Thieving Thursday: My "Liberal" Views

>> Thursday, August 6, 2009

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If you’ve been following my blog long, you’ve probably noticed that not all of my readers agree with what I have to say, with the views I have.

Personally, I’m cool with that, and, as a consequence, I’ve had my eyes opened to different perspectives on some topics, to aspects I might not otherwise have appreciated. Sometimes, we’ll just disagree. Of all my recurrent readers, this is probably not true for anyone as much as it’s true for Relax Max. I read Clarity 2009 as well and we disagree frequently.

He’s written up three blog posts on topics that interest me, including healthcare, communism, and that dirty word, “liberal.” I’m not going into the disconnect I felt existed between explaining the need for healthcare for all on one post and blasting me for suggesting we all have to help pay for it. You all can reach your own conclusions.

But my particular comment – the one I want to steal – had to do with the assumption that today’s liberal meant taking all the wealth of the successful and passing it out to the lazy. I hear this characterization a great deal.

I don’t know if I’m count as a typical “liberal” – I hate labels and prefer to think of myself as a humanist or a compassionate thinker. In some ways, I do advocate some wealth redistribution. I believe that income tax collection should be limited to that portion of the income over and above what a household needs to survive (as, indeed, our taxes are structured now) and that taxes should be highest on larger “excess” incomes (i.e. portion of income above what’s needed to survive). Yes, I favor a progressive tax and I’ll tell you why – because I think people are entitled to more than they need, once everyone has what they need, because few people get rich on just their own personal efforts (and government contracts, tariff’s, efforts are often part of that success), because the difference in lifestyle between a 20 million dollar income and a 200 million dollar income is probably negligible whereis the difference between the lifestyle of a $20K household and a $30K household is appreciable.

I believe everyone should have certain government provided/assured services (and they should be comoparable, no matter one’s salary): libraries, postal services, police protection, fire protection, education, healthcare. I think social security was a brilliant idea so that the elderly weren’t left entirely destitute at the complete mercy of their children, former employers and, yes, their own judgement. With regards to education, I believe there should be a high standard applied nationally (not self-devised and assessed as states do now) – this is one country and education quality should not vary from state to state or location to location as it does now. I went to ten different schools in eight different states and the differences were shocking! I also think education through college should be supported for the good of the country.

I also believe a reasonable defense is required as well as government support for organizations for the general good of the country (EPA, NOAA, etc). I am for supporting everyone working, trying to work and medically unable to work so that they can live at least at a subsistence level, including using such methods as subsidized housing, unemployment benefits and disability payments. And I lose no sleep taking a chunk of people’s (and my) “excess” income to do so.

I do have an issue with “welfare.” I don’t believe able-bodied folks should be paid to do nothing indefinitely. I’m cool with programs to educate people to improve their chances for employment (and, preferably getting repaid as some of the bailed out banks have done) and/or having them supply “community service” hours to repay their welfare.

I welcome other ideas on this, particularly because I’m challenged by the implications to children. I don’t believe in paying a woman who’s irresponsibly had a passel of children she couldn’t afford to take care of to stay home and take care of them, but I don’t think the children should suffer as a result. Short of not allowing people to have children irresponsibly (And who decides the criteria? How do you enforce it? That’s a whole other can of worms even if people agreed it were necessary).

I don’t have all the answers, but I think answers can be found if we talk, if we hear different perspectives, if we keep trying.

At least, I’m hoping.


  • Richard

    That's what I like about you Stephanie... ever the optimist, even when optimism is difficult to maintain (like in the face of prevailing opinion).

  • The Mother

    I'm told by my sister and son, both card-carrying Libertarians, that that's what I actually am. I don't care enough about party politics to bother with labels.

    I do find myself often described as a social liberal and fiscal conservative. I tend to think that govt should stay out of our: religion, bedroom, child-raising, economy, corporations, etc.

    See? Not consistent with party politics.

  • Stephanie B

    Thanks, Richard, I think.

    I don't tell anyone what to think (just what I think) and I hate labels. And speaking of one of my non-liberal views, I'm perfectly cool taking convicted criminals and letting them run on a treadmill to generate electricity.

  • Richard

    Hmm... would it be accurate to call that conergy?

    PS The comment was in fact meant to be a compliment. I'm not that adept at sarcasm. ;-)

  • The Mother

    Prisoner generated electricity? And you call yourself a liberal. Labels, they are scary.

    I'm all for that. My dad (the aerospace engineer), once did some calculations that suggested the energy crisis would just disappear if we gave every prisoner a magnet and a piece of copper wire. That was a while back though. I think we use more energy, now.

