Archive for February 29th, 2012
Ayn Rand Worshippers Should Face Facts: Blue States Are the Providers, Red State Are the Parasites
There’s only one way to demonstrate who America’s producers and parasites really are. It’s time to go Galt.
Last week, the New York Times published a widely discussed article updating an argument that progressive bloggers noticed a very long time ago. It’s now well-understood that blue states generally export money to the federal government; and red states generally import it.
TPM published a great map showing exactly how this redistribution works:
Progressives believe in the redistribution of wealth, so we’re not usually too upset by this state of affairs. That’s what it means to be one country. E pluribus unum, and all that. We’re happy to help, because we think we’ve got a stake in making sure kids in rural Alabama get educations and seniors in Arizona get healthcare. What’s good for them is good for all of us. We also like to think they’d help us out if our positions were reversed. It’s an investment in making America stronger, and we feel fine about that.
But maybe it’s time to admit that we’re being played for chumps, and that there are people in the rest of the country who are taking way too much advantage of our good nature. After all: it’s now a stone fact that the blue states and cities are the country’s real wealth creators. That’s why we pay more taxes, and are able to send that money to the red states in the first place. We’re working our butts off, being economically productive, going to college, raising good kids, supporting reality-based schools, keeping our marriages together, tending to our busy and diverse cities, and generally Playing By The Rules. And the fates have smiled on us in rough proportion to the degree that we’ve invested in our own common good.
So we’ve got every right to get good and angry about the fact that, by and large, the people who are getting our money are so damned ungrateful — not to mention so ridiculously eager to spend it on stuff we don’t approve of. We didn’t ship them our hard-earned tax dollars to see them squandered on worse-than-useless abstinence-only education, textbooks that teach creationism, crisis-pregnancy misinformation centers, subsidies for GMO crops and oil companies, and so on. And we sure as hell didn’t expect to be rewarded for our productivity and generosity with a rising tide of spittle-flecked insanity about how we’re just a bunch of immoral, godless, drug-soaked, sex-crazed, evil America-hating traitors who can’t wait to hand the country over to the Islamists and the Communists.
Ironically, the conservative movement’s favorite philosopher had some very insightful things to say about this exact situation. Ayn Rand’s novels divided the world into two groups. On one hand, she lionized “producers” — noble, intelligent Übermenschen whose faith in their own ideas and willingness to take risks to achieve their dreams drives everything else in society. And she called out the evil of “parasites,” the dull, unimaginative masses who attach themselves to producers and drain away their resources and thwart their dreams.
Conservatives love this story. They’re eager to claim the gleaming mantle of the producers, insisting loudly that their tax money is going to support people (mostly in blue states and cities, it’s darkly implied) who won’t or can’t work as hard as they do. If you want to arouse their class and race resentments, there are few narratives that can get them rolling like this producers-versus-parasites tale.
But the NYT story and that map up there prove beyond arguing that the conservative interpretation of events is 100 percent, 180-degrees, flat-out wrong. America’s real producer class is overwhelmingly concentrated in the blue cities and states — the regions full of smart, talented people who’ve harnessed technology and intellect to money, and made these regions the best, most forward-looking places in the country to live.
And the real parasites are centered in red states (the only exceptions being states with huge resource reserves, like Alaska and Texas) — the unimaginative, exhausted places that have clung to a fading past, rejected science, substituted superstition for sense, and refused to invest in their own futures. It’s not unfair to say that those regions are simply feasting off the sweat of our ennobling labor, and expecting us to continue supporting them as they go about their wealth-destroying ways.
And we producers have had enough.
Progressives Go Galt!
If you’re a conservative who thinks Ayn Rand called it true with this producers/parasites thing, then by all means: let’s go there. All the way there — and then some. But fair warning is in order: you may not like where we end up.
By way of a modest proposal, I hereby declare the birth of a new Progressive Objectivism — a frankly producerist personal-responsibility crusade aimed at getting these whiny red leeches off our collective blue hide. If they think they can get by without us, let’s not stand in their way. What these people need from us, at minimum, is some tough talk — the kind of stern, grown-up verbal whoop-ass the conservatives wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to unload on us if the roles were reversed.
The time has come for blue America to go Galt. Our farewell rant — long and epic, as Rand’s turgid writing style would have required — might sound a bit like this:
First off, dear Red Staters: If your town’s economy depends on a nearby dam, canal, harbor, airport, military base, interstate highway, national park or monument, or prison, just STFU. Because you are, in every way possible, a parasite, living off something the rest of us paid to build.
