BY HIS DEEDS, PART THREE

First, two key points drive my observations here.  First, Donald Trump lies.  That point has been exhaustively demonstrated, and it needs no further comment here.  Second, a group of good, honest, hard-working people voted for Donald Trump because they believed those lies.

Donald Trump has now demonstrated to those people that he was lying about the very things that caused those good people to vote for him.  There are many things that he lied about that have been exhaustively catalogued elsewhere.  “Putin is our friend” and “China is a currency manipulator” are on that list.

The two lies that most betray the working people who voted for him have now come starkly clear, not by mere words but by his deeds.  Trump promised those people that he would replace Obamacare with an insurance program that 1) insured everyone, 2) cost less, and 3) covered more procedures.  The program presented by Paul Ryan, and endorsed by Donald Trump, does exactly the opposite of all three points.  It insures fewer people, costs more, and covers less.  Don’t take my word for this.  Listen to how Ryan presents it, and listen to how Trump lies about it.  For instance, Trump said recently that Ryan’s plan preserves the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.  The most recent version of the proposal allows states to increase rates for people with pre-existing conditions, which will make it impossible for those people to afford the plan.  Trump and Ryan make it sound like the program covers everyone by saying that the plan provides “access” for all to insurance.  That is the same as saying that we all have access to purchasing jet planes.

Trump’s second lie may be even worse than the first.  He promised those hard-working people that he would reform the tax laws and, by doing so, give a huge boost to jobs and to the economy.  “You’re going to win so much you’re going to get sick of winning,” he said.  Now the “tax plan” has arrived.  It provides enormous tax breaks.  The problem is that you have to have an income in excess of a million dollars a year to see any of it.  Worse, the gigantic tax breaks he gives himself and others of his income level will cause the national debt to skyrocket, and that will lead to the biggest economic collapse this country has ever seen.

Neither one of these plans will succeed, because a number of reasonable conservatives have, so far, rejected Trump’s efforts to put these things in place.  Whether they can continue to do so remains to be seen.  What should be clear to those who were swindled into voting for Trump is that he lied to them about the things that most mattered to them — income and health care for their families.

We will likely have Trump for three and a half more years.  He will continue to damage both the substance and the image of America throughout that time.  On these two issues, however, if he and Ryan and their cronies succeed, America will not be the place into which you were born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE UNASKED QUESTION

A wise mentor of mine, instructing me on the art of teaching, once gave me a rule that has applications far beyond the classroom.  He said that I should remember that, if one student fails to get my point, it is the student’s fault, but if many students fail to get the point, it is my fault.

 

If some lone, crazed individual decides to wreak havoc on us, the blame for that lies with that individual.  If, however, a whole group of people espouse some wild view that is damaging to society, we need to ask another question:  what is it that leads these people to commit themselves to such bizarre and destructive movements?

 

In the case of those who commit themselves to the monstrously perverse worldview of ISIS, the answer is no doubt complex.  It must, however, be addressed if we are ever to rid ourselves of the horror of this societal cancer.

 

David Brooks, in his December 8 New York Times Editorial, “How Radicals Are Made,” appeals to the analysis made many decades ago by Eric Hoffer.  People, says Brooks sacrifice themselves in the name of a larger cause, like ISIS, out of frustration:  “Their personal ambitions are not fulfilled.  They have lost faith in their own abilities to realize their dreams.”  Their commitment to a destructive cause, says Brooks, can only happen “when a once sturdy structure is in a state of decay or disintegration.”

 

I am not sure that Hoffer’s observations, directed toward the Nazi and Stalinist regimes, are altogether applicable to the evils of ISIS.  More importantly, however, and with all due respect to Mr. Brooks, we need to ask a far more difficult question:  what is it about us that contributes to people like the man and woman in San Bernardino committing to the heinous slaughter of completely defenseless and innocent people?

 

At the very least, we have to ask ourselves if we as a society fit the description of “a once sturdy structure in a state of decay or disintegration.”  History teaches us that the decay of any civilization does not appear evident until it is about to collapse.  To detect the signs of decay, I suggest that we need to see if our national and local conduct has wandered from accord with our founding ideals.  For Americans, those ideals are that all humans are created equal and that each human is endowed by her or his creator with certain inalienable rights.  As I read that ideal, it means that our society is grounded on responsibility for others.  Recent events, and recent political discourse, makes clear that a large part of our society places self-interest above that responsibility.  Left unchecked, the worldview of self-interest must necessarily contribute to the decay of our society.

