Monthly Archives: January 2015

“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”

What are you?  Are you a Republican because you are conservative?  Are you aligned with liberal causes because you are a Democrat?

bigstock-A-green-two-way-street-sign-po-20683979Which came first?  Your party affiliation or your conservative ideology?  Are you a liberal, by nature, and, therefore a Democrat?

Where did your socio-political philosophy come from in the first place?  Was it inherited from your parents or your life experience?

Are you more of a liberal than you are a Democrat?  Are you more of a conservative than a Republican?

Is it even possible to separate liberalism from being a Democrat or conservatism from being a Republican?  Could you be a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican?

These questions have been on my mind for a long time.  I ask them because public policy debates have confused different philosophies into an amalgam of political agendas, and that is leading us down the road toward ideological meaninglessness.

The differences are crucial, however.  Conservatism and the Republican Party are separate concepts.  The same is true of liberalism and Democrats.  While, today, each party holds those principles close to their heart and clearly we predominately consider them to be exclusive to each, the historical journey is very different and must be examined if we are to ever find common ground.

In the beginning of our country we had the Federalists that included Washington and Adams, and the party of Jefferson who were Democrat-Republicans.  Federalism, it should be noted, wasn’t really a political party, but a philosophy that believed in strong central government along with the promotion of commerce and industry.

washington-adams-and-jeffersonThe Federalists became Whigs who evolved into the Republican Party.  The Democrat-Republicans, who today would be considered Libertarians, became strictly Democrats.  The original Democrats, formed by Andrew Jackson, coerced the US into using its power in foreign affairs when American interests were threatened, but in economic and social policy they stressed the responsibility of federal government to act cautiously, if at all.

It was Democrats in the early 19th century who argued that the national government should do nothing the states could do for themselves, and that drilled down into localities believing local government better served its people than state government.

And in the cracks of our party histories we’ve seen the National Republicans who became the Free Soil Party which rose to vehemently oppose the spread of slavery.  In time they gave way to the People’s Party which eventually became the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party of Republican Teddy Roosevelt who fought for social reforms and was opposed to excessive corporate power.

bull_moose_party

Woven into the fabric of Republican history is progressivism and part and parcel with Democratic history, from the Revolution until the New Deal, were conservative, small government ideals

Political parties and socio-political philosophies do not share continuous and consistent histories and one need only to go back 150 years to the creation of the modern Republican Party to realize that Republicans embraced progressivism in their purpose to end slavery, while, in fact, it was Democrats holding on to the conservative status quo.

So today when one party holds the philosophical guidance of conservatism or liberalism over its head to declare a consistent connection throughout history, it is sheer folly.  While our political affiliations may appear to be extensions of our political-philosophical beliefs, there is no core set of principles that exist within any of our political “disciplines.”

I offer this with the hope that, perhaps, some of the vitriol in our disagreements could be eliminated.  One side rarely speaks of the other, be it Republicans concerning Democrats or Liberals with regard to Conservatives, without an angry tone or sarcastic dismissal of all they have brought to the policy table.

Difficult as it may be to accept, or even comprehend….Republicans are responsible for much of our country’s progressive movements that many Republicans hold in contempt today.

And Democrats have in our history fought against some of the social reforms that they now embrace.

So…let’s get over ourselves.  Our ideological history isn’t a straight line from the cause of the Revolution to the cause of our Revulsion today.

“Coo coo ca-choo!”

The Preamble Scramble

Avoid-Paying-Taxes-on-Your-Social-SecuritySomeone came into my office the other day and said, “I’m becoming a Libertarian.  I’m tired of big government in my life and I’m tired of government in my paycheck!”

I understood where he was coming from; I don’t enjoy writing the tax check to Uncle Sam, either.  But, I also don’t enjoy paying the cable bill; it’s just a reality I must accept for getting the service.

I wonder, though, how much money I could keep in my paycheck if there wasn’t so much being allocated for…well…defense spending.

piechartI knew that my visitor was implying government spending on everything else, but nearly $700,000,000,000 a year must seem at least a little excessive to anyone.  We talked for a while and what he didn’t like were things like the Department of Education, the FDA, the EPA, welfare programs, and Social Security.

When I do a little math, though, I see that aside from Social Security, I don’t lose that much from my check to welfare, and except for the proportion that is spent on defense, I think I’m taxed moderately to run a nation with the services and benefits we have.

I asked my visitor, “Will you be making personal contributions to national defense to make up for less taxes?”

ace1He replied, “That’s what I’m happy to pay.  Government should take care of national defense and the infrastructure of the United States and nothing more.”

I agreed.  But, the question arises:  What is the infrastructure of the United States?

The preamble to the Constitution states:

“We the People of the United States, in order the-preamble-to-the-united-states-constitution,75366to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….”

From this we can probably agree on the services necessary to protect Americans and our economic health:  National defense, highways, waterways, railways, sewers, utilities, and communication networks.

But what else is contained within promoting “the general welfare” and the “domestic tranquility” of the people?

Most people (including me) don’t hesitate to include schools and hospitals, but where do we draw the line?  The quality of education provided in those schools?  And what about the entire health system?  What is a hospital without the best care possible?

What is “domestic tranquility”?  Does that include social services?

And where is the line drawn for “common defense”?  Who defines the parameters of necessary defense before it becomes aggressive offense?

My office visitor left right after I said, “Government is what we’ve made it.  It is naïve to suggest that all we have to do is cut spending and cut programs and government will automatically get smaller.”

He left, but I silently continued my reasoning.

Government has grown as our country has grown.  We, the People, have demanded that our government protect our interests in areas that far exceed our Framer’s original understanding of Common Defense and General Welfare.

I would’ve asked my visitor:  “When a passenger jet crashes, would you be satisfied with an explanation from Boeing that it will never happen again, or do you prefer that there is an FAA that investigates the crash without bias and has the authority to instigate changes to prevent that mistake from happening again?”

“When toxic waste is poured into a river and the neighboring town gets sick, would it be enough for the townspeople to ask that the company please refrain from doing that?  Or do we need the aggregate voice of all the people (government) to demand new practices?

“When the lunchmeat is bad at school, what will protect our children from the choice a provider made to hold better margins?

The answer?  Government of, by, and for the People.

300px-YeomanThe Libertarian ideal, the one that includes Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of agrarian government, can no longer exist because the conflicting interests and demands of 315 million people (and counting) ensures that simplicity will never again be the operating system of America.

There is a reason government has not shrunk even when we’ve had Republican presidents with a Republican Congress.  It’s like changing a tire on a moving car; most of the programs and services contained within government were created by our own demands upon that system.  In many cases, spending (welfare spending, as well) has increased under the watch of the party that stands most firmly against it.

We can, and should, talk about defining government responsibilities.  We can, and should, talk about controlling spending, and we should talk about redundancies and unnecessary government programs. But, those directives do not necessarily create smaller government or keep “government out of our paychecks.”  They can, however, aim our conversations toward creating “better” government.

Government is the foundation of representation and the realization of our Founder’s vision.  It is improved by cooperating within the system designed by our Constitution, by researching the issues, by participating with our votes, and even with our protests.

put-money-back-in-your-pocketThe argument about the size of government has derailed and sidetracked the solutions that actually could put more money back into our own pockets.

Let’s leave talking about size to fishermen and insecure guys in bars.