Second: If you are a homeowner who takes a mortgage interest deduction — which is how the rest of us subsidize your house, and with it your status in the middle-class — we don’t want to hear another word from you about how you made it all on your own. And that goes for those of you who got your education via the GI Bill, or took out an SBA loan, or went to well-funded public schools back when such things existed. You are what you are because we believed in you, and invested in you. And we’re deeply insulted that you refuse to even acknowledge that fact.
Third: Don’t come crawling to us to support those kids you couldn’t afford to have, but refused to allow contraception or abortions or actual fact-based sex education to prevent. It’s just that simple. Our blue-state babies are better off in every way that matters because we plan our families. A failure to plan on your part does not create an obligation on ours. Your policies force women to have kids, even when they’re patently not ready to have them. Now (as you’re so fond of telling women who find themselves unhappily pregnant), you get to live with the consequences of those choices.
Fourth: Don’t ask us to pay to educate your kids if you’re not willing to have us teach them what we know about the world. We believe in free, comprehensive, rigorous and reality-based public education because it’s done more than any other government service to make us rich, powerful and successful; and we want the same for you.
We realize some of you aren’t too keen on public schools. It’s great that you want to take on more personal responsibility for educating your own kids. Just be warned: if you don’t teach them real science and real history — including evolution, climate change and the actual contents of the US Constitution — we’re probably not going to hire them. So we hope you’re also ready to take responsibility for that, too, which will probably mean supporting your grown kids in your basement until you die.
Fifth: Between federal water reclamation projects and farm subsidies, we are paying you zillions of dollars to grow stuff we’d actually rather not eat. Don’t look now, but those of us in blue cities and states are moving away from your petrochemical-saturated GMO-bred CAFO-grown industrial “food” products as fast as we possibly can. There aren’t enough organic and community-supported farms to feed all of us yet — but we have taken responsibility for this, and are working hard on the problem. You can either get on this train, or holler at it while it flattens you. What you cannot do is yell at us because we don’t want to eat what you choose to grow.
Notice, too, that the only reason we’re having to subsidize you in the first place is that the all-holy free market does not bless you with profits on this crap. In your own book, that makes you a capital-L Loser. In ours, we’ll settle for “parasite.”
Sixth: We are so over your bigotry. Again: we know from our own long experience that including women, gays and minorities makes us not only culturally richer; it also makes us more economically productive as well. And the recent economic meltdown has shown us that monocultures run exclusively by rich white men tend to stagnate into breeding pools for all kinds of social and financial parasites, who then come forward to prey on those least able to resist — like you.
Diversity isn’t just an idealistic fetish for us: we do it because we think it makes us richer on every front that matters. If “parasite” is just another word for “people who willfully make bad choices that keep them poor and ignorant,” then your prejudices by definition make you parasites. And we are not, therefore, obliged to deal with you.
And finally: If you want to pretend global warming isn’t happening, you do not get to come whining to us when you get hit with droughts or floods. We’re not going to send FEMA to bail you out. We’re not going to build canals to give you our water. We’re not going to fund your levees. If you’re so sure God will provide, go ask him to keep your reservoirs full and your cities dry. Because we resign.
But will we come back?
Yep. It all sounds really ugly. But that’s the point of going Galt: it’s a big fat tantrum designed to prove just how important you are in the grand scheme of things. (The tactic is also not unfamiliar to any mother who’s gone on a protracted housekeeping strike to gain appreciation from an uncooperative family.) If others have to suffer hardship to learn the lesson — well, that’ll teach ‘em. The emotionally satisfying goal is to get the parasites to come back, begging on their knees for your vital help and resources. They know now, in a way they didn’t before, that they cannot survive without you.
So: if that fantasy moment were to come, what would it take to convince us Progressive Objectivists to emerge once again from our cool blue producerist enclave, and take responsibility for the chastened masses once again? We have just five simple demands:
1. Stop taking more money from the federal government pot than you put into it. If you believe in paying your own freight, then do it. If you can’t, that’s fine — we’ll go back to helping you out — but you have to let go of that producerist superiority crap, because you’re simply not entitled to it.
