Friday, March 15, 2013

Tomorrow is Canceled...

I don’t remember exactly when “Tomorrow is canceled due to lack of interest” first appeared but I think it was on a bulletin board at a women’s college. In any case it seems to me to be perfectly relevant at the moment, especially when it comes to our current political scene. Tomorrow might as well be canceled as the possibility of anything much happening is about non-existent. With President  Obama and the Democrats taking the position they will not accept anything that does not include an increase in revenue, and the Republicans maintaining the position they will not under any circumstances agree to increased revenue, there would seem to be little point in any further non-negotiations. This seems to be an unprecedented situation.
It has always been the case, as far as I know, that the two parties have disagreed over taxes and spending. Republicans have always claimed to be the party of smaller government and fewer taxes (even though they have not always followed this claim). It is understandable such disagreements have always existed. But there has never before, to my knowledge, been a situation in which one party has completely refused to negotiate at all and taken such an absolutist position as, “no increase in revenue, period.” I fail to understand how this can be tolerated as it is the equivalent of saying “we are not going to participate in governing.” That is to say, government, if it is to exist at all, has to be funded somehow. Raising and lowering revenue is an integral and necessary part of governing. Thus to say we are not going to either raise or lower taxes is the functional equivalent of saying we are not going to govern. This is not simply a disagreement over how much or how little the population should be taxed, it is saying taxation is not something that should even be discussed. I fail to see how this can be tolerated, especially in a large industrialized society that can only exist and function if it has sufficient revenue. I suppose Republicans could argue the current revenue is enough and should not be raised, but as this is clearly not the case it is a facetious argument.
It is true we have a larger than desirable national debt, but the obsession with the debt as the major (if not only) problem is itself the major problem. The debt can only be overcome, paradoxically enough, by adding at the moment a little more debt. That is, we need to borrow a bit more money at the moment (at about the lowest rates in history) in order to put more people to work in order to acquire enough money through taxes to solve the problem. We know this works as it has been successfully done in the past, and we know that austerity does not work as that, too, has been amply demonstrated, both in the past and currently in Europe.
 While I am not at all certain of this I think that perhaps much of the problem lies in the concept of “human costs.” Democrats (and “Liberals”) are interested in the human costs of such and such. This can be seen, for example, in the ad featuring Chris Hayes where he speaks of the human cost of people not having health insurance. I have the sense that “human cost” is not a relevant concept in Republican circles. I do not see how it can be salient for them when you consider their positions on such things as unemployment insurance, food stamps, unions, minimum wages, Planned Parenthood, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and any other forms of aid for the needy. You cannot hold such positions if you have any sense whatsoever of human costs. As President Obama, Democrats in general, and other “liberals” believe in the concept of human costs, and Republicans in general are apparently unconcerned about them, it is unlikely there will ever be a meeting of the minds about such things. I think Obama and others are unable to understand that Republicans, in fact, are simply not concerned about human costs, and thus the attempts to reach out to them will inevitably fail. You can see this failure to be concerned about human costs when it comes to immigration reform, gun control, health care, and so-called “entitlements.” I guess you might say Republicans are not truly monsters who are willingly engaged in savaging the working poor, they are simply ignorant people who have no understanding of the problems of such people. We might hope they may come to such an understanding but that does not seem to be on their agenda. It is a curious situation, to say the least, when half the population seems to have empathy and understanding and the other half has none (and doesn’t seem to want any).

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