The Church For Christ’s Sake

Controversy abounds regarding the Human Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston, Texas.Annise-Parker  The mayor, Annise Parker, signed an ordinance that prohibits “discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics.”   Mayor Parker is openly gay and the issue of discrimination against homosexuality is clearly a motivating factor, but discrimination against women and minorities are, of course, included.

Several pro bono lawyers have now sent subpoenas to several pastors in the city, asking them to turn over “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (also known as HERO).  Their concern is whether certain Christian themed sermons comply with the ordinance.

Ted Cruz has called the subpoenas (and erroneously lays responsibility entirely on the mayor) “shameful.”  Before I address that “shame” I believe that the real shame lies in ted_cruz-1024x641the fact that in the 21st century we need to write ordinances to compel people to behave civilly to one another and to recognize that equality extends to us all.  But, given that a large portion of America refuses to recognize such decency toward certain people, behavior ordinances have become part of our legislative directive to be a better society.

That being said, my first reaction to the subpoenas was that they are in violation of the First Amendment.  I was pretty certain in my conviction that, within the confines of a church, government must respect the right to share beliefs; no matter how much many of us may disagree with them.  It is the underbelly of Religious Freedom when beliefs separate decency from others, or are even hypocritical, but they do fall under the protection of the First Amendment.

I continued my argument (with myself and no one in particular):  These churches do not have theDowns-1986 right to persecute others within the town square, but like the decree in Skokie years ago that allowed Nazis to march, we cannot legislate thoughts, and ideas, even contemptuous ones.

And then….I considered something.

I considered the fact that I am a heterosexual, white, male in America.  I am not gay.  I am not a woman.  I am not a minority.  I have never gone anywhere, been employed anywhere, or joined any organization where I felt that I might be discriminated against, ridiculed, or paid less, or given fewer opportunities because of any of my natural characteristics.  And then I considered a different scenario…..

What if…I started a church?

What if it were a fundamentalist Christian church adhering to strict Old Testament doctrine?  My parishioners are called “Leviticans” and we Leviticans believe that to truly exemplify Christian values that we must consider 10710665_10154618066935058_2126745376983170345_nwomen to be the property of men.  We believe that “Woman are not entitled to the full privileges of citizenship,” and thereby should not vote and in many public instances are to be segregated from men.  They do not belong in the workplace, their ideas are folly, and as “property” can actually be dispensed with if they cause a man displeasure.

Sound ridiculous?  It isn’t if you read the Old Testament.  But the point here is not to cast any doctrine of Christianity into extreme light, but to illustrate how religious beliefs can persecute.

To bring my hypothetical to its conclusion, let’s say that a woman becomes mayor of a major city where my church has grown, and the “Gospel” of subjugating the rights of women is spreading; businesses and social organizations are limiting opportunities for women (this is also called “reality”).  This mayor then issues an ordinance that forbids any civic institution from such discrimination.  Where does Ted Cruz fall, along with the others who today are crying, “Where’s our religious freedom?!”?

I don’t need answers, I’ll tell you what they’d be doing.  They’d be hollering “Hooray!  Women deserve equal rights and it’s going to take aggressive leadership (and ordinances) to bring Kroeger and his Leviticans and their shameful movement to social justice!”

Contemporary Christian values discriminate against gay people in many churches, and that discrimination requires bold initiatives to fight.  My argument here (again, with myself) has not been resolved completely, either way.  I don’t believe that we can easily dismiss the First Amendment protection of religious freedom in this case, but I also stand by my hypothetical journey.

thCAS68N7WHarper Lee adapted a Native American proverb in “To Kill a Mockingbird”:  “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Welfare Does Not Perpetuate Poverty (Nor Will It End Poverty)

Most of my posts concern issues which come up as I talk politics with friends and colleagues.  The issue which consistently divides along party lines is with regard to social spending.  The position I hear the most from the right side of the aisle is that welfare creates a system of perpetual poverty and that a high percentage of people using welfare are exploiting the system.

The argument they follow with is that welfare should be abolished or greatly reduced and that is married to their belief that the hard earned money of working Americans is being wasted on lazy people.  The solution, they often say, is that money would be better spent by putting more in the hands of the wealthiest among us who will then create jobs.

It is quite common to read something from any number of professionals who also believe that welfare begets welfare.  I saw a letter in USA Today where a family counselor in Texas noted that a family he counsels contains “4 generations of welfare.” His conclusion was, once again, that welfare perpetuates the need for welfare.

I am reminded of a quote from Mark Twain: “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it-and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”

When the deduction is made that poverty is passed on generation to generation because of a system of sustenance to provide for those afflicted with it, the truth is being missed.  Welfare was never intended to eliminate poverty; it cannot. It is a system created by a compassionate nation that understands that we must protect those who have fallen through the cracks of our capitalist system.  That safety net is not what perpetuates poverty – POVERTY is what perpetuates poverty.

A child born into poverty may grow up seeing only struggle and that can become the template for their own survival patterns. Their educational opportunities may suffer. Perhaps, the value of education is not realized in ways that many of us can take for granted.

They might be growing up in a neighborhood where their role models have succumbed to crime. Success is measured by different standards when you are outside the system.

Someday they may have a family of their own and the legacy of poverty can continue…

What we try to do with social programs, and what can happen (and does) is create resources for hope, so that someone might break that cycle.  Someone who found the right school, or a special teacher, or was shown the right opportunity to inspire a break.

That happens only when we cast a safety net that will sustain their lives.  We don’t know who they are and so the net has to be wide.  That is the welfare model.

