The Way Forward – Reflections from a Conservative

As someone who was vehemently opposed to the Health Care Bill just passed by the House, it’s a time to reflect on the way forward.

It’s hard to swallow that our Congress passed legislation that a majority of America was against.  Its hard to swallow that my taxes will go up substantially in the coming years and I will have to work that much harder and longer to send my children to college.  And it’s hard to swallow that we are the only industrialized nation without healthcare for all its citizens.  All these things are hard to reconcile.

But what I really strive to understand is what I believe to be true vs. how much of the rhetorical cool-aid I drank?

What I believe.

I believe that the “doctors fix” will be passed, and should have been included in this bill.  Therefore, the cost of this bill will be at least $200B more than we were told.

I believe the IRS when they say that they will hire 16,000 new agents and staffers to administer their new role in policing healthcare.  These costs are not factored into this bill.

I believe that congress in the future will not have the courage or the discipline to say “no” to special interests, and implement the cuts that this bill, and all entitlement programs require.

I believe that you cannot call a social program a success, regardless of the good it does, if it is unfunded, if as a program it is bankrupt, and if politicians are so afraid of cutting it, that they would rather watch our country drown in debt.

I believe that there is no courage in Washington, or the ability to honestly communicate to the American people what the real State of the Union is.  Passing a bill that you have not even read because you’ve been trying to pass it for 50 years is not courage, its cowardly. Opposing it without providing alternatives other than talking points is just as cowardly.

I believe that until we have term limits on congress, and dramatic change in campaign financing, we will keep getting the same results out of government.  No real solutions, and more debt.

I believe fundamentally, that this administration and the democratic controlled congress has the goal of transforming our country into a social democracy, modeled on France, Germany, and the UK.

I believe that this is contrary to the fundamental principles and strengths of this country.

I believe there is a better way. Wealth re-distribution is NOT the way to achieve our common goals.

I believe that we need to seize the opportunity to transform this bill, and this debate over the coming years.  We need to propose ideas on their merits, which show how healthcare, social security, and a society of entitlement, can be transformed through market oriented innovation, and a culture of personal responsibility.

I believe that this can be the beginning of a process that gets it right, if we engage in meaningful constructive debate.

What do you believe?  It’s time to decide.

Guest Blogger – Jeff Hine

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4 responses to “The Way Forward – Reflections from a Conservative

  1. I agree with each and every thing that you said there. Especially term limits on congress.

  2. It dawned on me the other day that I may very well finish my life having know only one good president and a Congress that, despite its bickering, got things done. Pretty sad.

    The weakness this Congress is showing internally may very well embolden Russia, China and others. Seems to be happening now. And watch out for Brazil.

    And let’s not forget our friends on Wall Street and their look-away cohorts in Congress that their funds elect continue to destroy this country while they line their own pocket.

    The greatest country on earth is losing its way – if it hasn’t already.

  3. Michael Forrest

    Here’s an excellent article you might appreciate, written by conservative-leaning David Brooks.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/opinion/30brooks.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    I’ve been thinking, talking and writing about these issues for years. Of one thing I am certain – any people that becomes wealthy, far beyond their needs, is doomed to decay and eventual disintegration unless it finds the meaning of charity.

    The wealthy “need” the poor as much or as more than the poor “need” the wealthy. Unless we seriously reach out to those in need across the globe (not just throwing money at problems, but becoming actively invested in the solutions to whatever degree we can), I worry that our society will continue to decay and go the way of Rome.

    There is nothing wrong with Capitalism. It’s just an economic tool -and a very efficient one at that. And this tool very accurately reflects the values of the people who employ it. The money flows to the things we value most.

    Now, who makes the most money in this country? Entertainers, athletes, etc. Right? So, in the richest nation in the history of the world, we value those who help us to escape from reality more than anything else. Hello? Does anyone else notice that disconnect? Why are we so motivated to escape reality and bury ourselves in the fake lives of others? Wouldn’t you think the wealthiest people on earth would be trying to squeeze every last bit of time in reality, because life is so good? Might this strongly suggest that wealth really isn’t nearly everything – and that this isn’t just a line made up by wealthy people to placate poorer ones? Something has to give.

