Friday, October 05, 2007

there really is a difference between them and us

Currier & Ives, New York, 1863, Library of Congress

Us vs. them, explained.

First, from Eric Alterman:
Again, according to
Bush argued that the congressional plan would be a move toward socialized medicine by expanding the program to higher-income families.

So this is the point. Bush's argument is explicitly ideological. He wants children to get sick and die in order to prevent what he believes will be a slide toward what he calls "socialized medicine." Conservatives may not wish to claim him anymore, but this speaks to a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives, and it's not just about letting kids get sick and die.

Conservatism is self-consciously ideological in a way liberalism is not. Milton Friedman argues that "freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself." This belief leads a conservative columnist like George F. Will to support policies like the privatization of Social Security irrespective of whether such a transformation will make the program more or less effective, but because of "reasons [that] rise from the philosophy of freedom." Liberals are often understood to be "pro-government" or even "pro-taxation" but this reflects a fundamental confusion between ends and means. Liberals believe in "government" only insofar as it is necessary to achieve necessary goals, including public welfare, investment, redistribution, defense etc. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue against government as a matter of principle: the less government involved, the better, period.

And from Paul Krugman (thankfully out from behind the NYTimes pay wall):
In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

I think I see a trend. More, from Kevin Drum:
Matt, like many others, is musing over the question of why George Bush is so hellbent on vetoing the SCHIP expansion of children's healthcare. My suggestion: take him at face value. He says he doesn't like it because it's the camel's nose under the slippery slope on the road to hell of national healthcare, and I think that really is the reason.

After all, Bush is right: we liberals really do think of things like SCHIP as building blocks on the road to universal healthcare, don't we? It's hardly a big secret. And one should never underestimate the horror with which conservatives view "socialized medicine." They've fought it like crazed lemmings for decades, and they fight it even when it conflicts their own bottom-line interests. Big business, for example, should be rapturous at the idea of getting rid of its healthcare obligations, but even today, with healthcare costs skyrocketing and no end in sight, business groups are endorsing national healthcare only tentatively and in small numbers. (In 1994 they caved in to conservative pressure and didn't support it at all.) Why? Because even though national healthcare would help their earnings and remove a huge monkey from their backs, they genuinely and truly loathe socialized medicine. It's a step on the road to weakness and decay.

Here's my deep analysis of the common thread in each of these pieces: The Left wants certain things to take place, like people having insurance, and thus tries to engineer solutions.

The Right wants certain ideas to reign, regardless of what things take place because of said ideas, and thus tries to engineer those solutions. Like fewer people having insurance and insurance companies making record profits.

But then again, maybe the Right just wants profits to take place. After all, that seems to satisfy Occam's Razor.

Here's a musical treat. However, unlike this guy, I definitely think there are bad guys: