What is fair? As in what is a fair amount of taxes for an individual to pay to local, state and federal governments? I recently read that about 45 percent of American households pay no federal taxes. At all.
This seems inexplicable to me. Do you not travel on federal highways? Do you not enjoy the protection of America's armed forces? Have you not been in a national park or forest? So, why would you not contribute "something" to the national pot? Because, the argument goes, I/you don't make enough to kick-in any amount.
I am occasionally asked, "Jepson, are you a liberal?" And, I unabashedly answer, "Yes."
I come to my "liberal" position from one essential perspective. But before I explain why I am a liberal, I must confess that I am a liberal, not from the heart but from the brain.
I am fundamentally (to use labels) an independent, mind-your-own-business, leave-me-alone, I'll take care of my own business anarchist, thank you very much. I do not want anyone, anytime in my face even remotely telling me what to do, when or how. My favorite quote is "The cowards never started and the weak died along the way." I will choose exactly whom I will help if I deem them worthy. My heart does not break for those who have made poor choices. Live the consequences of your decisions. And, by gawd, leave me alone to live mine.
I don't like whiners, hangers-on, sycophants, suck-ups or deadbeats. Or bootlicking, whimpering simpletons. I am singularly unimpressed with those who have inherited wealth (although I support generational transfers) and who have ended up dissipated and desiccated with/by their lame, conservative thinking. Little is more laughable than listening to an overstuffed turd blossom whose wealth was acquired through granddaddy's initiative, yet who talks as if he has some keen insight into how to live. Puh-leaseeee.
I don't have a soft spot for humanity cuz we're so cute and cuddly. I don't get dewy-eyed over the aborted unborn. I'd rather invest in art museums than homeless shelters. Guns don't bother me and if some duffus of a gunowner's child blows his foot off because daddy left a loaded pistol in his nightstand, well, unfortunate and as tragic as that is, perhaps it's Darwinism working on that particular genetic line.
Capital punishment is OK by me. (Except for the unresolvable problem of executing the innocent.) Some crimes against humanity are so egregious as to warrant expulsion from the tribe. Pedophiles, rapists, "some" murderers, "some" swindlers (Think Bernie Madoff), war criminals — all just might warrant execution. Are we short people in the ol' rowboat of humanity such that all men are needed at the oars? I don't think so. Well then, as the Red Queen so succinctly uttered, "Off with their heads!" And why not? It is not as if they have endeared themselves to the tribe through exemplar service to mankind.
Oh, and don't get me started on the shiftless, lazy hangers-on of society. Whose only effort some days is tearing open a government support check. Who, worse, breed and breed and breed and have child after child after child they cannot afford and expect "us" to support. I, personally, do not want to support another man's child. I simply do not. You have babies; you take care of them. You house, feed, insure and educate your children. And, I'll do the same for my kin, thank you very much. That is what responsible adults do.
You know what though? A lot of what I wrote above was much more appropriate for an 1840 America than a 2010 America.
While I am an anarchist at heart, I am a liberal through reflection. What else can an intelligent person be?
America is well on its way to 400 million people. If we lived in the best of all possible worlds (read Votaire's "Candide"), all adults would be thoughtful and responsible. All children would be planned and properly cared for with "Lake Wobegon" abilities. There would be no crime, and if there were, there would be no extenuating or mitigating factors. There would be no shades of gray, no ambiguity, doubt or uncertainty as to the right and wrong ways to live or how to conduct one's self. Businesses and corporations would be honorable. They would play by the rules and would be as interested in the "morality" of what they do as they are in making profits. Humans wouldn't be killing (consuming) the very planet they call home. Governments would be stellar reflections of an honorable, generous populace. Graft, corruption, avarice and murderous thuggery wouldn't be in our vocabulary. Wouldn't be in our bloodstream, our DNA, wouldn't be what we are. Alas. Sigh.
If America is at 325 million today and 10 percent of the population is incapable of sustaining itself, what do we do with such folk? That's 30 million plus people. If corporations, left to their own devices, would not unconscionably rape and pillage the environment for profits, well, that really isn't the case, is it? If our financial institutions and banking industry were conscientious corporate citizens that placed profits and community service as equal objectives, well, again, that isn't the case either. If only responsible adults had children, I wouldn't have to be concerned with their children's welfare. But that isn't America's reality either, is it? Children do not ask to be born to bums, drug addicts, whores or reprobates.
Let alone the nation's wretched stain of slavery and racism.
I, once upon a time, worked for an organization that provided funding for legal services for poor Americans — folks so impoverished and destitute that their children sometimes had teeth literally growing into their cheeks. They would be forced to seek legal assistance (a lawyer) to force the Social Security Administration to pay for their child's dental care. This, after months of pain for the child. Americans detest the poor and they dislike nothing more than a poor person with a lawyer. But so what? That child needed help and our government, that's us, was too indifferent, too bureaucratic to care.
But what kind of people are we who mouth the simplicities I stated earlier? Goofs, that's who. It's one thing to spout, as did I, the platitudes of "rugged individualism," to even attempt to live such a life, oh, say, back when the pre-industrial North American continent was virtually empty, when the weak did, simply, die along the way. But that ain't America today and hasn't been for well over 100 years.
We live in a complex and complicated world where life relentlessly dishes up victims (humans in great need) like so much cannon fodder. They are real, suffering people with real problems that only through our collective action (that's government) can we, with any hope, begin to address.
I embrace liberalism because historically as America has grown, all the problems associated with being an urbanized, industrialized nation have grown, too. And liberalism is and has been the only legitimate attempt at addressing and rectifying those problems inherent in our system. Liberalism is imperfect to be sure, but nonetheless necessary.
The unsophisticated, somewhat juvenile Tea Party rhetoric I feel emotionally (of my don't tread on me individualism, etc.) isn't what is required to solve America's problems. Simplistic, chest-beating rhetoric espousing conservative values won't house the poor, clean the environment or protect the nation (us) from rapacious business practices.
But I still would like every American to, at least, put a little in the kitty, other than just their hand taking something out.