03 February 2009

crazy friends

In case I've not gone far enough to label myself a disaffected, cynical (but still hopeful) liberal, I think I just did. I think it's important to note that I have a specific point of view from which I'm coming, so I'm going to actually admit to it right now.

I think that the last... let's say 20 or 30 years have done a better job making my side's (big government) case against its mortal enemy (small/no government) better than any argument we could've hoped to fashion ourselves. Sure, the booms are cool (despite the fact that real wages in this country haven't risen in a ridiculously long time, but who needs a salary when you have credit cards?), but the busts tend to bring everything crashing down on us, to the point that the system hemorrhages and this evil beast called "government" has to step in to make everything calm down (I thought the market was a benevolent force that was going to make everybody's lives better, if only Big Brother would stay away from it. Oh, right, the financial market's collapse was due to overregulation, and not the fact that capitalism produces more money almost exclusively for the people that already have it by exploiting those that don't). This isn't my theory alone; I read an article a few months ago (wish I could remember whose - oh, hey, here it is: "The End of the Libertarian Bubble," by Jay Rothermel) that started my thoughts down this path. Like Rothermel writes, Ron Paul, patron saint of libertarians and people too sick of politics-as-usual to let their minds balance out their hearts, may well have helped breach-birth a new generation of anti-government Americans, but time passed them by before they even got started.

What did deregulation of the energy companies in California get us? Enron. What did deregulation of the banking industry get us? A financial crisis the likes of which we'd never hoped to see again, on a level so global that it's actually revived protectionist talks in, of all places, the hallowed halls of the United States government. What will future deregulation bring us? Likely, more of the same (I'm just guessing, and not citing precedent).

Sure, a "gun nut" the likes of Thomas Jefferson wanted America to be a nation of small farmers, and I'm sure those of us that would like to go back to the "original Constitution of the United States of America" would like to invoke every single quote of his they can obtain and twist around, but the fact of the matter is this: America is not a nation of small farmers anymore (and go ahead and ask the small farmers how they're doing, and how much better off they think they'd be if they didn't get the pittiance of support they get from the government now). We can't just demolish our central government and go back to the (forgive me) "original Constitution of the United States of America;" it is, in fact, impossible (as Mr. Matthew pointed out, the original Constitution contains something as unsavory as the 3/5ths clause. If we're interested in blind fidelity to the original document, what would you have us do? As someone on the Internet said, what does the original Constitution say about embryonic stem cell research? Inquiring minds want to know).

Where am I going with all of this, aside from a longer rant? The answer, right now:

I have a friend who is a huge Ron Paul fan (even now), which should mean he's a libertarian (he advertises himself as one, but hey, you never know. We live in a world where Republicans are demanding that the government bail out banks that are "too big to fail," so anything can happen). Yesterday, on the Facebook, he changed his status to the following: "
Ron Paul once again prescribes the only cure that could save America: Cut taxes, cut spending, bring our troops home, and down size government." This comes from an article that Dr. Paul wrote, and posted, on the website that bears his name. Here's the link, if you're interested (see, I did read it). Shortly after this status update, my friend Dean commented, saying that he thought Ron Paul was absolutely right, because non-interventionist policies for the credit markets and the environment had worked out smashingly well so far. In the spirit of fun (and with a sizable amount of thanks to Vanessa - the best girlfriend for whom I could have ever asked), I added my two cents in: "Say what you will, but Bank of America throws a hell of a Super Bowl party."

Our friend decided to reply in not one, but two incredible textual rants, and then deleted all of the comments (ours and his). Thankfully, Facebook emailed me copies of the replies, and I'm reproducing them here, in full, for posterity and entertainment:

"Yea cuz what obama is doing is working so well, wake the fuck up and quit acting like he is the savior by doing nothing but putting us further in recession, thousands of lay offs and forcing people to give the government more money than they are already, why? How bout we keep the money we earn and do what we want with it rather than pooling all our hard earned dollars into gov't pension funds that go bankrupt when the companies and banks they bail out still go under, thanks but any sane american doesn't want to go bankrupt while they watch their country rot with these politicians we have...hope nancy pelosi's company makes another million with your money this year"

2) "you want to spend on the environment? That worked out so well for the governator and his now bankrupt state. if people would live within their means there wouldn't be a credit problem, which ron paul discusses in the same article if you cared to read other than listing off liberal sarcasm, y wouldnt u want to cut spending on things internationally and focus on your own country instead of sending 20 million to gaza rebuild just so israel can blow it up again tomorrow (and that is just chump change tax dollars,) why wouldn't u want to quit wasting billions of dollars in the middle-east and on two wars (that their own people should have started/finished) or to quit a phony war on terror just cuz they dont have the war on drugs to keep spending on (when bush was in office i dont think anyone would disagree that bringing the troops home is a good idea, but now with obama its all okay?) you want to keep bailing out corporations and banks just so that they take ur money when they fail again"

This is the same guy who once remarked that we shouldn't have a transportation department; if people want roads, they should just build them (this comment reminds me a lot of that South Park episode, "Die, Hoppie, Die," and this moment in particular).

I could adopt the tack of replying to every one of the ridiculous comments he made, line by line [we can do a whole hell of a lot more by pooling our money into a common pot than we can if we "keep what we earn" - I think that's what taxes are about; liberals that I know never advocated the bank bailouts we've conducted so much as following the rules of capitalism - if the people put their money into an institution, they should see some sort of return, be it in money, some level of control, or, really, both; I don't understand the "Nancy Pelosi's company" remark; California's financial issues have nothing to do with its progressive stance regarding environmental protections; when you have it as ridiculously well as we have it in America (even now), and a lot of what we've gained has been on the backs of significantly less fortunate people, you're morally obligated to try to help the less fortunate out - we're part of a global community now, whether libertarians like it or not, and the most powerful, richest country in the world, the one that consumes the lion's share of the resources, has to be involved in the world - especially if we're just using "chump change tax dollars;" the War on Drugs, as far as I know, hasn't gone away, we're just not hearing anything about it, which I think speaks more to his awareness of the world around him than it does to the fact that I think the War on Drugs is an unconsciable waste of time, money, resources and lives, and the sooner it goes away the better... You want to raise money for the government to spend? Let's take a cue from Mr. Dana Carvey: legalize it and tax the shit out of it), or I could just post a link to the Facebook page for, "The Coalition for a Free Iceland," which allows me to employ even more of my "liberal sarcasm" without having to say a single word.

In a time when the government should be doing everything it can to save its people, and the world, from the mess it created, tax cuts are not the answer. Cuts in government spending are not the answer. Libertarianism, for a very long time, has not been the answer (ever since the Louisiana Purchase, I'd say). Once my friend, and the people like him, decide they want to start living in the real world, and come up with actual solutions to the problems we're facing, and not just spout off sound bite lines like "cut spending, cut taxes" (give me real, workable examples of places we can cut spending - like Iraq, Afghanistan, the F-22 - and then maybe we can talk), we'll all be much better off.

Or, you could just go live in a cabin in the woods. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, so quit being a part of the fucking problem, as John McClane said.

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