AN IMPORTANT EPISODE OF FRONTLINE on America's health care system. The words "health" and "care" are highly suspect. The word "system" is less so. To the extent that it exists, the system is a very, very ugly one.
Consider the ratio of
salaries paid to top-tier CEOs and those paid to the same firms'
average employees: in Britain it is 24:1; in France, 15:1; in Sweden,
13:1; in the United States, where 80 percent of the population expects
to be called before God on Judgment Day, it is 475:1.
President Obama's proposed budget is under threat right now. It establishes clean energy
industries, improves our health care system, and strengthens America's educational system. The President's budget represents nothing less than a foundation for a better future. But Republicans in Congress complain that it's too expensive.
We now face the possibility of a Republican-led "No" on the President's budget plan that tackles decades-old, fundamental problems in America.
President Obama will or has already started to addressed issues cited by Republicans as expenses that make his budget prohibitive. The President has already pledged both to create regulatory reform of our financial system and to enact entitlements reform. He's also commited to something else Republicans like: taxcuts. In this case, taxcuts for the middle class.
What's the Republican alternative to the President's budget? Delay. Just as Republicans alternative to the stimulus package was, as Sen. Kent Conrad said this week, "Exactly what Hoover economics represented at the time of the Great Depression," so the Republican alternative is to say no to an investment toward a better American future; it's to say no to the very things a majority of American voters shouted for loudly and clearly in November.
Contact your Congress Members and urge them to support the President's visionary budget. Remind them that the President's budget represents the priorities you voted for in
November: ending our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, improving a
health care system that is bankrupting families and small businesses
and driving jobs abroad, and strengthening our educational system that is
falling behind those of other industrialized nations.
President Obama is right to sign the UN declaration, "Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity," which calls for recognizing the human rights of a minority of humanity that history, science, and daily life demonstrate--and never more strongly so than in the 20th century--consists of people who differ from their peers in no essential way beyond the detail of same-sex sexual proclivity deeply and irreversibly ingrained into the fabric of the individual's personhood.
I applaud the achievements of Western Civilization. The concept of human rights follows the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution as part of a foundation allowing, on balance, greater good and expanded opportunities for the most people possible.
Criminalization against homosexuals is most strident in those nations farthest from Western ideals in policy, governance, and conventional thinking, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The United States has never once in its history moved forward by denying the legacy of the Enlightment. When it has ignored such it saw our republican experiment in representative democracy tremble to a greater or lesser extent--most dramatically and dangerously with the institution of slavery.
President Obama has added The United States of America as a signatory of a human rights declaration that flies in the face of virtually every one of the nation states that considers itself an enemy of our republic. That is telling. President Obama is acclaiming Western values of governance and liberty within the confines of the rule of reason-based law. A similar recognition as to the value of subjugated people's rights in no small part motivated the United States to stand against the tyrannies of Hitler, Tojo, and the Soviet Union.
In the end, what the President is doing is standing with our Western and pro-Western allies against prejudice-based strictness, religious extremism, or both, that in too many foreign nations hold hostage the hope of a silent minority of people who are in essence like you and me, but fall within the definition of some sort of legally sanctioned second class. Bills and Declarations of Rights that transcend the fancies of the masses or religious authority tend not to emerge from such nations or organizations in which they hold great sway. Take note of that.
Cut&Paste New York 2009 is this weekend at Webster Hall. It's a real-time, on-stage competition between graphic designers. It might sound staid, but these are designers, remember. It's not staid--open to only those over 21 and featuring DJs, great staging, and an MC named Oveous Maximus Salcedo.
Check out this very short video from last year's event. It's a multi-city competition; New York will host competitions in 2D, 3D, and Motion Graphics.
If Lincoln himself did not label even the leaders or soldiers of the Confederate army as traitors, who is anyone to label members of today's GOP or its leaders as such? I am a pragmatic progressive, nearly 40-years old, who has never voted for a Republican except perhaps once for a county level office, and as a teenager growing up in Iowa in a conservative evangelical household I was enamored of and did volunteer work for Jack Kemp and G. H. W. Bush. So, I'm not wholly without credentials similar to Mr. Schaeffer's as a progressive who is nonetheless informed about the religious right and the modern Republican Party. Yet, I absolutely cannot condone labeling Republicans or the leaders of the GOP as traitors. It is a vicious rhetorical tactic progressives suffered under at the hands of Republicans and radical conservatives for the last 8 years. We can do better.
I believe that Mr. Schaeffer's comments are divorced from an appreciation of American history. There have always been in conflict in the United States the anti-imperial and imperial perspectives, the secularism-influenced and Christian State-influenced perspectives, and the pro-regulation and anti-regulation perspectives relative to economic philosophy and the role of the government.
Relating to regulations and economics, consider the rhetorically extremely violent political battles surrounding the Nation Bank during the Jacksonian era and just before. Yet, we don't today consider one side of that argument traitorous.
Relating to military adventures overseas or imperial expansion, consider, for instance, that many of the same arguments made against US involvement in the First and Second World Wars were made by those--like myself--opposing G. W. Bush's US-led invasion of Iraq: we should not go abroad looking for dragons to slay (an invocation of President Washington's and in particular President John Q. Adams' warnings). Yet, dare any side of any of those debates be deemed traitorous today? None, except perhaps the pro-Nazi isolationists who were a fringe within the large segment of the American population calling for President Roosevelt and Congress to put "America first."
There is legitimacy to very different, even extreme viewpoints under the wide embrace of the Constitution and American political discourse.
I believe that some elements--very far-right ones--of the Republican Party, who would no doubt call themselves conservatives first and Republicans second, are in their own way nearly as dangerous as militant sectionalists and Southerners in the 1850s and 1860s. (Most of the Religious Right isn't even similarly dangerous; one of the Religious Right's extreme segments, Christian Reconstructionists, are that dangerous but only in intent; they haven't broad enough political support right now.) And I believe that the majority of Republicans are too much reactionary conservatives on economic and social issues, particularly on the thunderously non-harmful initiative of marriage equality for gay Americans. Yet, neither the far-right nor the large swath of the US population that is the too-conservative GOP majority--nor any Republican member of Congress I can think of--are traitors within the context of the American experiment or experience. They are at worst, in the words of Lincoln, "dissatisfied fellow countrymen" and even "friends."
(Photo: Lincoln's first inauguration, 1861. From Lincoln's address that day: We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.)