The interview question put to the Republican congressman by the New York Times Deborah Solomon was what he thought of Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign. The Republican's reply said much, much more about where he and his GOP colleagues are coming from than anything he could possibly have intended. His reply: "I eat organic."
Talk about crass! With millions and millions and millions of Americans out of work, trying to get by however they can, and losing more and more ground every day in the process; with many more millions facing the loss of that tinsel-weak thread of social support -- the state-issued, bi-monthly unemployment checks from states on the rim of the precipice, looking at the terrible pit below -- facing cut-off . . . You ever priced "organic"?
Talk about out of touch with average Americans! The CPAC conference wrapped up on Sunday, February 21. And while not every conservative leader made a showing, consider for a moment who did, and who the leaders are. Glenn Beck gave a rousing talk, focused on cutting government spending. (It re-aired on C-SPAN, and yes, I forced myself to watch it, primarily to get my juices into overdrive.) Others of the ilk, besides Ryan, a fully-fledged card carrier, include Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the now omnipresent Sarah Palin; each and all ever on the prowl for opportunities to extol what they contend are the superior virtues of conservative fiscal policies. And each and all are the alpha-icons atop the apex of American financial success -- or, more accurately -- excess.
What about the 50-plus million, or one in six Americans with no health coverage, and the 45,000 who perish each year as a direct consequence? And what about the millions more who each year are added to that tragic population segment because of jobs lost, or whose employers can no longer afford the soaring health insurance rates? Or those who supposedly have insurance, but whose coverage is rendered meaningless when the insurance company tells the doctors and the hospitals it won't pay for the expensive care the doctors and hospitals recommend?"
The reply to those life-and-death scenarios is that it's not in the federal government's panoply of constitutionally mandated job-descriptions to either provide such care, or to see that such care is somehow made available. (Why do I feel some disconnect between that argument and the convenient dismissing of the $255,000 federal farm subsidy checks that Minnesota's arch-conservative Republican US Representative Michelle Bachmann has always been happy to deposit?)
I'm reminded however, that conservative values are not absolutely synonymous with so-called "Christian values." "Conservative" and "Christian" are -- as they have been construed and advertised by the throngs espousing the supposition -- adjectives that go together. While not a believer in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, I truly believe in the progressive social messages preached by the fellow. Whether it's the Parable of the Good Samaritan or in the "least of these thy brethren" talk in Matthew 25, I can't discern in them the same sort of "leave 'em by the wayside to die" notions that conservative fiscal policies equate to.
That's health care. There are other spending categories that reap conservative's ire.
Before heading into that storm, let's agree to one fact of life: What each of us enjoys and are victims of are overwhelmingly attributable to either fortunate or unfortunate circumstances we really had little to nothing to do with. Good luck. Bad luck. As the old saw goes, "if you want to make God laugh, make a plan."
You pleasure in good health? Ever hear of anyone who, from a healthy lifestyle, did everything right, yet was nonetheless felled? Why them and not you? Luck; good luck for you, bad luck for them. You worked diligently and hard for a prospering company, and rose through the ranks, while someone else, in some other company, worked just as diligently and hard, but saw their position out-sourced, or the company trimmed back or went completely out of business. Why them and not you? Why their company, and not yours? Luck; bad luck for them, good luck for you. Two lessons: Bad luck can befall any of us, so don't be smug.
Prior to embarking upon GOP conservatism's other targets, it's essential we dispense with two basic accounting terms, terms that conservatives are either ignorant of or that they disingenuously skip right over: "expenses" and "costs." They are not the same. Nor are they even remotely synonymous, though they are frequently, erroneously, used interchangeably.
Expensing accounts for cash outlays that cover normal annual operations such as wages and salaries, rent, utilities, etc. Costing covers investment items spread over years, a portion of which are dealt with on every year's books; buildings and equipment, for example. The key word here is "investment," or that which is secured -- most frequently via borrowing by both private and government entities -- in the expectation of benefits that will over time exceed the purchase prices and loan costs.
As with nearly all social programs, unemployment compensation is another target conservatives take aim at.
Unemployed individuals fall into distinct subsets of "the unemployed" such as youths trying to enter the workforce for the first time, mature adults making the same effort; for example, women whose labors previously were confined primarily to the home. Another subset includes all who had been employed, but for a variety of reasons are not now. The first two subsets are serious, critical in too many cases. However, I want to remark on the latter subset, those who had been employed but no longer are.