Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Can We Talk? No, We're Not Allowed To!

The problem with politics in America is that each side wants to shut down the other without having a discussion.

 Democracy Dies in the Darkness?  That's bleaker than Trump's inaugural speech!

No matter what the issue is in America today, whether it is health care, the war on terror, abortion, gay rights, or whatever, each side has a viewpoint (and there are more than two sides to each issue!) and each viewpoint generally has some nugget of truth to it.   Rather than listen to each other, we shout each other down, through protests or boo-ing or whatever, or just refuse to listen to the other side by tuning in to our own news channels and internet cubby-holes.

For example, take abortion - a most divisive issue.   As a former intern at Planned Parenthood, I gained some insight into this issue, but also realized that many on the Left were overstating it.   Planned Parenthood, by the way is not an "abortion clinic" but in fact, the vast majority of facilities provide only women's health care, contraceptives, and advice on family planning.   To hear the right say it, it is a slaughterhouse for babies.  And that's just not right.

But on the Left, we are told the same tired old canard - that if abortion was outlawed or even restricted in any way, women would go back to "back-alley abortions" and end up dead or sterile, much as happened in the era before Roe v. Wade.

The problem with this narrative is that it is based on the assumption that the shame of out-of-wedlock child birth would drive women to illegal abortions as they did in the 1950's.  Back then, if you got pregnant outside of marriage, you were damaged goods, could not marry a "good" man, and basically were relegated to a life of shame and prostitution.   That narrative is outdated.   Today more births are out of wedlock than in, so there "stigma" of the "unwed mother" is gone.  The "home for unwed mothers" closed ages ago.

So the argument has a flaw - one that the Right fails to notice and one the Left fails to acknowledge.   The Left fails to acknowledge some other troubling facts as well.  For example, having an abortion is a deadly serious decision, and no women (or few anyway) feel good about it.   On the other hand, there are some (people I personally know) who have used abortion as post-facto birth control, and that's not right either.

There is also the legal issue.   I went to a "liberal" Law School (George Washington) but even there, my professors admitted that Roe v. Wade was fabricated out of whole cloth.  The Supreme Court generally decides whether a law is constitutional or not - they either affirm it or strike it down.   In Roe, the justices came up with a trimester scheme which was far more than saying abortion was legal or not - it created a framework of what was legal and what wasn't - in effect creating legislation from the bench.

Now, granted, you might argue that this was necessary, as elected officials weren't going to touch the political third rail of abortion and come up with such a framework on their own.   And maybe that is an argument to make.   But make that argument, don't just dodge it.   Others can argue - quite sincerely - that taking the issue of the legality of abortion aside, the court overstepped its boundaries by going far beyond a "constitutional/unconstitutional" test.  And therein lies the weakness in Roe v. Wade and a mechanism by which conservative jurists can attack it - which likely will happen shortly.

But those are all issues which merit discussion but are rarely discussed - at least between each side in the debate.   The Right wants all abortions outlawed, in some cases even in the case of rape, incest, or the health of the mother.   Considering that I almost killed my mother during childbirth, this is an issue that resonates with me.   Women shouldn't have to sacrifice their own lives to give birth or be forced to give birth to their rapist's child.   On the Left, we see the same intransigence - abortion should not be limited in any way, and a 14-year-old should be allowed to get an abortion without parental permission, even though she would need that permission to have a cavity filled at the dentist.   Neither extreme is very persuasive.   Some sort of compromise has to be worked out, but prospects for that look dim.

In the future, it seems, the wealthy will take a bus or plane to Canada and get their abortions.  The poor might have fewer choices.

Another technique used to shout down discussion is shaming which is one of the ten irrational ideas.   Both sides of any debate use this technique of "how dare you!" when making political discussions.   But the Left seems to be fond of it more, as they have more ammunition to use.  The Right can only use it when someone questions one of their holy grails, such as the flag, America, or the military.  If you wanted to have a rational discussion about military pay, you are shamed and shouted down by saying, "How dare you question the needs of our fighting men and women in uniform?"  - and the same goes for "first responders" as well, even as their six-figure salaries bankrupt small towns - or even big cities.  Of course, the joke is, the Right is the first to cut military pay and say the Left did it - while at the same time padding the military budget to benefit huge defense contractors.   Pretty slick thing, this shaming, eh?

Like I said, the Left seems to have more "moral high ground" to defend by shaming, and in this regard, they regularly trot out the poor, the homeless, and racial and other minorities, whose issues we are not even allowed to discuss because they are all sainted and beatified and "rich people" can't question their circumstances or what government programs and set-asides they are entitled to.  And the term "entitled" is not being argumentative, it is a legal term under the law of entitlements.

So, for example, if you make the logical argument that most homeless people are homeless because they have drug and alcohol problems as well as mental health issues, you are shouted down as inhumane.  If you point out that giving $20 to a homeless guy isn't making his life better, but probably worse, you are called heartless.   And the same tired canard is used every time, "Well, you don't know what it's like to be poor" or "You should walk a mile in their shoes before you judge!" - even if they have no shoes, at least during begging hours.

