We have a running joke in our family. We will see a beautiful field or forest as we are driving and we will exclaim ‘you know what we need there is a paved lot with a mega Walmart that would look so good.’ It is hard to believe but there are people who can see these things we jest about as right. President Trump, the developer, is proving to be one of these people. Environmental regulations are holding back the development of factories and businesses. Land (they seldom use the word nature) of course is to be developed for the good of humanity they exclaim. The assumption is ‘land’ without development or some business use is wasted. Therefore, they have no qualms about selling federal lands for economic use. Land is in fact defined economically, as a natural resource fundamental to the production of all goods, including capital goods.
Trump is planning to rid the regulations on land for the noble ideal of production of goods. In other words land has no purpose beyond its economic feasibility. That is why they use the terms of property (something you can own) or land. Now they do in their dichotomy; say they want to preserve nature. But nature is something that is separate from land. This is of course very Orwellian.
This view allows them to think there is too much federal land that is not developed. The preservation of Nature or the environment does not enter the equation. They are separate things. Air and Water are commodities to use to create goods for the greater good of humanity. Therefore its quality is secondary to its use for production. Over and over again you see this viewpoint.
When I first encountered trees they were commodities; they were to be treated as the tree in Shel Silverstein’s book the Giving Tree. A commodity given to us in love to use as we see fit. They were for climbing. They were for breaking off branches for swords or clubs to use in play. They were for eating their fruit and so on. I only began to appreciate them later as more than a commodity. I learned that oaks live longer than me and some had been around since George Washington. They were in a sense my elders. As I began to develop an aesthetic I noticed the different barks, leaf color and sizes, smells (cedar always my favorite), flowers and the different contours of shapes formed by their branches. As I began to understand our interconnectedness with all things something that cannot be avoided, I noticed their uses for food (nuts and fruits and if you are Euell Gibbons bark), shade, birds, their production of oxygen and other things. I began to appreciate trees as necessary not only as a commodity but as a necessary part of my life beyond consuming. They nurture other parts of me. Today I am literally a tree hugger. Maybe as I drive down the road I should see a paved lot and joke ‘It would be good to see a grove of trees there”.
How Should We Measure the Economy?
How should we measure a successful economy? The current measures we use are helpful but nevertheless have flaws. Gross Domestic Product measures how much we produce. The assumption is the more things we have the better it is for us. It is also a likely indicator that the more we make the richer our country. Now we know that once we have secured our basic needs (i.e, healthcare, housing, food, employment,) and a modicum of a few things we want, more things will not make us happy. So there is a limit to what things can do for us. In our current economy there is a huge divide between the rich and poor. The more we make appears to make the rich richer but does not necessarily make the poor any richer.
Another indicator people use is the unemployment rate. The lower the rate the better the economy. This is the belief a job makes for satisfaction. But if you work harder and harder for less and less as has been the case in the last few decades, employment is not a good indicator of wealth or satisfaction. It is also true that any employment is not necessarily good. If you work at a job that decreases your lifespan such as a coalminer that cannot be a good measure of your circumstances.
Which brings us to another measure people use: life expectancy. The belief that the more years one lives the better off they are. Of course this does not measure the quality of life. If you live longer but you live in poor housing, income is low, you never get the feeling of accomplishment of production; this can not be good.
Which leads us to a more progressive measure: the quality of life. This assumes if the average person in a country has a solid quality of life things must be going well in that country. Of course that measure is skewed by those who have much balancing out the poor who have so little. Thus for the middle class and above things may be honkey-dory but for those under the middle class this measure may not mean anything.
Which leads me to the measure I think is most important and moral. The quality of life for the poorest among you. Think about it: if the poors’ quality of life is good then everyone else will at least rate good. The right instantly will proclaim this does not motivate the job creators. This does not give motivation to the poor to strive for better. They will slide by contributing nothing to society. This is the belief that laziness is the human condition. This assumes that having the security of a comfortable fall will not motivate people to be innovative. It is the theology of human depravity. And this is the rub between the right and the left way of doing things. The right believes everyone is out to get by or to put one over on you (projection maybe). The left believe in evening the field as much as possible so that everyone has a chance to live up to their potential. The left knows there will always be some shirkers but they will be overwhelmed by those who wish to explore their potential. Theologically speaking there is a little good in all of us and we have the freedom to choose to be good or evil. We are not destined to do wrong every time.
