02 November 2008

Why I'm voting for Barack Obama

I am well aware that most of the frequent readers here are both Republican and Christian, and are likely planning on voting for McCain. But please, before passing over this post, give it a read. I think that my story is different than others you have heard.

As you likely know, I used to be a Republican as well. But over the last four years, my view of America and the world has changed, and so have my political leanings. I alternate between amusement and disgust with the Religious Right component of the Republican Party. Though I am certainly a Christian, these people in no way represent me, nor, in my opinion, do they represent Jesus.

In my understanding of Jesus's teachings, we are called to love one another and to help the sick, the poor and the downtrodden. These are moral issues. The Religious Right, and by extension the Republican Party, have campaigned for years on a platform of morality and family values. However, they have been selective and too narrowly defined morality, limiting it to abortion and gay rights.

I agree that these are moral issues. I, too, am pro-life. And while I oppose gay marriage, I do think that, for example, access to a partner's health insurance should not be denied because of sexuality, whether I am morally opposed to it or not. So in in these issues, there is at least some level of agreement between me and the Religious Right. But what about other moral issues?

Poverty is a moral issue. The economic policies of our country put the poor at a disadvantage and make it difficult to escape what quickly becomes a vicious generational cycle. Our tax policies provide loopholes, havens and exemptions for the wealthy, while millions of Americans live below the poverty line, most of them children. And still the wealthy dare to challenge any suggestion of increasing their tax liability as un-American? Still corporate CEOs expect buyouts from the American people when they are reckless in their business dealings and walk away with millions while the common man worker in his company gets nothing but a pink slip? This is morally wrong, and the Religious Right are silent.

Health care is a moral issue. I have heard that the United States is the only highly developed country without some form of universal health care. People die in America from treatable illness and disease because they cannot afford health insurance. Millions of others with insurance are denied coverage they have paid for for years when they need it most. Basic preventive care alone would resolve many of these issues, but it is currently not available to the American public. This is morally wrong, and the Religious Right are silent.

The environment is a moral issue. We have been ordained by God to be stewards of this planet. And yet we plunder the earth for energy, throwing habitats out of balance with our exhaust and our waste. We have abused our position of God-given authority and made the natural environment our servant rather than serving it as protector. And we have done all this because we are too lazy to realize other sources of clean power that are readily available. This is morally wrong, and the Religious Right are silent.

Human rights are a moral issue. Our government has been holding hundreds of people illegally in Guantanomo Bay for seven years, denied them a speedy and fair trial and has used torture on the authority of the President to extract "confessions" from many of them. You say they are not American citizens? Agreed, but they are humans, and deserve to be treated humanely, even if they are eventually proven guilty. This is morally wrong, and the Religious Right are silent.

I choose to stop the list there.

In 2004, I voted for George W Bush, even though I preferred John Kerry's policies on most issues, most notably education (as a teacher, I witnessed firsthand Bush's failure with No Child Left Behind), health care and the environment. But I was persuaded by fear--fear that Kerry was weak on the issue of national security. I voted on a single issue, despite my misgivings on all others. I will never do that again.

Which is why I mailed my absentee ballot two weeks ago, casting my vote for Barack Obama. Even though I disagree with his stance on abortion, I will no longer deny the other moral issues that are also at stake.

Besides, the abortion issue is a red herring for Republicans anyway. In the thirty-five years since Roe v Wade, we have had a Republican president for twenty-three of them. Not one has so much as mentioned Roe v Wade outside of an election year. This is nothing but a ploy used to bring in conservative voters. To his credit, McCain is not pushing this button like his predecessors have. But the Religious Right is doing it for him to the same effect. And yet on other moral issues, they remain silent, choosing instead to spew hatred and fear of anyone who does not look or sound like them.

The United States is in desperate need of a leader who will address these other moral issues. The world is in desperate need of a United States that is willing to champion morality without exception. Please pray, consider what you believe morality to be, and vote accordingly. God bless.

24 comments:

Clint K. said...

Chris,

I definitely appreciate the post, especially that last little bit on Roe vs. Wade. While I am always trying to make sure that I am not suffering from "fetus fatigue," I am coming to grips with the fact that the Republican-appointed majority of the Supreme Court is doing nothing to overturn Roe vs. Wade. People always say, "Yeah, but a Republican president would be more pro-life than a Democrat, so we should do everything we can in that regard." However, NOTHING is happening.

For me, then, the issue is foreign diplomacy. I somewhat feel like McCain is too polarizing when it comes to this issue, whereas Obama wants to reconsider what we are doing in the world. Obviously, McCain has more experience here, but this could be an issue that inexperience works to Obama's advantage.

I've got a couple more days to consider this stuff and pray about it. Good, well-written post.

Clint

Anonymous said...

Wonder where the liberal judges appointed by our next president will take us. It's a whole lot easier to allow more "immoral" things than to take back what has been let out of Pandora's box.

Sam

Chris said...

But that's just it, Dad. Barack Obama is ready to address some of previously ignored moral issues that I mentioned. It's not too late.

