Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Facebook "Conversation"

This is a "conversation" I had with someone I don't know.  The original poster was a family member of mine. I'm using initials for all the participants (I'm SR), although it ended up being just a couple of us.  The quotes around "conversation" are for a reason.  It it is clear to me that we were not talking the same language; I was honestly trying to communicate (and, yeah, okay, I was a bit snarky at times), but he just kept repeating the same points.

Am I wrong?  Was he really trying to say what he thought, or was he simply Othering the targets of his disgust?  Please comment ... this is not the first time I've engaged in this kind of debate, and really I'd like to know if I am doing the same thing (just repeating my points), or if this is just another case of frustration in the face of the usual conservative "got mine, screw you" mindset.

By the way, I will admit that I hate, hate, hate "Repost this if you agree/repost or you're not really a Christian"/repost for whatever reason", and I never ever repost.  I'm a terrible person; so sue me.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoy the exchange. Nothing like a little debate to get the brain cells firing.

Original post:  Thank you Florida and Kentucky!!!! They are the first states that will require drug testing when applying for welfare. Some people are crying this is unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional? It's OK to drug test the people who work for their money but not those who don't??!! Re-post if you want all states to do this...I want our state to do this for sure!!


SR:  It is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment and the Supreme Court precedents against invasion of privacy by the government (and btw, there are rules about which employers can drug test and which can't). Sorry, you'll have to find some other way to harass the poor.

GM1:  Re: Susan, Harass the poor? are you one of those dope smokin, baby making deadbeats taking advantage of the government?

GM2:  Susan must be a dope smokin, baby making deadbeats taking advantage of the government? i understand people need help from time to time but if you can't pass a drug test then you don't deserve any money from the people that work and have to be able to pass a drug test!

DW:  as long as they aren't punishing these innocent children who rely on welfare, it's not their fault they were born to people who use drugs and can't provide for them. as much as we agree that people shouldn't make babies they can't take care of, often people with less resources also have less access to birth control or are less likely to even use it.

SR:  What these laws do is presume that a person is guilty and must prove themselves innocent, which is the opposite of how most laws work. Would YOU like the cops to break down your door and arrest you, and then have to prove you're innocent of whatever they're accusing you of? No? Why should the fact that you have a job (I'm assuming that you have one, Gary and Glenn) protect you from this kind of harassment?

SR:  And I'm one of those value-people-more-than-mon​ey, hard-working, live-and-let-live hippies. If it makes you feel better, you can tell yourself that *your* tax money is going to fund the war machine and riot cops. I prefer to think that *my* tax money is going to feel poor children and provide help to those who need it. There - feel better?

GM1:  well if they are doing drugs then maybe their children belong with someone who is better fit to take care of them. if they are unemployed and on welfare more than likely the money from welfare is being used to buy drugs instead of feeding thier chikdren!

SR:  Are your life and choices open to scrutiny? After all, you are the recipient of others' tax dollars in some way (roads, schools, infrastructure, tax breaks... you know, those things that make up civilization). Would you be quietly compliant if The Government or your boss (or anyone else) chose to riffle through your life and judge your choices in order to send your kids to public schools? Would you be happy about mandatory alcohol testing to see if you have a beer at night in order to keep your job? It's easy to get self-righteous about other people making choices you do not, but a whole lot harder to be at the receiving end of judgment, isn't it? People on assistance get a lot of abuse for the little help they get, and most would rather be self-sufficient. Advocating to make it even more difficult and degrading does nothing but make you look like a money-above-all-else scrooge. Where's your humanity... or at least your empathy?

GM1:  I have no empathy for people choosing illegal drugs over taking care of their children. I don't do anything that would put my job in jeopardy and if you have children you shouldn't be doing anything that would put your kids in jeopardy. I seriously doubt these people are hiring a babysitter while they smoke pot or shoot up or whatever else they may be doing. the kids are the ones that suffer for the parents stupidity.

