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Disclaimer:

This is a topic that earns conservatives a bad name.  Or rather, this is a topic that liberals are easily able to use in order to give conservatives a bad name.  This is an unfortunate reality, for IN reality, it is the conservative that gives more to charity than the liberal:

The fact is that self-described “conservatives” in America are more likely to give—and give more money—than self-described “liberals.” In the year 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more dollars to charity than households headed by a liberal. And this discrepancy in monetary donations is not simply an artifact of income differences. On the contrary, liberal families in these data earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families.

So, with that said, let me make it clear that what I describe as policy in no way or manner represents my individual and specific view of the actual person, their plight, human spirit and personal tragedy.

Okay, now, onward.

I caught a Reuters article recently.  Specifically detailing the impact of the recession on our children; our homeless children:

In a report issued earlier this month, the National Center on Family Homelessness, based in Needham, Massachusetts, said 1.6 million children were living on the streets of the United States last year or in shelters, motels and doubled-up with other families.

That marked a 38 percent jump in child homelessness since 2007 and Ellen Bassuk, the center’s president, attributes the increase to fallout from the U.S. recession and a surge in the number of extremely poor households headed by women.

To be sure, we have work to do.  The problems surrounding kids who don’t have hoes is bad.  And getting worse.  I don’t think there’s a soul alive who who disagree that something, anything, has to be done.  But it’s important to acknowledge that the thing, the “anything, is going to come in two forms:

  1. Direct assistance to the displaced families right now.
  2. Actions that will prevent the homeless condition from occurring in the first place.

While noble, I am less interested in the first, as a matter of policy, than I am in the second.  Consider this:

As her mother sat in a homeless shelter in downtown Miami, talking about her economic struggles and loss of faith in the U.S. political system, 3-year-old Aeisha Touray blurted out what sounded like a new slogan for the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

“How dare you!” the girl said abruptly as she nudged a toy car across a conference room table at the Chapman Partnership shelter in Miami’s tough and predominantly black Overtown neighborhood.

There was no telling what Aeisha was thinking as her 32-year-old mother, Nairkahe Touray, spoke of how she burned through her savings and wound up living in a car with five of her eight children earlier this year.

Think of that.  This woman is trying to care for a family of 9 on her own.  Ms. Touray is 32 years old and has 8 children.  In comparison, I had yet to be married at 32.  And now, as a professional married to another professional I have two children.  Without making any judgements as to decisions or life circumstances, as a 32 year old professional, I’m certain that I would have struggled caring for 8 kids.  Even making it to work would be difficult if not impossible.

Again, my interest in the conditions of the poor and homeless in America are more focused on preventing single 32 year-old women from having 8 children.  To put this in perspective, if you were to take ALL families in 2011, the percent of them that have 7 or more members is 2.6%.  When you look at only female householder, the percentage of families with 6 members is 2.8%.  In a perverse fact of life, the problem gets worse as women find themselves raising the family alone.

Certainly I can’t know the journey that Ms. Touray has taken to get to where she is.  Her life could be one of immeasurable bad luck and unbelievable twists of fate that have led her to where she is.  However, I suggest that another theme exists.  One that we can change.

That is, there is a significant portion of our population that makes misinformed and bad decisions that ted to put them in cohort groupings that lead to poor outcomes.  Is it perfectly allowable that a single woman would want to make it on her own and raise a family of 8 children?  Sure, without a doubt.  However, if a trusted friend or sister were to seek your advice on her decision to embark on this path, what might your counsel look like?  Would you caution her?  Might you recommend that she obtain an education?  Perhaps secure income?

Something.

What would you counsel your own daughter to do?

And if THAT answer is different than, “I’d do nothing.  However, I would continue to lavish untold amounts of mine and my neighbor’s money in order to support her.”, then I ask you:

Why aren’t we making YOUR answer policy?  Why aren’t we telling our Ms. Tourays of the world that it’s generally not accepted wisdom to create a condition where you are single with 8 kids?  In fact, why is it so “insulting and disparaging” even to merely suggest such advice?

Some time ago a friend and I were debating politics, life and people.  Wonderful conversations these, some of my most favorite.  Wonderful times.

This friend and I find ourselves at opposite ends of the spectrum.  I enjoy calling myself Libertarian and he Liberal; very Liberal.  And while I agree with his views, mostly, on the tender mercies of the social issues, we are in direct contradiction when it comes to things fiscal, economic or, strangely, on Liberty.

It was the topic of Liberty, actually an extension of what I think Liberty is, just the other night.  And, as so often as these conversations do, they begin rather pleasant and easy going and, unless cared for, degenerate into me in my corner and he in his.  So, this time, I asked that we stop and consider each others claim.

