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Archive for November, 2010

I took a challenge a couple of weeks ago to write about why I vote the way I do. I wrote On the Other Side of the Coin a couple of weeks ago to address my voting habits. It’s both a personal and emotional choice on how I cast my vote and I found that writing about it was difficult. But I did the best I could. My friend Becca from www.liveoutloudwithme.blogspot.com did the same in a post called The American Dream: On Voting Democrat.  What followed these posts was days of endless discussion and challenging each others’ thoughts. What it all comes down it is that it seems as though despite the fact that we vote along opposite party lines, we have some similarities – and often different routes of achieving essentially the same dream.

I learned a lot about one Liberal and the way she sees the world. Not all Liberals think alike, I realize but I did gain some understanding of Liberal ways of thinking.

First, unlike my previous notion, Liberals are not interested in blindly giving control to the government. They are ok with more government control than I am but realize more than I understood that giving control to the government means losing some freedoms. It’s just that they are okay with that to some extent in order to benefit the greater good. (I’d rather have my freedoms and decide how to help others).

Liberals believe that true equality can only be reached when welfare programs are run by the federal government. Liberals are okay with even poorly run government programs if they promise to help people. Where I think the government should back off, Becca expressed that poorly run government programs may be better than no program at all. Liberals worry that privately-run assistance programs could lead to racism or other prejudices if the laws governing their use are not uniform. Liberals want social programs to be uniform and so they tend to favor federal government programs with set rules, but are okay with these programs being run at a state or local level. To Becca this ensures more equal access to assistance but gives the overall program some flexibility and local flavor. Becca also pointed out her fear that communities that have less to start with would be hurting for money to help those in need. (I believe that poorly-run government programs are traps for poverty; that raising minimum wage would only raise the cost of living and the cost of employing others. I don’t believe that private-run programs would be racist, but if there was a racist, privately-run organization, you could shop around on the free market for another foundation to help you. And that affluent localities could do a lot to help those in neighboring communities where needs are greater and money is tighter.)

Both of us expressed dissatisfaction with wasteful spending and non-working lazy people (people who could work, but don’t), which is an ideal that I didn’t know Liberals ascribed to. It always seemed to me that poorly run federal programs were breeders for wasteful spending and if Liberals wanted government programs, they must be okay with wasteful spending. I also think that the beaurocratic, poorly-run government programs that we have not only allow but trap people into a cycle of government assistance.  I think Becca agreed with reforming these systems to help people move out of this cycle of dependence, but we didn’t get into a true discussion of how. Along the same lines we also both agree that the federal spending deficit is out of control and is embarrassing to our country.

Becca’s questioning of my position helped me to learn a little bit about myself, too. In fact, I had to dig deep, talk, discuss, ponder, think and ask questions in order to come up with what exactly my ideal would be. When we got to that frank discussion, I began to realize that we do, in fact, want many similar things. For instance, Becca mentioned that she didn’t want the government-run programs to be in place to help her, per se, because she has been able to build a life for herself and isn’t in need of that help, but that she wants those safety nets there to help others. This is much the way that I feel about assistance in general. My family doesn’t need it right now, but that doesn’t mean there are people out there who don’t.

All in all, I really enjoyed participating in this online discussion of ideals and values. I still disagree with Becca’s line of thinking, but I no longer have the how-can-she-think-that-will-work kind of attitude, knowing more about where Becca and other Liberals are coming from. One myth that was completely busted by this discussion is my myth that saying you’re a Democrat makes you all nicey-nice and willing to help others, while saying you’re a Republican makes you cold, selfish and mean… which sounds odd since I consider myself conservative. But, when I set out to defend why I consider myself conservative, I found language that helps me explain my position better. I now believe that Republicans and Democrats have different ideal paths to reaching a similar goal; and that is to live the American dream.

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I am writing this post to answer a question: why do I vote Republican? The answer is pretty simple. I identify myself with the Libertarian party, but it is not big enough to win elections so I vote Republican so that the Liberals don’t win.

 I looked up the definition of Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, and Statist for the purpose of this post. A Liberal believes in personal freedom and governmental control over the economy as well as welfare for those who cannot care for themselves. Conservatives believe in economic freedom and control over personal decisions that they believe can’t be made morally by the masses (e.g. Gay marriage or abortion). Statists believe in government control of both the economy and personal/social decisions. Libertarians believe in little government control of the economy or personal/social issues.

So, I’m not an Anarchist. I wouldn’t go that far. I believe that government is necessary and has it’s place. But I don’t believe that the government should own businesses. I believe in the free market. I am not very smart about economics, but free market makes sense to me. In fact if I were president (ha ha), in order to work through this recession, I would have said, “No one pays income tax in 2009.” What better way to stimulate the economy than to put money directly in the hands of the people that spend it?

 But, I digress. There have been a few things in my life that have shaped my opinions. One was learning about cradle-to-grave systems. A cradle-to-grave system, or welfare state, is defined by Wikipedia as “a concept of government where the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization.” I must admit that that sounded pretty cool to me at first, until I realized that nothing is really free and in order to have a system like that, people have to be willing to give a large portion of their paycheck over to the government. I wasn’t sure that I was willing to do that! A second shaping experience was actually watching a large part in of my paycheck disappear when I was living in Canada. I didn’t like the way a socialist system operated where working people took care of those who chose not to work. The third was taking the World’s Smallest Political Quiz a few years ago when I first learned the word “Libertarian.” I remember panicking and looking up what that meant, hoping that my ideologies didn’t line me up with some crack-pot political agenda.  But, the more I read, the more it made sense.

