An Alternate History of The Tea Party

Let’s imagine The Tea Party movement starting much earlier so they were firmly in power by 2008 and got to make the decisions that President Bush and Obama made.  Let’s imagine they released the Kraken of absolute free economic survival of the fittest capitalism.  What would our world be like today in 2010?

Picture all those top banks, AIG, GM and Chrysler going down the tubes.  Then imagine all their business partners going under, and the domino effect that would have.  What would Wall Street and our 401k accounts look like today?  And with all those people out of work would the Tea Party even offer a stimulus package?  Let’s assume not.  Let’s assume they really want absolute free markets and a small government like they claim.  What would the unemployment figure be today?  No one really knows.  But I do believe all the states would be much worse off today, and so would their retirement systems for state employees.

Our whole way of life is built on a giant Ponzi scheme of economic activity.  If the economy slows everyone suffers.  The loan crisis of 2008 was a hydrogen bomb hitting Wall Street, and what the Tea Party philosophy appears to say is “Absolutely no disaster relief.”

As much as free market capitalists would like to believe, there is no such thing as a free market.  All the governments of the world back their citizens and corporations to compete in various ways.  The Federal Government has always been a stimulus package for our economy.  To have true free markets we’d have to have no government involvement.  Government would only be for roads, militia, police, and all those other shared services, but not for helping America to compete in the world markets, or to help corporations and individuals survive within the United States.

If we followed the Tea Party philosophy we’d have to stop subsidizing industries like farming and oil.  Big government means lots of jobs.  Big government means helping corporations get bigger which means even more jobs.  Social services means supporting people who would otherwise be looking for jobs.  Applying the Tea Party philosophy means destroying tens of millions of jobs.

If the Tea Party had gotten their way in 2008 I believe we’d have devastating unemployment today, with all the retirement systems, including federal, state, corporate, personal savings, etc. would have been wiped out, and we’d have even a larger portion of the population without medical insurance.  The economic Kraken would have eaten us up and shitted us out.  But I can’t prove that, but I find it hard to believe otherwise.

What the Tea Party philosophy wants to believe  is absolute Darwinian survival of the fittest.  And theoretically that might sound good.  During our great pioneering days, the weak died, and the strong got stronger.  But then we invented democracy and organized into a cooperative civilization.  This allow millions to get stronger, grow and thrive.

The history of America is really the history of cooperative effort.  Do we really want to go back to era of pioneering when only the strongest individuals survived?  Sure, the strongest level of cooperation then was the family structure.  I really admire the pioneering spirit of those days, but its only suited for an extremely low population density.

I don’t think the Tea Party people really want to shrink the government that small.  I expect most of them are really just nostalgic for the 1950s sized government.  But try and imagine a world without Medicare and Medicaid?  My mother’s last twenty years cost a lot of money in terms of medical care that neither she nor me and my sister could have afforded.  And I imagine that’s true of most people in the U.S.  And that governmental supported health care for the elderly and poor created millions of jobs.

I just don’t see how we can go backwards without putting millions out of work.  What the Tea Party philosophy wants would so thoroughly reshape our society.  Some would get much richer, but most would get much poorer.

All the political conflict in our country comes down to one analogy:  There is a knob that adjusts the economy.  Turn it one way and it strengthens the individual, turn it the other way, it strengthens the whole.  Many Tea Party people believe they would be strengthened by turning the knob to the right.  Want to know if that’s true for you?  If you are already rich then you have what it takes and that turn of the knob will help you.  If you aren’t rich, more than likely you’ll be in the whole that gets poorer.  The strong are already strong.  Very few people sit on the borderline and would be freed to find new wealth.

Sure it would be nice to pay less tax.  If we paid 10% or 25% less would our individual lives be that much better?  I would think it would put millions our of work, so for the whole it would bring misery.  Would some of our problems be solved if we all paid a little more?  I don’t know.  I think we should be taxed less in good times, and more in bad, simply to share the good and the bad more fairly.

The Tea Party protestors seem so angry at the government, believing less government would improve our lives.  If we had better banking regulators and economists, couldn’t we have avoided some of these economic tragedies?  The economy seems to be getting slowly better, and isn’t that due to government intrusion?  I am not very political, but I don’t see the size of the government as a problem.  When I hear about tainted food, I want more food inspectors.  When I hear about terrorists I want more security guards.  When I hear that China and India want to go to the Moon, I want NASA to go back. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everything runs smoothly, or every tax dollar is spent wisely.  If bean counters can find ways to cut the fat, or watchdogs find ways to get rid of graft and corruption, or economists can come up with ways to do things cheaper, I’m all for it.  I just don’t see the point of making the government smaller if we have to give up services that the majority wants.