2. Admit that we were right. Admit that nobody in America ever makes it on their own, and that we are all in this together, and that there’s such a thing as the common wealth and the common good. Admit that regulation is necessary to keep the unprincipled strong from preying on the weak. Admit that there has never in history ever been any such thing as a free market: markets are created by governments, and need to be overseen by them. And finally: admit that your conservative leaders got us into this economic mess, and don’t know squat about how to get us out of it.
3. Join the reality-based world. Accept that America’s prosperity utterly depends on how well-educated its kids are, especially on topics like science and history. Accept that evolution happened, and that climate change is happening now. Embrace nuance. Learn something about how to assess evidence and think rationally, without a pre-determined conclusion. Remember that God only helps those who’ve gained the real-world skills to help themselves.
4. Admit that we love our country every bit as much as you do — and that, given our much greater success at creating strong families, productive 21st-century industries and excellent places to live, we might actually know more that you do about how to make it work better in the future.
5. Last but by no means least: Knock off the hate-mongering, threats and name-calling. Your heroine, Ms. Rand, predicted rightly that parasites invariably despise the producers they feed on; you should be embarrassed that your own behavior bears her out so clearly. And, just once, say thank you to us for all the contributions we’ve made (or, at least, tried to make) toward your well-being. We don’t ask for much, but a little gratitude now and then wouldn’t hurt.
Five easy steps. Do this, and we’ll come back and work with you as co-creators of an America we all can love. Until then, though, you can pay your own bills. We’ve decided we have better things to invest that money in — upgraded schools, single-payer healthcare, expanded college systems, mass transit, sustainable technology investments, and forward-looking research to launch new industries that will make us richer yet. And you’ll have a choice, too: you’ll either learn what it takes to produce like we do, or you’ll get to find out what real poverty feels like.
Would that we had the guts to go Galt. We probably don’t; it’s just not in our natures to tell people who are hurting to go to hell, or leverage our economic might to get the political upper-hand. But there’s nothing stopping us from pointing out, loudly and often, exactly who is really who in this producers-versus-parasites relationship. We didn’t draw that ridiculous battle line — but maybe it’s time for us to accept their terms of engagement, stake our rightful claim as the country’s actual producer class, and show them just how tall and proud we are to stand on our far more fertile ground.
© 2012, agentleman.
How Scott Brown Gets Ted Kennedy’s Record On Contraception Mandates Wrong by ERIC KLEEFELD
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has been jousting with not only his Democratic opponent, former White House financial reform adviser Elizabeth Warren, but also with former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), over Brown invoking the name of Ted Kennedy in connection with Brown’s opposition to the Obama administration’s contraception insurance mandates.
But in addition the opposition raised on principle to Brown invoking the elder Kennedy’s name, there’s another matter: He almost certainly gets his record on the issue wrong.
Brown is a sponsor of the bill put forward by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), to excuse employers and insurance companies from mandates with which they differ on an issue of moral conviction. Warren has in turn charged that the Republican bill would provide a loophole for an employer to deny many different kinds of health care coverage. Brown has denied the accusation, and said that the proposal is needed in order to protect religious freedom.
And along the way, Brown has invoked the name of Ted Kennedy. “Like Ted Kennedy before me, I support a conscience exemption in health care for Catholics and other people of faith,” he has said in one radio ad.
However, Kennedy did support a contraceptive insurance mandate — as evidenced by his support of a key piece of legislation that had floated through Congress for many years, the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act (EPICC). Under the proposal, insurers would be required to cover contraception, with only the same deductibles and limitations as they would for any other prescription drug coverage. And along the way, there was certainly a fair amount of debate with the Catholic hierarchy.
In a Senate hearing in 2001, when Kennedy chaired the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he said, “Contraceptive insurance coverage is essential for women’s health,” also adding: “This is something all of us are very hopeful we can move right to the Senate floor and get action on this year.”
In July 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to senators, staunchly opposing the bill.
Pregnancy is not a disease, and interventions to stop the healthy functioning of healthy women’s reproductive systems are not basic health care. We support universal health care coverage, but we must oppose efforts to federalize the forced provision of non-therapeutic drugs, devices and services, especially considering the inequity in the delivery of health care to the poor.