See, I see Liberty being extended to the person.  And, I see personhood being established somewhere between conception and actual live birth.  I’m open to the debate about the when, but really, I don’t think that’s the critical point.  The critical point is that you get someone to acknowledge that life begins sometime before actual birth.

Anyway, we were discussing abortion and I declared that I am pro-Liberty.  That is, before life is established, abortion should be at the discretion of the mother.  And after life is established, abortion is at the discretion of the mother is some cases:

  1. Life or health risk of the mother or the child.
  2. Cases where the mother is the victim of a crime.

As the conversation continued, we moved past this distinction and began exploring the right-wing nuts that refused to listen to any rational thought and held to a “no abortion ever for any reason period” position.  At which point I realized that I thought my friend was debating the wing nuts; not me.

So I asked him, “Given that there are extreme positions on the right – no abortion ever – what is the extreme position on the Left?”

His answer?

“There isn’t one”.

Blink.

Blink.

Now, when debating an individual about a topic and your going in position is that there are extremists, on YOUR side, that you disagree with, it normally sends a signal that you are somewhat moderate.  But when you’re debating partner refuses to acknowledge the same, it sends the signal that they are not; no matter what they claim they are.

Now, to be fair, my friend does not, at least I think does not, claim to be moderate.

Anyway, when faced with this interesting dilemma that extremism only exits on the “other side” I asked him a question that would cause his Liberal tendencies to collide.

“What if the mother decided to abort because the baby was black”?

Or disabled.

Or gay.

Or a girl.

Eugenics, it seemed, was the extreme.

In this case a person has to determine what to defend.  And in this case, the ugly ugly consequences of a genetic means test outranked the ability of a mother to choose.

Now, to be sure, in the specific I agreed with my friend on this.  I would think it horrible if someone decided to abort a child simply based on the fact that she was a she.  However, I am sure that our rational behind that conclusion would be very very different.

And I find THAT fascinating.

Anyway, I was able to make my point.  That there were extremes, on both sides, that we weren’t willing to go.  And just because I happened to add “Or poor” to that list didn’t make me any more vile than, well, anyone else who objects to abortion based on sex.

Long before Barack Obama become President, the Republican party has been accused of being racist.  I guess it’s because conservatives advocate policies that don’t transfer wealth from one group of people to another that’s the cause of this shrill shriek.  In a similar vein, the Left could argue that conservative parents who think it’s a good idea to do your homework could be called “kidists”.  Clearly those parents hate their kids.

However, since Barack Obama IS the President, the case against conservatives being labelled as racists has increased.  It seems that not one single critique of the President or his policies can be leveled without the hammer of race being raised to combat that critique.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is when Rick Perry referred to the debt as a “black-cloud”.  Ed Schultz jumped on the occasion and labeled the man a racist for his racist comments.  Normally I would say that Ed is just an entertainer trying to make a living and using what he can to do so.  However, this isn’t an isolated case, this is systemic, this is premeditated and this is a strategy.

Only look back to Obama’s 2008 campaign when he mentioned that:

“…you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

He knew it then, he knows it now.  He signaled it then and the folks have followed.

The problem is, fewer and fewer people are buying it:

ONE of the most dispiriting aspects of going through university as a humanities major in the mid 1990s was the insistence on viewing everything—or at least every work of literature—through the prisms of race, class and gender. It turned the pleasurable act of reading into a tawdry little detective game, in which students were expected to ferret out every conceivable shred of “evidence”, plausible or not, for bias on the part of the author, the publisher, society, etc. Offer precocious undergraduates the chance to rail against society’s (read: their parents’) hidden biases and they will surely take it, but these readings were for the most part boring, wrong and trivial.

All of which is by way of saying that I have a great deal of sympathy for Reihan Salam’s argument against reductionism. He begins by giving Ed Schultz a well-deserved raspberry for imputing racist sentiment to Rick Perry’s reference to debt as “a black cloud” (boneheaded as Mr Schultz’s comment may be, it is hard to wholly deplore something that led to such a great Daily Show sketch). “Many on the left are convinced that Perry must in his heart of hearts be a racist,” Mr Salam writes, “and indeed that conservatism itself is rooted in racist sentiments.” Does one even need to say that this is wrong—that conservatism is not, in fact, rooted in racist sentiment? That opposition to a Democratic president, even one who happens to be black, is not inherently racist?

There was a reason, even as a liberal 18 year-old, that I mocked CLA’ers.  CLA is short hand slang for “College of Liberal Arts” at the University of Minnesota.  We attended the Minnesota Institute for Technology.  Rightly so, we reasoned that many of those gaining a degree at the “other school” were really gaining what some people called a degree.

But fun at the expense of silly degree programs aside, the idea that conservatives must be racist because we don’t agree with the prevailing thought mentality of the average Leftist is as silly as those degrees.  The idea that I have to have my ideas and intentions vetted for validity by the likes of  those who build programs that don’t help the people they’re meant to help is absurd.