SR:  You're missing my point. These laws aren't aiming to protect children; they're criminalizing being poor by harassing someone receiving assistance. In the rest of the world, you're innocent until proven guilty - the police have to have probable cause for a search and seizure (which is what drug testing is). These laws assume that a person is guilty FIRST, which is unconstitutional. You assume that everyone on assistance is guilty of a crime (drugs, welfare fraud) just because they are poor. From what you've written, you think that everyone who requires assistance is a criminal and is a negligent parent by default. That is, in my opinion, a pretty sick way of looking at the world. By those standards, I know quite a few job-holding criminals - where's your outcry to drug-test them? Or would you call that an invasion of privacy, strictly on the basis of where their money comes from?

GM1:  You are missing the point of the drug testing. it's letting you know that if you want to receive assistance you can't be abusing drugs. it isn't that hard to understand. just like if I want to have a decent job I can't be abusing drugs. if you test positive I am sure they will give you the opportunity to clean yourself up, it isn't unconstitutional it's just smart.

SR:  We're obviously talking at cross purposes here. I'm talking about constitutionality, human rights, and dignity; you're talking about holding people accountable, which is fine as long as you're not doing it from a position of power (ie, "I can make you get a drug test, but no one has the right to judge my choices").  Once again, I'd like you to remember that by your logic, anyone can force you to submit to a drug test because in some way you receive government benefits.  Be honest - you'd throw a fit, wouldn't you?

SR:  Your position is that people on assistance are by default abusing their children ("I have no empathy for people choosing illegal drugs over taking care of their children.").  You don't know that a particular person is abusing drugs, you don't know if they're not taking care of their children, you're just assuming that because they are poor they are by definition criminal and negligent.  How about drug-testing those who appear to be doing those things (just like in the rest of society)?  THAT'S my point.


That ended up being the last of it; I think we both got tired and walked away.  I can't see how it'd end any other way... neither of us was going to change the other's mind.  'Tis a shame.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Stand Corrected

After hitting "publish post" a moment ago, it occurred to me that I was wrong when I said I had no idea how to fix our current problems.  Well, I have ONE idea and it's not original with me, but hey, you have to start somewhere.

The Big Idea:  Tie Corporate Tax Cuts to Job Creation.

Very simple, really.  Company ABC hired 5 new workers (full-time, decent benefits).  Company ABC gets a tax cut for providing those jobs.

Company XYZ moves jobs to a third-world country, hides its profits in an offshore account, and/or pays its CEO a huge bonus?  No tax cuts for you.

Of course, you need demand in order for small businesses (the true job-creators) to hire more workers.  So be sure that unemployment benefits, TANF, food stamps, and other programs are funded.  It has been proven time and again that money poured into the bottom of the economy moves up, creating demand and jobs all the way up the economic scale.  Money poured into the top of the economy gets stuck in a bank account somewhere, enriching the possessor of that money (and his financial advisers), but benefits no one else.

Money is a creation and function of the government.  No one (let me repeat that, NO ONE) actually owns his money; it's a symbol of the economic system of the country.  Why should a tiny minority hoard so much of OUR country's resources this way?  After all, Generic Rich Guy did not get all of those resources on his own, and he owes a debt to the society that he used to build that wealth.

So there you go..... economic recovery in one easy step.  Please don't tell me that I'm the only one who thinks this is a good idea....?

Looking for a Word Deeper Than "Disappointment"

[this is a much-edited version of my original rant, which would have made your eyes bleed.  You're welcome.]

Lots of very smart people have been talking about the debt ceiling extortion.... oops, I mean "compromise" (here and here, to start), and I certainly have nothing new to add to the debate.  But I'm going to anyways.

I am beyond heartbroken and disgusted by this new legislation.  The entire purpose of government is to provide for the protection and benefit of all of its citizens.  Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that "you get what you personally pay for" in terms of widely beneficial services.  Nowhere did the Founding Fathers write that the government was only to benefit the wealthy, and that if you did not have money, you were not entitled to the benefits and protection of the federal government.  We are ALL American citizens, regardless of the size of our bank accounts or ability to hire workers.

But we have now officially moved from a democracy/republic to a corporatocracy.  The GOP (I'll get to the Dems in a minute) wasn't even trying to hide its agenda: tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, higher taxes/lower services for the rest of us.  They gave lip-service to 'shared sacrifices", but when it was pointed out that 90% of the country's population was sacrificing and that 10% (or less) was living high, the response was a shrug.

