Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Conservative Solution to Human Equity: The Disadvantaged Should Work Harder!

My conservative buddy has taken a shot at "standing up for conservative support for the status quo" in an email:
Are people ready for the reality check? The current social “safety net” (which coincidentally didn’t exist at all prior to the great depression but has only really only come into force in the 60-80’s) is based on the premise of consistent economic and population growth.
The current generation isn’t “screwed” as you put it, like the generations that preceded it they will need to work for what they believe in and shape the world into what they want.  Every proceeding generation has had to overcome their own set of difficulties for what they believe in.
If I were to take issue with the entire Occupy movement is seems they want something for nothing. Nothing gets you nothing and the social experiments of the 20th century have proved that just redistributing wealth does not eliminate homelessness, does not lower the poverty rate (these have remained essentially unchanged since the 60’s). This is simply not the solution.
Further in contrast to Occupy, not all high income earners are bad. The Bill Gates of the world give more to charity than 100 million of us average guys. They created something from nothing that as arguably changed all of our lives and so you want to hang him out to dry. Wealth and social hierarchies have as well been part of human societies for thousands of years. I bet in Egypt 3000 years ago it was a lot less than 1% that held the majority of the wealth. But in our current society don’t you think the rest of us have a much higher standard of living than the slaves building the pyramids did?
I am all for reducing corruption, and properly going after those that take advantage of or manipulate the system…both tall orders given our current Governments and the voting process…but the reality is we need to also encourage people to have greater personal accountability, to work harder and be more creative. These attributes have been the key drivers for advancing our society for the past thousands of years. We need to remind ourselves that we are the architects of this and we are the only ones that will get ourselves out of this.
The occupiers are long on finger pointing but short on solutions…other than more taxation. At least in our society if you want and have the will you can accomplish almost anything. So I would suggest to those who complain get on with it and get to those positions where you can affect the change you want. The processes are already in place.
Hm.  Apparently all the Occupy Movement wants, having begun as a protest designed to force those whose actions precipitated the global financial meltdown make some reparations, or at least suffer in some meaningful way, is to get handouts from the government.  The rest of us weren't aware of that, but then we've actually been looking into what they are trying to accomplish.

While my friend is clearly 'out to lunch' on the actual overall goals of the Movement, the fact that he honestly believes this at the moment is pretty devastating to those involved in the protests.  It strongly suggests they have to withdraw, rethink and try again!  The name they chose, all on its own, no longer makes their real (new?) goals clear.

I addressed my problem with the 'strategy' and 'goals' of the Occupy Movement the other day, disagreeing with their 'camping out' efforts as an effective tool to help accomplish their as yet unclear and disjointed objectives.  Let's take a look at the conservatives' strategies to undermine and marginalize the Occupy voices calls for what conservatives like least -- change.  (Republicans have advocated letting the raft sink rather than changing the way anything is being done!  It's like being in a seawater-filled, inflatable life raft that's leaking air -- the conservative who has been bailing furiously in a losing battle against the incoming water for hours will vote to keep bailing as it's what seems to make most sense to empty the interior of water, while the only real lifesaving solution is to try to stop the air from leaking out.)

The easiest way to start a senseless fight is to call someone names -- not just "You're a boo-boo-head", but things that are unproven and even patently untrue, like calling the biggest heterosexual goon in the bar a homosexual.  The gibe is not intended to illicit a discussion about the man's sexual history or proclivities, it is a provocation designed only to induce fisticuffs, not a conversation.  This is what Michelle Bachmann has done in calling the Occupy protesters "unpatriotic Socialists", a fanciful label given that the Occupy Movement has yet to articulate a clear, unified goal of any kind. 

In part, reality has worked very negatively against the movement since those protesters who had the wherewithal to articulate their point of view AND who have the credibility to stand behind it (i.e. they are currently employed taxpayers) have long since stopped camping out and have gone to work at their jobs.  The people who are still camping out are the unemployed, the unemployable and the fringe, none of whom the media or authorities are going to take too seriously.

What my friend is doing in his diatribe is to 'whitewash' the entire movement with the brush that the left-over campers are wielding, "We want something for nothing", that is: "We are not currently paying taxes but we're making demands upon those who are."  As long as this is the light the Occupy Movement (now turning out to be a very unfortunate choice of name) is spotlighted in, they are never going to accomplish much.  To be fair, the original impetus behind the name was "We, the 99% of Americans who got screwed by the financial sector, aren't going to give up until they get punished/pay reparations."  This was a laudable goal, the execution of which isn't working out so well....

The Occupy Movement would be well advised to regroup, re-strategize, get clear about their single-minded, simple goal, and re-brand themselves before attempting further messaging.  The notion of "occupying", while it seemed it could work as well as it has in places like Liberia and Mexico City, turns out to be less than effective, if not mis-directing, in a country where tax dollars actually ARE the government's largest source of revenue.

Back to my buddy's point of view, however.  Using Bill Gates as an example of 'good rich people' is a bit problematic, as Gates spent many, many years accumulating his vast wealth without any overt philanthropic efforts.  He only became a philanthropist later in life.

The real issue he ignores is the drop in the 1%'s tax rate over the past 20 years.  The seachange that the world is going to go through in the next 20+ years is not that poverty/homelessness is going to be eradicated, but that the wealth of the human species has to be more fairly distributed/shared.  At the end of the day, the reality is that there is only so much wealth in natural resources and human work-hours to go around.  As the global recession has demonstrated, it is NOT limitless, it is finite.  The only way to ensure stability amongst us is to spread the wealth.  Even because one child is born with a high IQ and his brother is a dullard, should not entitle Mr. Smarty-pants to vast wealth at the expense of his brother -- both are human beings we should support equally. 

As Fareed Zakaria has pointed out, the existence of an 'entrenched upper class' who's members don't actually do anything to entitle them to wealth other than being born into it, makes no real sense to our species, and we have a built-in tendency to embrace entitlement for ourselves.  If we are born into circumstances, whether it be a rich daddy or Western-world citizenship, we very aggressively believe we deserve everything we are used to.  Like the sons of Mohummar Ghadafi or Saddam Hussien being suddenly impoverished, they don't fundamentally believe they deserve to live an average, much less impoverished, lifestyle because they are 'special'.

In response to my pal, I can only say yes, you raise some valid points about contributing, making an effort and choosing where to focus one's attention, however to suggest that change is not needed to ensure the vastly wealthy are not forced to do what Bill Gates is doing is a bit like putting your head in the sand and hoping things will sort themselves out on their own.  Debate and a genuine open-mindedness to change BY EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is what is going to improve our species' collective lot on this planet.  Painting those who have some very valid points with the same brush benefits no one but the status quo.  Leaving the vastly wealthy foxes in charge of all the henhouses is not going to lead to anything but more wars fought by the poorest citizens against other poor citizens for the benefit of the wealthy decision-makers.

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