Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is Everything "Political?"

Not everything is “political,” or so it seems to me. Let us say, for example, the experts at the Forest Service have advised you your house is in imminent danger from a raging forest fire. What would you do? Would you gather together all your children and other interested relatives and debate what to do? Would you try to find other Forest Service experts who would deny your house was in danger? After listening to all points of view would you then compromise about what to do? Of course you would do none of those things. The decision as to what needs to be done is obvious and not amenable to further discussion or compromise. Politics is irrelevant.

So why is the same thing not true of global warming? The overwhelming majority of scientists all over the earth agree that global warming is real and constitutes probably the greatest problem ever faced by the human species. What needs to be done, if anything much can be done at this late date, is perfectly clear. The human contribution to this immense and frightening situation can be reversed or at least reduced by taking certain actions having to do with reducing certain human activities. Immediate action is required. That is not happening. The problem of global warming is not really a political issue, nor can it be solved by political action, at least not in sufficient time to do much about it. Our Congress has made it a political issue with some arguing that it is not real, or if it is, humans have nothing to do with it. Some have gone out of their way to find some very small minority of “scientists” who deny it, in some cases doubtlessly even paying them for their contrary opinions. Global warming is a problem that all responsible politicians should have acknowledged and taken immediate action to do whatever can be done to curb it. It is not an issue that can be solved by politics. If the naysayers were to win the results would be disastrous. If those who believe global warming is real, and win after a long political fight, it will be too late. Nor is there any room for compromise. Someone said that politics is the art of compromise, but there is no room for compromise on global warming. What would compromise look like, global warming occurs in the northern hemisphere but not the southern? It occurs in the arctic circle but not in Paducah? We’ll accept it as a problem in even numbered years but not odd numbered years? It is just plain and simply not a problem amenable to a political solution. Either you believe in the judgment of the most eminent scientists around the world or you don’t, and the risk of not believing is unacceptable.

The same thing I believe is true of other problems that we have somehow made political that really should not be political. For example, why should the question of clean air and water be political? One would think that clean air and water should just be a given, taken for granted. But with huge corporations wanting to pollute the air and water for their own purposes we now find it being argued in political circles, in our Congress. Clean air and water are not a political problem, and like global warming, cannot be settled politically (unless, again, you are willing to wait until it is too late and the damage is irreparable). Does anyone truly believe we should compromise on clean air and water? What would such compromise involve, clean air and water on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? The very idea is ludicrous, but apparently not to some of our Congresspersons (doing their duty for corporate giants who don’t care whether we have clean air or water as long as their profits are insured).

Basically this is the same argument one can make about “privatization.” Some things are too important for human life and well-being to be privatized. Air and water are obvious, but there are others as well. Health care, for example, education, and even energy. The idea that government is somehow bad and privatization is good, from the standpoint of human welfare, is absurd, as we are now painfully finding confirmed.

These problems that should be apolitical but are not are also related to the issue of taxes. If you live in an organized society, especially a very large and complicated one, there is an absolute necessity for some institutions, like police, firemen, hospitals, schools, and so on. These can only be provided through some form of taxation. Taxes have to be raised and lowered, changed sometimes in other ways, to insure the smooth functioning of government. To hold, as Grover Norquist and our current Republicans do, that taxes should never be raised under any circumstances is ridiculous in the extreme. How Norquist managed to get anyone to sign a pledge to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes, absolutely amazes me. First of all, in a sense, Grover Norquist is a relative “nobody.” He holds no official position, being President of Americans for Tax Relief (or whatever his organization is called), and exists solely for the purpose of fighting taxes. But taxes are an integral part of government that cannot function without them. To sign a pledge to never raises taxes under any circumstances is basically saying, “I’m going to Congress but I pledge to not take part in governing.” This is precisely what Republicans have been doing during the Obama administration, saying “no” to everything and especially to taxes. This is especially egregious at a time when our country desperately needs cooperation and taxes if we are to recover from the recession. It makes no sense whatsoever if the purpose of government is governing, and is apparently motivated not merely for the absurdity of no taxes, ever, but by the express purpose of bringing down the Obama administration by any means possible. As long as this attitude prevails there will be no recovery and, indeed, may be a serious relapse. I personally believe what the Republicans are doing borders on treason. I sincerely hope they will be held accountable.

Oh, give me a home
where the buffalo roam
and the deer and the antelope play,
where never is heard
a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day.
(From the state song of Kansas by Dr. Brewster M. Higley)

Sigh, you don’t encounter many Brewsters anymore.

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