Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

My political colours by Wendy Cockcroft for On t'Internet
Our society here in the west is profoundly divided along a left-right axis. On one side are the complacent rich, deluded aspirational types and jingoistic know-nothings; on the other is everybody else. This is a feature, not a bug, of neoliberalism. We need change, stat.

I've got a few ideas for how to achieve this:

  1. Aim the blame
  2. Unite and fight
  3. Plan for a future for all 

Aim the blame

If we can't identify the problem we can't work on a solution. One of the things that makes this hard is ideology. When people are personally invested in an ideology as Bruce Bartlett once was, thinking outside of the box is not merely difficult, it's anathema. Funnily enough, while his views are downright liberal progressive these days he's reluctant to join the Democrats because they too are ideologically hidebound as their Republican counterparts. In a post for Bill Moyers's blog, he writes:

Once freed from needing to feign party loyalty, I found myself receptive to ideas I had once rejected out of hand. I wrote a book that was skeptical of supply-side economics — the Republican theory that tax cuts are the cure for every economic problem. I wrote columns sympathetic to the welfare state and other heresies. I lost the last few Republican friends I had.

...Like the Republicans, Democrats are wary of apostates and are only receptive to those born into their church, it seems.

Of much more importance in terms of my reluctance to join the Democratic Party is that the party doesn’t really seem to stand for anything other than opposition to the GOP. - Why I’m Not a Democrat, by Bruce Bartlett for Moyers & Company

I know where he's coming from; the progressive types can be downright authoritarian at times if you don't toe the line. I don't toe the line, and I'm not going to. If we are to have any chance of bridging the ideological divide, then, the ideology has got to go since that is what divides us. Learning to agree to disagree is a measure of maturity; those who don't agree with us are not a threat and should not be treated as one.

Is there a good ideology?

I don't usually quote the Bible in my blog posts but when I do...

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27 New International Version (NIV)

Your opinion may differ. The point is, there is no absolute standard of morality any more, there are competing alternate moralities. This is why a member of the pro-life movement can say with a straight face that you are morally obliged to continue a toxic pregnancy for as long as there is — or there might be — a heartbeat while opposing universal healthcare on the grounds that a) taxes will have to rise to pay for it, b) "universal" means abortion is included and they don't want their tax dollars to be spent on that* , c) you must take personal responsibility for your health, and d) runaway costs create a funding black hole — don't bother, it's not worth it. Their stance might sound high-minded till you realise what they really think: only the rich deserve healthcare because they can afford it. This is, of course, a noble lie to save the taxpayers money. Imagine, then, how it would be instead of slamming down the banhammer for the "undeserving" on the grounds of cost we looked into why it costs so flippin' much. Somebody did.

By providing early and easily accessible care, population health can be greatly improved and costs reduced down the line for more serious illness. A strong primary care system provides better care at significantly lower cost than systems which are not primary care focused.

Community Health Centers (CHCs) have long had bipartisan support although their funding has been haphazard and they are experiencing increased bureaucratic burdens that reduce efficiency. By expanding and fully funding CHCs and allowing any citizen to receive basic primary care, mental health care, and dental care through CHCs, the Republican Party can create a relatively inexpensive safety net that will allow them to implement their free market proposals and provide the majority of Americans with the care they need. - Rising From The Ashes - A Novel Bipartisan Approach To Health Care Reform, by Carolyn McClanahan for Forbes

Basically, she's arguing from a prevention-based perspective that cuts out the insurers — the primary beneficiaries of the current regime. However, given the resistance the entrenched interests would put up, no doubt shouting about abortion and euthanasia to get the pro-lifers on board, I wish my American friends luck with getting such a sensible proposal implemented.

I should point out that countries with tax-funded healthcare also have private healthcare provision. Britain definitely does — go on, do a search on "private healthcare uk." Told you! So why does the Right present tax-funded healthcare as an all-or-nothing proposal? Because they want to limit it to the people whom they believe deserve it (which includes their boogeyman George Soros for some reason. LOL! He's a billionaire and can easily afford it out of pocket, right? I know... ::snigger::) — according to their ideological principles. I would personally argue (from my communitarian perspective) that a good ideology does as much good as possible while limiting harm to as few as possible. The current right-wing tropes have the opposite effect in real life, so I reject them.

