Why America is Stuck: Part Three

Getty Images, NPR UNITED STATES – JANUARY 12: Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., make their way to the House floor for President Obama’s State of the Union address, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What if this is the turning point? What if this is the moment when we decide if Mitch McConnell and the currently sidelined Trump represent the way we want to be governed, or if Biden and Harris represent the way we want to be governed? 

Maybe the moment will not happen right now. Perhaps that moment is still ahead of us. But Americans need to think about how they see their government. 

Is it the job of the federal government to simply collect taxes, fight wars, conduct relations with foreign nations and manage international trade period. Is oiling the wheels of those who seem to keep the economy moving (and the money flowing into their pockets), and stopping attacks on the homeland what government should be about? 

Or is our government also important as a kind of social referee preventing abuse of citizens by big corporations, big pharma, for profit medicine, tiny germs, employers, wealth hoarders, those who reject science because it hurts their bottom line. If we want to have some referees then it affects the kinds of people we elect. 

What do you imagine our lives will be like if workers have no support from the federal government and no unions so that they can band together in numbers similar to corporate lobbyists? 

Would you want to work 40 or more hours a week for the rest of your life with perhaps a two-week vacation, and just maybe a few paid sick days? And I do mean for the rest of your life. If you wanted to retire you would be on your own. You would have to have your own plan. You could dabble in the market through an app like Stash or you could check out Robinhood. 

If you did not make enough in your minimum wage job to feed your family or even just yourself, and pay rents that are too high without any subsidy from the government, it would be up to you to improve your lot in life, take night classes, find an apprenticeship if you could. You would have to work 40 hours a week, take care of your family and take some classes and do it all again the next day and the next. 

Even in the event that you could keep up this pace, or put off getting married or having a family, which would be difficult with no birth control, you would still have to find a new job and work at that job every day year after year. Abstinence would become an important word if you had ambitions.

You could go into business, work on a business plan, find an investor and make a good marketing plan, or start from scratch in your kitchen, or your basement, or your garage, and/or online. You might get wealthy. You might fall into debt.

I’m not predicting this life for Boomers. We’re already retired. This is what life would be like for Millennials and GenXers, etc. if Republicans had their way. America would be a society of workers and work would never end. Social Security checks would be a thing of the past. TAP and Pell grants to help with tuition would be up to the states, or just unavailable.

Republicans are Capitalists, corporatists who think if you do not work every day of your long life (or your short life) you are a deadbeat. They despise programs funded by the federal government to benefit workers. They want private businesses to offer whatever safety net programs people might be willing to pay for. And private businesses need to make a profit, a big profit, so whatever you decide to buy will be expensive. 

What will the government do with our tax dollars. That has not been made clear. Some citizens have hoarded millions and billions and they will not be pitching in, so the government will not be able to afford any of the things we have come to expect like public schools, and health care plans. Republicans describe passing laws that allow for a more equal distribution of wealth with a ‘dirty’ word, “redistribution’ (which actually doesn’t sound so bad) — until they tell us that it is ‘gasp’ socialism.

We sold the world on an empathetic society, a society that backs up its citizens with safety net programs. Many foreign countries have offerings that have come to surpass ours. Now we want to change the way we define society. We want to ditch the safety net because, hypothetically, it makes people want to stop working. 

We want the whole idea of society and government to operate under new parameters. All these big ideas about health care and a living wage, and unemployment insurance came about because unions accepted these things instead of pay raises, say the Republicans. Then the unions forced nonmembers to pay dues because they also benefited from these fringe benefits. 

So Republicans have been passing something they call ‘right to work’ laws to make charging dues to nonmembers illegal. Of course, all this actually does is take away bargaining power from unions so they can no longer lobby on behalf of workers effectively. That way businesses can set wages and offer few or no benefits, and workers have no recourse. Unions also back Democrats and that multiplied the power of the party. Shafting unions helps Republicans get elected. At the same time it helps reduce the size of the federal government if they put education, health and welfare programs up for bids from private businesses. If no one wants to provide the service, too bad.

Republicans argue that when our government offers benefits we lose freedom. They should know because they made sure accepting benefits would be onerous. Would we be freer without food stamps? Isn’t it possible some of us would just be hungrier. Perhaps we do need to carefully consider what programs would offer the most help to workers who don’t make enough money to live. Set some priorities with climate and environmental concerns among them.

So, voters, it’s up to us to decide. What is our idea of a society and government? If Millennials and GenXers, etc. let Boomers know what they prefer, then Boomers might help make it so.  Do we want a social contract that agrees we should take care of each other, and that cooperation and caring will make America a stronger nation. Or will business, profits, consumerism, and hard work with nothing to look forward to, no end to working, no such thing as retirement (unless you happen to have a plan for investing that works and nothing happens to ruin that plan), offer the most people the greatest amount of freedom and consistently comfortable lives. If we limit federal government will private companies and foundations fill the gaps? What disadvantages might such a system have?

Those who work in Artificial Intelligence seem to be working towards a time when there will be fewer jobs for humans. And yet Republicans are telling us that we need to work constantly from graduation to death. Retirees don’t always want to give up working, but what if you didn’t have a choice? What if your back went out, or your partner died and left you alone to raise the children, or any of the many disasters that fragile flesh is heir to came into your life and there was no backup? Would we go back to extended families if we had them?

I would think that everyone would rather fight now for paid day care, and senior care, better health care, cheaper drugs, free community college or training past high school as Biden’s plan proposes than choose that rather minimalist and hopeless nonplan backed by the Republicans. We are stuck because Republicans cannot imagine a better future for our nation and our people and because with Joe Manchin voting with the Republicans the Senate is tied, even with the vote of the VP, Kamala Harris. 

I am saying that you probably do not want to put Trump back in the White House in 2024 and you probably do want to give us more Democratic Senators in 2022 if you are not a fan of a minimalist government, a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, and an ‘illiberal democracy’ which is actually a dictatorship. Vote wisely because we are stuck with what the majority votes for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.