And the Democrats - the "party of the people"... where were you in this?  You control two of the three parts of the Legislative branch.  Where's your spine?  Why didn't you stand up for the rest of us... those who have no voice, those who are too busy trying to feed their families that they have no time for the political process, those who cannot pay high-priced lobbyists to look after their interests?  That's what we hired (elected) YOU to do.  Can we fire you now?

I've long felt that this country's structure was not Left vs Right, liberal vs conservative.  What we have here, boys and girls, is a T graph form of government.  Go get yourself a scrap piece of paper; I'll wait.  Now draw a horizontal line across the paper, and a vertical line from that line to the bottom.  Write "Democrats" on the left side of the vertical line and "Republican" on the right side.  Now put "Corporate Overlords" above the horizontal line.  THIS is what governance in America looks like - Corporate Overlords (the wealthy, special interest groups, lobbyists, multi-million-dollar corporations) on top, throwing down crumbs for the left and right to fight over.  Crumbs in the form of the Culture Wars - civil rights, reproductive health, social justice, gun control, immigration.

In What's the Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank argues that conservatives, especially in the "heartland", routinely vote against their own economic interests because the GOP has convinced them to pay more attention to Culture War issues than to their policies as a whole. So Uncle Bob and Aunt Martha will vote for Rancid Ronnie Republican who promises to fight gun-control laws and women's health clinics, even though the economic policies of Rancid Ronnie will cause Bob and Martha to lose their family farm.  In fact, Rancid Ronnie will convince them that it's those evil Lib'rals and dirty hippies who caused their farm to be foreclosed on.  Never mind how that happened; just believe it.

The Culture Wars are killing this country, because they allow the Corporate Overlords to distract us while they bleed the country dry.  They're like the aliens in Independence Day, going from planet to planet, using up the resources until the planet died, then moving on to the next target.  Their allegiance is not to country or community, but only to profits.

How do we fix this?  I have no idea.  All I know is what Molly Ivins implored us in her last column:
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action ... Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous..... Hit the streets ... We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

She was speaking of the Middle East wars, but it's just as true regarding the corporate takeover of America.  We MUST raise our voices, write our Congresscritters, call our local representatives, send letters to the editors... whatever it takes.

It's only our country that is a stake.

The Christianity Gap

I've been thinking a lot lately about the gap between what Jesus says and what conservative Christians practice.  Aren't they supposed to be the same thing?

We hear people every day say they're Christians, and yet they openly advocate for the principles of Ayn Rand, who despised Christianity and compassion in any form.  She thought empathy was a great moral weakness, and that selfishness was the highest human virtue.

There is a huge disconnect here, and all I can conclude is that their "Christianity" is lip-service only, what I call "cultural Christianity.".... "My parents went to church, I was active in the teen group, I bring my kids, I teach Sunday School" without really taking in and making personal any of the principles that make up "Christianity".  You know, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", "feed My sheep", "what you have done for the least [in society], you have done for Me".  Aren't these supposed to be the bedrock foundations of our faith?  Why are they so hard to put into practice?

Thanks to writers like Fred Clark at Slackivist and blogs like The Christian Left, I'm much more aware of the hypocrisy gap.  Remember when our parents would say, "Do as I say, not as I do" and how much we hated it?  We now have national leaders who are trying to get away with the same line.  We can't let them.


"The Ten Commandments - Republican-Style"

I. Thou shalt talk about Christian principles, but not live by them.
II. Thou shalt attack opponents personally when you can't win on policies.
III. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, but be in favor of the death penalty.
IV. Thou shalt call yourself pro-life, and put guns in the hands of school children.
V. Thou shalt give lip service to democracy while taking away civil liberties.
VI. Profit is the Lord Thy God, thou shalt not put the people's interest above those of your corporate contributors.
VII. Thou shalt make sure fetuses have health coverage, but leave children and babies behind.
VIII. Thou shalt bear false witness against your opponents and liberals, and demonize them.
IX. Thou shalt run on a moderate platform, then enact right-wing policies as soon as possible.
X. Thou shalt call the media liberal, so that people forget that the media is owned by corporations with a conservative fiscal agenda.

- Rebecca Lauer