  • Stephanie B

    I've got a quote among my favorites.

    I don't think we should give free room and board to criminals. I think they should have to run twelve hours a day on a treadmill and generate electricity. And if they don't want to run, they can rest in the chair that's hooked up to the generator. --Sean Morey

    I don't see any reason not to get all the use we can out of people who have disrupted society.

  • david

    We got some good news about unemployment today; it dipped to 9.4 percent, the first decline. It looks like Obama’s stimulus package might finally be helping. Cash for clunkers! The fringe groups like the birthers and the tea bag crowd, if we had listened to them, we’d have a complete banking collapse, 20% unemployment, and social unrest right now. They seem to prefer to see capitalism extinguished by an economic meltdown then any government intervention. How warped is that logic? Are the birthers really so irrational, so self-destructive? Or do they see an economic/social collapse as the means for them to rise to power, like in the 1030s? Hmmm.

    Stock market is up today too. Better days ahead?

  • Relax Max

    It seems I am always out of town when you decide to blog about these things, and find myself 3 or 4 posts behind when I get back.

    You're right, I disagree with you. On so many points. However most, if not all, of our disagreements are about the same thing, over and over and over.

    I don't believe big government is the answer to our problems and you do.

    You think our government is there to decide what is "right" for all of us and to make us do that "right" thing - to first and foremost make sure the goodies get spread around equally.

    I think the government's job is to protect us and to facilitate our pursuit of happiness.

    I think the American people are the answer to any problem we may encounter while you think Washington is the solution.

    Where do you get off telling me or anyone else how much money we can make? - how much is "good" money for our needs and how much is "excess" money that you and Washington can plunder at will? Who gave you that right?

    Where do you get off telling me I have to wait for other people "less fortunate" to catch up with me before I can make more money?

    You sometimes use the term "liberal" to describe yourself - only because that word doesn't taste as crappy in your mouth as "socialist." I don't think you are a "liberal." I don't think you are a "progressive." I don't think you care nearly as much about furthering the cause of individual liberty as you care about trying to make us all materially equal.

    There is hope for you. You are a thinking woman. Think.

    Some socialism is needed to make our society work. I know that. Just don't try to call it "liberalism" as if it were truly some sort of liberty.

    I have never denied the need to help our poor and our disadvantaged and our underprivileged. You know that is true. You have read enough of my writings to know I care about people who have made poor choices or who just have circumstances stacked against them. So, yes, we need the government to do some regulating and administration, whether the rich like it or not.

    And I do believe as you do that those with money should be paying. Frankly that is already happening. The IRS tells us that 1% of Americans pay 40% of the taxes and that the top 25% pay 86% of the taxes. (IRS, 2008.) So don't worry too much about the rich not paying their fair share.

    I don't like labels either. I keep using words like "liberal" and "conservative" and "socialist" and I don't like to use those words. I long for the day we are all just "Americans."

    It is the same on both ends of the spectrum. I visit dumb-ass "conservative" blogs and I see words like "Obamacare". Like that's cute. But I don't have to look any farther than your own blog to see words like "birthers" and "tea baggers". Derision of other Americans who don't think like you think. Your smugness stinks. You know best. You have it all figured out. Anybody who doesn't see it as you so clearly do, just "doesn't get it". Dumbass conservatives, too.

    What are you proving by that? What are THEY proving by calling you the loony left?

    Ridicule and attempts at marginalization are bigotry pure and simple, and are right out of that fascist textbook I was talking about earlier.

    I believe we need a national healthcare program. I do not believe our Congress is competent to give us a good one. If we ever get a good one, I think everyone should be covered and everyone should contribute in some way.

    I do not believe one gets out of debt by spending more money. I believe failed and dishonest businesses should be allowed to fail and not be given more money to squander on more failure. Even it that means a temporary loss of false jobs.

    Power to the people.

  • Stephanie B

    I have never used the term birther or tea bagger in a post yet, Relax Max. Or are you responsible for all the comments on your blog?

    Kindly show where I have ridiculed ANYONE in this post or said there were no valid viewpoints other than mine.

    Sometimes, RM, it's like you take all your angst at all the extremists out there and visit those characteristics on me.

    Aside from seeing government differently than you do (or the particular path to correct things), I've thought for some time that our views weren't that different on what the problems are and, truthfully, that's a reasonable starting point.

    But lashing out at me with accusations I can't trace to anything I've said seems to be as counterproductive as anything you've accused me of. Perhaps you should read the post itself again before you get too accusatory.