Sadly, absurd sells.

 

Aside from the very perplexing contradiction of folks on the Left claiming that they are not socialists but then supporting increased taxes on the rich in order to increase transfer payments to the poor, I think that most people on the Left and Right generally agree on some basic things:

  1. Do well in school
  2. Be kind to others
  3. Work hard
  4. Pay for what you take
  5. Return what you borrow

I suspect that I’m not unlike many other Liberal families that teach their kids these basic time tested tenants.  In fact, it’s parenting 101.  Much of it is taught without even being realized, and other, specifically taught on purpose.

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I think it’s important to clear a few things up.  And to explain the difference between personal charity and legislative responsibility.

On a human and personal level I get the fact that someone out of work is struggling.  Most likely with personal value issues, household income issues and perhaps larger life skills and career opportunity issues.

I get that.

And to that extent, I resonate with the personal heart string tugging concept of needing to provide relief.  I absolutely agree that helping when one can is the right thing to do.  Without a doubt.

On the governmental and legislative level I know that the best thing that can be done is to make sure that it is as easy as possible for people  looking for work can match up with people looking for workers.n  In short, for the removal of every possible obstacle.

The juxtaposition of those two very valid and noble positions seems to be taking place in our debate.

The fiscal conservatives want less unemployment benefits to be handed out.  Less as in fewer weeks and less money.  The social  liberals want to increase those benefits.  Increase as in extend benefits and with more money.

And they yell at each other.

But they aren’t arguing about the same topic.  The Left are advocating a position of personal charity.  The Right are advocating a position of economic modeling.  Both are right in their specific context, but that context isn’t the same.

So, I would suggest this:

  • My Liberal friends:  Form a non-profit foundation that provides relief to the unemployed.
  • My Conservative friends: Contribute to said foundation.
  • End government mandated charity.

Remember, there must be an incontrovertible condition for the government to relive a man of the fruits of his labor by threat of sword or gun.  And the simple fact that you feel more comfortable with this man having that man’s property does not meet that condition.

I’m pretty free market.  I’m also of the mind that the best incentives are the ones that you remember your dad teaching you or that you teach your kids.  Hard work, eat your vegetables, save your money, do your homework….stuff like that.

I like to think that most America teaches these things to their kids.  And to the extent that some of us are better or worse, I guess that’s okay.  But the idea is the same.  This is a place where, if you work hard enough, you can have anything you want.  Which, I’ve always thought the inverse were then true as well.  This is a place where if you DON’T work hard enough, you can’t have anything you want.

So, I don’t like socialism.  Either as a way to teach our kids how to live or as an economic system where we organize our society.

But we are.

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Ahh…to be 20 again, right?  And do all that crazy shit that people in their 20s do?

Remember all the things that you thought were true back then?

“Adults” didn’t “get it”.  They weren’t hip.  The new generation was gonna change, ’cause everything was changin’.

And then you kinda grew up.

I know, I did it.  I used to be that long haired hippie dude with the ear-ring.  I used to go down to Mexico and build homes for immigrants trying to cross the border.  I used to support legalizing pot.

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If President Bill Clinton with a Republican House is credited with balancing the budget why isn’t President Obama with a Republican House being credited with NOT balancing the budget?

Or, the other way:

If the 2011 House is being credited with preventing fiscal responsible legislation, why isn’t the House in the 90’s credited with the passing of the fiscal legislation?

Weird.

 

This week Obama focused on the obvious subject; Dads and Father’s Day.  It’s a good listen and well worth the 4+ minutes.

Listening to the President I’m reminded that the Left doesn’t have bad goals, in fact, the message that they preach is often one of noble and admirable qualities.  A message that IS jarringly absent in some of the circles and conversations we involve ourselves in day to day.  With that said, I certainly disagree on how we get to that place we wanna be.  But it’s hard not to agree on that destination.

Happy Father’s Day President!

Don’t mix.

Recently I posted about an Economics Literacy Test.  The Minneapolis Federal Reserve conducted a survey and asked people to answer 13 economic questions.  Those 404 people didn’t do so well.

While I took the test I wondered who would do well and who would do so well.  It occurred to me that some people will do better just because they want the answer to be something other than what it is.  For example, if asked, I suspect a vast majority of Liberals would say that the oil companies make too much profit.  Indeed, the oil companies rank 114 out of 215 industries in profits.  Hardly gouging, huh?

Then I was reminded of a post I blogged here about a year ago.  It described who did well and who did poorly on questions of economics:

Best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8:

Very conservative, 1.30

Libertarian, 1.38

Conservative, 1.67

Moderate, 3.67

Liberal, 4.69

Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Not so good if you are Liberal.