I must warn you that the following ramblings continue the political discontent so rampantly running through November. I write this blog in hopes of solidifying and finishing thoughts begun, interrupted, and left like dangling modifiers in my most recent visit home. In general, I’ve come to feel that political debate is like shouting into a void, opinions disappearing into a cacophony of similar statements or falling on the deaf ears of those resoundingly conflicting. Most of all, I continually prove to myself that I’m no expert on the subject and shouldn’t put myself in the position to act as one, both because it leaves me wanting for an answer and I’m often left needing to fire a parting shot such as this one. For that, I apologize.
I should have prepared myself better. I’d packed my bags carefully, double-checked the passport was in tow, and even had a few USD in my pocket. My father and step-mother had been summoned to pick us up from the airport, the flight details sent there way nearly a month in advance. We were to arrive on the sixth of November 2012, what I would later learn most likely marked the final downfall of the US of A: Election Day.
I expected my father to be tuned in, as he has been for some years, to the up-to-the-minute politic slough, that deep bog of spiked opinions and keyword repetition known as Fox News. To my surprise, he seemed none too concerned, either avoiding the inevitable clash of beliefs to come or, I would later find out, confident in some polling system. Whatever it was, we stayed largely off of politics and simply enjoyed seeing each other for the first time in a year and a half.
Before we went to bed, we saw Obama was the projected victor, the electoral votes swinging way left of the popular votes, and we adjourned to our respective rooms, either to celebrate or confound. In the morning, he congratulated me. My brother called later and did the same. It would be him, my former mentor to the world, who would inspire this blog entry: If Dad had settled his mind on peace, Chris was coming with full artillery. The election over, Chris coming down for a visit, the post-election debates were set to begin.
Obamacare has sent the conservative side of the nation into a complete tizzy, and some of them believe that the poster land of capitalism, home of the nuclear family and Wall Street and Bill O’Reilly, the country formally known as America the Beautiful, has turned into a sinking cesspit of “socialism”, half of the populace simply sitting around living off of food stamps and waiting to get sick to use tax dollars on medicine, x-rays, and doctor bills. The spirit of McCarthyism has returned so vehemently, some so convinced that non-Conservatism equates to outright communism, that I’ve repeatedly found myself squealing “that isn’t socialism/communism”, more in frustration with false –ism dropping than disdain for any particular policy. Let me explain:
Communism is a political and economic system based on publicly-owned, government-run companies producing and distributing profits and products based on a person’s needs. In other words, all the money comes in, all the bread is baked, and theoretically, the family of five gets more than a bachelor by simple fact of more mouths to feed, cloth, and so on. All things belong to all people, but decisions are made by a controlling government (elected) rather than its citizens. No country that has claimed communism—N. Korea, USSR, Vietnam, China, Cuba—has ever executed the theory as intended—uncorrupted, democratically—which is why strains such as Maoism, Marxism, and Stalinism have been coined, because they’re not exactly the same communism. Opinions and systems vary, but the basics are that government controls economics with the intention to keep all people equal and destroy the classes.
Democratic socialism, solely an economic system, on the other hand, uses a similar idea of distributing wealth amongst its populace; however, the system is run by the people. As with communism, production lines are controlled by a ruling force, but with democratic socialism as put into actual practice, the people who produce are the deciding factor—democratically—on what to do with the results of their labor. The theory is intended to dole out profits more evenly and fairly than privatized industry, though the intent isn’t to demolish all traces of capitalism as with communist strains. The crux of democratic socialism seeks to disallow exploitation. Money is distributed amongst the productive with strong programs to help those in need, and everyone receives free healthcare, education, etc, paid for by equal taxation. Sweden is often cited as a model for a democratic socialist government.
The U.S. is neither of these, despite projections about how Obamacare and the social programs changed the status quo of America. Socialized medicine is not socialism, but rather is a feature of socialism, just like government maintained highways, schools, and military forces are, all of which the U.S. has utilized for some time without setting off commie-red alarms. My major point is that the U.S. is not, nor anywhere close to being, communist or socialist—not now, not in four years from now—but rather has shrewdly sought to take some of the better parts of the theory. If the economy fails, it’s due to capitalistic values, the same greed and credit-based scams that caused the financial collapse in the first place. It’s not bleeding-heart social programs that are bankrupting America. Look at the amount misplaced funds in the military, $100 hammers—just normal hammers—and contracted equipment being built. Examine the amount we pay congress members beyond their modest base salaries, their personal staffs, transportation costs, food/shelter costs, and the congressional committees). With the sort of legitimate, longstanding social service the US gets, free medicine and community centers are hardly the things about which citizens should be outraged and debating. We are being distracted!