Wasn’t the original Tea Party a protest against taxation without representation?  We get lots of opportunity to vote and have our voices heard.  And if the Tea Party people had something specific they wanted, their job is to get the majority to agree.  They are being heard, but their protests are more about anger than legislation.  Being against health care reform is just swimming against the tide when many nations much poorer than us already have it.  That’s just the way the world is going.  We can’t go backwards, especially if we want the U.S. to stay the world leader 

And don’t get me wrong, there is lots to protest about.  The stimulus money could have been better managed.  People losing their homes should have gotten more help.  People without jobs should be getting help faster.  I think our government is constantly evolving and improving, and sure it has tremendous problems, but over time those will be fixed and new ones will show up.  We’ll always have problems and we’ll never reach perfection.

Sarah Palin, The Tea Party, Fox News, and all the politics of anger scares me.  I want a stable law and order society and these people are advocating revolution.  I feel now how my parents felt in the 1960s.  I’m sure many people are tired of liberal progress, but if they studied history, they would see even as far back as pre-history the evolution of liberal thought.  The evolution of liberal ideas have been progressing for a very long time.  It’s so ironic that conservatives worship the liberal heroes of the past.

Conservatives are just liberals who want to get off the progress train.  No matter how right wing some conservatives are, many of their cherished beliefs were once radical.  I am reminded of the ending to the movie Things to Come, where two scientists are watching the first flight to the Moon:

An observatory at a high point above Everytown. A telescopic mirror of the night sky showing the cylinder as a very small speck against a starry background. Cabal and Passworthy stand before this mirror.

CABAL: “There! There they go! That faint gleam of light.”

Pause.

PASSWORTHY: “I feel–what we have done is–monstrous.”

CABAL: “What they have done is magnificent.”

PASSWORTHY: “Will they return?”

CABAL: “Yes. And go again. And again–until the landing can be made and the moon is conquered. This is only a beginning.”

PASSWORTHY: “And if they don’t return–my son, and your daughter? What of that, Cabal?”

CABAL (with a catch in his voice but resolute): “Then presently–others will go.”

PASSWORTHY: “My God! Is there never to be an age of happiness? Is there never to be rest?”

CABAL: “Rest enough for the individual man. Too much of it and too soon, and we call it death. But for MAN no rest and no ending. He must go on–conquest beyond conquest. This little planet and its winds and ways, and all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time–still he will be beginning.”

PASSWORTHY: “But we are such little creatures. Poor humanity. So fragile–so weak.”

CABAL: “Little animals, eh?”

PASSWORTHY: “Little animals.”

CABAL: “If we are no more than animals–we must snatch at our little scraps of happiness and live and suffer and pass, mattering no more–than all the other animals do–or have done.” (He points out at the stars.) “It is that–or this? All the universe–or nothingness…. Which shall it be, Passworthy?”

The two men fade out against the starry background until only the stars remain.

The musical finale becomes dominant.

CABAL’S voice is heard repeating through the music: “Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?”

The role of the conservative is not to stop progress, but to make progress stable and orderly.  Wild eyed liberals need conservative reason.  There is no communication anymore between the two polarized camps, so we’ve stopped working together.  We both just fear each other’s ideas.  Now that the liberals have gotten healthcare reform maybe we should focus on fiscal conservation and let the other side have some wins too.  Our progress seems to have scared the conservatives into becoming radicals, where they are even willing to abandon their old love of law and order.

JWH – 4/6/10

Genetics Versus Choice in Politics

Charles Gibson, from ABC News, interviewing Sarah Palin asked her about homosexuality, giving her the choice between genetic or learned.  Palin dodged the question, but I got to wondering about the implication of that question.  I assume Gibson was using it as a touchstone question for gauging just how conservative Palin might be.  Conservatives want to believe everything in life is a choice and that we’re morally judged by our behavior.  Liberals consider some behavior genetic and believe that changes how society should be run.

What if some behavior was absolutely proven to be genetic?  How would that affect politics?  Scientists often say they have found a genetic link to various diseases and conditions, but I don’t think all people accept science at this level as being true.  To many people it’s as vague as understanding the theory of evolution.  What would it take for science to convince the majority of people that genetics is a fact of life?  Most people accept the science of aerodynamics even though they don’t understand it because they buy airline tickets.