Clint, if your issue is foreign diplomacy, I can assure you that the vast majority of the rest of the world is excited about a Obama presidency, as I am sure you have seen in the news over the past six months or so. After three years of personally witnessing predominantly negative opinions of the United States and its policies (in a country that has been one of America's strongest supporters, no less), it has been a joy to see the people that I encounter here excited about my country again.

Whatever you decide, I support you in it because I know that you will have carefully examined your heart on it, and I thank you for that.

Kristin said...

Chris,

Long time...yet again.

I've considered myself staunchly moderate for years now. People back in Louisiana consider me one of the most liberal people that they've met. And up here in the north, I'm conservative (However, I've been labeled an East Coast Republican, a term with which I could actually live, were I to agree with even half of what the current "Republican party" professes to espouse.

I agree with almost all of your point (except for the fact that I am pro-choice...yet still anti-abortion) and appreciate the clearheadedness in which you've stated them. I know many who are like you, Christians who have voted Republican on tickets for years, who are reconsidering based on many reasons stemming from (but not limited to) social justice. I welcome this change since the thoughts that may (or may not) lead one there are things that can hopefully only strengthen one in their desire to live a more Christ-like life.

And while McCan does trump Obama on foreign policy, I've read much speculation about who Obama would place in his cabinet (and he's already got Biden. I'm resisting to comment on the opposite ticket here) and have much hope that he will surround himself with experienced leaders and minds with regard to foreign policy who may be willing to approach things with a slightly new way or twist (since obviously, the current actions might not be the best methods).

Do I love everything about Obama? Nope. But it's a decision I've made following much thought and with which I have content. I'll be stumbling out of bed and walking three blocks away to vote tomorrow morning at 6:00 am with a sense of peace.

Thanks again...

Kristin

Jeff B. said...

Chris,

Well written and straight forward. I cannot, however, come to the same conclusions you have for a few reasons:
1. People should not be forced by the government to charitably give. "From each according to his abilty to each according to his needs"(Karl Marx) will not work until all the people on earth are as sinless and selfless as Jesus.
2.The government has never run a sucessful program that did not involve massive waste and corruption (i.e. Fanny Mae/ Freddy Mac, Social Security).
3. Abotion is wrong, period. The republicans have tried a few things to curtail and limit abortion. Are they doing a great job? No! The democrats have done nothing but strengthen laws that protect and promote abortion.
4. National Security: Without it we have NOTHING else.

Heather said...

I'd say eradication of polio was a successful government program, and I'm thankful for the Pure Food and Drug Act. Johnson achieved quite a lot for civil rights with the Great Society. And like it or loathe it, the New Deal is generally credited for keeping the economy from decaying further during the Great Depression. When I wish to visit friends and relatives I'm glad Ike pushed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. I'm glad my old grandparents have Social Security and Medicare because they could not exist if they didn't.

I don't have a problem with "government charity". I would like to have seen a little more charity go to fortifying the levvies of New Orleans.

Render unto Caesar.

Peace and namasté

Chris said...

Thanks for reading and commenting Jeff. To address your concerns:

1) Obama is not proposing Marxist socialism--it's taxation, pure and simple, just like we have always had. Look at his website--he wants to have tax rates for all brackets below Reagan's levels. No one called it socialism then. The government has always provided desirable programs and services such as police and fire depts, defense, public schools and libraries,in addition to those Heather listed, all paid for with tax revenues. If this is socialism, then every president we have ever had has been socialist.

2) Continuing on that, how is "successful" defined? I contend that programs such as these cannot be measured for "success" in the same way that "regular" businesses are, ie, making money. A school is not successful if it makes money--it is successful if kids leave smarter than when they arrived. Of course financial waste needs to be avoided, but this is not an inherent feature of gov't programs, although it does tend to happen when they are deregulated, which tends to be a Republican cause.

3) As stated in my post, I agree. But there are plenty of other moral issues, too. Why are we focusing on this single one? Even better, why aren't we promoting other alternatives to abortion? And why aren't we doing anything about helping improve quality of life after the baby is born?

4) You assume Obama weakens national security. I believe the opposite because he will be more willing to work through diplomacy, with both our friends and our enemies. There are alternatives to military force, but they have been sorely lacking the last eight years. If necessary, Obama will use the military, but only as a last resort, as it should be.

Food for thought. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts on the issue. Peace in Columbia.

paul bowles said...

Well said. You have often heard me say Jimmy Carter was the worst President in American History.... well "W" and the GOP are the equivalent of a tsunami, and have left nothing but death and destruction in it's wake. IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE!

plb

Marty said...

Chris,
I for one, am so proud of you. I admire your love for your fellow man and your desire to make the world a better place. The only thing I see inside Pandora's box is the poo-poo of the Religious Right who don't really understand the meaning of love thy neighbor... It is up to people like you and me to work for a better tomorrow. If voting for Obama makes me wrong, then get out the call sheet and add me to the prayer list.