  • Stephanie B

    By the way, RM, those tax stats always sound scary:

    And I do believe as you do that those with money should be paying. Frankly that is already happening. The IRS tells us that 1% of Americans pay 40% of the taxes and that the top 25% pay 86% of the taxes. (IRS, 2008.) So don't worry too much about the rich not paying their fair share.

    Until you realize that the top 1% has 40% of the total wealth and the top 10% has 70% of the wealth while the bottom 40% has <1% of the wealth.

    If we postulated a population of 300 million, that means, 3 million people forty times the total personal assets of 120 million people.

    If they're paying the bulk of the taxes (since >20% of households have a net wealth in the negative), that makes perfect sense to me.

  • Relax Max

    I didn't say you said those things, I said I didn't have to look any farther than your own blog to find those things. And yes, I am responsible for what I allow to be published, or at least responsible for rebutting what is incongruous with my blog's premise. (I notice you have no hesitation to rebut ME. And sometimes you have valid points that I have overlooked. I admit that. Once. :)

    I don't visit angst on you. I don't have angst. Not about socialists, anyway. Angst is malaise, anxiety, unreasonable dread. I'll leave the angst to Jimmy Carter. The word is "disdain." :)

    I like you. I go easy on you. I have hopes for you. You know that

    Okay, I'll read the post again.

  • Relax Max

    Disdain for socialists and arch conservatives, not for YOU. I want to make that passage clear.

  • Relax Max

    I don't know where your are getting your statistics. I know where I am getting mine. The top 1% people, the ones who pay 40% of the taxes, have 22% of the wealth. If they had 40% of the wealth it would be fair. The top 5% have 37% of the income share, but pay 60% of the taxes. I don't follow any of the rest that you are saying, except that I think you are extrapolating a false statistic. In this country, the rich pay the taxes. I know that is an unpopular thing to say, but it is simply true.

  • Relax Max

    The only conclusion I can draw from your postulation is that you think this is unfair? You think all people should be equally wealthy,no matter what? Well, I don't want to put words in your mouth, as you say I do, so what exactly IS your point if not that? You seem to sneer that 3 million have the same wealth as 120 million (your stats, not mine.) If you are not a communist, why would this seem unfair to you? Why is it unfair for innovative people to make more and have more assets than less productive people? It would be unfair if there were not equal opportunity. You just want equal "stuff" regardless of productivity. Admit it. Then you will think it is "fair." :) C'mon. I'm waiting.

  • Relax Max

    I am not calling you a communist. (Communists would think all should have equal wealth, no matter how hard they worked or how smart they were.)

    But you ARE NOT a communist!!!

  • Relax Max

    Dang, but this thing eats comments, Stephanie. That last one took three tries.

  • Stephanie B

    Sorry about the comment eating, Relax Max. I share your ire. It eats mine, too, which is particularly galling. I am very sorry about that.

    I found the data first on Wikipedia, but I know better than to use that to assume that source would be good enough for you (or for me on this topic), so I followed the links provided to see if they told the same story. They do. If you go to this page, you can read the reports by the Federal Reserve Board there.

    There are also world-wide reports linked (where the differences in wealth distribution are even more marked (though we're closer to typical than I'd like to be). Worldwide, the top 1% owns 50% and the top 10% owns the top 85%.

    Here's what I'm saying, Relax Max. In a nation where there is enough wealth to pull it off, I think everyone shoul dhave what they need to survive: a place to live, food, healthcare, education. There are countries where there is not enough for everyone, but that isn't true of the US. Once everyone has the what they need to survive, I don't care how much money anyone has. I see no reason to pay someone poor more than he needs to survive from the "public" (though I'm personally of the opinion, that it should not be a gift unless he is disabled - I discussed that in my description above), but everyone willing to work for it, willing to try deserves a chance to survive.

    But once everyone's taken care of to that minimum level, I couldn't care less how much someone makes over and above that. I'm against taxing that subsistence level, but I understand revenue must be generated to do what I would like to see done. Your tax suggestions might be doable instead, but I don't know. I'd need more information to make an informed judgement.

    I do believe the government is useful in ensuring that people working are paid fairly (no discrimination) and a living wage (minimum wage). It did not happen until the government got involved though labor unions once provided part of the impetus.

    I'm not convinced labor unions still serve any purpose any more. I believe fraudulent and dishonest processes should be prosecuted. I also think the government should do better in getting their money's worth from contractors and that lobbyssts and campaign finance shenanigans should be disallowed entirely from public servants. My wants are unlikely to come to fruition, however.

  • Stephanie B

    You frequently disagree with me, Relax Max. I hope you have never felt you weren't free to express your own thoughts on my blog or that they would be dismissed as nonsense because I thought differently.

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