 

The second and far more difficult question is why so many young people born and raised in America would find it appealing to either leave this country for the misery and savagery of the monstrous world of ISIS, or would decide that their meaning, their “salvation” if you will, lay in destruction and mass murder.

 

Frankly, I have no clue as to how to answer that question.  I only know this:  we must ask it and we must seek an answer that will help us to reduce or eliminate the desire in these young people to seek such a disastrous course of action.  The fact that it happens, the fact of such people as the couple in San Bernardino, is certainly a calamity.  It is also an opportunity for self-examination, an opportunity to make sure that we are being faithful to the ideal that has made the United States a beacon for the world.

WHAT IS A CONSERVATIVE?

A friend of mine, a dear and good friend, made the following statement:  “Obama is stupid.”  I found the statement stunning.  President Obama is a graduate of Harvard Law School, was editor of the Harvard Law Review, and was widely lauded for his performance as a professor of constitutional law at a prestigious law school.  Whatever one may think of his performance as president, “stupid” is a most unlikely adjective to describe him.

 

So why would my dear friend, a good and generous and hard-working man, call this President “stupid”?  The answer is simple:  prejudice.  Not prejudice based on race.  That is far too easy an explanation.  It is rather that my friend, an otherwise quite rational and observant person, has been thoroughly and expertly brainwashed by political propaganda structured to ignore reason and promote decisions based on anything other than reason.  Why would someone spend a king’s ransom on such propaganda?  Clearly because reasoned political discourse would not serve the user’s purpose, and because, if that purpose were clearly stated, people like my friend would reject it out of hand.

 

When a significant percentage of the population can be made to believe things that are patently untrue, whether that untruth favors the left or the right in the American political debate, the entire political arena is damaged.  What we need more than anything is honest debate, and that requires two things.  First, we need to know what we are seeking, and, second, we need to know, and genuinely respect, the views of those who oppose our own.

 

What are we seeking?  If we are Americans, we seek to protect and promote the American ideal that all humans are created equal and that every human being is endowed by her or his creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We are, in other words, committed to responsibility for others.  If our ultimate goal is our own private interests, then we stand against the American ideal.

 

Opposing views, in such a debate, are not about ideals.  They are rather about the best means of achieving our common ideals.  To choose those means we deem best, we must know the alternatives.  So, if you are what people call a liberal, then you cannot make a reasoned decision about even your own positions, without understanding and respecting the views of those whom people call conservative.

 

So what is a conservative?  In general, a conservative is one who believes that the American ideal is best achieved by limiting the role of government in the pursuit of those ideals.  To put that more positively, government plays a role only when it is clear that there is a community need that can best be served by having government involved.  So, for instance, we have a need as a nation for a military force to protect the nation’s interests.  A rational conservative would say that the entire nation should pay for a military capable of protecting us against any likely attack.  In the present world, that seems to be primarily a vigorous intelligence agency and a military equipped to attack imbedded terrorist groups.

 

A conservative generally concludes from experience that government expenditure on social welfare programs can, and often does, actually hinder the beneficiaries from improving their circumstances, and that, if anything, government should install programs encouraging people to be more active in improving their own circumstances.  So, for instance, welfare programs for the poor should be geared toward rewarding the recipient for working and discouraging those who would merely take advantage of such benefits without making any efforts at self-improvement.

 

How do we judge these various positions?  Simply by installing them and seeing if they work.  If private charities and private schools work better in raising the education levels of all children, then that is what we should promote.  If the private health care industry is controlling the cost of care and providing an adequate measure of health care for all, then that is what we should promote.  If private industry is best equipped to improve the environment, then that is what we should promote.

 

The bottom line is that the true political debate is not about personalities.  It is about issues.  Trump’s hair and Fiorina’s face and Rubio’s ability to drink water in public are all irrelevant.  It is only when all, liberal and conservative alike, address the issues and offer rational solutions that this country will make good choices and achieve good solutions.  Absent that, we do nothing but wield weapons that will end up destroying us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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