The right also have a belief that those who live by the rules will thrive and there are those who have already achieved their wealth (the rich) and they are the elected and the elect do not need to be held down (taxes) by the poor. Now you may notice that the right’s theology differs for each economic class. The poor are depraved and the rich have some preordained right to good things. They are the elected. Now the left looks at the rich and sees the potential for depravity and feels a need to have checks and balances so they do not oppress the poor. Interestingly while they do not have the dichotomy of poor bad and rich good as the right does, they do think the poor more likely good and the rich more likely bad. Power and money corrupt.
So the right could care less about government programs for the poor. The left could care less about making the rich a little less so. That is why the right emphasizes GDP, small government, and the deficit. The left meanwhile emphasizes quality of life, social programs, and regulations on corporations. But the problem with the left is that too often they measure the quality of life of the middle class at the expense of the poor. We need economic measures that look at the enhancement of the poor.
So think of your own beliefs about the human condition. Are we totally depraved and not to be trusted? Do we have an elect\elite that do not need to be slowed by others? Or do you believe we have the ability to sometimes choose good? Do we need to keep a balance on those who have much because they can choose good but also evil? I contend that how you answer these questions to a large part will condition your views about what we should use as measures of the economy and how government should operate in the world.
A news flash: the Republican Party that once denounced non-existent death panels are now creating death panels. Paul Ryan said health insurance to ensure good health is him being merciful. Ryan is now the dispenser of merciful good health. He decides what kind of person deserves healthcare. This is a form of eugenics. If you are fit and can afford healthcare you live if not you and your inferior genes can die or you live in pain that keeps you out of the mainstream. I have to ask who died and left Paul Ryan in charge. Oh right Ayn Rand, a stated favorite of Ryan, and her Social Darwinism did.
This is the way of the right. Our government will not help others who are either temporarily unable or just unable to make it on their own ever. A government that feeds children, assist the elderly, the unemployed, sick, and other needy folks is a communist boondoggle and needs to be eliminated. The government if it helps anyone should only help the truly needy. The truly needy are to be determined by whom? Could it be small government death panels? And there in lies the problem the right are only interested in propagating those who look like them, think like them, live like them the rest be damn. This is what Jim Crow laws were about and our hound the immigrant laws are about today.
Recently, the lover of fetuses (the far right) have asked why should men be interested in prenatal care of women. We already knew they were not concerned for babies outside the womb now we discover they are only against a woman deciding what to do with the fetus. Because as stated above they are not that invested in caring for a pregnant mother or the life within her.
Paul Ryan a very physical fit individual (if not that spiritually and mentally fit) says we have no interest in the welfare of inferior species who struggle to make it in our economy. Hearkening back to a Nietzsche’s superman his actions state we are not to be held back by the starving masses. They are a drain on society. Maybe religious communities can assist but not our collective body where we create the society we live in, the government. Of course the religious community has said in unison they do not have the resources to do this. If you spend a minute observing the religious community body as a whole many if not most do not care to do this. So those who say the religious community will handle this. They are unleashing the red herring logical flaw. They try to show they are compassionate people while denying the poor basic assistance.
Strangely enough it was Ronald Reagan the patron saint of conservatism that introduced the concept of healthcare as a right. He signed a bill while president that no emergency room could deny service for any reason to someone who comes to their door. Adam Smith the great philosopher of a free market stated, ““It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.” In olden times the belief of assisting one another so that we may have a better society has been replaced with the new conservative thinking “I got mine. I care less if you get yours. Because if you do not get yours you must be morally unfit or not one of the chosen.” My friends where once it was the misnomer compassionate conservatism it is now replaced by all mine conservatism.
The Great Republican Plan
Utah’s Representative Jason Chaffetz is not to blame for stating the Republican answer to poverty. The Poor need to choose between their I-phones and healthcare he stated. It is about choices do you want to be able to communicate with the world or do you want healthcare. It is an assumption if they only would manage their budget they could get ahead. The poor are not discipline like we are. If you cannot afford healthcare work harder and longer hours to get it. And if you still can’t afford healthcare you will have to do without until you make more money. This is the fiscal discipline they suggest.
