Monday, September 8, 2008

Discourse, Please, Not Drama

Whether you like the personalities on either side, or the respective interests they represent: an African-American on the Democratic ticket, a woman on the Republican ticket, and two old white guys on both tickets, this election should not be about race, gender, age, style, pop culture popularity, celebrities, scandals, or the like. What this election should about are policies, and where the two parties' policies will take our country over the next four years.

The choice, as I see it, is clear: should the American government be responsible for helping the American people, or should the American people be left with the responsibility of helping the American people? If the former, your ticket is Obama-Biden, if the latter, your ticket is McCain-Palin. It has nothing to do with the people, the color of their skin, how many kids they have, or anything else. It has everything to do with whether you think government should solve American's problems, or whether you think that Americans with the help of other Americans around them should solve their problems.

Senator Obama and his wife, Michelle, are perfect examples of the success that is possible when you are surrounded by a caring and invested network of people (for most people this comes in the form of family). The Obamas did not succeed because of the government, they succeeded because of the dedication of their families and their own hard work. They got where they are, despite their humble beginnings, not because the government helped them, but because Americans around them helped them. Why they think that formula should change and somehow won't work for the next generation is not clear to me.

I believe that Americans are generous and if left more of their own money (rather than being taxed at high percentages) they will use that money to help their fellow Americans. Not for accolades, but for street cred, I want you to know where I am coming from and that I put my money where my mouth is. Every year for the past four years my husband and I have donated around 18% of our annual income. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I am first generation higher education and have done everything from delivering phone books for cash to working in a law firm. I, like the Obamas, have been supported by a network of caring Americans who helped me along the way, and my goal is to pay it forward.

The difference between Senator Obama and me is that he wants me to give the government my money in the form of taxes so he can pay it forward for me, to who he wants to, when he wants to, with no reporting back to me as to the success of or return on the investment. I, on the other hand, want to "invest" my philanthropy dollars into organizations and people that I know, from having my own boots on the ground, are making a difference and having an impact in people's lives. The more the government leaves in my pocket, the more I have to pay forward.

Government should build our roads, provide infrastructure for growth, and fend off our enemies at the borders and abroad. Other than that, the American people should be left alone to take care of themselves and each other. You know you can take care of your neighbor better than a government office can, that's common sense! You can do it, we all can do it, we don't need the government to do it.

I add the caveat that the Republican party is not exactly the party of less government interference these days. With recent bailouts, corporate welfare seems to be on the rise. The Republicans, however, are still on the whole less inclined towards socialism than Democrats.

Click here for a related article, "It's Not About the Issues."


Anonymous said...

"The choice, as I see it, is clear: should the American government be responsible for helping the American people, or should the American people be left with the responsibility of helping the American people?"

With all due respect, I don't think this accurately describes the choices currently before us. The options morphed away from the state of nature you describe a long time ago.

While I might prefer a minimalist government, we have a massive state apparatus, and the question of this election is to whose benefit it should be employed.

Here is an alternative construction:
Is the American government responsible for helping the American people, or is the American government responsible for helping the corporate plutocracy / Republic of Georgia / people of Iraq / political party in power?

If we all agree that the government should serve the American people first, last and always, the question becomes how that is best achieved. We cannot pretend that the power of government will not be directed to someone's benefit, nor should we pretend that it has not been misdirected on occasion in the past for the benefit of narrow interests.

There are some legal issues that fairly directly relate to these choices. In terms of administrative law, how do we minimize the problem of regulatory capture? How do we reform campaign finance and not eviscerate the First Amendment? Are our civil courts institutionally equipped to decide claims with implications far beyond the specific case being tried? Is the tax system an efficient and fair mechanism for incenting social or economic policies?

It's not just that the devil is in the details. It's also that the interesting bits are often in the details.

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

I agree that the details are many, and interesting, but those details must still be decided by core principles.

We do have a massive state apparatus, but are you suggesting that the apparatus cannot be reduced in size and influence? That it cannot be simplified and streamlined? There are services that the gov't is offering now that could be de-nationalized or jettisoned.