Karen said...

Okay, I started to re-read this to no avail. I am just too tired to proof. So here is the unedited version.

I enjoyed the way you wrote this post. It is so very American to me. In this historic election, both sides have shown the political deceit that has been evident since there were elections. (At least after the first one, because George Washington ran uncontested the first time.) This one has been markedly worse from the media and average American citizens. Sure, people are energized. That's wonderful. What I don't love are the hate-filled e-mails I get. The conversations that are nothing close to positive, when all that is said is bashing of one person. Tell me why you are voting for someone, instead of a million talking points on the other guy. I agree with much of your post. However, we came to different conclusions.

I, too have had misgivings about choosing a candidate based on the abortion issue. I don't foresee that being overturned, so should that be a reason for me? It should (for me) if the candidate wants to broaden the realm of possibilities of an abortion.

I completely agree with you that poverty is a moral issue. I differ with you on one important stance though. I believe it is less the government's job, and more the church's job. Here we could go on and on about how the church has failed in that area. I also think the government has been a little too involved throughout history (sometimes out of necessity) and blurred the lines of expectation. Programs that were intended to be temporary in war times somehow became permanent. I am not against some things that Obama is proposing, I just don't know if there is an end in sight. Where does one draw the line? When catch phrases start going around like 'spread the wealth' and 'it's patriotic for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes' I draw the line. Down to my core, I believe that is...I wish I could think of a better way to say this...un-American. People all over this world may bash our nation, but many of them would come here in a split second and I would bet you would hear a common answer as to why. It would be something along the lines of the possibilities, the freedom to work hard and reap the rewards. Spreading the wealth sucks a whole lot of motivation out of the process.

This election has done one great thing for me personally. It has forced me to find out what I believe politically and, most importantly, why! I actually have reasons to base my opinions now! My main reason for voting for McCain is economic. In addition, my main reasons for not voting for Obama are economic and foreign policy. (**Note I did not say the war as a reason for McCain. my judgment is still out, to be honest.)

I agree with you about the corporate atrocities you mentioned. It doesn't make sense how you can receive a bailout (from both parties) and a week later spend recklessly and unnecessarily. I feel sadly ambivalent about that - the same way I feel about people taking advantage of the welfare system. It all disgusts me. There will always be corrupt people taking advantage of the system, in each and every tax bracket. I am still forming all my views on this issue though. Check back in six months and we'll see how I feel. Oh, why is it that Democrats care about the people and Republicans don't? It comes down to the less or more government theories, not caring about people. There are selfish, uncaring Democrats as well as charitable Republicans. To say otherwise is an unfair and undemocratic characterization. An interesting thing to see would be the charitable donations for each person in the country, along with their party affiliation. It's not that Rebublicans don't care, it's that they believe the government should be less involved in it.

My opinion of the tax system has changed a good bit since my husband became a business owner, especially in this volatile housing market. I truly believe over-taxing business owners costs working class American jobs. There is a variable here. I said OVER-taxing, and what 'over' refers to is up for debate. In this election and economy, I believe the 'over' in my over-taxing equates to raising taxes for business owners. My husband understands this at his business, which he has grown from only a few employees when he started to more than fifteen now. (By the way, he gives them health care and offers a 401K matching program for interested parties.) When his taxes go up, there are jobs that will be easily rid of by shuffling the work loads around. Those are American workers that will not have to pay any taxes for a little while, because they won't have a job. Business owners are feeling crunched from every direction.

I've got a little analogy. Let's look at taxes and the rising costs for businesses such as gas, health care, etc, etc, etc. Let's say there is a milk jug manufacturer. His taxes go up, so he recoups by raising the prices of his milk jugs that he sells to Purity. He is not making more profit from this, only recouping what he lost in his increased taxes. So, Purity eats that price hike, right? No way. They raise the price of their milk to the vendors. The vendors raise the price to the stores, and the stores raise the price to the consumer. Now remember that each person is not making more, they are only recouping, so they are not growing and adding jobs. The end result is no growth in the company with the consumer paying more for the goods.

I am scattered here, so excuse the randomness of my points. As far as I have heard, John McCain has never been accused of being in with the religious right you refer to. They actually weren't crazy about endorsing him, and really never did. Their's was a vote more against Obama than for McCain, which is still a vote for McCain, I get that. My point is he is not the Republican golden boy. No one else in the Republican party could have even given Obama as much of a race as McCain did. I truly believe he would have made a great president.

One other thing, I have begun to abhor politics this time around. Politicians, to be exact. I think very few (basically none that I know of, but I will leave it open in the hopes there are one or two out there) are genuine in motive. I despise referring to politicians as 'public servants.' I realize I seem petty here and I know it fits the actual definition, but to me serving implies doing something out of the goodness of one's heart. Taking no money. Or mistresses. Or power. Or ego from what you are serving. I know, I know. You don't need to argue this one on me. But you must see my point in there. As much as I have enjoyed this race for teaching me what and why I believe, it has also made me extremely disgusted with the process and how it brings out the worst in so many people. Again, excited is great. But it is more divisive than anything. It just makes me want to cling to what I have and enjoy my husband, my children and my God. And that can't be too bad, I guess.