Additionally, as Catholics we are uniquely affected by this legislation. The Catholic Church serves as an employer in dioceses, schools, charities, and hospitals across the country and is committed to ensuring just wages, which include providing comprehensive health care benefits to its employees. EPICC would force Church entities to end all prescription drug benefits if they are to avoid violating their fundamental moral and religious teaching on the dignity of human procreation. Moreover, Catholics who serve as employers and employees outside of Church institutions will be similarly affected. Indeed, the bill’s preemption clause seems designed to ensure that this bill will override any state laws that respect the right of conscientious objection, by exempting from federal preemption only state laws that are even broader in their “protections” for access to contraceptives and abortifacients.
The newer versions did not have any specific language identifying exemptions for religious, conscience or moral convictions. The closest thing to such a modification was more general wording, saying that bill’s language would not be construed “as modifying, diminishing, or limiting the rights or protections of an individual under any other Federal law.”
Brown’s use of Kennedy’s name has been based on a few things: A letter that Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, in the months before his death from brain cancer. Among many other points in the letter, Kennedy discussed President Obama’s push for national health care reform, and stated his own advocacy for “a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field” in the context of his staunch support for the overall bill.
There was also Kennedy’s support in 1995 for a law to prevent medical personnel from being forced to take part in procedures with which they disagree (as in, abortion), and a 1997 bill that dealt with conscience restrictions by some insurance companies.
As the Springfield Republican reports, former Kennedy aides have strongly disputed the idea that his past support of legislation in 1995, and the 1997 bill dealing with insurance plans — through some of the language appears similar — meant that he would support the approach of the Blunt bill.
Mainly, one anonymous former aide said the 1997 bill dealt with making sure information was available to patients, within the status quo of the absence of coverage mandates. That is, the bill accepted that some health insurers would deny coverage on some grounds, but required full transparency with enrollees.
“For example, it was there to make sure that a doctor wasn’t prohibited from telling a woman that a procedure may be in her best medical interests even if it wasn’t covered by her insurance because of a conscience exemption,” the staffer said. “The whole bill was never about endorsing any ideal other than making sure people were treated fairly by their insurance providers.”
One former Kennedy aide, Nick Littlefield, has definitively told the Boston Globe: “He [Kennedy] also felt that an individual Catholic provider should not have to provide an individual service if he had a moral objection. [But] he was never for allowing insurers or employers not to cover health services based on religious objections.”
Brown’s campaign and Senate offices did not return TPM’s requests for comment.
© 2012, agentleman.
The Founding Liberals By Stephen D. Foster Jr.
Today is the Fourth of July, a time when we as Americans celebrate our nations independence. Conservatives across the country are pretending to be patriotic. Liberals on the other hand are celebrating the biggest achievement that appears on their resume’: the founding of America and its government. You see, the Founding Fathers were, and always will be, liberals. And here are seven reasons why.
1. Although Thomas Jefferson didn’t know it at the time, when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he created the document that would be used as the basis for universal human rights, which liberals wholeheartedly support. Today’s conservatives are more interested in stripping away human rights, and have fought relentlessly to repeal rights from women, religious groups, and minorities. I understand that the Founding Fathers owned slaves, but I never said they were perfect either. The Founders, however, did believe that slavery had to end at some point and they knew that progress could not happen all at once, especially when they were just trying to keep the new nation afloat, but they intended us to progress. It would take another liberal to end slavery almost 100 years later, and yet another liberal would grant women the vote in the early 20th century.
2. Conservatives always claim that liberals are the supporters of big government. Well, the Founding Fathers also supported big government. Oh sure, they tried small government at one point but The Articles of Confederation didn’t cut it. The Federal Government under that document was useless and powerless. General chaos reigned among the states. Revenue couldn’t be raised. Laws conflicted between the states. Small government had failed. So, the Founders had an idea. They met in secret in 1787 and wrote the Constitution which created a bigger, stronger central government. Conservatives would call that growing the government.
3. Within the Constitution, the Founders gave power to the Congress to levy taxes as necessary. The Founding Fathers never had an issue with taxes. On the contrary, the founding generation waged the American Revolution because they felt that they were not properly represented in the British Parliament. The legislative branch established in the Constitution, however, properly represents every American. We vote for who represents us. Therefore when Congress raises taxes, they are doing the job we voted for them to do. Conservatives today consistently associate tax hikes with liberal policies. So, according to Republicans, the Founders are liberals. James Monroe, our fifth President, once said, “To impose taxes when the public exigencies require them is an obligation of the most sacred character, especially with a free people.” It most certainly applies today.