Poverty doesn’t replicate because a social program or service brought some sustenance to the table.  And it isn’t because someone may have exploited the system and found a way to buy steak dinners or get a new flat screen tv.  For the record, families that have someone receiving some form of welfare do not produce an inclination by others in the family to work less.

Programs to offer assistance will not end the cycle created by the realities of poverty but they can give many what they need to survive so that they can find their way to opportunity.

In my view there are 3 immutable reasons to improve and continue welfare programs:

1) They keep children from starving, 2) They can bridge the gap between unemployment and employment, and 3) It’s the right thing for a compassionate and civilized society to do.

Our dilemma should not be whether to continue welfare programs, but rather, how do we spend our tax dollars in other places, as well, to reduce the poverty rate and to grow our economy.

On the right is the belief that we should give more to those who own the stores and factories so that they will create more jobs.  A superficial glance at the issue makes that seem logical, but any depth of analysis reveals that’s like giving Gatorade to the team owner when the players are thirsty.  Businesses don’t expand when owners have more money in their hands; they expand when there is demand for their product.

When the consumer class has disposable income they spend it and that’s when the economy grows.

It’s Tricke UP, not Trickle Down.

America has the money to sustain welfare and to create job programs.  We have the money to enrich education.  We can also give tax breaks and incentives to businesses because that will stimulate hiring and keep businesses from closing, but there’s no reason to reduce teacher’s salaries and not to modernize schools, as well.  We can afford the infrastructure building and rebuilding that creates jobs.

Education and Jobs. That is the equation to reduce poverty and to grow our economy, and the arguments we’re having about spending should be centered there…and not around welfare.

Freddy the Freeloader

There are two things that I hear consistently from people who oppose the liberal position on social spending:  “It’s MY money,” and, “I don’t want my hard earned money being spent on people who want to live off handouts!”

Apparently, they feel that many of the poor are that way because they haven’t been threatened enough to stop being poor.

First of all, it should be understood that our current tax rates are quite low, especially when you consider our Gross Domestic Product. U.S. taxes at all levels of government claim around 28 percent of GDP, compared with an average of 36 percent of GDP for the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In fact, only 4 countries have lower taxes and one of them is Japan which is a virtual tie.  The lowest is Mexico.

Next consider the truth about those “freeloaders.”  If you take Medicare and Social Security out of the debate (those are a different arguments) and just focus on the “social services” commonly called “entitlement” programs, you’ll find a very small percentage (between 1 and 2%) abusing the system according to US Dept. of Labor statistics regarding UI programs.

“The myth of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen who defrauds the system lingers even though there’s no proof of it”, said Erin O’Brien, a poverty expert at the University of Massachusetts.  Accurate sources are hard to find, but of the over 95,000 welfare recipients in Philadelphia, for example (a metropolitan area over 4 million with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates), fraud is less than 2% according to the District Attorney’s Office.

In other words the vast majority of people using welfare initiatives are going back into the tax base and contributing; a very small amount of our taxes are being “wasted” on entitlements.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t correct abuse, but in terms of the personal anger I hear at being “robbed”, please reconsider the actual sacrifice you’re making.

Most people (other than Ron Paul supporters) understand the need to pay taxes to some extent. Most people understand the need for a strong military, for roads, hospitals and schools (infrastructure) and that government is the administrator of such things.

Where people come unglued is…all the other stuff.

Yet, I hear people (right and left) complain:  “Where is our money for flood recovery, the hurricane, the tornado?  Why is influenza spreading?  Why were oil platforms faulty? Why was the lunch meat bad at the high school?  Why did the plane go down?  Who’s going to stop the plant from polluting my neighborhood?”

Neo-cons and Libertarians will argue that the most effective way to handle these issues is to put more trust in the private sector, but that is painfully idealistic and shortsighted.  The private sector will spend where they wish and they won’t where they don’t.  Better off neighborhoods would be maintained and receive services while poor ones would suffer, spreading the scope of poverty like pestilence.

I’ve also heard many times, “If I kept my money, I would be more generous to those charities that do the work that needs to be done.”

Are you sure?  Studies show that generosity doesn’t increase with wealth.  A study in the New York Times ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22FOB-wwln-t.html?_r=1 ) reveals that wealthy people give a smaller percentage than the poor to charity.  And who in this private sector driven world will decide who gets what?  I can promise you that we’ll see the sick Gerber babies get plenty of help, but what about the babies of crack addicted mothers?  Who distributes the contributions so that help is generous and fair?  (See my article “The Shadow of Our Burden” http://garyhasissues.com/?p=4572 for more details).

“It’s MY money!”

Is it?  We get compensation for providing a product or a service; that’s the capitalist model.  Currency only realizes it’s value when we put it back into the system.  But who really owns money?  I owe everything I make to someone or another so when exactly is it mine?  When I do get ahead, I invest it so that someone else can capitalize on it.  The bank uses what I put in it and I’m pretty sure that when it’s lent elsewhere, someone else is laying claim to MY money.

If “capitalism” is our home, then money is the log on the fire to keep our house warm; and if we want to keep the fire burning we have to keep putting logs into the flame. I’m being a bit pedestrian here, but I always snicker a little when I hear “It’s MY money.”

“I EARNED my money!”

Maybe.  For sure, if you’re a coal miner.  I’ll never forget what my father told me when I made a pretty good check at Saturday Night Live.   I made more in one year than he did in 4 and he put his arm around me and said, “I’m happy for you, son. You made that much money.  But don’t ever tell me that you EARNED that much.”