Forty-seven is not a nice round number. However, it is a fairly rare number in that it is prime, i.e. divisible by only one and itself, a detail which keeps it largely out of most math tests and the like, as there is simply not a lot more a student can do with the number. There are no square roots, no common denominators, no factors of, and it doesn’t show up on any multiplication tables. Up until recently, the number forty-seven had never particularly stood out to me in anyway. Suddenly, it’s all the rage.
The theory seems to be that Barrack Obama automatically received 47% of the vote based on a statistic that Mitt Romney used: the amount of Americans who live off the government. The people of the 47 percent, whom conservatives claim were 100% in the pocket for Obama, is in fact a real statistic; however, it has been presented a little askew and the 100% complete off. Romney identified these people as those “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it…And they will vote for this president no matter what.” In actuality, the number only denotes the people who lawfully didn’t pay federal income tax in 2011, many of whom are not Obama supporters. (Incidentally, we should note how far away from socialism this would make the U.S.)
Of the group, over 40% is composed of people making between $16000 and $50000 a year, the working poor.
44% of the 38 million nontaxable units went to people over sixty-five, who most likely are not working but have probably paid enough taxes during their lifetime. As well, a majority percentage of this group did not support Obama—there goes the 100% of the 47% theory.
More than 100,000 people earning $211,000 a year or more didn’t pay federal income tax.
That’s a lot of people not sitting on their ass waiting for handouts. Also:
Not paying federal income tax doesn’t mean that people are completely tax exempt (property, state, sales, etc.), are living off of welfare in government housing, or have preemptively sent in their ballot. That said, it would make sense that the majority of people would vote for what was in their best interest.
53% of the country is not paying for 47%--this is a rather ridiculously simple way of looking at this statistic, and one would think that members of this elite collection of financiers would have a bit better grasp of money intake, distribution, and community programs.
Romney even eventually acknowledged the “off the cuff” inaccuracy of the infamous (or famous, depending on your leanings) comment.
One of the difficult aspects of arguing with my brother, my family at times, is that my opinion is assumed. I don’t agree that capitalism is the best financial model, so my beliefs are denoted as the complete opposite, which has to be communism/socialism. I’m part of the 47% (as an ex-pat earning pathetic wages), have spent some time volunteering on behalf of impoverished people, and boycott a hefty amount of companies, so I am anti-profit and anti-production. I think about the environment, don’t like guns, and am a vegetarian . . . no one knows exactly what that means, but it’s wrong. I lived in the Middle East for a while, by choice and without association to oil or military, and, as a result, still don’t acknowledge Barrack Obama’s hidden radical Islamic beliefs (a very interesting mix with his support of Soviet communism). In a nutshell, I am an opponent.
I’ve time and again explained a disbelief in socialism with a healthy respect for some of the ideas, a belief in teaching (being a teacher) skills rather than handing out funding for nothing, that I don’t think global warming is solely or even mostly the result of people’s ill-treatment of nature (not to say we should try to keep stuff clean), that I truly respect someone who hunts/raises their own meat rather than buying it pre-packaged and de-animalized, and the existence of radical Muslims with respect to the fact that home-grown radical Christians have attacked the U.S. much more often (neither group representing a large percentage of either religion). I continually have to reiterate these beliefs, which is just politics, I suppose, but this last trip most of my time was spent describing socialism and discussing 47% of the population.
Truthfully, I don’t mind those who don’t support Barrack Obama, who are disappointed by his re-election, and who believe it’s the wrong route for America. However, there are better, more legitimate reasons than socialism and the 47% to dislike his policies. The problem I’ve most encountered in discussing Obama with conservatives (admittedly, using my family and their friends, Fox news, and various conservative radio shows to pigeon-hole a broader political group)—The problem in discussing Obama is that the conversation always strays into propaganda-like repetition that has little to do with actual government policy.
If it isn’t socialism but socialized medicine—if he isn’t Muslim (I’m sad to have to include this –if) or if church and state were separate—if more than 85% of the 47% who didn’t pay federal income tax aren’t all lazily awaiting welfare vouchers—if he didn’t simply win the election via this 47% of whom polls show a normal percentage did not vote Obama—if each time the discussion at hand didn’t require a series of hypothetical statements to attempt to prevent diversion into whatever all these claims equate--justifiable hatred?. . .I suppose it’s all just politics, thick with the dilution of what’s relevant and complicated, always has been. Who knows what would happen if we didn’t succumb to discussing the irrelevant, inaccurate stuff.
This blog occurs once a week, the entries being thematically mixed between expat life in Guatemala and life as an NGO groupie. The photos for this blog, website, and my life are all provided by my beautiful wife Emma.