Monday, May 18, 2009

The Progressive Agenda

(Part II of the Beyond Thunderdome series)

I spent quite a bit of time in a local Barnes & Nobles today, searching for more fodder to fuel my political savvy as well as to greater enhance my understanding of our history, our government, and where we may all be headed. (Down the toilet came to mind, though I have hope that there are enough people out there like myself who will fight to keep America free from socialist tyranny and downfall.) I'm not a big fan of Barnes & Nobles, mainly because they are one of the few retailers I know that actually charges customers for their illustrious "discount" club cards. ( Borders Books the discount cards are free.) Nevertheless, I set aside my personal dislikes for B&N mainly because a particular audio book I wanted was advertised by the author as "...available at Barnes & Nobles and" and sometimes I'm just a bit too impatient to wait for ground shipping. Fortunately for B&N they had ONE remaining copy of the much-desired audio book (God help them if they hadn't had it).

After snatching the last copy from the shelf, I decided to take a look around and see if there was anything else of interest while I was there. I had a mental list of things, much of which I found. I was shocked, honestly, because I figured a chain as large as B&N wouldn't bother carrying books on...oh...the US Constitution or Thomas Jefferson, or rhetoric supporting radical views like upholding the vision of our founding fathers and the like. But their selection was decent enough and now I have plenty of reading materials to ensure that I have absolutely NO free time for the next three months.

However, I came across a few things that peaked my interest -- not because I felt they would make entertaining reading, but because they openly promoted the Progressive agenda in this country. Now, I consider myself to be one of those "radical" people who believe that this country is unquestionably the greatest country in the world. Sure it has its social and economic challenges, but they are minor in comparison to the rest of the world. Here we have the freedom (for now, at least) to speak openly about our political, religious, and personal beliefs without having to worry about our government attacking our freedoms. We have the freedom to better ourselves and move up the economic ladder so that though we may have spent our childhoods picking cotton and dreaming of indoor plumbing, that doesn't mean we can't some day be senior managers of a major telecommunications company and playing golf with the big-whigs. And we have the right to vote our government out of office when we determine they are no longer useful in maintaining our free society. There's a reason people immigrate here from all over the world: even they believe in the "American Dream".

But progressives don't think America is so great. In fact, they want to completely change it from the free society we currently know into something in which the government has complete authority over every single aspect of our lives. From how much money we are allowed to earn (no matter how hard we may have worked for it) to whether or not we will be considered viable enough to keep alive in our old age or should we be diagnosed with a deadly illness.

One of the books I came across today was titled The Constitution in 2020, and it describes itself as a progressive agenda intended to implement an entirely new interpretation of the U.S. Constitution over the next couple of decades. I didn't buy it today, though I do intend to read it. I just refuse to pay full cover price for a book that at some point in the very near future may be useful for nothing more than to balance the wobbly table I have on my front porch. But I took note of the book, and when I got home, began to research it.

The folks who threw this book together have a website which I found (thank you, google) and started reading through. It's more like a blog site on which many of the writers and contributors to the book posted some of their thoughts about creating a clear and useful agenda to bring about this "progressive" change. Here are a few things I found of interest among the blog posts:

By Robert W. Gordon: " egalitarian distribution of initial property and skill endowments (e.g. through homesteads, estate taxes breaking up inherited concentrated wealth, universal public education etc.), which would both help to equalize opportunity and give free citizens a base of security and self-sufficiency to resist domination..."

Oh, so you're saying that inherited wealth is a bad thing. Ooh, those nasty rich people working all their lives so that they can leave behind a better life for their offspring. The horror! The nerve of some people! It's probably their fault that the poor and uneducated were never motivated enough to raise themselves up out of poverty through education and hard work. Certainly welfare couldn't have had anything to do with it. Oh no, that just couldn't be.

By Bruce Ackerman: "The second aim is to create a new institution of civic inheritance to complement the existing institution of family inheritance. Each American citizen should receive a substantial stake (Alstott and I argue for $80,000) when starting out in life as a young adult. Each citizen should be free to use his stake for any project he thinks best. Stakeholding will give renewed meaning to the Declaration's promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" by giving young adults the wherewithall to shape their lives at a moment when most of them are living from paycheck to paycheck."