I have come to realize that fiscal conservative talk is the same as saying you do not deserve healthcare, you do not deserve a good school, you do not deserve good housing, you do not deserve food. If you did you could afford it and the reason you cannot afford it: because you are lazy, made bad choices, do not budget well, or live a libertine lifestyle. It is a moral problem not a minimum wage problem. Why do you think so many poverty programs offer budgeting classes? Or why do they want the churches to handle poverty in their communities? Now we know that the rich such as thrice married, cheating on his spouses, welching on his debts, pussy grabbing, arrogant, bankrupt is financial planning, Trump has better morals and budgeting skills than poor people. Why we know that gold-plated toilet seats are reasonable budget items.
How do conservatives create enough budget cuts to offer the ‘wealth builders’ of our community a well-deserved tax break? They take the benefits from those immoral poor people: cut the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, food stamps, social security benefits. Now of course this will create discord therefore you will need to increase prisons, grow the military even more, put more money into the policing of America to make everyone stays in line. And since you are doing your best to keep the poor from protesting through force begin to limit their voting rights under the guise of stopping the non-existent voter fraud so you can also stop them at the ballot box.
To win political arguments you accuse your opponent of what you are doing. So it confuses who was the perpetrator of these bad ideas in the first place. I say a racist thing and you call me racist. I reply you are some political correctness freak and you are the real racist. My policies are to help the poor and yours are to keep them in poverty. So they suggest school vouchers for those poor people to get out of bad schools. Although if they took one moment to think it through they would realize even with the vouchers they could not afford the private school. So the poor end up in the same poor schools they were in but now they are sharing money with private and religious schools they could not afford. The end result is the public school you are in is worse than before if you can believe it. Sure some may be able to pay for the private schools but the vast majority will not be able to. But when somebody criticizes school vouchers you trot out your token exceptions as if it was the norm and say see its working.
The sad thing is the white middle class is full of Trump wannabes. These wannabes vote in favor of the rich because they hope or plan to be in that class one day. So these policies will hurt me now but when I make it they will help me. But as we know in our current economic situation the divide grows greater and greater between the rich and poor. The middle class has disappeared. But if you are not a wannabe then your rationale is give me someone to look down on as the problem: immigrants, inner city blacks, gays, snowflakes, and so forth. You can look down at them and look up at yourself as the true patriot, true Christian, the last great hope of America and the world. So you vote against your own welfare to save America. You are told you are great Americans. You feel some much needed self-esteem because you are poor or struggling and you know they are right. It is called the cycle of life or the slow forward march to our doom. But at least we are made to feel good about it.
Situational ethics has gotten a bad rep. It is not that your principles change but some situations demand a different response. Killing is wrong, most would say. Except when you are doing it in self-defense. Or if your intent was not to kill but that is what happened, you are less culpable most believe. Now the principle that killing is wrong has not changed, but the situation did. That is why in a court of law we can plea temporary insanity, manslaughter, insanity, self-defense, some states say stand your ground, second and first degree murder. The principle, killing is wrong, demands different responses in different situations.
A world full of no nuances is not a world I would find interesting and thank god it is not the one I live in. It is why I seldom engage in arguments on Facebook or other short order discussion forums. I do not do bumper stickers, not because the words are wrong, but I may read it differently from others. I do not do bumper stickers because the venue I currently find myself in is different and makes the truth needed be applied differently. And hopefully today’s bumper sticker I display will be different twenty years from now as I would have changed.
Most of my beliefs I have shown a continuity of development. But as I grow older they become more nuanced. My passion for the teachings of Jesus is not stuck in an early “praise Jesus” way but in a “how do I live” way. His crucifixion is not about “I have been saved” but a knowledge that to follow his truth may lead to persecution even to the point of death.
My belief in Jesus and his influence in my life has led me to seek truth livers everywhere, not only within Christianity. My once rabid churchgoing self now looks to not justify everything the church does, but to rabidly demand it follow closer the truths of its founder. I abhor cultural Christianity, not because it chooses to reflect the predominant culture, but because it too often submits the teachings of Christ to that culture.
So most of my beliefs hold a continuity and one or two have changed because of Damascus road experiences. That is why at any point of the continuum you may look and say “he is different”. I have hopefully grown a little, I have hopefully experienced more, I have hopefully learned more, I have hopefully become more enlightened. Too many people have lost the nuances of life, too many have not grown, too many are stuck in their views. Strange but both of these can describe me at different points of my life. Hopefully though I see the nuances more than not.