personal responsibility is confined to your own selfish interests... but extends to your family, your friends, your community, your nation, the entire human family... even the entire biosphere of the Planet Earth. We liberals view the conservative perspective of personal responsibility as shallow. Conservatives actually advocate the least level of personal responsibility they can get away with.
Conservatives, why not join us by expanding your own concept of personal responsibility to include the entire world? Is what is going on in China your responsibility? Do you have a responsibility for hungry children in Africa? Is global warming your responsibility? Yes! All citizens, everywhere, of all nations, are responsible for what is going on in the world. And certainly we big, fat, powerful Americans should take a leading role in joining the always ongoing struggle to bend the human family toward virtue.
It's true that most of us, individually, cannot effect much change. But collectively, We the People, can rock the world. It all starts with YOU! How much do you know about what is going on in the world? How much do you know (or care) about how you, yourself, are supporting or opposing non-virtuous activities going on all around the world? For instance what virtue or non-virtue are you putting into your mouth? What choices do you make when buying stuff? What are you teaching (or not teaching) your children? Are you instilling them the universal values and principles of liberty, equality, justice for all, love for one another, compassion, mercy, forgiveness? Or are you teaching them how to be selfish, fearful and ignorant?
Do you ever think ahead... beyond the next month or next year, in fact, far beyond your own generation and even that of your children? Some Native American tribes have a tradition that all major tribal decisions must carefully consider how it will affect seven generations ahead. Imagine that! Seven generations. That's roughly 140 years in the future. That's far-sightedness. But that 140 years actually flies by. The person writing these words is the seventh generation descendant of a Cherokee woman.
But contrast that with the near-sightedness that we usually apply to our decisions. After all, it's an American tradition to expect instant gratification. Our culture encourages such shallowness and irresponsibility. "Buy now, pay later," is the mantra. Consume! Consume! Consume! The ads promise you'll be so much happier if you only buy this product.
Of course, it's all snake oil. All of that consuming doesn't bring us lasting happiness. That only comes from within. The old saying, "It is better to give than to receive," is on to the real truth. Giving of ourselves, helping others, is the pathway to happiness. The happiest person is the one who needs the least to be happy.
Now this is real personal responsibility: recognition that your own happiness and fulfillment if yours to create... not be given or buy or earn. Stepping into that creative power to fashion your own happiness, your own self worth, your own virtue... and then giving of yourself to actively engage in helping the world become a better place, not for selfish reasons but because you just know that this is your purpose in life, defines a form of personal responsibility that far transcends the mundane story of someone "pulling himself up by his own bootstraps."
Like you, we think Congress is broken, too. And between us, perhaps we could come up with a whole batch of changes that would work wonders in jerking those jerks back to reality from their cozy, self-perpetuating fantasy land. These guys are not supposed to be working for Halliburton or Exxon or Pfizer or Boeing or Chase, they are supposed to be working for us! They are our employees... it's about time they showed some respect for their bosses! Try these recommendations out for starters:
Pass it/Live it: Congress shall not be exempt from any law that it passes. No more special privileges, exemptions, loopholes, sweetheart deals or automatic COLAS (Cost of Living Adjustment) unless such are also made available to all other governmental employees, and if possible, the general public. For instance, shut down the government, and don't expect to continue receiving those fat paychecks. And NO raise for Congress without a concurrent raise in the minimum wage.
Getting Paid to Hobnob:Why do U.S. representatives and senators receive at least $174,000 in pay? That's nearly three times the U.S. median income. Most D.C. pols are rich before they ever got to Washington D.C., and then they sure find a way to cash in BIG whenever they finally leave Congress (if they ever do). Serving We the People in Congress should be an honor and privilege, not a greased skid to further riches.
Here's a way to make sure those scalawags in Congress are looking out for the Middle Class, and seeking to make sure the economy works for everyone... not just the rich and their big corporations. How about they get paid the median income itself? That would be about $60,000 today. Or maybe this is a better idea: let's just put them on a 40 hour per week clock at minimum wage! Why not? They're probably the least productive "workers" in America; why should they get anything more? Don't you know that raising the minimum wage would become Priority No. 1 in that scenario.
