I maintain that the whole purpose of government in a liberal democracy is to serve the needs of all the people. Non-democratic governments tend to serve the needs of the leaders, or the ruling class. If only the leaders are served, if the poorest and least powerful are not served, it is not a democracy.
This provides a ready yardstick for judging any and all actions of a democratic government, without reference to their liberal or conservative underpinnings. In fact, it offers the possibility of avoiding such ideological conflict. For example, a law that protected the unemployed from destitution, but was so generous that seeking work became unattractive, should be opposed by liberal and conservative alike. Such a law makes one group of people involuntarily support another. (We have no such law; unemployment benefits are skeletal.) And a law that allowed large corporations to avoid fulfilling their social obligations, for example by avoiding tax for the public facilities they use, serves only the corporate owners. (Alas, we do have laws like this.) In this case as well, one group of people involuntarily supports another.
Government in a liberal democracy
must serve the needs of all the people.
Unfortunately, many of the steps that Republican conservatives approve of increase inequality. Many of them are specifically designed to further the interests of very wealthy people and large corporations. Other plans involve legal manipulation to avoid performing their civic duties and paying their taxes. Still others are designed to avoid protecting the planetary environment, on two false assumptions: that such protection is too expensive and impractical, and that environmental protection is not important. The reason given for the rightness of such laws is the belief that it is the rich who raise the standard of living for everyone. History shows the opposite effect very clearly. Just since St. Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign we have seen nothing but increasing inequality because of repeated government gifts to the rich.
The proper role of government has both a supportive and a preventive element. The supportive element consists of actions that improve the lives of the people. Under this rubric are such things as fair labor laws, environmental protection, safety, and laws that promote the smooth operation of commerce. Preventive laws are those that, for example, prevent one class or group of people from obtaining an unfair advantage over others, by defining acceptable behavior and administering punishment to those who violate the law. The bulk of political abuses today derive from corporate efforts to remove or weaken laws that restrain the pure pursuit of greed.
Making the rich richer
harms everyone else.
A good example is the dissolution of the Glass-Steagall Act, a wise law that corrected a crucial banking flaw that greatly worsened the Great Depression: the combining of banking and investment services in one institution. Obviously, Congress failed its History 101 teachings, and after the crash of 2008 taxpayers were left on the hook to save private banking investments whose risks should have been borne by investors, not the public. Undoing Glass-Steagall was a stupid move that greatly exacerbated the severity and duration of the Great Recession of 2009.
When today’s Republicans speak of the lazy and undeserving, they mean the entire black population. There are half a dozen Republican talking points along this line, every one of which is false. The entire black population, including children, is only a third of the number of Americans they think are lazy and worthless, although Republicans believe nearly the entire population of the lazy and undeserving is black. They consider anyone who is having trouble finding work to be a lazy bum. They maintained this in 2009, when the newly unemployed outnumbered jobs five to one. They maintain it now, after millions have faced years of increasingly desperate attempts to find work before their persistently reduced unemployment benefits ran out, leaving them with no income at all.
Republican Speaker John Boehner’s
recent resuscitation of the “lazy bums” meme
Republican Speaker John Boehner’s recent resuscitation of the “lazy bums” meme infuriated millions of people whose jobs vanished because of Wall Street criminality and Congressional myopia, and who had applied to hundreds of places for work without success. It also infuriated Boomers whose entire careers evaporated, along with their savings and all their property, leaving them destitute at the dawn of their retirement.
Don’t you find it odd that there were so many lazy bums during the Great Depression, yet no lazy bums when the great needs of WWII arrived? Isn’t it odd that there seems to be a resurgence of lazy bums during the Great Recession of 2009, yet so little recognition of the cause?
Ask yourself who is more deserving of support, the aging janitor who after working forty years has been unsuccessful at finding work since 2009, or Congressional suits who take 239 paid vacation days a year and retire on nearly $200,000 for life, even after serving as little as one year?
It has been the stated goal of Republicans
to oppose without fail every thing
proposed by the president.
At the most basic level, liberals and conservatives are in near agreement about the legitimate purpose of government, that is, to serve the interests of the people. But conservatives embrace a series of false beliefs that are as immutable as religious dogma, and are soundly contradicted by the facts.
Until conservatives are able to face up to reality, to the way things really are, there is likely to be little agreement with liberals on how best to shape the government. This is unfortunate because in the past politics was seen as the art of compromise for the good of all. Compromise has simply vanished from the legislative effort because it has been the stated goal of Republicans since the election of Barack Obama to oppose without fail each and every thing proposed by the president or by Democrats in general. The result has been a Congress every bit as useless as the Do Nothing Congress under Harry Truman.