It's been a very long time since I've written anything lengthy about political issues on livejournal. I'm not sure why- I just don't have the energy because it upsets me too much? I save my social justice rage for facebook, where I can write short snippets and reach more people? I'm not sure. But I'm here now to say that I've totally had it with libertarians.
This NY Times article and subsequent Paul Krugman piece, both about Americans who use government services yet claim that they don't (or claim that they want to do away with them anyway), really hit me hard-- made me very depressed.
"the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives... many beneficiaries of government programs seem confused about their own place in the system. She tells us that 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they “have not used a government program.” (Krugman piece linked above)
Things have changed so radically in the last 20-30 years.
I care about social issues, I care about the issues that "fiscal conservative social liberals" always give as their examples of things they support-- gay rights, women's rights, legalizing marijuana, all that stuff. But I think I care even more about living in a functioning society, which, let's face it, we barely do anymore and every year our structural functionality weakens.
I'm fed up with most Americans not realizing how much we rely on public funding to make society run. In so many subtle, little ways we use tax dollars to keep us up and running. And these things are a small fraction of our overall government funds.
All the most user-friendly, successful, thriving-middle-class societies have very strong publicly funded services, why do people think we could be some exception to this?! I think these people think "government money" and think "welfare". But it's so so so so many things. Education, roads, libraries, public transportation, universities, a police force** Also lesser-known uses of government funding are research, health services, funding releases to small non-profits who provide community services. We are a very rich country, and if wealthy people in this country actually paid taxes, think about all the things we COULD have! Health care. Much better public schools. Subsidized maternity leave/child care so more women could work. A stronger safety net.
Another real factor in this is that the amount of taxes middle class and poorer people pay would not have to change for our society to function better. There is so much misinformation about who pays taxes and how much. Rich individuals and corporations pay dramatically less in taxes now than they did 20-30 years ago. About a year ago, we learned that in 2010 G.E., the nation's largest corporation, not only did not pay one red cent of taxes, but they received a 3.2 billion dollar TAX BENEFIT. That's where your hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going. Not towards public infrastructure, not towards helping those in need... but to G.E and the like. There is a lot of wealth in this country, and it is being increasingly stolen from the middle class and handed to the rich.
I wish I understood why people don't get the role tax dollars have in their daily lives, and what we can do to change it. I have a guess that might be part of it: maybe it's human nature to think you'll fare better than everyone else. Recently I read an article for school that surveyed people on how much money they think they should set aside for Long Term Care services when they age (like, saving money in case you get dementia and need supports). Even when informed what the average person needs, most people think they will need less than average. Maybe it's part of the human spirit to have high hopes and pursue good things for yourself. Because of this, I don't think that people should be in the situation where they ALWAYS have to plan for the absolute worst (not to mention that, especially now, few people CAN afford the luxury of saving for possibly getting dementia).
I fail to see how you can identify as "socially liberal", that people can choose what they want to do, if you don't believe in having a functioning public system to support those choices. Some of the same people who were outraged over the Komen foundation (a private agency!) cutting funding to Planned Parenthood would be fine electing a public official who would immediately cut financial support of PP (a much bigger slice of PP's funding). How can you believe in a woman's right to choose if you're OK with poor women not being able to afford that choice?
When I first moved to Chicago, I noticed-- and liked-- that it was easy to see tax dollars working for you (at least on the north side-- that's a whole other angry post though :) ). In the last four years I've noticed a major decrease in that. They eliminated bus lines, are slower to fix potholes, the libraries are now closed on Mondays, they've closed some major low-income health centers. This is just in four years. How long are we going to not only let them get away with this, but elect and support politicians who are destroying our society?
Re-reading this post I think it's a little disjointed, but I don't the clarity to refine it. I'm just too mad... and scared.
** I'm not the biggest fan of the cops, but I do think they should be well paid; in places like Brasil for example, the police are paid so little that the police are extremely violent and corrupt.
For my public health negotiation class, the final exam is a negotiation simulation. It's so fun, and I love that I go to a school with such fun projects!
A couple of weeks ago, we were broken into 8 groups, each group is an HIV/AIDS service organization in Chicago (except one group is the department of public health and another group is a hospital).Everyone was given the same packet of information about the history of AIDS/HIV organizations and funding in Chicago. It explained that some organizations have traditionally been given a big chunk of cash from the city for their work, but the demographics of the HIV/AIDS outbreak have changed and there is some tension over who gets funded. This packet also explained the set-up for our final negotiation: that all the organizations were coming to the table to talk about how to divide up the AIDS walk/run money. We could plan and communicate with each other in advance.
And then each group was given a sheet of secret information, explaining their private needs (like the bare minimum funds they require, if their organization is opposed to this or that, if we historically have issues with any other organization, etc). For example, my group is a small organization working with the Mexican undocumented population, and we are Catholic and oppose any MSM programs or condom use. That was challenging at first to wrap my head around, but I have really come around to understanding my position.
Over the last couple of weeks, some really interesting stuff has been happening. We've all been communicating over email, forming coalitions and the like, planning strategy. Then one of the more powerful organizations is trying to bust up a coalition... it's just very very interesting, all this work and discussion that is going on outside the classroom.
It feels like a game, a little. It kind of reminds me of playing mafia in high school, lots of us would play this game with individual games lasting weeks at a time, calling each other at night to discuss it, etc.
My school is great in a lot of ways. This semester hasn't been my favorite, but for two of my classes I have very interesting projects as finals and I really love that (as someone who doesn't care much for writing papers).