Karen said...

Wow, that was really long! Sorry.

Chris said...

Thanks, Paul and Marty for chiming in. This is only the beginning—I hope that Obama can bring the change that you are looking for.

Karen, that’s not too bad for an unedited effort. When the comments are that thoughtful and eloquent, make them as long as you like. Allow me to address a few points.

I, too, am tired of the hate and vitriol, which is why I attempted to write this as I did—not something to vote against, but something to vote for, as you mentioned. And I also recognize that McCain is not a favorite son of the Religious Right, which is why he is only briefly mentioned here. He is not my purpose. I could mount a political argument against him if I wanted to, but given my audience, I felt it was more relevant and meaningful to address what I see as disparities between what we say on Sunday and how we vote on Tuesday. We may have different opinions on the economy or foreign policy, but there is common ground on morality.

From your response, it appears that we agree on a lot of the general concepts, only differing on scale. For example, I agree that it would be nice if the church and charity had a bigger role in reducing poverty, but where is the line? I point out that a worker earning minimum wage at a full time job will still fall below the poverty line. This says to me that there is still room for the government to work. As a teacher, I tell my students that if they work hard, they can achieve anything they want. At minimum, it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that is actually true.

Same thing with taxing business owners—where is the line? I’m not sure, but generally speaking, small-business owners deserve the breaks (which Obama has said), but the tax breaks and shelters for large corporations have got to go. And please pass on my full respects to Chris for the ethical choices he has made in his business. If more did the same, we would be a lot better off.

Taxing the wealthy? I give you the following options: earn $15,000 a year and pay no taxes, or earn $250,000 and pay 36%. This is going to stop innovation and progress? Certainly many people would come to America if they had the chance for the very reasons you mentioned. America is a great nation, but it is not perfect. And our current policies make it difficult for the poor. There is a display at Ellis Island, a quote from an old Italian immigrant from back in the day: “I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: One, the streets weren’t paved with gold. Two, the streets weren’t paved with anything. Three, they expected me to pave them.”

Finally, you mentioned that there are also selfish Democrats and generous Republicans, and again, I agree. In fact, you kind of nailed my intentions with that comment. I know each and every one of you are kind, generous people. Collectively, the readers here alone have helped the needy in New Orleans, raised money for heart disease and muscular dystrophy, fed the poor, donated toys for Christmas, sent school supplies and clothing to Mexico, and thousands of other generous efforts not mentioned. Knowing that gives me great joy. But how often do the policies of our government run counter to these efforts, contributing to the very problem we are trying to remedy? And what about all the people who aren’t reached by these efforts?

Agree or disagree, I am grateful for your respectful consideration and thoughtful comments. Tell the family Uncle Chris says hi.

Karen said...

It seems you took my comment as I intended it, and I appreciate that very much!! I am not fired up or angry. I simply have my own little basic beliefs about what would be the most successful way to run the country. (Not to imply I could run the country, or would desire to, but as a back seat driver, um...American citizen, I can give my opinion.)

I am glad you mentioned that McCain was not your purpose, because that was one of my thoughts while reading your initial post: the religious right is not on the ticket. I didn't mention it because I assumed there were other issues actually related to McCain, and I was correct.

One of my first responses is that I have seen or heard about government programs to assist people in hard times that can be a trap. Chris' friend has a used car lot. He had a girl come in one day that had previously been injured and unable to work. The government gave her free shelter in subsidized housing, food stamps, and sent her a check for $17 a month. She bought a car that cost $12,000. For people in that situation, it would be hard to choose to get a minimum wage job, because they would lose their housing, food stamps, and small check. (Most of the time it is the housing I have heard that really gets them stuck.) This was not the first time Chris' friend had someone come in with a situation like this. There is an inherent problem with that system. I fully understand there are times when people need help. I know a single mom that went through a time when she was not able to make it. She got on welfare and lived in government housing. She found her way out because she always looked at it as temporary. Today, her eldest child not only graduated high school but is attending college. I realize she is in the minority. The generational cycle you spoke of is overwhelmingly true, but how do you stop that tailspin unless you change what has not been working? You cannot give housing, food, and checks to people in a generational cycle and expect them to have the means to get out without some accountability. I propose go all out with it. If you are going to invest in it, do it completely, not halfway where the very people you are attempting to help become so dependent that it actually penalizes them to work at Burger King. Change the program to encompass an accountability arm that gives them training in a skill and how to interview. And, gasp, put a time limit on the welfare. How else do you fix a system that is not only not working, but getting worse? We are giving them their monthly fish instead of teaching them to fish.

