A few notes on the Republican perspective

The local Republican web site has an article up this week with their take on the differences between how each of the major parties approaches the (ostensibly) mutually agreed objectives of “happy lives free of stress and having the unfortunate cared for.”

As examples of how to realize “happiness in personal wealth and healthy communities including care for the needy,” they list:

Successful Businesses
The Food Bank/Resource Center
Church Outreach and Hospitals
Service Organizations-Lions, Rotary, Kiwanas
Local Animal Shelters

Well, we’re all for successful businesses, particularly the locally-owned variety.  And we all support the efforts of local service organizations, volunteers and similar efforts to help those who need it.  But the fact is that these, alone, are wholly insufficient to either adequately facilitate the pursuit of happiness or address the needs of the less fortunate.

In 2011, the federal government doled out just under $97 billion for food assistance of various types (the recently passed agriculture bill cuts this by about $1 billion per year).  Yes, that’s a lot of money, but compare it to the TOTAL for similar aid given by charitable groups in the same year: $4.1 billion.  Republicans can gnash teeth and rend garments all day long about having their tax dollars go to feed others, but the fact is that private charity can’t come close to meeting the need that exists for supplemental food assistance.

A third of all new businesses fail within two years.  Half are gone within four years.  While we salute and admire those who have borne that risk and survived, starting a business is not for everyone.  And it’s clearly not a general recipe for “happy lives free of stress.”  So Republicans can wax all 1%-ish they want about free market capitalism and charitable  being the Yellow Brick Road to happiness and freedom from want, but a look at actual intrinsic data just doesn’t bear that out.

The Republican web post also lists the following as examples of government programs that fail to “take care of [our] happiness and the needs of the unfortunate”:

Postal System
Social Security

The USPS delivers great service at very reasonable prices.  It’s purported fiscal problems are almost entirely a creation of Congress.  During the Iraq War, my office adopted a platoon and regularly sent snacks, treats, music, DVDs and other items to the troops (you’ll notice that, even though I didn’t support the war, I supported the troops).  The first time I sent a package, I sent it via UPS.  The cost was outrageous, just for ground delivery.  After that, I sent by US Mail for about a third of the cost.  That made ME pretty happy.  Also, ever tried to get UPS or FedEx to deliver a simple letter across the country for 46 cents?  Try it.  It WON’T make you very happy.  BTW, 77% of Americans are happy with the USPS, better numbers than those of free market icons such as Google, computer software makers, telephone companies, and internet service providers.

Just like the postal service, most of Amtrak’s financial problems were created by Congress and just like the USPS, Congress could fix them if they wanted to. Just 26 of Amtrak’s routes carry four-fifths of its passengers, or 25.8 million riders per year. Ridership on these routes is growing rapidly and they are profitable.

Medicaid is a program that provides health care coverage for 58 million people who otherwise could not afford it.  While we have food banks and similar functions, a Google search for “free clinic San Juan county Washington” turned up zero relevant results.  Please tell me how entrepreneurship and charitable giving are going to meet the needs of 58 million people with no access to affordable healthcare?

With the possible exception of Medicare, Social Security is far and away the most popular and successful government program ever established.  Does it make people happy?  Does it provide for the needy?  Well, try taking it away and see what happens.  No, wait.  Don’t even go that far.  Just try and make changes to it that might endanger its viability in the eyes of those receiving benefits.  Actually, you don’t have to do either.  Just ask George W. Bush how it would go over with the American electorate.  He has some experience in that area.

Obamacare is well on its way to providing affordable healthcare access to millions who would otherwise be without it.  This will be of great benefit not only to those who gain coverage, but also the rest of us whose premiums will be lower, hospitals and other providers which will have now serve many more whose bills will not have to be written off as bad debts and insurance companies themselves which will profit from millions more customers.  How is this NOT a win-win for both communities and healthcare providers?

Like most Republican arguments, these are mere statements, claims with no basis in fact, and – you will notice, – they provide absolutely no supporting material.  The article concludes with the statement, “Watch while Republicans clean up the present mess.”  Well, before they can do that, they’ll have to convince the electorate to give them the chance.  With “arguments” like these, it’s hard to see the electorate giving them the imprimatur to do so.


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