He didn’t have to explain, I got his point very clearly.

Those of us who are employed, healthy, and are surrounded by friends and family, should fall to our knees (in my humble opinion) and thank God (or to whomever you pray) that we live in a free society, have opportunity, pay relatively low taxes, have a system of government predicated on freedom of speech (and tolerance) and have the services and protections that we have to pursue Life, Liberty and Happiness.

And when the government we elect shows compassion and offers sustenance to those who have fallen through the cracks, that is the realization of the promise of freedom….and it might cost you a penny or two out of every dollar you earn

Sounds like a fair bargain to me.

My Love/Hate Relationship

I love Politics.  I love the practice of influencing one another on civic and individual issues. I like the debate over what is best for the common good because it is from this politicsdialogue that we can emerge stronger and more secure in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

I hate Politics.  I hate the loggerheads created from opposing views and conflicting interests.  I hate the accusations that fly from having different perspectives and the castigation of individuals and groups of people that can be the consequence of our fear and misunderstanding.

I like Government.wordcloudgovfresh  I like the concept of representative democracy where power is held by the people themselves and they elect representatives to protect and improve their interests.  I like that we have a system of governance that is designed to defend the rights of even the least influential among us while protecting opportunity for all, predicated on principles of freedom and justice.

I don’t like Government.  I don’t like when it is corrupted by greed that panders to special interests.  I don’t like that it is imperfect and run by imperfect people who can be susceptible to the seduction of power.  I hate that its inequities can compromise the common good.

I like Big Corporations.  I like them because Big Business creates 50% of America’s Gross National Product and employs nearly half of all working Americans.  I like that the opportunity in America to be entrepreneurial and to expand with ingenuity literally created the world’s economy and the capacity to industrialize.thCAG9NPIW

I don’t like Big Corporations.  I don’t like them because without regulations mandated by the People they become a rogue government of their own, too often replacing morality and justice with margins and profit.  I hate when the strong arm of their influence contradicts the tenets of our Republic by serving the special interests of an elite-minority.

csp_savio-rallyI love Freedom of Speech.  I love that I live in a free country where I cannot be incarcerated for voicing my opinions and I have the right (Nay, obligation!) to protest and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  I love that I can openly influence others with ideas and I love that others can openly influence mine.

I hate that Freedom of Speech also allows for bigotry to have a forum and prejudices can bethCAW4UKDP shared which fan the flame of intolerance.  I hate that the free press, protected by our First Amendment, does not continually hold itself to standards of accountability and I hate that it can propagate misinformation as freely as facts.

I like and I don’t like some of the things that are sustained in the realization of our Republic; things that have been devised from this grand democratic experiment to live with freedom and to be prosperous.  But, it is within this conundrum that we might find some of the solutions we are looking for.

There is nothing unusual about this polarity; I believe that every human being carries a duality where we struggle between light and dark; a fight in our souls between fear and faith and we conform our guiding principles to follow one direction over another so that we can give that conflict rest.  And so we take sides:  Republicans face off with Democrats, Liberals challenge Conservatives, and Bears battle Packers.

Taking sides, however, can make us feel threatened by the “other side” and so we digcalvin_arguing in deeper, creating wider separations to protect our ideals.  Perhaps, if we recognized this about ourselves and took time to realize that there are qualities we can embrace within some of the things that we dislike, and that there are ideas that we should question within some of the things that we cherish…maybe…we could start to move toward more shared values, greater tolerance and less fear of each other.

Maybe we could improve our conversations, our government…and ultimately our lives.

I’d love that.

 

“To Blog or Not to Blog”

Sometimes I wonder if I post too much.  Occasionally, I will apologize for sending my links around because I don’t want my views to become a pain to my friends, although I have no qualms about being forward with those who generally oppose my ideas.

I don’t mean to be belligerent, but “life” for a post sort of begins with discord and debate; but I don’t want to become a broken record to those who generally favor my views and become tuned out as noise.

I’ve noticed, however, that Gary Has Issues has been growing in readership and that compels me to keep going.  There is a back-end analytics page with Word Press that shows me where readers are coming from and how many.  Don’t fear 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendment enthusiasts- there is no analytic tool that shows an email address, town or even state where a reader comes from, only the country and how many times a country “clicked” the link.

This tool shows me that I consistently draw numbers from the United States, but also new readers (non-spam) from Ireland, England, Germany, Russia, Australia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, and just today- New Zealand (Welcome Kiwi friends- I hope you don’t go bush if you get knackered when I rack off)!

My point is that I believe debate and the airing of views is vital to the survival of a Republic.  However, I must confess to a prejudicial judgment that I find myself making fairly often.  When someone tells me, “I don’t watch the news anymore, it’s too depressing,” or says, “Politicians are all crooks and so I don’t care anymore!” I conclude that they are masking apathy and justifying it with an artificial plea for integrity.

Kind of harsh, I know.  But I think I’m right.  Everything we do or have (with the exception of love), from where our kids go to school to the roads we drive to work, to the taxes we pay, the potholes that are filled or the location of the sewer drains, the safety of our neighborhoods and our nation and the information we receive online, on television, radio and in print, are all part of the political matrix that surrounds us.

It is inconceivable to me that any conscious human being, who has access to news and the ability to participate, would not choose to be involved.  That doesn’t mean by a cosmic mile that everyone should be as active or vocal as I, and others, choose to be, or even close, but awareness of our socio-political reality is as necessary to survival as the air we breathe.

