Monday, September 15, 2008

"From the Edge ... "

The local newspaper -- a Gannet Publication -- began a series of columns called "From the Right" and "From the Left," both of which seemed to be nothing more than riffs on the status quo. Frustrated over the useless blows upon the philosophical dead horse (or "horses," I suppose), I wrote a column I called "From the Edge," which was printed today.

Read it here on the Springfield News-Leader site.

Or read it here on the blog.

It's interesting that the News-Leader calls for more opinions from the left and the right, but then the most passionate response comes after publishing a column written "From the Center," that sad political battlefield where the confused and overwhelmed must choose the least offensive option.

It seems to me that the left offers unwieldy bureaucracies, political correctness and bewildered hand-wringing. The right, when not nailing the Ten Commandments to the wall or signing no-bid contracts, employs Darwinian capitalism to transfer our manufacturing base to China and trade a significant portion of our national wealth for foreign oil.

Out here, "From the Edge," I have a few questions for the true believers.

The lower and middle economic classes continue to struggle while wealth is being concentrated in fewer hands. Why not drop the federal income tax and employ the Fair Tax or a similar tax on the transfer of money? Such a tax, especially if implemented in a progressive format, taps into loophole-sheltered super-wealth and the underground economy.

Next, I might ask the left and the right to justify the never-ending, budget-busting war on drugs. Is it working better than Prohibition? Tell me why the misuse of alcohol is a medical problem but the misuse of drugs is a criminal problem. Tell me why forms of opium can be used in medical procedures but forms of marijuana cannot.

Most importantly, I would ask why the Democrats and Republicans are complicit in a multi-trillion dollar war to bring democracy to a society where religious fundamentalists prefer to vote with IEDs?

Those trillions spent in a misconceived and mismanaged war could finance a college education or technical training for every high school graduate in America.

That same dollar-logic applies to health care. Considering the United States possesses the most advanced health care technology in the world, I believe some of those war-wasted dollars could finance a better system than one that covers a few very well, many not at all, and the rest of us at costs that can bankrupt.

The right and the left are equally complicit. The Iraq war was launched by right-wing corporate power-brokers with the sheep-like acquiescence of the left. When the fog of propaganda lifted, and the illegalities of the Iraq war appeared to rise to the level of impeachable offenses, the left gained a majority in Congress, and temporized.

Which leads me to a conclusion I find so cynical that I sometimes despair: the left and the right seem to prefer to indulge in self-aggrandizement rather than to work for our national interest.

As a populist, I think the right sees gays, guns or God in every problem while the left prefers to paper over hard reality with an amorphous call for change.

As a populist, I see wealth and power being concentrated in the hands of international corporations answerable to no government.

As a populist, I want foreign military intervention only when the United States' direct welfare is involved; I want investment in alternative energy sources and clean nuclear power; I want equal access to education and health care for every citizen; I want a coherent and humane immigration policy; and I want a progressive environmental policy.

As a populist, I see politicians from left and right who smile into television cameras and spout platitudes as if clich├ęs represent leadership.

Save me from ideology. I want reform. As Theodore Roosevelt said, "A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy."


Rebeca Schiller said...

Great essay. I like the way you think!


Bob Sanchez said...

Excellent, Gary. Though I've never thought of myself as a populist, I find I agree with everything you wrote. More and more goes to fewer and fewer, while our troops go to Iraq, our wealth goes to China, and our parties squabble over lipstick on pigs.

Carter said...

I'm with you about 95 percent--I don't much mind political correctness. :-)

And I don't quite know what you mean by bureaucracy. It will take a bureaucracy to run a decent single-payer health care system, and others to regulate the stock markets, and an FDA that works, as opposed to the one we have now. A lot of people get sucked into voting for the rich because "big government" has a bad name. Big government can work on behalf of everybody, not just the rich. But voters have to make sure the people controlling it are on the right side.

One thing I'm sure of--if McCain wins, things will get worse, not better.