Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Politics and the Common Good


The common good involves establishing a healthy living environment for all who live in that environment. As such, politics is a necessity in achieving the common good. I am often perplexed when I see good hard-working American citizens voting against their own best interests. We hear that the "Bush tax cuts" are necessary because it is the business sector that creates jobs, while never stopping to ask where all those jobs are that the tax cuts ten years ago were supposed to bring. It is as though many voters have some doctrinaire concepts that they dare not question or challenge. Sometimes I wonder if some fear who might be helped if their taxes go toward any social safety net.

Years ago, even when I was a teenager, I heard that there were those who questioned why taxes should come out of their pocket to support schools when they had no children in public schools. Of course, the short answer is that if we have an educated public, then everyone benefits. If large segments of society are deprived of an education, then we all suffer as a result of that lost potential. There are many things that we can accomplish as a group that we cannot accomplish individually (and by "as a group" I means we the people of our town, our state and our country). By pooling our resources into the government process, we can accomplish many things for the common good. I do not have the personal capital to even pave enough road to get to work each day, but my taxes are used to maintain a road system that serves me well -- far beyond my own ability as an individual. The education I received in 12 years of public schooling was certainly more than my parents could have afforded if they had been required to hire a tutor or use private schools.

My short-hand view of what makes a society work is three-fold:
     1. Access to education
     2. Access to transportation
     3. Access to healthcare

When our government policies support these three things, everyone benefits. Look at any disenfranchised segment of our society, and you will see that one or more of these three elements has been hindered. This is why I believe it is patriotic to pay taxes. This is why I believe that policies should protect the private citizen, the working Joe or Jane, not the corporation. This is why I believe we could be handing our country over to an oligarchy of big corporations when the Supreme court rules that a corporation is a citizen and when the people vote for tax breaks for the wealthy. We may be in danger of losing our democracy "of the people."

Currently we are seeing a disturbing gridlock in our government which is making it almost impossible for it to function. There are intractable politicians who argue for no tax increases on one side and for no reduction of government programs on the other, even as the country teeters at the debt ceiling abyss.

For a well stated and coherent view of what is gong on in the current political process, check out Chauncy DeVega's article at Alternet:

Joe Klein also has some insightful words about congress's attempts to address the debt ceiling crisis in "Tea or Sanity." Klein's assessment says to me that it's not dark yet, DeVaga says, "but it's gettin' there."



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