It’s a paradox, to be sure.  Our individual liberty gives us the right to not participate.  We don’t have to vote.  Freedom of Speech also means the freedom not to speak.  Protection of our privacy includes the protection of our thoughts.  We have the right to replace “caring” with the confusion that can lead to disengagement.

Most people are, and should be, more concerned about their son’s grades, who’s coming to the barbeque, and whether they’ll get a raise.  Or…whether they’ll get a job, or if Grandpa will make it to morning, or if there will be enough food on the table tonight.

I’m not being flippant; our concerns over the matters which constitute our lives are the priorities we should choose, but participation in politics is essential to our freedom.  We can give it at least as much attention as we do to a traffic light to determine when to cross.

Our Founding Fathers wrote a charter to define a representative Democracy in order to secure liberty and justice without prejudice.  The blood that gives life to the body of this Republic is an informed electorate.  In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Whenever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.”

The reverse implication of Jefferson’s wisdom is equally persuasive, however; if people are not well informed, they cannot be trusted.  Being informed demands political awareness and that is the only thing that stands in the way of tyranny.

So…if we care about freedom; the freedom that allows us to debate and participate to whatever degree we choose…we must care about politics.  It’s the only game in town.

Now…who’s coming to the barbeque…?

I Love the Way You Lie

On Monday’s I take my sons to school and along Interstate 380, between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids, I’ve noticed for the past several years a homemade billboard which changes with some regularity.

Immediately after Obama was elected the sign read “O-Bummer.”

During the Iowa Caucus it read “Restore Sanity- Vote Santorum.”  Apparently, the common “san” was enough for the sign maker to equate Santorum with the concept of sanity and think it was poetic wisdom.  Of course, that’s as catchy and relevant as “Quit Stallin’- Vote Stalin!” but I digress…

I passed the sign today and it said “17 Trillion.”  Obviously, that is meant to say “The national debt has increased to 17 trillion dollars” and I’m sure the editorial point behind it is to say, once again, “O-Bummer.”

Never mind that the debt was created over decades and was exacerbated the most by two wars, tax cuts, Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefits and dangerously low production due to a giant recession which began before Obama took office.

In the interest of fairness we have to include Obama stimulus spending (although that could be catalogued under the cost of a recession), and Obama did introduce costly new regulations and Medicaid entitlements, which increased the debt by over a trillion dollars.  The looming issue, however, is something else.

We can talk, squabble and point fingers as to where the massive debt came from until the Day of Reckoning (or when the Vikings win the Super Bowl, whichever comes first) or we can get serious and talk about our REAL problems.

One obstacle to solutions is the fact that we tend to believe what we read. When we read something over and over, hear about it every day, and from people who present themselves with credibility, eventually it starts to sound like the truth.

Such is the case with the great Debt/Deficit/Budget/Fiscal Cliff debate. We hear so often that it is the debt that is destroying our economy and the evil of deficit spending that almost no one questions that premise anymore.

The Des Moines Register ran an op-ed which compared our household budgets to government spending. It’s a concept that’s easy to understand: “The federal government is exactly like such a family.  And its options are exactly the same” read the second paragraph. We’ve heard this often enough and it resonates; “just like my household budget where I have to bring in at least as much as I spend, the government should operate the same way.”

Except that the Federal Government and our households are absolutely nothing alike.

As economist William Mitchell wrote (Bilbo.economicoutlook.net) “But the government is not a big household. It can consistently spend more than its revenue because it creates the currency….governments can purchase whatever they like whenever there are goods and services for sale in the currency they issue.”

I understand the basis of Keynsian economics and it was of interest to me when I ran across this article by Mitchell, critical of Obama’s economic assessment, titled “Beyond Austerity” where he gives a historical perspective to our evolution in and out of free market regulations.

Before I give the impression that Mitchell takes the neo-liberal economic view, I must point out that he vehemently opposes the neo-liberal market philosophy. To further assuage confusion, let me point out the “neo-liberal” economic philosophy is not left wing economics; neo-liberalism stresses the efficiency of private enterprise and relatively open markets, and seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining political and economic priorities; in other words, it is the right wing point of view. Mitchell’s criticism of Obama is that he buys into it too often.

“Governments are being pressured to cut deficits despite strong evidence that public stimulus has been the major source of economic growth during the crisis and that private spending remains subdued” (from Beyond Austerity, The Nation Apr 4,2011). “Public deficits do not cause inflation, nor do they impose crippling debt burdens on our children and grandchildren. Deficits do not cause interest rates to rise, choking private spending…”

The Great Depression demonstrated the fallibility of a capitalist market; that it is unstable and susceptible to long periods of unemployment unless there is government intervention. The Hoover economic doctrine is literally what the neo-liberal economists (the entire Right Wing today) are trying to sell to us; that a balanced budget is the solution to market collapse.

Fortunately for them, Americans are short on memory (or didn’t pay much attention in history class) because it was WWII, as our government used deficit spending to fund the war effort, that led to full employment. A leisurely stroll through post industrial American history shows us that it was deficit spending, when supplementing private demand that led to creating jobs.

Many people are not aware of the fact that it was Richard Nixon in 1971 who abandoned the Gold Standard where the government could spend only insofar as taxes were raised or money was borrowed from the private sector.  After 1971, however, our monetary system became one that issued its own currency and was not convertible (into a commensurate gold supply) into anything of value but could now be floated and freely traded in foreign markets. As a result, we no longer have to “fund” spending and the liquidity in our system is not limited.

Our government now issues debt to match deficits, not because it is financially sound, but because of pressure from conservatives harkening back to the gold standard era with what has become a politically motivated agenda. By demonizing spending, i.e. entitlements, social programs and federal regulations, it is an easy sell to the public to cut spending, lower taxes and ultimately increase margins.

