- Politics and Social Issues
What Conservatives Don't Understand About Liberals
Conservatives Just Don't Understand
Women and men often seem to talk past each other, neither really understanding the other. In politics, it's the same. Conservatives really don't understand how liberals think.
That liberals don't understand conservatives is clear from the things they say and write about them. You get the impression, reading one side or the other, that they have never actually met and conversed with anyone whose opinion differs from their own.
Here are three questions that I, as a conservative, would like answered by honest, thoughtful liberals.
How Much Money Is Enough?
One: How much money is 'enough' for the government to spend?
In every election cycle we hear endlessly, from both right and left, how the right wants to cut this and cut that, reduce spending on all of the vital social programs that support our families, while the left wants increases.
Let's leave aside the cold fact that the right in America has hardly ever actually cut any government program or spending, and usually has added more. (Thanks a bunch, Dubya.) What I'm asking about isn't really the facts of the matter, but the thinking involved.
If what we spent last year wasn't enough, and what we are spending now isn't enough, how much is enough, for liberals? What would satisfy you and make you say, "We are doing everything we can."
This graph shows that in the US, governments at all levels are currently spending roughly 45% of all the money in the United States. You can argue the exact numbers, some people say it's something less than this, and other people counting differently claim it's higher. I'm not concerned about the absolute numbers here, but I really want an honest answer. Can someone please tell me how much is enough?
Is it reasonable that the government directly control 50% of the economy? 75%? 95%? I am not asking for an exact answer, just a round number, an idea of what your goal is. Please. Tell us conservatives what your reasonable limit is. You can't always just cry "More! More!" It makes you sound like a six-year-old.
Since I know there is at least as much brain-power on the left as on the right, that can't be what you are really saying. But we conservatives hear it and that sure is what it sounds like. I think like a conservative, and just can't understand what you are saying. Help me.
What Are The Limits To Power?
Two: What are the reasonable limits on government power?
To give one current contention, the left wants to control how we buy health care. Whether it ends up being Obama-care or some other plan, the left is sure that this is something best left to Washington. So, our health care costs are essentially nationalized, one way or another. I pay when you get sick and you pay when I get sick. Fine, sounds nice.
But the fact is, about half the people in the US think this idea stinks. So they will all have to be bullied and coerced into going along. Is that Okay with you liberals? What about the consequences for a democratic system, if a temporary majority can force, if not a majority, at least a strong minority, into a program they despise? Does this worry you, at all?
(Yes, I am perfectly aware that this argument cuts both ways, left and right. I am asking specific questions of liberals. If you have a similar list of questions for conservatives, write that article yourself. Please don't hijack this one.)
In addition, if health care is nationalized, then unhealthy behaviors will have to be limited somehow. Currently this is done by insurance companies, which raise rates on people who smoke, for example. I am assuming that a national health care system would account for smokers somehow. But how?
Do we want strangers from the government looking into our lives, sniffing out our bad habits? What about people who have 'alternative lifestyles', such as Christian Scientists, the Amish, or Gays?
As one example, it is an unfortunate fact that gay men with active homosexual lifestyles tend to spend a lot of time sick, with all kinds of diseases more common in active gays than in the general population.
(There is quite a vitriolic argument about just how strong this effect is. Please bear with me, I am using this as an example, not starting an argument on homosexuality. Check out the links; they are not to wacko right-wing websites.)
Just like smokers, but a lot worse. Smokers at least pay high taxes for their habit, offsetting some of the costs. There is no tax on gay men that I am aware of. Should the health care costs of that behavior be socialized?
Do liberals think the government should discourage smoking but ignore behaviors that have even worse outcomes? How about high-risk activities, like rock climbing or biking? Or should the government ignore smoking, and all other unhealthy behaviors?
Are there any rules that we conservatives can use to help us understand which unhealthy behaviors are sacrosanct, and which ones are to be punished by the government?
Just what does the government have to power to compel us to do, for our own good? What is the outside boundary? Liberals, as far as I can tell, think the government can be trusted not to abuse this power. We conservatives are not so convinced of that.
Why Do Blue States Pay Red States?
Question Three: Why is it wrong for Blue States to pay more in taxes and for Red States to benefit more from federal spending?
I have read a lot of complaining about this through the last couple of election cycles, but I confess I can't understand why this is a problem for liberals. Here is where I, a conservative, can not fathom the liberal thought process. I confess to a failure of imagination and empathy.
Most of the higher tax-paying states are very blue, like Illinois and New York. Here is a good article from Mother Jones, staking out the liberal complaint.
The comments that follow the article make particularly good reading. Those liberal people are pissed off! But, and here I get back to my question, why is this a bad thing from a liberal point of view ?
I thought (trying to think as a liberal) that the rich were supposed to support the poor. Am I wrong?
Rich states pay higher taxes. The big corporations based in rich states pay high taxes, and so do the middle and upper classes. Some of this money is sent to better the lives of people living in poorer states. Just to make it clear, states where there are fewer rich people, and more poor people. Like Louisiana and Mississippi.
I thought this was what liberalism was all about! Leveling society a bit, taking a bit that the rich don't really need and giving it to those who do. Helping the down-and-out. Here I will make a guess. Correct me if I am wrong, but is the problem that conservatives just don't act grateful? That we ask you to stop being so generous? That we try to elect politicians whom we hope will vote to end these gifts?
Many of us are happy enough to take the loot, since you are kind enough to offer it. But with the strings that come attached, it isn't turning out to be such a good bargain. So, we'd like you to stop, please.
And after all, it would be very easy for the blue states to end these subsidies that liberals seem so vehemently angry about. All you liberals have to do is elect to national office only politicians who promise to stop the payments.
Then, that money will stay in your nice, blue states. Where it can be spent in-state by local, blue politicians, any way you (they) please. Everyone is happy, right? The red states are happy because they got what they asked for, and the blue states are happy because they can spend that money on social programs for people who really want them, inside blue states.
Are you angry because we don't want your money? Seriously, I don't get it.
If you are a liberal living in a blood-red state, then I can understand your frustration. You can't get local politics to match your values. But why are liberals who already live in blue states so mad? Barack Obama sounds honestly and convincingly angry when he talks about Republicans sabotaging his goals.
But he is from Illinois, a reliably blue state, with lots of social programs. He was born in Hawaii (and let's not get into that stupid conversation!), another very blue state. Rather than fighting us conservatives, why doesn't he cooperate with us, so Illinois and Hawaii get to keep more of their money at home, where it is safely in the hands of liberal local governments?
Can't We All Just Get Along? Someone Might Lose An Eye, If We Keep Poking At Each Other
Okay, so I got kind of sarcastic there for a while at the end. But my questions are real. I really do want to know what liberals think. Honest, intelligent liberals. Real, honest-to-God liberals. The guys and gals who really do want our government and society to be better than they are today.
We are tearing into each other like wild animals, and it's only going to get worse as the big election approaches.