If the science of genetics evolved to the point with near 100% accuracy to predict future behavior from pre-natal testing would that be convincing?  If all pregnant women got a blood test and one of the factors given was a 75% chance of having a homosexual kid, and studies later showed that 75% of those kids did indeed turn out to be homosexual, would conservatives accept the science of genetics and its implications?

We know that conservatives can radically alter their positions – Sarah Palin is proof of that because accepting her as suitable for commander in chief asserts an acceptance of radical feminist ideals from forty years ago.  If homosexuality is proven to be part of nature, will conservatives accept that and love their gay and lesbian kids?  Or will their loathing of homosexuality change their position on abortion?

What if the science of genetics goes further.  What if genetic testing could predict that children will become atheists, criminals, terrorists or even Democrats or Republicans?  Will fundamentalists be willing to abort Democrats as fetuses, or a family of Yellow Dog Democrats want to abort a young Republican?

Am I an atheist because of genetics or choice?  Growing up I thought at age 12 I was making a decision on my own to abandon primitive superstition, but as I’ve grown older I’ve sometimes wondered if atheism isn’t just my nature.  I went to the same schools as my peers, and went to church with them too, so why do 90% of boomers think about God, and us other 10% don’t?  Maybe there’s a constant 10% of skeptics in every generation, no matter what the educational system is like.  Would pro-life fundamentalists accept abortion if they thought they could stomp out atheism in a few generations?

Or would conservatives feel less threatened if they knew that homosexuals and atheists were just weird breeds in the population like Calico cats.  I’m not the kind of atheist that wants to convert religious people.  I believe that genetics makes some people religious and it does no good to try and make them scientific.  To me, atheists who try to convert for their cause are like religious people who try to shanghai people into their belief systems.  I’d like to believe if people read and study enough on a subject they will come to their own conclusions, but I don’t know if that’s a scientific truth.

What I would like is a political system that allows everyone to pursue their on beliefs as long as they don’t interfere or harm other people and their beliefs.  And I think that was what the American founders intended for our American way of life.  The problem we face today is some people think their personal beliefs, maybe genetic in origin, should be how 100% of people should believe and those beliefs should be codified into law.  Some of the extremes of this thinking would like to get rid of homosexuals, atheists, liberals and environmentalists.

To these thinkers, that’s the path to a successful government and a happy population.  But think about this.  If GM and Ford, and the auto unions had supported conservation and environmental recommendations from back in the 70s and 80s instead of seeking to politically change laws to meet their own self interests they wouldn’t be heading down that steep economic decline towards bankruptcy.

I know this illustration might sound like it’s coming out of left field, but hear me out.  What I’m saying is government laws that were meant to protect all people would have been much more beneficial to the special interests of the auto industry if they had not interfered.  The American auto industry inflicted it’s own near mortal wounds by getting laws customized for their way of thinking.  If they had had to compete with world auto makers under the laws that were meant to help everyone, they would still be prosperous today.

Whether our behavior is learned or programmed by genes, it should not matter to our laws.  We need laws designed for the common good that ignore special interests.  We need to accept diversity and account for it in our legal system.  Gays getting married should not affect fundamentalists who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, if we have a system that allow for both.  To me the solution is simple.  Have two kinds of marriages, the first, a basic legal marriage that meets state and federal laws, good for all people, and a second marriage within churches that meet the laws of their gods, for those people that have extra special interests.

My mother-in-law never believe my wife and I were properly married because we weren’t married within the Catholic Church, but the laws of the nation believe we are married.  If I believed like my mother-in-law, I would have converted and gotten married in the Catholic Church.  The law of the land would have no affect on that.

By the special interest beliefs of Catholics, anyone not married in the Catholic Church is not married.  Should that be the law of the land?  See my point.  This world will never know which religion is right so we have to create laws that work for all religions.  We need generalized rules for laws, and let people pick their own specialized beliefs that they keep to themselves.

I don’t know if our behaviors are programmed or created by our free will, but should that affect the political system?  We need a system that works either way, or any combination of the two.  As long as I can be an atheist I don’t care if other people are Christian, Jew, Muslin, Pagan or Hindu.  Governor Palin should have said to Charlie Gibson, “It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is learned or genetic, the American way should protect them to the fullest extent of the law.”  Our only enemies that we should abort are those that threaten us physically or interfere with our ability to pursue happiness through American ideals.  Those are the true terrorists, whether from outside of the country that want to attack our way of life, or criminals that want destroy our system from within.