It is, in short, a shell game, and we, the public, are the skyward gazing tourists on the streets of New York losing our own money to the con.

As Michael Moore (Ooops! I just lost all credibility with my political opposition) once said, “America is not broke. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred in the greatest heist in history from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.”

Moore is dead on target.  We keep hearing about our “unsustainable debt” and the number is staggering; it is unsustainable, but the solution is not a straight line to sequestration, rather, we must look at the reason our economy became unstable.  Our primary issue is not unsustainable debt, it is Unsustainable Wealth.  We allowed 30 years of deregulation and tax loopholes to siphon too much money toward the top until the well was dry.

But don’t take my word for it, just look at history.  Look at the economic hills and valleys from post industrial America, through the Great Depression, thru Eisenhower’s tax rates, to Nixon’s redesign of the monetary system, on thru Reaganomics, Clinton budgets, Bush spending and Obama Stimulus.  Hold that policy time line up against the historical graph of employment, and productivity and you’ll see for yourself where we’ve been led astray. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_history_of_the_United_States

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms#Changes_in_debt_by_political_affiliation

Debts and deficits are relevant, but not in the way that Republicans are parading in front of us as their leverage to continue neoliberal economic policy.  The debt “crisis” is a political manuveur to implement policy to keep taxes lower for the wealthy by reducing spending on programs that can help Americans who are not.  The debt is not the balance for the fulcrum that creates jobs and increases production.

I was on the bandwagon of the vocal left wing that called Bush/Cheney out for creating most of this debt 10 years ago, spending like drunken sailors while raping and pillaging progressive taxes and needed regulations, to pander to their cronies.  And when Cheney said, “The debt doesn’t matter” I was among the first to call him a self-serving liar. But you know what? It appears that was the one time he wasn’t full of shit.

While I maintain that it was the Bush/Cheney version of neo-liberalism that created this economic crisis through a continued cacophony of deregulation, spending and tax breaks for those who didn’t need them, with a perversion of Mixed Market Capitalism, they didn’t always lie.

Will the real “smaller, smarter” candidate please stand up?

53289b706c207_preview-620Karyn Finn is running against Walt Rogers for the Iowa House.  A couple of months ago I was asked by Karyn’s campaign manager to have a coffee for her.  Even though Karyn is a Democrat, as I am, I don’t simply say, “Yes, by all means.  Any Democrat is better than a Republican” and so I did some research first.

Granted, I knew she was running against Walt Rogers, the incumbent Republican, with whom I agree on only one thing- that breathing is necessary- but support should not be blind, and it should not only come from opposing someone else.  So I asked around, found some materials and went online.  Soon, I told her campaign that I would be happy to host a coffee.

There was a nice, casual turn out on a sunny Sunday afternoon that would inspire most people to do anything but come to an afternoon coffee for a candidate, and we made the best out of what we had.  Karyn arrived with her husband and, although we had actually met before, we had never talked politics.  This was a wonderful opportunity to listen and to ask questions.

She was raring to go and she spelled out her basic platform:

-Ensure quality education for all Iowans from pre-K through higher education.

-Make higher education more affordable.

-Protect UNI from any further cuts.

-Give Iowa businesses priority at state & local contracts.

-Expand job training to put Iowans back to work in high skilled jobs.

Those are broad strokes and not details, but I am particularly drawn to her experience in, and committment to, education.  I’m not going to drill down into details about Karyn Finn’s ideas in this blog (that’s her job), instead I suggest that you contact Karyn (Facebook and Twitter) or Google her to learn more.  I can tell you first hand that she is smart, experienced, she’s a fighter, she’s passionate and well educated, but what I want to do is distance her from her opponent.
Walt Rogers personifies the new Republican platform (heavily influenced by the Tea Party) that has emerged over the past 8 years.  I know for a fact that Walt is a nice man, a great father and husband, and I trust that his beliefs are from a genuine intention to serve faithfully.  That being said, I also believe that his sincerity has been seduced by ideological fallacies drawn from a conservative agenda being bankrolled by selfish interests.

I “Walt-zed” over to his website to do my research.

Walt Roger’s theme is “Smaller, Smarter Government.”  Great slogan.  Who wouldn’t want government that is smaller and smarter?

“Smaller, Smarter Government” is a lovely turn of a phrase but…it’s ultimately as disingenuous as saying “Elect me and I will heal all of the sick babies!”

On his website, Rogers lists a series of problems with our current government and follows with his solutions.  Great copy to make his case, except there is a fundamental flaw…almost none of it is true.

Each premise is built on the false perceptions and made up conflicts drawn from the well of Fox News and conservative pundits, fanned by Tea Party propaganda and covered by….Fox News, conservative pundits and Tea Partiers.  Rogers gives solutions to problems that don’t exist, at least not in the way that they’re stated.

Here’s what Roger’s website has to say (with my reply after each):

•A massive federal takeover of health care that is quickly becoming less of a real “law” and more of a lawless hierarchy of privilege where those with connections, money, and power get exemptions and the rest of us get stuck.

MISLEADING Exemptions were made for businesses to adapt to the change.  1,231 companies applied for and received waivers from the law’s restrictions on annual benefit caps. The law requires plans to gradually raise their benefit limits, and all annual limits will become illegal in 2014.

•Loss of full-time jobs due to ObamaCare’s employer mandate, leading to increasing levels of part-time employment and unemployment.

