Extremes to Demise

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In response to Dustin Frelich's excellently crafted article on WatchBlog, entitled Conservatives Debate Medicare, I reply in the following way. I understand the philosophy behind those Republicans who believe that social programs are bad for America. It is a philosophy born out of a gross misunderstanding and confusion about the bi-polar extremes of free enterprise fostered by Milton Friedman followers, and socialism as implemented under communist and authoritarian regimes. They fail to recognize that social programs saved this nation after the most horrible of depressions in the 1930's and an extremely costly WWII which would have bankrupt this nation had it not been for the social programs that trained workers and put them to work on public works, and insured those who did work, a modicum of financial dignity upon retirement.

They fail to recognize that social programs do in fact, work today in countries that are democratic and provide benefits America cannot provide its citizens. This is not to say that social programs don't come without opportunity costs. But free enterprise is not without its costs in greed, class segregation, and tiering of society. Free enterprise costs Americans billions each year in fraud, corruption, tax evasion, and a black market that is second to none in the world. There is no freer enterprise than the black market. It makes and enforces its own rules, pays no taxes, defeats all attempts to regulate it and gives very little benefit back to society. That is free enterprise in its purest form.

France has less than a 40 hour work week, and all citizens are assured of basic health and education and training services. Canada has a health care system that recognizes the immorality of being a wealthy nation and leaving 40 plus million of its citizens without health care, experiencing pain and suffering and shorter lives all because they can't afford the free enterprise health care. Granted, Canada will never be a major exporter of medical and pharmaceutical technology, and non emergencies wait months for an appointment, but that is the trade off. It does work and provides benefits America does not.

But, what frustrates me is the short-sightedness of both party's extremes. The ultra-liberals, who believe more or less, that in a wealthy nation all citizens should be relatively wealthy, would sacrifice America's economic engine driven by capital markets and investments and corporate growth, research and development.

The ultra conservatives on the other hand, would take us back to the 19th century when captains of industry and inherited wealth felt and acted as if they alone were entitled to make the laws that supported them and workers were little more than a natural resource to be consumed, depleted, and replaced at the lowest cost possible. They relied on the eleemosynary system to assist those who were infirm, disabled, too young or too old, or too uneducated to be employed as a cog in the machine. And during those times, free enterprise and the eleemosynary system, relating to charity or giving alms; dependent on charity utterly failed millions and millions of Americans resulting in premature deaths, horrible suffering and abuse in charitable institutions, and total abandonment by society of millions of persons due to there simply not being enough charity dollars to go around.

America has been a blend of socialism and free enterprise, a mixed economy, since FDR and this balancing act between free enterprise and social programs like public education, social security, government supported and union fought for employer paid health insurance and retirement plans, Medicare and Medicaid were a part of making America the most powerful economic, military, and international force in the world, in addition to becoming the envy of 100's of millions throughout the world.

Ultra-conservatives would take us back to the 19th Century, and ultra Liberals would take down our ability to assist other nations financially, to lead the world in information and medical technology through a redistribution of wealth that would choke investments the size of which are necessary to remain a leading nation and force in the world for good.

In my opinion, the Republican party has gone considerably too far to the right to maintain America's 20th century heritage of growing living standards for all, and aging with dignity, and dramatically reducing suffering as a result of poverty and ending sub-subsistence level wages and benefits for an honest days work.

The Democrats at least are not working to end free enterprise or cripple America's economic leadership. But the Republicans appear hell bent on eliminating the concept of a wealthy nation sharing enough of its wealth through taxation and social programs to insure all of its citizens a fruitful, and relatively anxiety and stress free quality of life. A life for parents and care givers that grants them the ability to pass on the assurance of a quality of life to their children unrivaled in the rest of the world should be a goal for the wealthiest nation in the world.

In a free democracy, persons are free to ruin their lives. But in a free wealthy democracy, all citizens who work 40 hours a week provide the very stuff that makes our economic system great. Where would IBM or Microsoft or Chase Manhattan be without janitors, without clerks, security guards and on and on? They would be knee deep in disorganization that's where.

A janitor should be entitled to a decent wage that provides home ownership, a reliable vehicle, health insurance, a retirement plan, and the ability to save for his/her children's educational choices and assistance in getting their start in life as productive adults. For without that janitor, our nation would collapse. Without that clerk, that secretary, that server at Luby's, that maid at the hotel, free enterprise would grind to a halt in a heck of a hurry.

The white collar manager should make more than a janitor because the manager made a greater investment in either education or career experience, or simply was born with talents in more limited supply. But the laborer's work is as valuable to this nation as any white collar manager's and they should be entitled to a share of the nation's wealth that provides a life with dignity and hope, not struggle, frustration and despair. Without the laborer, there would be no great nation, just as without managers, there would be no great nation. Those whose work is indispensable to our economic system should earn a middle class wage and benefits, and if employers cannot bear the full load, some wealth distribution through a progressive tax system or at least a flat rate tax system is justified by history, economic practice of the past, rational and ethical grounds.

Nothing even close to this kind of thinking or debate is taking place in the Republican led Congress and it is clear from the President's actions, that no such thoughts are contained in policies he is promoting. Much of the President's rhetoric at election time and today are aimed at selling himself as some champion of quality of life for all Americans, but, his programs and policies and executive orders reflect nothing of the kind. I fear for America's future if centrists are unable to take the helm of this great government of ours in November of 2004, be they Republican, Democrat, Green or otherwise.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on November 24, 2003 10:42 AM.

Money Talks Campaign Finance Reform to Death was the previous entry in this blog.

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