The Tough Conservatives

The conservative wish list, if fulfilled, would turn America from a vibrant and benevolent nation into a withdrawn fortress of armed individuals, cruel and devoid of compassion. America would become a very different country, one in which it’s “every man for himself”. “We, the People” would become, “Me, for myself”.

Is that too harsh? Perhaps, but I don’t think so.

Here’s some of the conservative wish list:

  • Low taxes. We already have low taxes.
  • No Social Security. How do we then provide security in old age?
  • No national medical care. Why do we want to pay double?
  • No aid to individuals. Is everyone willing to die if bad luck comes their way?
  • No abortion under any conditions. Must a 14-year-old bear her father’s child? How about when carrying to term will kill the mother?
  • Dissolution of many federal agencies. How many agencies must be lost before we fly blind?
  • No foreign aid. Big deal. It’s a stingy less than 1% at present.
  • Strong defense. We spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined, which is far too much.

There is a single condition under which most of the things on the list might be granted: Living Wage. If everyone were adequately paid, we could do as Republicans want us to do.

If we are each to be responsible for our own welfare, with no assistance from any government agency at any time, here are some primary things we must be able to provide from our earnings:

  1. Basic provisions, such as food, clothing, housing, transportation.
  2. Sufficient savings to cover all possible medical needs.
  3. Sufficient savings for retirement.
  4. Income adequate to pay for education of one’s children through four years of college, or the equivalent.

Basic monthly provisions for family of four:
housing                                  $2,000
clothing                                       400
food                                            800
transportation                          1,000
Medical savings:                     2,000
Retirement savings:                1,000
Education:                               1,500

Total:                                       $8,700

This back-of-envelope calculation of costs for a young family with two children comes to $8,700 per month of necessary income. The hourly income for this basic need is about $54/hour. That is, $54/hour for every full time American job. That’s the minimum.

Are conservatives prepared to mandate a Living Wage standard of $54/hour, or do they think the current auto industry rate of $14/hr without bennies is enough? If they are not, then they are saying they endorse a cruel nation of increasing poverty.

Keep in mind also that even $54/hr is hardly living in the lap of luxury, and any stroke of bad luck, such as disability or serious disease of the wage earner (the Republican ideal is only one wage earner, the husband), would quickly plunge this family into an abyss they might never climb out of. Further, such a disaster would not stop with the death of this generation, but would tend to propagate into the future.

An average family would live at the sharp edge of danger. If they should slip over this edge for any reason, it is unlikely that they would be able to recover for generations. They would join a growing population living in poverty, who are increasingly likely to die from diseases or conditions that arise solely because of poverty.

The cost to the country of these policies is already markedly greater than costs under wiser policies. There is nothing to be gained by it, and much to lose. The cost of poverty at present, plus the cost of death from major diseases, comes to over a trillion dollars a year. Imposition of conservative poverty-creating policies would make this much worse.

This is hardly what should happen in a great country.


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