As far as the question as to if I would rather make $15,000 and have no taxes or make $250,000 and pay 36%, I don't even need to answer. It's loaded. It doesn't make it right that one would have to pay excessive taxes on their income. If anyone would like to argue that 36% -- THIRTY-SIX PERCENT -- is not excessive, I am open to that. Anyone in America could scale back. If you live in a mansion, you could cut a couple thousand square feet. If you leave in suburbia, you could move to the country and get a less expensive cost of living. If you live in the country, you could trade your house in for a double wide. I could go on and on, but I won't. Anyone can scale back. Anyone. I get the idea that if you make $250,000 or more and pay 36%, there is enough left over to still live very well, but I staunchly believe 36% is beyond excessive. Someone help me out with a word here. What is so way beyond excessive?? I don't know about innovation being affected, but I do believe that will hinder progress. By that I mean jobs. Our nation can't progress without good jobs readily available.

I am thankful for the fact that we have common ground, yet can respectfully disagree. I think there are a lot of good ideas on both sides. By the way, I am a registered democrat, though I have always considered myself 'none of the above' as far as party affiliation. I may be getting ready to commit very soon. It comes down to simple economics for me. If our economy is not functioning properly and bringing in taxes, we can't do anything by way of programs. Each election is an open slate for me. I have always been open to either candidate and choose election by election, and I still am in the future.

heather said...

Today is a great day! I am in Canada and total strangers have given me a giant slap on the back and said "Today is a good day to be an American!" People, first time in 3 years overseas that the worst hasn't been assumed of me because of my nationality. If you think I exaggerate then I recommend you get a passport and use it. I have been bawling non-stop for 24 hours. It feels so good to be a valued member of the international community. I am proud of my generation

In the spirit of the moment I'm going to freestyle a bit.

I gave up an academic career to be a public servant. Chris is probably the only member of my family to understand the difficultly of that decision. My academic friends have no idea what I do but understand it to mean no glory. It is my job to try to figure out how we can realize the maximum potential for the maximum number of people.

I think we need to refrain from assuming the worst in those with the least. Not everybody, not even the majority, of those needing assistance are going to abuse the system. They are hopefully going to keep from becoming a statistic in my charts, and that is the point because when that happens our entire population benefits.

We vote for our self interests. I don't give a toss about making money, I try to live a what's-mine-is-yours philosophy, and I try not to be wasteful because I believe that is what Jesus commanded. I don't bother with labeling what is American and un-American, but I'm not particularly nationalistic. I am always keenly aware of the good luck I've had in life because I know heaps of people whose lives suck through no fault of their own. I have seen with my eyes the extremes of poverty (when uou get your passport go to India). It's an awful, gut wrenching feeling to look at someone and think they would honestly be better off dead.

I spent the night of Obama's nomination in a Capitol Hill bar hugging and crying with an African American woman who told me about how her great grandfather had been lynched in South Carolina. We were united by a hope for a better life for people and a belief in the inherent goodness in humanity. Sounds sappy, but I would rather be sappy than cynical.

I spent time canvassing and calling voters, and the sense of unselfish purpose of those I spoke with was infectious. I have been bawling since Tuesday morning because after 8 years of polarization the community investment from black/white, old/young, rich/poor, men/women is overwhelming. Today is a really, really good day to be an American!

Chris said...

Karen,
No, McCain was definitely not my target; the reasons for why we choose who we vote for was. My target was the Religious Right leadership, because they tell us we should vote for McCain based on morality, and I question the limited scope of their definition.

You are absolutely correct in your assessment of welfare, and you provided your own solution: it is not to get rid of it altogether, but to structure it in such a way to actually encourage sustainability. In your description of how welfare should work, you have basically described the Australian CentreLink system. Aid is provided to maintain a minimum standard of living, but you are required to apply for a certain number of jobs every two weeks, take classes, learn job/interview skills or make yourself a viable worker in other ways.

But besides that, there is still more to be done. For example, a poor black child in an inner city neighbourhood likely will not get the same quality of education as your children. These schools tend to be underfunded, understaffed and have high turnover rates. Her parents may not be able to take her to museums or the zoo or the library, or in other ways stimulate her mind and expose her to new opportunities. She will grow up and through absolutely no fault of her own will be severely disadvantaged. It is not right, and yet we accept it because that is “just the way it is”. This is a concept called structural violence—if you want to read up on it a bit I would be happy to discuss it with you—and it is just as much the problem as a dysfunctional government program.

A loaded question would be asking a man if he’s stopped beating his wife. My question regarding tax rates was not loaded at all. You may not want to answer, but I will gladly do so—give me the $250,000 job and the higher tax rate, please. If you think 36% is excessive, you have two and a half months to tell George Bush what you think about it before he leaves office—it’s his tax rate. Obama simply proposes eliminating some of the shelters and breaks, particularly for large corporations. 36% is only excessive if you get nothing for it. No one likes paying taxes, but if you will at least realize a benefit for it, it makes it palatable.

But you are absolutely right about scaling back. For a while now, Americans in general have gone further into debt in order to get facilitate a lifestyle they couldn’t sustain, particularly since 9/11 (‘go out and spend or the terrorists have won’). It took a while, but that has finally caught up with us, and is a contributing factor in our current economic problems, one defaulted loan at a time. Unfortunately, I don’t think many people are going to be willing to scale back, at least not yet.