MISLEADING.  While some larger firms who have to provide insurance for employees come 2015 are cutting back employee hours to part-time to avoid paying for their health coverage, others like WalMart, have moved thousands of workers from part-time to full-time to embrace the law.  Also, many smaller firms will be able to hire more workers due to their ability to provide them with better benefits at cheaper rates.  ObamaCare itself funds the creation of new jobs in healthcare sectors.  Some job loss will be seen in the form of full-time workers losing hours- but job growth will result from new healthcare related jobs.

•Futile attempts to “stimulate” the economy by spending massive amounts of money borrowed from our grandchildren.

FALSE.  In a survey by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, 80 percent of the economists surveyed agreed with the Congressional Budget Office that the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus law.  The stimulus plan under the current administration was essentially a continuation of the Bush administration policy and until it became a talking point to oppose Obama, Republicans generally accepted stimulus strategies.

•Complex, unpredictable laws creating an environment hostile to business, leading to even higher unemployment and underemployment rates.

FALSE.  Unemployment is down regardless of what Walt Rogers wants to print.  The “unpredictable laws” such as Dodd-Frank were designed to prevent predatory lending and unscrupulous tactics that destroyed pensions and savings due to a lack of regulations in the market.  This administration’s biggest effort has been lending.  Since the beginning of the recession, loans to small businesses dropped because banks have been reluctant and President Obama implemented the Small Business Lending Fund.  Many tax breaks have also been given and corporate cash reserves are at all time highs.  Hardly a “hostile” environment.

•Trying to regulate our children’s education with top-down, one-size-fits-all approaches like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core.”

DISINGENOUS.  At least Rogers is taking a non-partisan position here as “No Child Left Behind” was a Bush Administration program (and I personally agree that “Common Core” does not address the real educational issues either).  Problems in education, however, will not benefit from Roger’s austerity plans.

•A runaway, out-of-control EPA working to make sure President Obama’s promise of “skyrocketing energy prices” becomes reality.

MISINFORMED.   The “skyrocket” quote was taken out of context from an answer to what Cap and Trade can do to electricity prices and as a result, reduce consumption.  Obama, when running for President in 2008 outlined his basic energy premise:  “I think that we have been slow to move in a better direction when it comes to energy usage…we’ve been consuming energy as if it’s infinite. We now know that our demand is badly outstripping supply…”  Oil has fluctuated as it has for 10 years, natural gas prices are down and electricity may see an increase but it hasn’t yet.  Even with the sober and sensible warnings that halted the Keystone Pipeline, American oil production is up.

•Overloading people and businesses with taxes that cost Iowans jobs every day.

NOT TRUE.  President Obama hasn’t raised taxes as President Reagan, for example, did 11 times (yes he cut them, as well, but raised them on the middle and lower classes to offset debt).  And despite Republican assertions, Obama has cut spending and the national debt at its fastest rate since World War II.

Iowa, by the way, has created jobs and has an unemployment rate that is half of the national average.

So, Rogers now offers his “Smaller, Smarter” solutions:

1) Dismantling ObamaCare, 2) Unleashing American energy production, 3) Making sure our laws apply equally to all (but not to Gay people, of course), 4) Making education a state, rather than national concern, 5) Defending 2nd Amendment rights, as well as 6) Right to Life protections.

I’ll translate:

1) Allow our nation’s health to once again become commoditized and putting average Americans at risk of bankruptcy, 2) Unnecessarily escalating toxic environmental disaster in order to increase energy profits, 3) Double standards for justice, 4) Decrease funding to public education further crippling inner city schools, 5) Proliferating guns by making access to lethal weapons even easier, and 6) Using religious doctrine, contrary to the 1st Amendment, to increase the scope of government.

This is “Smarter”?  How so?

Is this “Smaller”?  Yes, if what he means is a smaller capacity to serve Iowans.

Campaign slogans can be shorthand to understanding a candidate’s essential platform.  They can also be shorthand to understanding that the wool has been pulled over their eyes.

ec7fc6_647cebc6bce64d9698a8b020c7e43d19_jpg_srz_543_410_75_22_0_50_1_20_0I support Karyn Finn for the Iowa House.  She’s only about 5′ 2″ and so she really is-

“Smaller, Smarter government.”

 

Get involved at:  http://tavishall-sites.wix.com/finn4iowa

 

Never Shave a Gentile Woman

From MSN News:  “Gay and lesbian couples are getting legally married in the South for the first time, crossing a threshold into a conservative region that long stood united against same-sex marriage.”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to turn away appeals, determining that marriage bans are unconstitutional in Virginia.  West Virginia, North and South Carolina should soon follow suit as judges in each state follow through on the appellate court’s orders.

This is the legal apex of a controversy that has existed…forever.

It has inched its way center stage since Maine and Maryland legally legitimized gay marriage in 2012 and when North Carolina passed an amendment called “Amendment One” which conversely defined marriage within the state constitution as being strictly between “one man and one woman.”

Earlier the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8, which eliminated the right of same sex couples to marry, is “un-constitutional” and that was the same ruling the Iowa Supreme Court (New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, as well) previously determined.

I’ve been asked why I write so many essays in defense of gay rights.  Apparently, some people find it ironic that as a straight man I am so vocal in this matter.  There are two answers and they are very simple.

One is personal:

I have many gay friends and they are citizens and humans as normal and natural as I am and therefore deserve 100% of all the civil rights I am entitled to.

The second is universal:

All civil rights are relevant to all Americans.  If we allow the justification of discrimination to any group of people, how can that not preclude a dangerous affront to all the liberties we cherish?

