I recently received a broadcast email with the following cartoon:
The demagogues of the far right are now spreading disturbing messages. The American people are deadbeats that are living off the government. That those that are working are supporting those that are not working, and that somehow Obama is driving this country into ruin by installing socialism. Bachmannesque initiatives like getting rid of welfare, killing Obamacare (whatever that is), are being sold to us by the right-wing media in a steady stream to the point where we are starting to believe it. The constant drop hollows the stone.
This mind-numbing message, this constant insult on our intelligence and critical thought came to a stark contrast with the positive message of our current government for me last week, due to several coincidences.
First, I am currently reading the book The Price of Loyalty by Ron Suskind. It soberly chronicles the first two years of the Bush administration, seen mostly through the eyes of the Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill. It shows how vapid and superficial Bush was and how he blindly drove his narrow and vastly misguided agenda, motivated solely by political ambitions and executed by his handlers Rove, Hughes and Cheney, pushing the country into at least one illegitimate war and sowing the seeds for the economic disaster we are finding ourselves in now, and we are blaming Obama for. Reading The Price Of Loyalty has me question how our nation was able to elect such an inept administration and then reelect it, and how there can still be people who think that whole “lost decade” was a good thing. The Nails It cartoon comes from that direction.
Then, I was in Austin at a government conference. I was in the second row in a room of many hundreds of people who listened to a panel of high-level Obama administration officials who spoke on the various initiatives and programs they were working on. The officials were:
- Gary Glickman, Branch Chief, Partnership Branch, Office of Management and Budget
- George Sheldon, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration of Children and Families
- Jessica Shahin, Associate Administrator, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture
One of the overwhelming messages I came away with was how, in stark contrast to the Bush methods, the Obama team strives for openness, honesty, transparency and fairness it its dealing with regulations, people, money and economic realities.
I sat there and admired these people for their obvious dedication and character and I immediately trusted them. They are the people in charge of taking care of the weak and vulnerable in our society, or, in Bachmannesque, the deadbeats.
Would I trust my money, or the lives of my children, to Rove, Hughes and Cheney? Or to Glickman, Sheldon and Shahin?
Take a wild guess.
Now lets talk a bit about the deadbeats in our society, those that my “hard-earned tax dollars” support so they can sit at home and watch TV and have free healthcare. I admit, I am sure that there are many such people. I happen to work in an industry, and I have, for the last dozen years or so, contributed to reduce fraud, waste and error in the spending of welfare dollars, so I do understand the problem.
The right-wing would like to just stop spending for social programs. What they never point out is that the reality is that there are many people in any society that legitimately do need the help of others.
Some examples are:
- The Gulf War veteran that came back in 1993 when he had lost both legs. By 1998, military long behind him, services run out, depression rampant, alcoholism had taken over his life and he has lived on the streets of Los Angeles for the last dozen years. Did he create his dilemma? Is he a deadbeat?
- The 2-year-old child of a 16-year-old girl who is a prostitute who has been reported to child protective services several times due to physical abuse by various boyfriends of the mother and neglect by the mother. Is that child a deadbeat?
- The 86-year-old man who served in WW-II in the Pacific, then worked as an autoworker in Detroit, who has no children, whose wife died 12 years ago, and who is now suffering from Alzheimer’s, with no income but his social security, no advocates, and no health insurance.
- The 69-year-old couple from Houston whose son worked at Enron in 1999. He convinced them to move their entire nest-egg into Enron stock, which then evaporated in the collapse of Enron. They are left with nothing but social security and they lost their house in Houston.
There are millions of people like this in our society who depend on us for help. Most of them have served, their country, their employers, their families. Many of them have suffered terribly. Now our society has long forgotten. The first Gulf War was 20 years ago. An entire generation of kids has made it through highschool since then. To them it is ancient past. To me, it was yesterday.
Do I want to live in a society that does not value its weak, its discarded, its helpless, its young, its abused? I do not.
That’s why I don’t live in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Tijuana and many, many other places around the world. There are societies that allow elderly to die on the streets and then let them lay there with flies crawling over their eyeballs before they eventually get picked up by an untouchable with a wheelbarrow, not because they honor them, but because they are starting to stink.
A civilized society, one that can pay $1.41 million for a single cruise missile (one of more than a hundred we recently lobbed into Libya), one that can pay $339 million for ONE SINGLE F-22 FIGHTER PLANE, such a society simply must find a way to provide some minimal help for the very weak, the very helpless and the victims of our society, or else it is doomed.
Warren Buffet does not need our help. The veteran without legs does.
DECENCY. And this absolutely nails it.