Term Limits: Two terms for senators (12 years total) and six terms for congressmen (12 years total), and then you're out! We the People are supposed to be in control of our government, so the last thing we need is career politicians. Despite what the politicians may claim, none of them are indispensable; indeed few of them exhibit much in the way of higher intelligence or virtue. Their professional "talent" has led us squarely into the congressional mire we see today. We are not impressed. Meanwhile, we have no shortage of smart, talented and honest individuals who can easily fill their shoes.... and would approach their job as a privilege to serve the People, not a cakewalk to wealth and power. If two terms were good enough for George Washington, it should be good enough for everyone in Congress.
Strictly Limited Filibusters: It's not well known that the word "filibuster" comes from a root word which means pirate or robber. And that's what is happening every time it is used: Democracy is getting robbed and jobbed. Why should 41 senators be able to derail democracy? The filibuster is not mentioned in the Constitution; it was invented later and first crept into use around 150 years ago. Even then it was rarely used, and so was not a major factor in U.S. politics. But starting in the 1970s - just as the modern polarization of the two parties was being established (following the flight of southern social conservatives from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party) - the use of the filibuster began to be seriously abused. Since that time it has been the Republican Party that has most abused the filibuster, escalating to a frenzy through the Obama administration... with no end to the madness in sight.
So the filibuster has become a tool in the U.S. Senate for obstructionism... big time! Nowadays, almost every piece of legislation is jammed by the threat of filibuster. To break a filibuster requires 60 senators, not the 51 (or simple majority of those present for a particular vote) that true representative democracy would require. So this de facto supermajority is now essential for just about every bill that moves through the Senate, which means that governing from the Senate has come to a virtual standstill. That is totally unacceptable.
It is definitely not what the founding fathers spelled out in the Constitution. They bristled at the notion of a "supermajority" being needed any time, except in special cases such as expelling members of Congress. Alexander Hamilton stated that a supermajority replaces the regular and deliberate decisions of the majority with "the pleasure, caprice... artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt faction." There you go... a perfect definition from a founding father of the modern Tea Party.
The filibuster can be an important tool. Sometimes a non-virtuous majority is bent on doing something that is contrary to "promoting the welfare" of We the People. The minority should have some mechanism to block it. So, sure, allow some filibusters... but they must not become the regular course of business in the Congress of the United States of America.
Rather than a tiny few very powerful men holding our government by a muzzle at their pleasure, it's time to put a muzzle on senators. Just like in football, where teams are allowed only three time-outs per half, let's mandate that each party only gets a few filibusters, say between five and ten, per YEAR... rather than the orgy of dozens or hundreds of filibusters that have belched forth at an ever increasing rate over the past 40 years.
Zero Tolerance for Money or Favors: Money and power corrupt. We all know that. We can't do much about the power... elected representatives, by defintion, have power. We willingly give them power so that they can carry out the responsibilities and duties of government in representing us. But we can certainly do something about the money... if We the People decide to.
In giving them our power, we also pay these congressmen and senators quite handsomely.... not just in paychecks, but with our direct campaign contributions. But are they satisfied with that? Oh, no! You see, they've got a prettier sweetheart than we could ever be. In fact, they've got a coven of sweethearts... rich fat cats, lobbyists and influence peddlers. You, with your paltry offer of just $174,000 in annual salary and your pathetic $300 campaign contribution, just can't cut through the competition of flirting multimillionaires.
It's way past time we end - for good - this built-in corruption of dialing-for-dollars democracy, and take our nation back from the multi-millionaries, multi-billionaires, and the largest corporations. If America was meant to be owned and operated by them, the Constitution would say so. But it doesn't. In fact, the very first words indicate who this country belongs to: We the People! Let's take it back!
Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler talks about the prospect
of liberals and conservatives coming together.