Homosexuality is not a matter of choice. How can we allow negative judgments over a group of people for being who they were born to be? That is immoral and I have witnessed, first hand, persecution and discrimination in the form of condescension, segregation, arrogance and even violence.

This issue effects all of us, whether we know it or not, and to be silent or even passive is, in my opinion, un-American.

Many Iowans misunderstood the ruling of the Iowa Supreme Court that allows same sex marriage.  While it may be true that most Iowans do not support the idea and believe that “marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” that does not mean that their determination (even as a majority) is just.

I’ve heard opponents of same sex marriage say that the Iowa Supreme Court overstepped its bounds and “changed the Iowa Constitution.”

No, they did not. The Iowa Supreme Court did not add language to the Constitution to include gay marriage; they ruled that the Constitution does not discriminate in the application of civil rights to all citizens. They ruled that the Constitution cannot add language that does discriminate.

In fact, this is how the Iowa Supreme Court ruled with regard to legalizing same-sex marriage: “Our responsibility…is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”

This is essentially the same determination the U.S. Supreme Court has now made.

The Bible is often used to create a moral separation between gay marriage and God’s matrimonial intentions, but what we must separate is the role of government from the role of organized religion.

Woody Allen once said, “I was raised in the Jewish tradition, taught never to marry a Gentile woman, shave on a Saturday night and, most especially, never to shave a Gentile woman on a Saturday night.”

His quote is silly but it humorously reveals a serious flaw in religious dogma.  Religions create rules to differentiate themselves from others so as to propagate that faith, but those rules can be compounded and misconstrued so as to segregate people from one another and lead to injustices.

I’ve heard people say, “If we allow gay marriage where will it stop?  Men will be marrying goats!” (Seriously, I’ve heard that).

People…slow down! Take a breath.  Maybe pop a Xanax.  One- the Bible is not the Constitution. Two- men (or women) and barnyard animals will not marry. We are a nation with a charter that protects such rights as they apply to the activities between Human Beings (…although I know some married people who may have been happier with a goat).

The extension and protection of all such rights are not symptomatic of the decay of our civilization, rather it represents our collective morality and the pursuit of Liberty and Justice for all; it is the advancement of civilization.

Disagree With Liberals (Like Me) At Your Own Risk!

I’ve observed something.  When I argue with hard line conservatives I can reach a level of frustration that is unparalleled. It can feel as if a large, gray mass of volcanic rock is growing in my sensory cortex .  It is the exasperated resignation that I remember as auntitled child on the playground when someone stuck their tongue out at me and whined, “I know you are but what am I?”

It can be like trying to get directions in a foreign country where no one shares a common language, and, in fact, one of us is mute and the other is blind.

But, I’ve noticed something about my conservative foes.  Even when the argument degenerates into condescension, insults, or goes completely off point, they are always willing to keep the debate going.  They’ll gladly jump in at the next opportunity, too.  In fact, I’ve never heard one of them say, “Go away!  I can’t deal with you anymore!”

Not so true with liberals.  I’ve even been the liberal to banish some conservatives from  my discourses and I’ve been banished myself by other liberals in those times when we don’t see eye to eye on an issue.

Why is this?  Or is this even true?  I asked some liberal friends and, coincidentally, they couldn’t agree.  One was immediately defensive:  “Conservatives are much worse!”

Another acquiesced:  “Yeah, that kind of seems true.”

Another clarified:  “It’s pointless to argue with most conservatives because they’re not interested in the truth, but when you argue with a liberal, well, we don’t like that.  We kind of expect you to agree.”

I offered a conciliatory observation to placate the liberals who were now angry that I would suggest that they were less tolerant: “Conservatives are quicker to use insults.”

“You ‘libs,’” a conservative said to me, “want a Nanny State, because you don’t want to work.”  This was his opening salvo to say “hello” and not even from the culmination of an argument.

Certainly, liberals use insults, as well, but I’ve been in plenty of arguments and usually it’s the conservative who draws first blood with the personal jab to discredit their opponent.

(I posted on this awhile back after a rather contentious debate:  http://garyhasissues.com/?p=3275)

I went a little deeper and found a study from 2008 in the journal “Nature Neuroscience.” It concerned research that found that these differences in thinking may be traceable to brain differences.  A New York University neuroscientist conducted an Man-with-electrodes-on-hi-007experiment on participants who ranked themselves on a scale ranging from Very Liberal to Very Conservative.

With sensors attached to their skulls, they played a computer game requiring them to press a button as fast as they could when a certain shape flashed on their screen.  When a different shape randomly appeared, however, they were not supposed to hit the button.

Most made mistakes and hit their button when they weren’t supposed to, but, with each mistake, the researchers recorded a pulse coming from a region of the brain that signals the presence of conflicting information as if their brains were saying, “Oops—I meant to do one thing, but I did another.”

Results showed that the more liberal a participant claimed to be, the greater the “Oops” brain signal and the fewer the number of mistakes made.  The researchers concludedbrain that the “liberal’s brains were more sensitive to how accurate their ongoing responses were, and were more likely to adapt to changing demands.

Conservative brains, on the other hand, might be better equipped for tasks that require a more fixed response style.”

How would this apply to the Liberal Dismissal Syndrome that I’ve personally encountered?

Here’s my take:  Liberals don’t like to be wrong.  They may adapt more easily to changing circumstances, leading to fewer mistakes, but that also leads to intolerance for what they perceive as mistakes.  Because the critical aspects of their thinking are heightened that leaves them with a lesser capacity for a pit fight.  To conservatives, being correct isn’t as relevant as it is to outlast the conflict; confrontation is simply a byproduct of existence.

