Friday, January 16, 2004

A Brief Political Reflection

I once was a leftist. Long before I was born, Churchill addressed why with an excellent quote:

"To be young and not liberal is to not have a heart. To be older and not conservative is to not have a brain."

Now, most Republicans fail to see me as a conservative, unless we are talking about economics, in which case I make the average Republican seem downright socialist. But, when I was a young man, I was a leftist because I believed that the poor got a raw deal. I believed the left's old saws:

1. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
2. The poor stay poor because the system (the man, the GOP, etc.) keeps them poor.

I also believed this one, that is shared by some on the right, such as the Buchananites:

3. As manufacturing jobs are "shipped overseas", our standard of living is plummetting.

Walter Williams has summed up in one nice column what required of me about 15 months of independent observation and thinking:

1. The rich frequently lose ground, while the poor often gain it; sometimes it is easier for the poor to advance than it is for the rich to prevent dropping back.
2. The poor who stay poor do so because they haven't done what is necessary to get out of poverty. (Living in an impoverished neighborhood for five years proved this notion thoroughly.)
3. Manufacturing jobs are on the decline, but the standard of living is skyrocketing.

Quoth Williams:

According to the 1995 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, only 5 percent of those in the bottom 20 percent category of income earners in 1975 were still there in 1991. What happened to them? A majority made it to the top 60 percent of the income distribution -- middle class or better -- over that 16-year span. Almost 29 percent of them rose to the top 20 percent.

So, if you are on the left, and these are the facts, what to do? This was my dilemma, after all, so many years ago. Do you ignore the facts and plow onward, hoping the emotion and the tone of the rhetoric will resonate with those who are currently poor? This is what the left seems eager to do. Being a fan of honest discourse, I turned from the left, and continue to find distaste in their approach.

I couldn't ignore the facts. Cognitive dissonance leaves me with sleepless nights. I will add my own conclusion, which Williams unfortunately did not draw: Although the standard of living did skyrocket, it still was relatively shackled by the levels of taxation all Americans, rich and poor alike, are burdened with.

I'd like to see a speculative column by Williams that would project the numbers if taxation and government spending were cut by just 5% over a five year period. That would be illuminating.

It would also be illuminating to see the left sport the courage and integrity necessary to declare that they are aware that the programs and spending they cherish have an enormous cost to our economy, but that they accept it and are willing to pay it. I certainly wouldn't vote in support of such schemes, but I would nod in approval of the honesty and suspect we could begin to look one another in the eye.

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