Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Where Liberals Actually Stand

It's no secret that we are living in unusually polarized times. The fact that public discourse is being dictated by the extremes on both sides pretty much guarantees that no compromise on any issue will be reached. Information has been replaced with propaganda. Discussion has been superseded by accusation. Reasoned debate has been replaced with blind, partisan shrieking1.

For example, the right is eager to pounce on any transgression, no matter how minor, and try to use that as proof of liberal lawlessness and hatred. An Antifa protester turns over a trash can, and all of a sudden "Antifa is running amok!" Maxine Waters calls for people to confront Republicans peacefully whenever possible, and this becomes "Crazy Maxine is calling for violence against Republicans!" One guy starts a fight at a protest, and out of nowhere it morphs into "All liberals are filled with violent hatred!"

On the other side, there are accusations that the trump administration is being purposefully cruel on immigration, that it is intentionally poisoning waterways and the air, etc.

The problem with this is that, when there are so many people screaming at each other, nobody can hear what the other side is even saying. As a result, the divide between the two widens, and political discourse becomes less a question of finding solutions and more a question of scoring points. So I am going to lay out the liberal case, once and for all, so there is no ambiguity2 ... and I invite a representative from the other side to do likewise with conservative positions. I am not going to get into the justifications for these positions -- that is a whole series of articles on its own -- I am simply going to lay out the policy positions for your edification.

So let's dive in, shall we?

Health Care/The ACA
The liberal position on health care in the United States is simple. Health care is a fundamental right, part of the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" triumvirate defined in the Declaration of Independence. The fact that it has been turned into a profit center automatically disenfranchises the poor, people without insurance, etc. Our position is that we should be moving toward single-payer, aka "Medicare for all." We hold that this approach will not only bring costs down because it would essentially do away with "defensive medicine3" by removing the fear that claims would be denied and by employing existing limitations on Medicare's exposure to civil actions. It will also improve outcomes based on the fact that there will be far fewer people not being treated for their conditions.

Our immigration process is broken. While we do agree that there is a need for border security, we disagree on the level and scope of that security. The apparent conservative approach of "assume everybody is a bad guy until they prove otherwise" runs counter to the entire concept of "innocent until proven guilty," in our view. Further, the immigration process itself is needlessly slow, complicated, and arduous. In addition, the vast majority of people in this country illegally are here because they entered legally and overstayed their visas. Finally, there are a large number of people who have been living in this country for years, sometimes decades, as undocumented immigrants. They have been paying taxes and maintaining steady employment to support their families while accepting no government services (they do not qualify due to a lack of legal status).

We need to provide real, effective security at the border. Building a wall along our entire southern border is not an effective method of controlling immigration, since the vast majority arrive legally (and usually by plane ... and unless this wall is 75,000 feet tall, or the FAA institutes a regulation that all planes crossing our border must do so at an altitude of 15 feet, the wall is useless). We should incentivize legal immigration by making the process easier and more streamlined. We also need to provide a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally but have demonstrated their willingness and ability to be functioning, contributing members of American society.

Liberals believe that supply-side economics is a flawed supposition and relies on nonexistent largess from the top earners in this country. We have seen evidence of this in Kansas, in which Republican governor Sam Brownback and a Republican legislature instituted a fairly "pure" implementation of supply-side policies ... which ended up chasing employers from the state, exploding deficits, and busting the budget to the point of having to shut down the school year a month early due to a lack of funding. We have also seen evidence of it in the latest Republican tax plan which had huge giveaways for large companies and the top 1% ... the Republican line was that these tax breaks would result in further R & D dollars being spent as well as pay hikes for employees. And while some companies did give their employees a token one-time bonus, the vast majority used these breaks to fund massive stock buybacks4" -- with the intent of making shareholders even more wealthy.

Durng the 1992 Presidential campaign, then-candidate Bill Clinton said that the goal was to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare." He was widely derided on the right for this statement, but taken at face value it sums up fairly accurate the liberal position. Yes, women should have the freedom to choose. However, just because someone has a choice available to them does not mean they are automatically going to make that particular choice. We believe that a woman's right to choose is paramount, and is a decision that should only be made by her, her doctor, and anyone else she feels should be involved.