Karen said...

A couple points.


First thing, I never intended to assume the worst about those with the least. In my last post, I was referring to people that are stuck in the system. People who would lose what they have because they get a job. That makes no sense to me, and I cannot call that a successful program. I guess I could if 'successful' were defined as trying to make sure everyone that wanted that help had it, but my choice of success in this case would be to help people out of that system, not trap them in it.



I would also add that many times people assume the worst about those with the most. It goes both ways. (Just a warning: Here's where the self-interest starts.) The children's hospital in my city would not be what it is if not for a very generous and very wealthy man. He spent his retirement days at the hospital watching the kids there. I do not believe he chose a charity out of a hat and wrote a check. He was involved throughout the entire building process, which would not have happened had it not been for his gift of untold millions. Please don't assume they are all greedy, money hungry people. There are people who work hard so they can share big. What could be found wrong with accumulating and sharing wealth, and growing your local economy by creating jobs in the process?



I, too am fully aware that many Americans work hard and never really have their payday, figuratively or literally. And there are those that don't work hard, and reap a whole lot more than they sow. Heather's post was something I would have written myself several years ago. (No offense, Heather. I am only implying the overall message.) It is inspiring and rousing. We do vote for our self-interests. I am in a place in my life (i.e. my selfish interests) where I understand a side of the economy that someone who has never owned a business cannot understand, a side I didn't get at the last election. I see that jobs are created when a person uses his or her ingenuity to make it happen, and the government can hinder that process. Jobs equal opportunity. Then you get revenue, which pays for programs to help others get jobs. Then you are back to where you started. Now that's a cycle to write home about.

Here's the thing though, I completely see that this country needs both views. We need people to see the importance in creating jobs, and tackle that. We need people to dedicate their lives to helping others. It is all necessary. One is not innately selfish and the other selfless. The big picture requires different beliefs and abilities.

Karen said...

Chris, I just read your post. As far as I know, the highest tax bracket is 35% right now. I knew Obama was proposing 39%, I think, and I didn't want to correct you on that slight error. You were trying to get me weren't you?? Huh, were you?? I will be the first to admit I don't know what I should. One out of every three dollars earned is still an unbelievable sum.


I asked Chris a while back what our tax bracket was. He does not know our percentage of taxes. That is crazy, but true. He doesn't want to know.

Chris said...

Karen,

I found a page earlier that showed 39% as a current tax rate for high income couples or something, but I can't find it again now. I'll check my page history tomorrow at school--that was the computer I was on. If I find it, I'll look at the source again and let you know. I did finally find an IRS page (what I was looking for earlier) that says 35%, so I'll concede the percentage points but stand by my argument--an extra four percent on that kind of income makes Obama a socialist? Not that you have made that accusation, the question is more rhetorical for others to ponder.

Finally, I make no assumptions about the wealthy, and I hope nothing I have said implies that I do. If I were to rank such things, Warren Buffet would be at the top of my list of "Greatest Living Americans". I love small business owners, especially when they create jobs. In my brief career outside of education, I worked for two of them. I repeat my respects for Chris and his responsible business practices for his employees. Given your experience and my lack thereof, I defer to you on issues regarding business ownership. But I find it hard to believe that a successful business making more than $250K a year would be so hamstrung by an extra 4% tax liability.

Anyway, I would deprive no one of their ability to earn wealth and I make no assumptions about the wealthy in general. If you have an idea or a marketable skill, I wish you well. I just want to see a system that also provides an opportunity for the poor and needy who are also willing to work hard for an honest living. One does not have to come at the expense of the other.

Karen said...

My last (big) post was more a response to Heather's. She had mentioned not assuming the worst about those with the least. I responded that was not my intention, then added that comment about the wealthy. I would enjoy hearing from Heather what she was referring to in my comments. I am also assuming she was speaking of my comments because other things she said seemed to be in response to my posts.

Heather, was there something I said that made you think I was assuming the worst about those with the least? I have read and reread my comments and I don't see it. I would love to clarify if you would give me the opportunity. What I wrote that I think you might be talking about (if it was in fact me) was referring to people getting stuck in the system, and the system penalizing them by taking away their shelter if they get a job. Another time I said there are people in each and every tax bracket that abuse the system. I know you can't tell tone in writing, so please know I have no hostility here. I am truly curious.

As far as the tax rates, that is not so much my concern. It doesn't matter to me if it was 1% now and going to be changed to 5%. (The stats I gave in the prior post could definitely be wrong!! There is so much bad info out there it seems impossible to find out the whole truth.) Fundamentally, (don't you love that campaign lingo??) I believe people should have the choice to use their income how they choose. I realize this can sound just as silly to some as 'let's all combine our money and live off each other' would sound to others. The reason it could be perceived as silly is because we all receive benefits from taxes. And no, I don't know where the line is. An attitude of 'spreading the wealth' is much more my concern than an actual percentage.