4. The Founding Fathers made it possible for us to change the Constitution when necessary. That is the beauty of the document. But Republicans are only lobbying to change the Constitution so that only the original document applies. They would repeal most of the amendments and many of the rights. Liberals on the other hand are all about change for the better and seek to perfect the Constitution which is what the Founders intended.
5. Republicans have claimed time and time again that health care mandates and government run health care is unconstitutional. They have also consistently slammed liberals for being the ones that introduce such programs and laws. What they fail to recognize is that health care mandates and government run health care dates all the way back to the Founding Fathers. In 1798, John Adams signed the very first health care mandate into law. The law required sailors to pay a tax to the United States government which in turn would provide medical care to them. The next President, Thomas Jefferson, apparently approved of this program as well, since he never challenged it, nor did he ever try to repeal it. According to Republican logic, Adams and Jefferson are a couple big government liberals.
6. Republicans are currently owned by corporations. They have not only defended corporations but have worked tirelessly to push corporate sponsored legislation through Congress. The Founding Fathers feared this kind of relationship and viewed corporations with suspicion and largely kept them at arms length. In fact, one reason the founding generation went to war with Britain is because of the influence that the East India Trading Company had on the British Parliament. A corporation even once governed Massachusetts on behalf of England. The Revolutionary War ended this practice. After the nation’s founding, corporations were granted charters by the state as they are today. Unlike today, however, corporations were only permitted to exist 20 or 30 years and could only deal in one commodity, could not hold stock in other companies, and their property holdings were limited to what they needed to accomplish their business goals. And perhaps the most important facet of all this is that most states in the early days of the nation had laws on the books that made any political contribution by corporations a criminal offense. When you think about it, the regulations imposed on corporations in the early days of America were far harsher than they are now. Still not convinced? Here is some advice from Thomas Jefferson that all Americans should take to heart.
“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
7. Separation of church and state is not just a liberal concept, the Founding Fathers made it part of America’s sacred foundation. Freedom of Religion was not included in the Constitution just to protect Christianity. Freedom of Religion protects ALL religions, even if you do not practice any religion at all. The idea that a wall between church and state doesn’t exist is absurd and the idea that the Founders meant America to be a Christian state is equally absurd. Nowhere in the Constitution can you find God, Jesus, or any mention of a specific religion whatsoever. The only mention of religion is that we all have the freedom to practice whatever religion we want and that government cannot make any law that puts one religion over the other, even Christianity.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
~First Amendment, Bill of Rights of the Constitution
Even our Founding Fathers interpreted Freedom of Religion as being the wall between church and state. Take these quotes for instance.
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
~Thomas Jefferson, as President, in a letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802
In the present day, Republicans are heavily allied with Christian right wing extremists that would require Bible studies in every school across the country. Considering how diverse America is today, even the Founders would reject that. Christianity is a dying religion and the extremists have only themselves to blame for that. Their hard line stance is disgusting and un-American. It goes against everything the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they wrote the first amendment. If these fundamentalist Christians want to teach the Bible in private schools, let them. But stay out of public schools. People do not pay school taxes so that their child can be indoctrinated into barbaric and outdated religions. Religion is not what our children need to be learning. Our country needs more men and women of science, mathematics, and history. Not Bible thumpers.
Each of these seven items represent precedents set by the Founders. Their vision has carried us forward and we owe it to them to not let that vision die.
The Founding Fathers were not conservatives as Republicans would have us believe. Not even Republicans began as conservatives. Early Republicans believed that they were doing what the Founders would have done. That is precisely why they fought against slavery and fought for women’s rights. In the ever continuing quest to perfect the American experiment, the liberal Republicans of the 1850′s and 1860′s took over the torch that the Founders lit and carried it forward to brighten the future. Liberals have carried the torch forward ever since and now are under the Democratic Party banner. If the Founders had been conservatives, that torch would have remained unlit and we would still be under British rule. So as you celebrate America’s independence, remember that it was a bunch of liberals that gave us freedom and the ability to change and perfect our nation. The very word “liberal” means favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. Conservatives certainly have no interest in concepts of maximum freedom. They only seek to strip freedom and rights away. Liberals have not changed much since the founding era. Liberals still believe in the power of government to help and care for its people. They still strive to increase civil rights and still believe in bringing the American Dream to every man, woman, and child living in this country. Liberalism is the embodiment of what makes America great and is something we should all celebrate and cherish with our lives today.
© 2012, agentleman.