Jim

Sarah Palin

Last night while watching Sarah Palin speak at the Republican convention I came the closest I ever have to wanting to vote conservative.  Sarah Palin is one of the most engaging plain-talking politicians I’ve ever heard.  What’s terribly amusing is she is a product of liberal evolution.  It’s been only a few years back that most conservatives believed that women belonged in the kitchen, and less than a century since they were allowed to vote.  It would be rather ironic if the conservatives elect the first woman Vice President and possible future President.

Conservatives may not like change, but they are adapting quite well with Sarah Palin.  They have been quick to accept the idea that she should be treated like a man and be freed of maternal slavery so she can put in the long hours needed be a political leader.  It’s either that, or not allow any candidate, male or female, with dependent children to work in the White House.  Hell, it hasn’t been that many years since I’ve heard conservatives talk about how women can’t be President because of hormones.  I’m proud of you Republicans for evolving in your liberal thinking.  Now, if you could only get over your hang-ups over gays and lesbians.

I really liked John McCain’s comments tonight about Obama and how we’re all Americans.  I get so sick of Republicans acting like liberals aren’t patriotic, and believe we don’t love this country as much as they do.  Republicans have this really offensive behavior of thinking that anyone that doesn’t agree with their philosophy is a traitor to the U.S.A.  I think that attitude is un-American because it erodes free thinking and encourages ugly group-think.  I believe the McCain-Palin ticket has tried to back off from acting like that.  I think McCain knows it’s offensive, but I don’t know about Palin yet, with her pit-bull with lipstick demeanor.

While listening to Sarah Palin I had to keep reminding myself why I don’t vote Republican.  The thing is I have lots of conservative beliefs myself, but Republicans have such a smug holier-than-thou attitude towards everything that I don’t think I’d fit in with my Hamlet like indecisiveness of seeing a thousand gray shades in every issue.  Besides, they really hate atheistic evolutionists like me.

Of course I also have problems with Democratic ideals too.  I’m comfortable in the political middle and feel both parties are extremists.  I’m for free trade and globalism, lower taxes, smaller government, but I’m also for helping the poor, some entitlements, and a minimal level of universal health care.  I love both business and the environment.  I think abortion should be legal but wished no one would ever get one.  I think capital punishment can be an ethical solution but doubt if we have the discernment to see the true distinctions in what’s involved.  I think war is often necessary, that it’s important to keep a prepared military, that the Iraq War might be the biggest mistake our country ever made, but since we broke it we should pay for it.  I wished the Republicans would admit that Iraq was a huge mistake and I wished the Democrats would admit that sticking with the surge and going the distance is the right thing to do.

Politics is so far from black and white that I can’t believe people get so polarized.  I disagree with many of Sarah Palin political stances, but I think she might make a good leader.  I think her small town salt-of-the-earth good-people philosophy is fine as long as she doesn’t press personal and religious beliefs into law for everyone.

I have an odd view about Republicans and Democrats in relation to religion.  I think Republicans are really Old Testament thinkers, and Democrats are followers of the New Testament.  The Old Testament is about God, the Law and the Chosen people.  The New Testament is all about compassion for the poor, sharing the wealth of the fish and loaves, understanding criminals and prostitutes, and so on.  The Old Testament is about being powerful, prospering, forming a strong nation to please God, and most of all, law and order.  The New Testament is about uplifting the meek and helpless, understanding your neighbors, and walking in other people’s shoes, breaking out of the old ways and forging a compassionate philosophy.

I can understand all that Old Testament thinking – it’s how mankind got its act together to create civilization.  The New Testament is the origin of liberal thought.  It’s the beginning of the shift from believing that the nation is of ultimate importance, to the shift in valuing the importance of the individual.  All people in this world, except the most extreme fundamentalists have been affected by liberal thought.  The trouble with the most extreme liberals is they threaten the stability of the nation.  For example, would universal healthcare damage the economy?  Would gay marriage threaten the social fabric?

In other words, I can understand why conservatives are threatened by liberals.  But to my conservative friends, has women in the military, boardrooms, legislative houses and maybe the White House hurt us?  Is education about how not to get pregnant or acquire a STD so scary, especially when children are bombarded with pro-sex television, movies, books, songs, and advertisement from the time they are tiny?  Sex education in the schools of any kind is completely anti-sex compared to pop culture.  And do you not realize that teaching creationism or intelligent design is defective thinking similar to astrology, Tarot cards and palm reading – something the Enlightenment passed by hundreds of years ago?

If the Republicans get more liberal, more into the New Testament, more concerned about the environment, maybe I’ll consider voting for them.  Sarah Palin, I think you are beautiful, charming, full of grit and sand, honest, and worthy of the job, but also still too Old Testament scary for me.

Jim