Crisis Management By Ideology

Crisis Management By Ideology

The Dems want to bail out citizens who can’t work during this pandemic because their employers have had to close down. They can’t pay mortgages or rent, utilities, college loans, buy groceries and medicines. The way things are set up, if you can’t pay you can’t stay, and you end up in bankruptcy. Small businesses face the same problems on a slightly larger scale and if they can’t reopen then the downstream repercussions will be dire. We are a consumer economy. If no one consumes the economy dies.

Dems say start at the bottom and take care of everyone and maybe not worry so much about the people at the top who have been bailed out and had tax cuts and have banked some really enormous profits. (Except they didn’t bank their profits, what they did was stock buy backs – and now they want more bail-out money.) Dems say rescue everyone, even those who are the poorest people – no means testing. Just flood the bottom with money, both citizens and small business, because money may not trickle down, but a depressed economy can definitely rise from the bottom up.

Yes there are progressive Dems. We’re in the middle of an election. Republicans do not have a progressive bone in their bodies, even dispossessed Republicans who currently have no party. Giving people money means that a Democratic ideology gets a positive vote in Congress. And that goes against everything Republicans believe. They have almost achieved their small government goals. They were ready to cut the safety net the way a winning basketball team gets to cut down the net from the backboard. They have insisted that the coronavirus should be managed in the states, by the states and for the states. They are already having to back off on this policy because the needs are too great for the states to handle without federal help. And now they want Republicans to give away money to hoi polloi which, to them, is like throwing it into a waste basket. They just cannot understand that supporting the economy from the bottom up could help give it a jump start when we are done with social distancing.

There is little taste for rescuing rich folks once again. They have not exactly showered their good fortunes down on the rest of us and if there was a trickle it was so tiny as to be untraceable. The Republicans also want carte blanche over who they will rescue. They want the Treasury Department to be able to disperse the funds as they wish. This is something the Dems can’t swallow having already watched companies spend their windfalls on buying back their own stock and lavishing the dividends of their good fortune on stockholders rather than workers. They were able to ramp up production and hire back workers but this is not actually trickle down as salaries rose very little, although it certainly benefited all of us as good economies always do.

It comes down to the “spendthrift” habits of the Democrats who think a good economy must take care of everyone, not just CEO’s, those progressive socialists as the Republicans like to label them. If Democrats are such spendthrifts then why does the deficit go down when Democrats are in charge? Check it out. Historically that has been true.

Republicans feel that those on the bottom need to struggle more, that this will inspire them to rise, although it is easy to see that this policy is far more likely to cause despair and depression. Republicans have been implementing their ideology of small government, give power back to the states, but some states are so poor that we will have to rescue them from the novel coronavirus or we will all drown in grief. How is Republican small government working? It ended that Pandemic Program (that got folded into another program) and could not function at all when most needed. The Republican ideology is what we are experiencing right now and it is failing miserably. Yet Republicans refuse to pass a stimulus that addresses the needs of both the top and the bottom because it is against their deeply flawed ideology.

But the face of this pandemic, the people who own it on TV every day, are the Republicans. If Republican Senators do to American once again what you are planning to do, insist on only helping those who are wealthy I swear you will lose the 2020 election so badly that your party may not recover for decades. Most Americans know nothing about ideology and they will not care if your stimulus does not stand up to your conservative purity tests. If it works you will be heroes. As a Democrat, if it wouldn’t have such dire consequences for America, I would be happy to watch Republicans go down in flames. But as a human being I have to argue for what is right, which is neither progressive nor conservative, but somewhere in the middle. We so need to see the back of Mitch McConnell.

The president also has an ideology. It is money. It is the economy. It is the stock market. The president thinks that in 15 days America will be restored to normality, I guess by royal decree. Fate does seem to favor Trump and perhaps, once again, the universe will comply with his edicts. I would love this to be over in fifteen days. The only thing I would hate about it is that our resident egomaniac would claim it a personal victory. And he would get his heart’s desire (why is it his heart’s desire) to be reelected in 2020. To try to unravel a pandemic in the midst of an election in a divided America puts us all at risk because those who are supposed to represent us have their intellect clouded by their ideology, which prevents rational, reasoned, targeted action, and literally kills Americans and possibly the American economy.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – The Hill

Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and Poverty

This week Paul Ryan trotted out his new, old ideas about what to
do about poverty in America. If you want details you can listen to any long
cycle news channel, but just be sure that you don’t just listen to Fox News.
Get more balanced coverage by also listening to either CNN or MSNBC. I’m just going
to discuss the pros and cons as I see them, so perhaps I can provide another
voice to help you form an opinion about his plan.
Paul Ryan did speak with actual poor people (economically
Paul Ryan did visit actual poor neighborhoods.
He did describe his plan for “lifting” people out of poverty in
much greater detail than ever before.
Mr. Ryan has not backed off one bit from his belief that helping
the unfortunate dooms them to a state of perpetual poverty by making them feel “entitled”.
He still believes that state block grants work, although there
is lots of proof that they don’t. Handing 50 disparate states a large chunk of
taxpayers’ cash begins well and ends with those dollars being diverted to “more
deserving” or “more pressing” state programs.
Paul Ryan designs a support system of counselors and of
benchmarks to be met as people (Americans) move through the process. Rewards
and punishments are built in for people who meet or do not meet their
benchmarks. This sounds like a neat and tidy system but this is a complicated
construct that relies on hiring well-trained and effective counselors. It is
unlikely, based on prior experience with such programs, that all counselors
will be equally competent in every case. It is also unlikely that small towns,
villages, and rural areas will be able to offer the same quality and extent of services
as larger urban areas, which means that equal opportunities cannot be
Ryan’s ideas show more specific recommendations than previously
but they do not postulate a system that has ever actually been shown to work.
I do not necessarily have a problem with benchmarks and
counseling or with accountability. However, I have no faith whatsoever in block
grants to the states.
I do not see any contingency plans to help those who are unable
to succeed in this system. It is not exactly “throw them in the deep end and
see if they can swim”; it is more like “give them lessons with water wings on,
take the water wings off and throw them in the deep end where they will either
swim or drown”. His structures still require a safety net.
I don’t like the idea of treating people like experimental
animals forced into a praise/blame framework with their family’s sustenance or
lack thereof on the line when the fault for failure could just as easily lie
with the program as with those the program is supposed to be assisting.
We have never been able to adopt a program that relies solely on
encouragement and positive reinforcement, with plenty of options for personal
development; options that work. Conservatives and people who begrudge the use
of tax monies paid by people-who-have for people-who-don’t-have, always insist
that shaming be part of any social welfare system. Surely by now we must have
determined that shaming doesn’t work to stimulate anything but resentment and
stubborn refusal to “cooperate”.
I believe that the cons to the Paul Ryan plan far outweigh the
pros but he does deserve some praise for digging deeper, even if he did his
research with his end conclusions already in place. According to the scientific
method, if you already have settled on unshakable assumptions it will be
impossible to conduct a truly objective study. Of course we also know how
Conservatives feel about science.
I believe that Paul Ryan is unable to be objective about
solutions that will work for the least fortunate Americans and that he needs to
turn these budget proposals over to someone who is not starting from Ayn Rand
(whose ideas are still forming the base of his construct). He is biased and
therefore not the person we should look to for restructuring our social safety
net and helping Americans rise from poverty.
By Nancy Brisson

We Don’t Do Human Experiments (Unless They are Secret)

Republicans say that they believe that the minimal
“props” we have put in place to allow the poorest Americans to survive without
scavenging or begging or living in filth and disease are enough for some
Americans. They believe that there are Americans who find life at the edge of
hunger, disease, and anxiety so palatable that they become “takers” and that
these Americans are opposed to working and these deadbeats feel that if the
government will kick in with funds then they can adjust their lifestyle, I guess,
to fit the standard of living that is offered. These Americans in the
Republican story do not dream of better lives, or perhaps they do have dreams
but they just cannot be bothered to put out the energy it would take to get
that “better” life, so they just rest in the stingy arms of the government and
hope they win the lottery.
I doubt that many poor people in America actually
live out this scenario which Republicans and Talk Radio have cooked up and fed
to many other Americans. I am guessing that poor people dream too, especially
if they have children. And I am guessing that these same people, however poor,
go out each day and try to “bring home the bacon”, except their efforts are not
earning them bacon; what they bring home is more like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
and Vienna Sausages (or hot dogs).
Republicans suggest that we remove all the “props”
and let people sink or swim as they may. They suggest that the very safety net
that those in poverty know is beneath them, breaking their fall, is responsible
for keeping people down. That public assistance is a poison pill because people
have grown used to being paid to do nothing and have no incentive to strive for
anything better.
There is no science to back this up; as far as I
know not a shred of science. I repeat no scientific evidence exists for this
theory. So these ideas represent a hypothesis that could have a “yes” or “no”
answer. Republicans want to set up a giant social experiment. Let’s cut off
government funds to the poor and watch what happens! We don’t do these kinds of
experiments with human subjects (well not right out in public sight anyway).
The very idea of trying such an extreme experiment is inhumane in the extreme.
Apparently Americans have become merely subjects to these elites. We are the
masses, proliferating like rats, dining on their leftovers. This ability to
coldly see some of us as an experimental group shows the huge divide between
the wealthy and the poor. But these particular wealthy people are supposed to
be looking out for all Americans because they were elected to do that. We
should not be perceived as subjects in this strange social test case; we are
citizens, voters, constituents.
There are, as I have pointed out in previous
articles about this matter, centuries full of societies without safety nets to
mine for data about what life was like in those societies for people at all
economic levels. The evidence may not be quite as statistical as we would like;
some of the data may be anecdotal, but it is still compelling.
Perhaps it is the message that accompanies our safety
net programs; that message that makes recipients feel like less than everyone
else, like failures, like moochers, and like potential cheaters. Faced with
these negative messages every day perhaps it is difficult to hold on to the
confidence necessary to convince someone that you would make a great employee.
Perhaps after all that character bashing that is doled out with what has been
called “the dole” you are convinced that you would not make a great employee or even have much value as a human being.
Perhaps the failure to lift the poor with our programs is because of the
judgmental attitudes we pass out with the onerous process and the checks
grudgingly given.
When I heard this nonsensical Republican theory to
cut the safety net touted five years ago, I never would have believed we would
still be considering going down this road all these years later or that we would already have started on that path and I am
ashamed that we would consider trying such a cruel social experiment in
I say we need to go the opposite way. Give the help
without the onus being attached to it. Design better programs for educating and
training poorer Americans, programs that offer positive feedback and practical
help, and keep redesigning these programs until we find the ones that work.
Let’s stop worrying about being “ripped off” and worry a bit more about
building people’s spirits until they believe they have value and can succeed.
Then we won’t need a safety net.

This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson