Chipping at the edges
Since nothing is perfect or pure, it’s very easy to find something wrong with almost anything. This is a common political technique for attacking a policy without addressing its substance or intent. It is a distractive device regularly employed by conservatives interested only in protecting corporate interests by undermining government. Prime examples are the conservative press on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Vermont’s move to a government-sponsored single-payer health care system.
To denigrate these programs that partially or totally shift health care from the private for-profit sector to the not-for-profit public sector, we are bombarded with the programs’ "glitches" that are supposed to convince us of the programs’ overall unviability. "They’re ill-planned -- underfunded -- insufficiently researched -- technically flawed -- unproven -- inefficient -- coercive, etc."
In none of this cant is there any acknowledgment that the private medical industrial complex has utterly failed to provide adequate health care and coverage to tens of millions of people -- which is why the government, in fulfilling its mandate to protect the people, has had to step in. By chipping at the edges, one does not have to admit that insuring these hapless millions through government intervention is a commendable attempt, whatever the "problems," to eliminate a social atrocity that has proven otherwise insoluble.
Similarly, the right wing attacks government unemployment benefits: "We can’t afford them -- they encourage idleness -- there are plenty of jobs -- people are lazy, etc." Is there any recognition in this that near-record unemployment (25 percent in Spain!) and under-employment attest to the private sector’s inability to provide all of working society with jobs at a living wage -- again, forcing democratic government to intervene on the part of the people? The same can be said for the government food stamp program that feeds one in four children -- and is being ruthlessly slashed for the usually specious reasons that divert from acknowledging the causes of the need.
So it goes with all government social programs. All the "chipping at the edge" attacks on these programs divert attention from the fact that 70 percent of workers earn an average of only $8.77 an hour -- or that there has been virtually no increase in workers’ wages in 40 years, and that today’s minimum wage buys less than half of what it did in 1965. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the current U.S. poverty rate of 15 percent (46.5 million people) would leap to over 28 percent (close to 87 million people) without government aid. So much for society depending upon the private market system for its survival!
In public education, where the right wing is relentlessly stumping to privatize it for profit, we hear about unions protecting incompetent teachers, the preempting of our hallowed "freedom of choice," and inefficient government bureaucracy with its lack of accountability. These claims are cleverly designed to avoid the underlying realities that we have the advanced world’s largest underprivileged population that negatively impacts on education and fosters unique problems; that we are the only industrialized nation to fund public education through property taxes, which guarantees inequitable education; and that our teachers are among the advanced world’s most under paid and under trained. (See "Why Other Countries Teach Better," The New York Times, 12/18/13.)
Since there is no defensible way to undermine democratic government and its untold benefits to the people, to do so one must resort to the trickery, deceit, and obfuscation inherent in "chipping at the edges." If there’s anything wrong with government, it’s yours to fix. So don’t heed the edge chippers and irresponsibly dump it, since any alternative to democracy is, by definition, guaranteed to enslave you.
Andrew Torre is a resident of Landgrove.
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