 All the while I watched my parents, doing their jobs to care for our family. My dad was working long hours, weekends, holidays, and investing money for his own retirement and our college tuition. Teaching us to save our money.  And my mom raising us and maintaining the household, volunteering, reaching out to neighbors and friends in need. In every community we lived in, my dad befriended interesting characters who had difficulties in life. He gave freely of his time, money and friendship to these individuals, setting up opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. That’s where I believe “charity” should come from – from neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends, working together.

 I’m well aware that that is not enough. I think there is a need for government assistance to those who need it. I have, in fact, taken advantage of qualifying for state healthcare in the past, but there is a difference between “need” and “entitlement” and the way our system works is driven by entitlement. When applied for state healthcare, I was told that I qualified for other programs, such as food stamps. I didn’t need that but I was convinced to take it by the county worker, whether I needed it or not. I asked what happened if I signed up but never used the vouchers – I was told they work like checks so no money would be charged to the state if I didn’t use them. So I didn’t use them, but I was “entitled” to use them. That makes me upset! There is a huge difference between need and entitlement. Government programs get too big and are run poorly. In Illinois a few years ago, not enough people were signing up for state aid, so they stated offering $50 gas vouchers to convince people to sign up! That’s nuts! We should limit the government assistance to “need.” And part of government assistance programs should include how to get off of government assistance. For instance, if someone is on unemployment because they lost their job that paid $15/hr, they are now making roughly $9/hr on unemployment. If there is a job opening at the gas station making $7/hr, why would someone take that job when they can make more money staying at home? What if we supplemented their income for a while while they continued to work and look for a new job? To me, it would be depressing to sit home, worrying about getting a job. Maybe while you’re working at the gas station, you get promoted to a supervisor and find that you really like working there because the hours are flexible and the job changes from day to day. And, you get a raise and end up making $10/hr. That saves the government money, decreases the unemployment rate, and gets people out and working.

 I am also a Pro-Life Catholic. I believe that any abortion is wrong. BUT  – I am also not sure that the government should make that choice for everyone just because that is what I believe. I don’t vote based on the abortion platform alone, because the government has a much bigger job to do than that! At the same time, I don’t think any government money should be used for abortions. And I pray a lot for the unborn and their parents, that they are guided to choose life.

 I am also an environmentalist, but I believe that the government has limited responsibility in caring for the environment. I think that’s our job. I’m okay with some government regulations on big businesses to help decrease pollution, but the free market can take care of some of that, too. Take a look at what Pepsi is doing to create greener manufacturing – this is without the government requiring such regulations. Hopefully other big companies, like Coke will follow suit. I know that big business sometimes seems like the enemy, but if they are anything like me, they will come to doing the right thing a lot easier without someone telling them what to do. And likely be more creative, too! You would never hear an advertisement that bragged about a company following government restrictions. That is nothing to brag about, but if they make their own decisions to do what is right for the earth, that gives them bragging rights. And let’s face it, bragging to increase sales is what it’s all about for companies offering a good or service!

Illegal immigrants. I’ll admit I don’t know all of the intricacies of illegal immigration, or legal immigration in the US, but I don’t think we should have illegal immigrants living and working here, collecting benefits, etc without paying taxes. I was a legal immigrant in Canada, which I understand was a different situation than escaping a developing nation. I’m not against people immigrating to the US at all, but I am against illegal immigrants taking without contributing.

Speaking of taxes, I also think we need a major overhaul there. Let’s drop income tax altogether and adopt a Fair Tax that taxes people on purchases. Then, if illegal immigrants want to live and work here, they will be paying taxes every time they buy something. Then people are rewarded for working more. The more you work, the more money you make. You aren’t punished for taking on an extra job by moving up a tax bracket and ending up right back where you were even though you worked two jobs.

I also think states should have a decent amount of sovereignty. Federal laws should be limited to those that protect us from coercion and violence and protect our personal freedoms. States can be more specific.

 And there are the little things: too many laws – I hate the seatbelt law. I have always worn mine, but how does not wearing a seatbelt affect anyone but me? There should not be laws that protect me from me. Balitmore is trying to outlaw the use of transfats in restaurant cooking. I agree transfats are unhealthy, but, really, can’t I make that choice myself? I do agree with child safety seat laws – kids shouldn’t be punished because their parents are dumb. Drunk driving laws are good, seatbelt laws are dumb. Laws that protect children = good, laws that protect people from their own stupidity = unnecessary use of time and money by our legislators and law enforcement.

This didn’t end up an eloquent, sweeping speech on my heart of hearts desire for the world, but it is the honest truth about my thoughts.  Of the two major political parties, my thoughts line up most closely with the Republican party most of the time.

For the other side of the coin, please visit my friend Becca’s blog at www.liveoutloudwithme.blogspot.com. She’ll be posting today about why she votes for the Democratic party. Enjoy!

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