You know, call me crazy, but I seem to recall a financial fiasco about three and a half years ago with moneys given to people to use however they wanted. Something having to do with FEMA and the little debit card disaster in which Katrina victims were observed using their $2000 emergency assistance cards to buy diamond jewelry and expensive handbags? (This was confirmed on, by the way.) So, instead of $2,000, we're going to just hand over $80,000 to every "young adult" to use in any manner he or she wishes? Yeah, that sounds like a GREAT idea, because I'm certain that young people will have the foresight to apply that money directly to a college education, savings accounts, and reasonable expenses that would last until they get that first big paycheck from work. Oh yeah, the progressives won't let these young adults make too much money...whoops. And for the record, our constitution provides for each person the right to the "pursuit of happiness", not a guarantee that you will obtain it.

By Willy Forbath: "Rather than redistribution of income after the fact, market-based social citizenship ideas emphasize redistributing opportunities and life chances, incentives and rewards to effort, and redistributing the security necessary to take risks. This blurs the categories and jumbles the values that conventionally distinguish liberal and conservative social policy. It puts progressives on the side of economic growth, and it puts the moral basis of a progressive program on the bedrock promises of liberal capitalism: work for the willing, a decent income for those who work, opportunity to rise above a bare minimum by making full use of one’s talents and abilities."

Um, don't we already have a system in 21st century America where those who are willing to work will earn a decent income and those who apply themselves can earn a degree or useful skills to rise above that bare minimum? This isn't a liberal's an American ideal. Just ask Chris Gardner. And not all countries have it. In some European countries (Germany, for example) higher education is provided to those who demonstrate through skills tests that they are worthy of the extra expense. For those who score poorly on assessment tests, there's a fine future for them in basic, low-paying manual labor jobs...and it's likely they'll be there for the rest of their lives. In America, there are many of what we call "returning students" on nearly every college campus. They're people who reached a point in their lives and decided either to switch career paths and earn a second or third degree, or people who were tired of working low paying jobs for ten to twenty years and decided to go earn their FIRST degree. I knew several during my many years spent obtaining my undergrad degree. And I respected and admired them greatly. We already have opportunity here -- some people just don't want to make use of it. And throwing them an $80,000 freebie as soon as they reach 18 really isn't going to motivate them to do what it takes to get the jobs that would provide them that much and more on an annual basis.

The next question would be: Just where the heck is all the money for these "ideals" going to come from? Uh, I think they told us somewhere up there in a previous paragraph that they would strip the inherited rich of their family fortunes...and something or other about estates. But will raping the rich pay for such policies? According to a writer for the Wall Street Journal, if you tax all income over $500,000 at a rate of 100% (which means no soup for you, richy rich guy) then you would only have brought in $1.3 trillion dollars. Whoo-hoo, that sounds like a lot, doesn't it? It's not. That's less than half of the 2006 federal budget. And that's without the $80,000 per young adult moneys that our progressive friends want to dish out. (And, by the way, our current proposed FY2010 federal budget is at $3.6 trillion.)

Yep, boys and girls, we could soon be heading toward an era in which we sit our grandchildren on our knees and tell them, "You know, kids, I remember a time when $3.6 trillion dollars was a lot of money." Then those same grandchildren laughing gleefully at you and saying, "Oh, [insert favorite nickname for grandparent here], you're just so silly!"

So here it is, folks...a little brief insight into the progressive agenda and just a few fiscal ideas they have to "make this country better", although better for whom, I have yet to determine.

Many progressives model their ideals after the works of FDR (Franklin D Roosevelt) who is responsible for many of the expensive programs we are still paying for in America today. Social Security (which my generation will NEVER EVER see), the SEC, and FNMA (currently known as Fannie Mae) to name a few. Progressives adore FDR, especially for his New Deal and "Second Bill of Rights" both of which were in large part responsible for the entitlement generations that have since grown in population. These are the people who get something for nothing and believe it is how things should be. Let's recall that FDR was the same president that, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, implemented a 100% tax rate on all income over $25,000 (which in current times would equal an income of $300,000). Imagine if our president today tried such a thing...well, that would just be crazy. But, you know, a progressive administration would be just crazy enough to try it.

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