Since there is no discussion allowed, no discussion or compromise takes place, and this is perhaps by design.  Each side wants a "clear win" and often neither gets it.   After the meltdown of 2008, the Democrats briefly had a chance to control the government and basically blew it with infighting and pork-barrel spending.  Today, we will see the Republicans do the same thing, on a grander scale.  Some systemic changes will be made, but nearly as many as you'd think.

And no, "protesting" isn't going to change outcomes very much.  Did tea party protests affect how Obama ran the government?  Only elections make a difference.

With regard to health care, the Left has been using nothing but shaming to defend Obamacare, which clearly has issues and needs to be fixed.   Rather than join this discussion, the Democrats sit on the sidelines and throw eggs, claiming that any attempt to tinker with Obamacare will throw millions off its rolls.   But of course, the people making these arguments are not on Obamacare

Today, a reader points out an example of this shaming in the Washington Post.  In a discussion about health care, a pundit makes the valid point that some people, given a choice on health care, will opt out of it in favor of consumer spending.   This is not a "right wing" point of view, but one that Democrats embraced not long ago - which is why Obamacare had a "fine" for not signing up.

You see, young people, when faced with the choice of spending $500 a month on health insurance or $500 a month on a new Camaro, usually opt for the latter - in overwhelming numbers.   And you can play with the numbers all you want.  Even $100 a month is "too much" for many young people.   People make poor choices in life - in every sense of the word.   But to say that people make poor choices - or to even wonder whether the poor are poor because of poor choices or they make poor choices because they are poor is verboten talk.  The poor are sainted and have special magical powersAnd there are some poor people who are decent, hard working, but just not very bright. Often they make better choices, but still remain poor.

The point is, we should discuss this and figure out a way out.  But instead, both sides try to shame the other and this article in the Post is case in point.  "How dare you?" they are saying, "implying that the poor would rather have a new iPhone than pay for medical care?"  And then they always follow up with, "I see YOU have a new iPhone, by the way!" as if that "proved" something.

The poor often make poor choices.   And whether or not this made them poor you can debate.  But one thing is clear, when you make poor choices it makes you poorer.  The payday loan takes what little you have and makes it littler.  And Liberals know this, which is why they want payday loans places shut down - to take that poor choice away.   And this was the law in our land not long ago - we called it usury laws.   But no one shames the Left when they argue that the poor are being screwed by their own poor choices.

Of course this is heresy to the Washington Post.  Their view is:
1. Poverty "just happens" to people through no fault of their own.

2.  If people make poor choices, we should give them more money to make poor choices with.

3. If they still don't make better choices, we should just give them free stuff (section-8 housing, Obamaphone, food stamps, Obamacare, etc.) and thus take choices away from them and force other choices upon them.
It is an interesting point of view to be sure.  But one that I think that many Americans are finding less appealing.   A large part of the resistance to Obamacare came not only from corporate fat-cats but from the poor themselves.   Many felt the "mandate" to buy coverage was an example of over-reach on the part of the government.   No one wants to be told what to do, even if it is good advice.   And I know, firsthand, some "poor" folks who signed up for Obamacare and afterwords wondered why they were against it in the first place (they listened to talk radio is why).

The perception is, among a large number of people (Trump voters) is that the government is giving away lots of money to people other than themselves which of course is a code word for "black people."   Yes, racism is involved in this.

But a lot of folks, even the poor (maybe especially so) realize that they make shitty choices in life and are OK with this.  I received a comment from a reader in response to my bling rims posting that hey, in the ghetto, you might not live long, so why not spend it all now on bling and enjoy life?  And again, people defend shitty choices in life even as they make them.  Middle-class people berate me for saying leasing cars makes no sense - same shit different day (and different ghetto).

What is interesting about the Washington Post article is the shaming aspect of it.   According to the Post, people who point out the poor often make poor choices above are just using psychological hooey to feel better about themselves and feel better about caring less for the poor!  You heartless bastard!

In other words, no one is allowed to discuss this without having their motives questioned, instead of questioning the logic of their arguments.

This is the sort of thing that is infuriating about the Left, and I consider myself to be liberal, too!

Which is why I say, thing are not boding well for the Democrats, or our nation.  In response to the liberalism of Obama, we did not see the GOP move mainstream with logical or concrete proposals, but instead saw the rise of the tea party and alt-right, which brought us to President Trump.

The Democrats, in response, are moving further left with "progressive" agendas instead of the middle-of-the-road philosophy that most Americans embrace.   Like the Republicans before them, they will remain powerless for a good long time if they keep this up.

And the press, particularly the liberal press (and yes, it exists, just as Fox News exists) needs to move beyond this shaming nonsense and start a real discussion of issues.   Questioning the psychological motives of the person making an argument is not addressing the argument.   Find the flaw in his logic, if you can.

And if you can't, I guess all you have is to attack his motives, which I guess tells us volumes of what the Washington Post really has to say - which is to say, nothing at all.