Unite and fight

I'm conservative, as I've often declared. I believe in a prohibitive military, a common sense government and that there are social programs enacted in the last half century that work, but there are far too many costing way too much that don't. And I believe in the rule of law and order and free fair and open market capitalism. This is actually compatible with a strong social safety net if each feeds the other in a virtuous cycle, which is why I'm such a fan of middle-out (as opposed to straight-up socialism). Since the political axis is currently so sharply divided between left and right, any policies that favour the people over the money are automatically deemed left-wing even if they benefit business and therefore generate money. People are noticing this, and they're not happy. We need to find a way to work together and honestly I believe that middle-out is the umbrella under which we can stand.

Who will lead us?

People are crying out for a leader, someone to get behind, and increasingly it's Jeremy Corbyn and people who think the way he does. Needless to say, the Right is crapping its ruggedly individual pants at the thought of a Western democracy run by a leftie. The horror! They clutch their pearls close to their heaving chests and faint upon their couches at the thought. Wave a tenner under their noses, it may help to revive them. Sheesh! What they wilfully forget (unless they're too busy repeating right wing talking points to think for themselves) is that Corbyn isn't aiming for Venezuela, he's aiming for Norway. See his manifesto for yourselves if you don't believe me. His detractors evidently haven't. While Corbyn seems like a well-intentioned, occasionally misguided chap I'm not sure he's the one to lead us into the future on the grounds that he's stuck in the past. Socialists are obsessed with class and imposing their ideologies on us irrespective of whether they work in practice or not. That puts me off. If the Right wants to put forth a leader it must be a man (or woman) of the people. It'd help if they actually cared about people, but since they don't, they can only jerk their thumbs at Venezuela and whinge about rising taxes to increasing numbers of people who use foodbanks.

There is a vacuum on the right that needs filling with a sensible, public-spirited person. Unfortunately, as I pointed out, public-spiritedness is anathema on the right on the grounds that it takes other people's money.

Plan for a future for all

There has got to be a way of reducing the number of poor people than allowing them to die as a result of austerity measures. I propose we consider adopting policies based on middle-out economics. In practice, it'd look something like this:

  • Raise taxes on those earning over £500k PA to £65%
  • Cap CEO/Senior officer pay at x15 times that of the lowest-paid member of staff. When they get a pay rise, so do the staff
  • Encourage the proliferation of profit-sharing schemes to give employees more of a stake in the company
  • Increase the minimum wage to £7.50 PH (this was 2014. I'd make it a tenner now)
  • Cap prescription charges at £10 for multiple items
  • Subsidize public transport for those earning less than £14k PA as part of a co-payment scheme with employers (this was 2014. I'd make it £16k now)
  • Create a co-payment scheme for childcare where the Government pays for half and the employer pays the rest
  • Build more social housing
  • Tax second homes and empty properties at an incremental rate to force them onto the market
  • Invest in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to support workers and encourage people into work
  • Get rid of mass surveillance. Targeted surveillance is more effective for catching criminals
  • Use OS
  • Eliminate waste
  • Reform IPR, reduce copyright terms to 10-15 years, and promote alternative business models for artists, inventors and creators
  • Break up the big corporations using anti-trust laws to encourage competition and free up the market
  • End the war on drugs and treat them as a health issue

This would bring more tax revenue in using a two-prong attack: more revenues via taxes and savings on unnecessary expenditure. I'm all for cuts when they're on programs we don't need. I've tried to get people talking about this but it tends to run into an ideological brick wall because people are stuck on the left-right see-saw. I'd like to get us all talking about it as urgently as possible. - Normalising Nuts: How Trump Hornswoggled America Into Loving Neoliberalism - On t'Internet

All of the above is negotiable, I just want to get people talking about solutions instead of putting the kybosh on them on principle due to ideological considerations.

Appeal to people's sense of morality

The Right is on the back foot at the moment demanding that we accept austerity or Jeremy Corbyn the boogeyman will get us, or something. "Venezuela!" means "Squirrel!" It's as frightened as it is reactionary but it doesn't have to be this way. We can learn to work together even if we're approaching solutions from different sides of the political spectrum. The trick is to appeal to the moral values of the people we're arguing with: to convince a right-winger of the value of your proposals you have to explain how it's value for money, will eventually pay for itself, and how the status quo actually costs us all more. To convince a left-winger you have to explain how it benefits society and makes life better for the poorest and most vulnerable. We won't be able to do that till the will is there. At the moment we're just butting heads because both sides are convinced that the other is the enemy and that's a shame.

Why can't we all just get along? Because we won't accept that there's any value in opposing viewpoints and the people who hold them. Sort that out, then we'll see change.

*They seem to have no problems with their tax dollars going on pointless wars or people being sentenced to death, etc. Don't get me started!

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