It’s interesting to see the other side state their basic assumptions explicitly. Usually, you have to divine their premises from their proposals and actions, and you sometimes sound paranoid when you do; not only that, they get to accuse you of lying about them, and point out that they never did come out and say the underlying assumption you think they’re using.
Well, here it is, spelled out in black and white. In the middle of telling us about George W. Bush and the Republican evil plot to enrich the plutocrats at the expense of regular people, Jacob Hacker of The New Republic writes, and I quote:
“Conservatives demand a go-it-alone world of personal responsibility. Yet, the truth is that Americans can’t cope with insecurity on their own. ”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. If you read the whole piece, it’s an attack on the very idea of transferring to individuals any of the responsibility for providing for their financial well-being. No replacing company store health plans with cash. No replacing pensions with 401(k)’s. No tax-deferred savings or health savings accounts. No expecting people to save for unexpected expenses or layoffs. All of these things transfer nothing but “risk” to ordinary people, while enriching the plutocrats. Apparently, average Americans can’t handle using plain old American dollars to meet their needs and provide for the unexpected, but need the guiding hand of Washington to look after them for the rest of their lives and see that they don’t get themselves into trouble.
From that basic assumption he goes on to claim that Americans still have too much responsibility (or, as he puts it, “risk”), and outline a plan for “universal insurance”, whereby everyone “contributes” “premiums”, and anyone can get a payback if his income drops (for any reason?). He seems to notice (“To some extent”) that this has “moral hazard” written all over it, but then waves his hands and says that corporations have limited liability “to encourage risk-taking” (Actually, it’s to encourage investment – just imagine what life would be like if a judgement against any corporation represented in your 401(k) meant that the plantiff could go after all of your assets to pay for it…) and that ordinary American families need the same thing in order to preserve the dynamism of American capitalism. While risk-taking is certainly a big part of America’s success stories, I don’t see how encouraging people to risk other people’s money (without their consent) on prospects that they wouldn’t risk their own money on is supposed to be a winning proposition for us or for society.
At any rate, all the hare-brained schemes that we find ourselves burdened with rest on the basic assumption, rarely stated so baldly, that Americans never actually grow up, that they need parental guidance and care for their entire lives, and that anyone who presumes to allow Americans any measure of liberty or ask them to assume any measure of responsibility for their own well being is on the same moral level as someone who would toss a small child out on the street and ask it to fend for itself. How they can possibly believe this about a population largely descended from individuals that willingly left everything and everyone they knew behind, crossed a major ocean, and eagerly fended for themselves in a strange new land escapes me, but there it is. That’s the proposition that we stand in opposition to, that’s the basic assumption of all of our opponents, and that’s the belief that we need to convincingly discredit in the minds of those with political power if we’re ever to reclaim the full measure of liberty that is the very purpose of this nation’s existence.
(Link courtesy of The Three Toed Sloth)