I could be wrong (although I don’t like to be) and clearly this is just a superficial analysis of the ideological conflict, but I also believe that from some reflection on how we argue, and think, that we might draw some personal conclusions that could bring both sides closer together.

11993823-largeWe may never hug, but, perhaps an understanding of our different ways of thinking could lead us toward more moderate thinking, and, perhaps, create a breeding ground (as it has in the past) for better cooperation, better politics…and fewer banishments.

“Oops! I wasn’t supposed to hit that button!”

Lead Like Jesus

This weekend I was in a bar and a friend that I rarely see came up to me and pulled me over to her table.  Immediately she descended upon me.

“I can’t even be your friend anymore. You are so stupid and your blog is so idiotic that I de-friended you on Facebook. I don’t want to have to see your trash. I can’t believe you are such an idiot!”

“And….how are your drinks?” I replied.

A friend of hers at the table asked, “Is he a liberal?”

My friend continued, “He’s a stupid (expletive) liberal.”

Caught off guard by this unexpected assault, I smiled and said, “So, I’m guessing you guys like…Rick Perry, maybe?”

“Anyone is better than (the whole table in unison) OBAMA!”

“Well,” I said trying to re-calibrate reality, “My stocks are looking good, my business is growing, unemployment is down, corporate reserves are great…yeah, I feel pretty good about him.”

“What ?” snapped one of her friends.  “He’s the worst President in history!”

There is a gray mass that starts to form in my brain when I am confronted with obstinance and I can hear my inner voice making a choice. “Should I go after this or will that turn ugly…or should I lead like Jesus and just turn the other cheek and walk away?”

I was more than willing to have a sensible conversation, listen to their evidence, compare it to mine, eventually settling into beers and a few laughs, but this crowd was enraged by the mere fact that I was a liberal and were not about to offer anything except: “You’re stupid and we can’t talk to you!”

Feeling a bit too defensive at this point, I countered with, “You can disagree with me, but I don’t think stupid is something you can call me…after all, you did vote for Bush TWICE and your credibility is pretty low.”

I feigned a laugh and walked away. I heard someone say, “He can’t even make an argument.”

Heavy sigh.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t do this to incite anger, I do this to inspire educated debate where ideas can be argued, even aggressively, and more often than not, where we can “agree to disagree,” but what I encountered was rage.

If I thought this was an isolated incident I wouldn’t be writing about it today but I believe that this is the heated “conversation” being waged in bars, restaurants, barbeques and town halls all over America.

I always make an effort to find a clearer perspective and so the next morning, I opened up my blog and re-read the past month of posts, looking for unfair analysis or extreme bias.  I will concede that if I were a Republican/Conservative I certainly wouldn’t conclude that Gary Kroeger loves my politics, but I am pretty confident that I would engage him (as many of my friends do) and it wouldn’t be with fury.

I know this because I do have Republican friends, some of whom are in positions of party authority and we have respectful, even enjoyable relationships.

I am not a Democrat or a liberal without my reasons, just as the Republicans and conservatives I respect are justly so for their reasons, but a lion share of the public is finding their position from an emotional allegiance without using logic.

Information is how we calibrate our compass when navigating the waters of opinion and the overwhelming evidence in my observation is that the Republican party is being steered by extreme elements that cater to a theocratic, imperialist doctrine.

Therein lies the problem.  If you look at Republican/Conservative history there is no consistency beyond broad platitudes, and platitudes are not policy.

Lincoln it can be argued was socially progressive.  Eisenhower embraced many progressive ideas that are anathema to today’s Republican/Conservatives; social programs, social security, unionization, healthcare reform.

Eisenhower even warned us all, having been the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in WWII, against the growth of the “Military-Industrial Complex.”

Barry Goldwater understood that Christian zealotry could not be allowed to control conservative philosophy.  Nixon gave us the EPA and proposed health care reform similar to “Obamacare.”  Ronald Reagan (the standard by which every conservative is now measured) supported social security and was quoted to say, “Church and State are, and must remain, separate.”

You’ll find very few touch points by which to compare today’s Republicans to a consistent ideology that connects them throughout history.

“God and the Bible” is a familiar rally cry to crystalize conservatives with their beliefs, and while there is nothing wrong with being a proud Christian and believing in the Bible, what is fundamentally wrong is to believe you are a truer American because of those beliefs.

This is the difference I consistently observe between political affiliations and why I align with liberalism and the Democratic Party.  Liberals and Democrats define themselves with terms of inclusion, not exclusion.  We don’t say, “I am a Democrat because I am a Christian.”  We are more likely to say, “I am a Democrat because I believe all religions, or even lack of faith, belong in a free country.”

We are more likely to say when identifying our adherence to the Constitution that “Liberals believe in the civil rights the Constitution guarantees to all Americans regardless of personal orientation.”

We are more likely to say, “I love America because of the nobility of her promise of Freedom” than we are to say, “America never apologizes.”

This brings me back to the confrontation this post started with.

I’m not stupid because I’m a Liberal or a Democrat.  I’m stupid because I can’t do algebra.

I’m not a Liberal or a Democrat without reasonable, thoughtful and researched information and observations made throughout my life that compel me to align with what I believe to be more relevant in the fight for human rights, and peaceful and healthy existence.

Many people might call those Christian values.

If you are a Conservative and a Republican because you believe history reveals a better realization of your values, then fine, you’re not stupid either…you just require less information….

Damn! I was so close to leading like Jesus!