I have really been searching the past couple days. What if my heart is in the wrong place? I am very open to being wrong. (I personally think that is one of my best qualities.) Obviously, I see the great benefit in the government assisting lower income Americans. (However, I don't see as many great benefits in the government assisting lower income Americans in the fashion they have been.) Moreover, I believe in giving. When you spread the wealth in the way proposed, it is not giving. It is obeying the law by paying taxes. I believe in giving where I place my values. I believe we each have circumstances that bring us to where we are and what we believe. Who am I to judge what you believe and value? Who am I even to say it is wrong? What I have come to is this: I do not believe my viewpoints are selfish or uncaring. I am not saying anyone has implied this. It is simply a question I have asked myself! I believe when the government begins spreading the wealth, you risk crossing many lines, ones that cloud liberty.

I guess where I am left right now in these circumstances, if we are going to do these things, let's do them in a way that is helping people by allowing them to be self-supporting and independant and not relying on the government to sustain them. (This includes individuals and businesses.) Could anyone argue that is a reputable goal? And if so, what would be the goal?

Chris said...

Karen,

To answer your question about any implications in your post about assuming the worst of the poor, here is what Heather might have seen. Not saying this is what you meant, just how it might appear:

In the part about the woman who bought the $12,000 car, you said “it would be hard to choose to get a minimum wage job” over maintaining welfare benefits. Further down you mentioned the single mom who viewed welfare as a temporary solution, but she and her later success was in the minority. It could be read that the implication here is that most of the poor are content with subsidized housing, food stamps and $17 a month. I would say those people are the minority—there is no doubt there is some abuse of the system, but the overwhelming majority would prefer to support themselves, both for pride and because they know they can earn better than that anyway.

I’ll also repeat: no one is saying that the current system isn’t flawed. But also understand Obama doesn’t want to keep the system as is. Let’s make it more effective, and I’ll refer to the Australian CentreLink system again as an example that deals directly with your scenario. CentreLink is not an “all-or-nothing” system where you either get full benefits or you get nothing. I’ve already said that you are required to demonstrate action for getting a job or improving your hireability. But here is the next step: when you get a job (and CentreLink requires you to accept any job offer you receive), you don’t immediately lose your benefits—they are scaled back over a period of time to allow you to get on your own feet. Thus, there is no fear of actually being worse of for having a job.

Finally, I’ll also reiterate my point of structural violence. As you said, handouts alone are not the solution. For long term “teach a man to fish” solutions, we need to improve the education system, especially in urban neighbourhoods, and in other ways increase opportunities and reduce barriers for the poor. In my school in Sydney, we have a wonderful program with local businesses that give students the opportunity to work on their own business projects, from start up to advertising to production and sales. They are given $200 to start their project and receive consultation with local business owners, but the plan and its execution is all theirs, as well as any profits they may earn. A popular project last year was reusable grocery bags with catchy slogans on them. The students who participate in these projects learn a ton—they made a presentation on it to the staff at the end of the year and it was amazing.

Another example of “give a man a fish/teach a man to fish” efforts (one of my favourite ideologies, by the way) is microcredit. This moves us away from American politics and towards international “charity”, but I’ll continue because I’m passionate about it. If you aren’t familiar with this, it is not a handout, but a loan, and it isn’t available to everybody—you have to demonstrate a feasible business plan for your location. This is becoming very popular in Bangladesh, India and Africa, led by the Grameen Bank, and my first exposure to it, kiva.org. Recipients start small, perhaps with the equivalent of a $10 loan to buy a small weaving loom (many microcredit organisations focus on women, particularly young widows with children). When they pay back that first loan, they may get another to buy a bigger loom, or perhaps a second one for an employee they have taken on. Over time, the result is often not only their own reduction of poverty, but also benefiting those around them who are now employed. And here is the real beauty of it: Say you donate $50 to a project for a one year loan. When the loan terms are up, you get your money back, or roll it over into another project, and the cycle continues. How’s that for sustainability?

heather said...

My statement was intended as a general comment and a different perspective...

I think it's good that Chris has facilitated this discussion and asked us to explore our beliefs. Simone de Beauvoir is quoted as saying, "One day I wanted to explain myself to myself. It struck me with a sort of surprise that the first thing I had to say was 'I am a woman.'" Her self-exploration evolved into an influential text on inequality and enforced otherness.

I read an article in the paper today that started with "I grew up in a time when the people I was supposed to look up to and believe in turned out to be on the wrong side of a well-intentioned cause." The author described what it was like to be a child in the 1960s and the resistance to desegregation. It's an interesting thing to contemplate: What beliefs are we teaching our children today that may cause them to write 40 years from now that we were on the wrong side of a well-intentioned cause?

Personally, I hope it's women's health.

Karen said...

I have still been thinking the last few days. Semi dangerous, but valuable nonetheless. I keep coming back to the fact that I agree with the need and outcome you believe. I do, I do, I do. We differ on the process. I don't think that is such a bad thing.

