Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Right But Wrong

In his recent editorial, Mark Hyman bemoans the spendthrift ways of Congress and asks us to “remember how your members of Congress treated your tax dollars” when election time rolls around.

Sounds like a plan! In particular, let’s keep in mind the enormous debt that’s been accumulated in the last six years. Let’s also remember the huge increase in earmark spending since Republicans took over Congress. And let’s also remember the huge amount of corrupt money that’s flowed back and forth between G.O.P. members of Congress and lobbyists (two groups who are often hard to distinguish from one another).

Heck, even conservative stalwarts like
the Cato Institute and George Will point out how pathetic the current incarnation of G.O.P. lawmakers are when it comes to spending money wisely.

Of course, these conservatives, along with Hyman, tend to characterize investment of public money by the government as something inherently negative. That’s where Hyman’s editorial, despite the fact that it tacitly rebukes current Republican lawmakers, toes the conservative party line.

Hyman and other conservatives are right to attack the spending habits of the current congress, but wrong in their overall philosophy. Spending can be either good or bad, helpful or wasteful. Investing in things that will pay dividends both in terms of economic prosperity and quality of life (such as universal health care, investing in education, etc.) have lasting returns, while frittering away money on counterproductive boondoggles (hmmm…anything coming to mind?) can lead to results that are worse than if we just took our cash and through it down a rat hole.

To say government spending is inherently bad is like saying household spending is bad—that investing money in a new house is not qualitatively different than blowing your wad on to by a top-of-the-line Ferrari for your 16-year-old kid, or that spending money on college tuition is the same as letting the family nest egg ride on a single hand of blackjack at Harrah’s.

Public money can and should be spent wisely and for the greater good of the nation. It shouldn’t be wasted on vanity projects for Congressmen, contracts for companies with cozy relationships with politicians, weapons systems that don’t work, or wars that get thousands of people killed and maimed for no good reason.

Yes, let’s remember the spending habits of Congress in November, and respond by electing people who will invest our money in worthwhile causes rather than throw it away.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.09


At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This Hyman screed hits upon a political theme I find repugnant and dangerous to our country's well-being.

Bush and the Republican machine state that "it's your money" and that they are the party of tax relief, while jacking up the national debt and worsening the worrisome divide between the have nots and the "have mores" (as Georgie likes to refer to his pals). Oh, and then there's the 1/2 trillion dollar "9-11 War" (oops, I meant, the Iraq Battle for Democracy, er, how about "The Quagmire"?).

Then there is the moral expense sheet: asking the unlucky volunteers (often volunteering for economic reasons) to fight and die for Bush's cause while asking the rest of the country to pitch in absolutely nothing. A gas tax to defray the war costs and remind the public about why we care a rat's ass about the Middle East? No, that would be unpopular with the consumers!!!

There is a big theme here that is tearing us all apart: the me-first notion, highly anti-Christian, highly destrucive of society fabric. So Hyman and his handlers support policies of "Bomb them before they bomb us" (or more simply, "Bomb them just because we feel like it").

So much of "public policy" these days is simply personal perogative. Bushes idiotic and immoral Iraq War is the prime example: he and his henchmen wanted to do it, so they did and made up flimsy "patriotic" reasons for it.

How can we fight the corrosive effects of all this me-first-ism? I was raised by a WWII vet and his whole milieu. I don't think this next generation is getting any leadership. Just propaganda.

(sorry for the rant. It's all just a bit worrisome).


At 4:14 PM, Blogger Ted Remington said...

Don't apologize--we love rants here at The Counterpoint, at least when they are cogent and thoughtful, as yours is.

Going off on a bit of a tangent from something you said, I've been thinking lately about having a government based on "Christian principles." I guess my feeling is, yes, absolutely, let's have a government based on the principles embodied in the New Testament. It would be a wonderful thing.

After all, what are the main values championed by Jesus Christ? Compassion for others, helping the poor and less fortunate, humility, sacrifice for others, living in harmony, etc.

A government that took these values to heart would help provide healthcare for everyone, first rate education for all children, make sure no American went to bed hungry, ensure that people had safe, clean places to live, no matter what their economic status would be, etc.

What irks me on any number of levels is that those who most loudly call for a "Christian nation" basically want it to take the form of a government that openly expresses belief in a particular theology and condemns or ignores those who don't share it. They want compulsory prayer in schools, creationism taught in the science classroom, no gay marriage, the 10 Commandments displayed publicly . . . all things that have as their main purpose self-congratulation of those who are members of this particular class of people, not the actual practice of the values espoused by the belief system itself.

In essence, it's a territorial thing. Those things that Christianist conservatives most want are governmental actions that are the equivalent of a dog lifting its leg and relieving himself against a tree to mark his territory. The goal is to link the idea of "America" with the idea of "Christian" without doing anything substantive to make the country any more in line with the actual teachings of Christ. It's utterly self-involved and ego driven--motivations diametrically opposed to those espoused and practiced by Christ.

I think the answer to those who proclaim this a Christian nation that must be true to its (allegedly) spiritual roots is to say, "Amen! But let's not waste out time on empty symbolism. Let's actually create a government that puts the teachings of Christ into action."

My guess is you'll get a lot of hemming, hawing, and nervous shuffling in response.


At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the dialog.

I agree with your premise.

In a previous generation, liberals and members of the Democratic Party were accused of being part of the "secular humanist" movement, which was variously viewed as some kind of threat to Christianity. In this generation, media creations such as Ann Coulter, "reverend" Jerry Falwell, and the "reverend" Pat Robertson, have sunk to new lows. Not content with labeling their "liberal adversaries" as shying away from Christianity per se, they now demonize them in the most angry tones. Liberals are the scapegoat for all that ails the nation. They are not the loyal opposition. They are not treated with respect. Such is what passes for public discourse.

Okay, but here are two things that puzzle me to no end:

(1) This is largely a repeat, or recasting, of your thoughts, but...

Shouldn't humanism be a subset of Christian beliefs? That is, should not Christians, as you have argued in your post, have absolutely no problem with a state that serves, to some extent, to promote a good society?

(2) And what actually pisses me off is that the Democratic Party leaders don't see this coincidence of humanism and Christian belief as a super-duper huge opening in the whole values debate.

Why are Democrats afraid to embrace this angle? In my view, the really depressing answer is that, like the Republicans, the Democrats are unwilling to challenge rampant consumerism and materialism that is the engine for all of this "me first" mentality. Republicans don't want to criticize materialism because they largely own the means of production. Democrats are, I fear, lacking backbone. Perhaps they are so tired of losing against stupid Republicans (one guy comes to mind) that they are too willing to stoop to being Republican Lite. And they'll never win that contest. Voters want the real beer, I guess.

So, I worry that things have to get much worse before we, as a society, realize how imperiled our nation is, in terms of notions of citizenship and the maintence of civilization.



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