    My concern, however, is that the government model of “help” generally perverts true charity and seriously undermines its positive effects. Rather than voluntary giving from the heart, a tax is forced taking. No matter how you slice it, very few people respond with a smile to a bill – because it’s not voluntary. It isn’t a choice. And those who receive the benefits typically begin to perceive these benefits as something “due” them. True charity has been perverted.

    That dynamic does not play out so much in private charities and individual one on one giving. The personal connection naturally brings with it a much greater sense of responsibility, gratitude, and sympathy from the receiver and the giver.

    I’m a strong believer in the principle of subsidiarity – matters should be handled at the lowest rung of the ladder possible and only move up when absolutely necessary. There is certainly a place for the government safety net – but the size of it must be kept carefully in check.

    The other danger of moving too quickly to federal programs is that large programs tend to be a disincentive to the smaller ones – people tend to think “the government is taking care of that” and so they tend to cede responsibility to others in government. That’s not good – we need more people to stay engaged and involved.

    When you look at studies of those with liberal political views vs. those with conservative political views, you typically find that conservatives give and devote much more time to private charity.

    For example: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2682730&page=1

    One case in point really hit home here in Massachusetts some years ago. The wealthy (and very liberal) John Kerry gave a few hundred dollars to charity while the wealthy (and fiscally conservative) Bill Weld gave about 20% of his income to charity.

    Sometimes, I think there is more than a little truth to the quip – “A liberal is someone who is generous with other people’s money.”
    But again, ultimately, something’s gotta give. For the sake of everyone who genuinely needs help – both the “haves” and the “have nots.” We need each other.

  4. Mike – thanks for the really thoughtful and insightful comments here. You bring up some really big picture issues that I think sometimes get lost, and certainly are absent from typical political discourse.

    As I thought about what you wrote, it occurs to me that we are at 2 tipping points as a society.

    One tipping point that you alluded to is one of decline. One that may be written about one day in “The Rise and Fall of the American Empire”. That tipping point is one of consumption, entitlement, and complacency around our place in the world, and the riches that we are blessed with. A society and a people which believes that it is owed things, without the financial means to support those things, is doomed to failure. This holds true on a macro level whether its owning a home you can’t afford, buying a Wii when you should be saving for college, providing entitlements for healthcare when there is no money to do it, or continuing to be the policeman for the world even as we become bankrupt doing it. This culture must change on many levels or we may look back on this as the beginning of the decline.

    It does seem completely out of whack that the value of a teacher for example is less than the value of a baseball player. But I don’t know if comparison is practical. There will always be the upper echelon of any society, and “the rich” are such a small portion, that it’s easy to start the culture war without having a meaningful conversation.

    But if you read stuff from folks like the Cato Institute (www.cato.org) you’ll find that their research shows that average salary and benefits for government employees now far outpaces private sector counterparts. Unfortunately our current state is that government cannot afford to keep hiring people and paying them incredibly rich benefits packages. If government would cut the workforce to reasonable levels, maybe we could pay teachers more. I’d be for that. But that would take jobs away from others who feel entitled to them.

    Keep in mind, as the rest of America got laid off, government payrolls increased by tens of thousands in the past 18 months. In addition, a huge portion of the Recovery and Re-investment act went right into the budgets of states so they do not have to lay people off. The judgment aside on the value of teachers vs. athletes, the government spends too much money, and has too many employees. But again, we as a nation feel “entitled” to our jobs, and “entitled” to our services.

    The second tipping point has to do with the evolution of government and the empire itself. If it is our destiny to become a social democracy, which many major empires transition to, then we have certainly reached the point where the majority of American’s are saying; “I don’t want that”. Which means one of two things. Either we reverse course, or it’s just a speed bump on the way to becoming more “European”.

    Either way, what many miss is that the conservative agenda is not about a Darwinian belief that the poor or weak are not worth caring for. It’s about cultivating personal responsibility in the face of life’s tough choices. It’s about encouraging voluntary charity and local action. This is the best and most efficient way to help those who fall through the gaps and need a hand up, not a hand out.

    I’m not one to be overly religious, but a Rabbi once said something brilliant in its simplicity.

    “Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a life time”

    I cannot think of anything more compassionate and appropriate.

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