Now, as to my comment about the girl that was hesitant to get a job because she would lose her housing, I in no way was insinuating she WANTED to live there, or even that she was content with it. (I only capitalize because I can't italicize.) I meant that the system is flawed if she gets a job, then loses her housing, because you are not able to attain housing as soon as you get a new job. It can take months to work up credit. I can say with all honesty that the possible implication you said was not my point in the least. My point was that the system sets people up for failure, not that people are content with it. I am stunned that it could have been read any other way.

The other example you gave of the single mom, I can see where you come from there. The very next sentence I spoke about the generational cycle, and that is what I was referring to. I actually added the part about being in the minority in thinking you could reply to the situation I gave that not every person has the opportunity or means to get out of it. I was attempting to respond to that before that was said. It was my way of saying, "I realize not each person in that situation has the means to get out." I should never have said she was in the minority, because I don't know the statistics. I can apologize (which I do) for saying something, but I can't take back words that I have put out. I wish it had not sounded that way, but I realize now it did. If you look back to where I asked what I had said that sounded that way, I gave a couple examples I thought it could have been, and I didn't even list that. I didn't even see it that way.

CentreLink sounds wonderful. Let's do it. "Thus, there is no fear of actually being worse off for having a job" is exactly, exactly my point with the first scenario above. You just said it better and more concise.

All the programs you mentioned sound great. I have no problem with them at all. I would absolutely support them. Microcredit reminds me of Heifer International, which is genius. It is giving, helping, and sustaining people. It gives them pride that they can make it on their own. I love it. The only difference for me is that Heifer International is a non-profit. I don't like to bring up Macy's condition in these types of discussions, because I don't want it to be a 'card' I use or everyone rolling their eyes, "Here she goes again..." Having said that, here I go. Poverty and hunger are important issues in America and abroad. These are biblical issues. There are many other important issues that involve people who would benefit from government funds that are in their circumstances by no fault of their own. Congenital heart defects is one that comes to my mind. Pediatric cancer is another. I'll just stop there. (I realize I am putting you in a situation where there's not much you can say. You might feel like if you argue you are saying CHD's or cancer is not important. Trust me, I know you do not feel that way. If you do have an argument, please give it. I will not take it the wrong way. I promise. Really.) It is impossible for the government alone to end poverty, cure cancer, improve women's health, etc. That doesn't mean that they should give up trying. I guess my point is, how does the government decide how to appropriate the funds, and how to place the priority? How do you say one is deserving of more funds than another? How do you decide between all the needs? What message does it send if you are in a group that was appropraited little to nothing, when you look around and see others were? I believe it is all worthy and beneficial, I just want to choose where I make the biggest impact. You can choose where you think is most important for you. Here are the self interests again. That can sound like such a negative thing, but it doesn't have to. I have 31 years of life experience that bring me to this very day. I have had things happen to my family and me that shape the way I look at life and the legacy I want to leave. Each person has a different set of experiences that give them that bent toward a certain cause(s), and as I said before, it takes all of us.

Chris just asked me if I am still writing this. He said I should concede, because the election is over. I am fully behind my president elect. I did not vote for him, but he has been chosen for our nation, and I will support him. That does not imply I will always agree with the process, and that is okay, but let's work together to make positive decisions.

Chris said...

Karen,

I didn't think you meant your comments in the way I described, I was just answering your question that that's where a misunderstanding could arise. And Heather has already said her comments were more general in nature. But, unfortunately, the mindset I suggested is not uncommon.

Grameen Bank, kiva.org, and other microcredit institutions are also non-profit, which is why I said at the beginning of that paragraph that I was moving away from political talk. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I turned in a paper last week for a project that also makes use of microcredit. It would provide new bicycle rickshaws, built on hybrid bike platforms, for rickshaw pullers in India. It amounts to a "rent-to-own" plan where the rickshaw would be theirs after about two years. Given that most of the pullers are homeless, the project would also provide housing and access to basic health care as well. Since it makes use of microcredit, it would be largely self-sustaining after initial start-up costs. It was just a hypothetical project proposal for a class, but it is something that Heather and I have talked about since we were in India in January, and I would like to get it off the ground at some point if I had the opportunity. I believe it could really make a difference--we're talking about two million rickshaw pullers in India who essentially have no opportunity right now.

As for the government delegating which causes get how much funding--this already happens. We have to trust that the people making those decisions are doing so in the most efficient and effective way. And, yes, there will still be a need for private foundations and donations. Nothing in any of this is meant to detract from that.

I like your positive approach to the new presidency and I have heard from quite a few McCain supporters who feel the same way you do. Unfortunately, I have also heard from some who are very negative. Here's hoping the majority are thinking like you.

Dina said...

I loved this post. It's interesting to see a Christian perspective on the issues.

I think many people (including me at times) concentrate on one issue that is close to their heart and ignore other important issues.

I always find it fascinating when people switch from Democrat to Republican...or vice-versa.