Saturday, March 07, 2009

Issues Are Interrelated

Issues are interrelated and effective government depends on treating them so. The war is part of our economy, as are home foreclosures, as is the wrecked healthcare system. As the economy continues to shrink (another 600,000 jobs lost in February) more people lose their insurance and stress the healthcare system further.

Politicians tend to speak of these things as if they were not interrelated because it serves their own political purposes.

At the moment, we have a president who says, out loud, that our health care system has to be dealt with now because it is inseparable from our economy. Good.

Obama is boldly asserting a role for government as a payor of last resort, as the one entity that can spend money on goods and services on a scale large enough to stimulate activity and get that sisyphean stone of American freeish-enterprise rolling back the other way again, while also propping up a few vital financial institutions with federal money.

The cries of "socialism" sound immature and I will admit to questioning the education or intelligence of people who repeat these epithets. It's the same government, folks. We are not seeing a centrally-planned economy, there is no movement towards collectivism, nor is there any expansion of the welfare state in the works (unless you would like to consider bailouts of private corporations a form of welfare). Apparently it is going to be the same speculative boom-and-bust economy, and Obama is simply up in the sky with a plane, seeding clouds and speaking confidently of future rain.

Still, the cries of "socialism" from the public mean something. To politicians in Washington it is probably consciously dishonest, a foundation for re-election campaigns, in hopes that a long-term financial crisis will affect the next election cycle. (Now that's putting country first, isn't it?) I don't want to talk about them. I'd rather talk about people.

People pick up this rhetoric and they aren't running for election. Opinion polls show that more people are getting comfortable with the notion of government playing a major role in health care, perhaps even with a single-payer system. Even so, there is the "base" to whom conservative politicians are speaking who really think, based on their perception and limited education, that all of this will lead to the U.S.S.A.

Again, issues are interrelated. On some level, whether we like to acknowledge it or not, even conservatives know the meaning behind those memos that the Justice Department just released. We do have reasons to be worried about our government's expansion and abuse of its powers. Even the Obama Administration is making clear it wants to retain certain executive powers that were aggressively and illegally expanded by Bush and Cheney.

You cannot simultaneously ask a people to trust government while making government more intrusive and less trustworthy.

More democratic oversight, more transparency, more democratic participation. It is a burden and a responsibility: we need to do more than watch Keith Olbermann or Fox News or whoever our oracle of choice might be. We need to grow up, get involved, demand more participation in oversight of our employees in Washington.

Then we'll be too busy to call names and throw sand. We're due for some political maturity in this great republic.

1 comment:

Pam said...

I can't really argue with your points, Alg.

I'm pretty much in agreement.