We also believe that the best way to end abortion is to eliminate the need for it, i. e. unwanted pregnancies. Now, we have no illusions that there is any measure that will stop unwanted pregnancies from occurring altogether -- after all, the process is too much fun, and we have millions of years of evolution reinforcing this -- but we can make a serious dent in things by promoting sex education, birth control, and monogamous relationships.

Gun Control
Liberals believe that the Second Amendment is an outdated construct, dating form a time when state-of-the-art military weaponry was also available to the private citizen. Since then, the technology of armaments has progressed far beyond the scope of the Second Amendment, and it has become nothing more than a tool of obstructionists wishing to block any meaningful form of gun control.

Liberals do not advocate for the confiscation of all firearms. This is a falsehood perpetrated -- repeatedly -- by extremist nutjobs like Alex Jones, and it has somehow managed to ooze into the general discussion. So let me be perfectly clear when I say again that liberals do not advocate for the confiscation of all -- or even some -- firearms. There are very specific instances where confiscation is appropriate -- if a firearm is used in the commission of a crime and is being held as evidence, for example -- all of which are already covered under current legislation.

We do believe in sensible gun control legislation -- and in order to make that process smooth, we should repeal the Second Amendment. It is no longer relevant, and it has become nothing more than a Constitutional stumbling block preventing any meaningful legislation from getting through.

We hold that climate change is real, that it is largely a result of human activity, and that it is vitally important that we address it now. Our outlook is simple: if we're wrong about climate change, then there may some economic repercussions ... but if deniers are wrong, we may be facing an extinction-level event in the next one or two hundred years.

That's a lot to wrap your head around, but we take the view that if there is even a small chance of all of humanity being wiped out then we have to take steps to mitigate that risk.

Voting Rights
A fairly common tactic in recent years has been for Republican state legislatures to institute more restrictive requirements to vote. These measures have been surgically targeted against minorities and the poor -- which, not coincidentally, are also fairly significant Democratic voter blocs. By using a combination of restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and outright misinformation, the GOP has managed to artificially suppress the vote against them and maintain majorities despite there being more registered Democrats than registered Republicans.

Liberals believe that voting is a sacred right enshrined in our Constitution and should be protected as such. We will hold up this right even when it works to the advantage of our opponents, simply because to do otherwise calls into question the integrity of our elections and the very foundations of our government.

This is not a complete list, by any stretch of the imagination; just a brief summary of some of the highlights. As I said, I more than welcome someone from the conservative side to lay out, in a similar fashion, the conservative viewpoint. I suspect there will be much more common ground than people might think.

I gotta lie down.

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1For the purposes of this article, I am going to try to ignore the blatant hypocrisy and "party before country" attitude of people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who have shown themselves to be shameless hacks of the lowest sort, and instead focus on the general tone of discourse these days.
2I am not going to leveling baseless accusations against trump, McConnell, Ryan, or any other conservative ... any accusations I make are going to be cited and sourced.
3Just in case anyone is not familiar with the term, "defensive medicine" refers to the practice of using excessive medical testing as a backstop against getting sued for malpractice, or as a preventative measure against having claims denied. For example, from my own experience, in 1988 I had to undergo emergency surgery to address a life-threatening blockage in my large intestine. During this process, however, the hospital also tested me for stomach cancer, intestinal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, drug use, alcohol abuse, heart disease, high cholesterol, traumatic injury ... the list goes on. Most of these tests were medically unnecessary, since it was fairly obvious what was happening (intense pain, high fever, elevated white counts, and a very clear X-ray showing the obstruction), but were performed so a) the insurance company wouldn't deny the claim based on the hospital not doing its "due diligence," and b) so there would be absolutely no room anywhere for any sort of malpractice claim.
4You may ask how stock buybacks work to enrich shareholders. I did. It works like this:

  1. Joe Executive is hired as a CEO, and receives 1 million shares of stock in the company as part of his compensation package.
  2. The company issues a stock buyback. This is a transaction in which they buy up large blocks of their own stock. This removes these shares of stock from the market, artificially inflating the price.
  3. Joe sells off his stock at the inflated price.
  4. The company releases the stock they just bought back into the market, artificially deflating the stock price.
  5. Joe buys back his stock at the deflated price.
  6. Repeat from step 2.

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