Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The perversion of democracy

Watching the Republican candidates for the American 2012 presidential elections is not something to boost your mood. I can't say much about mr. Romney, although his 13% tax and Swiss bank account do not do much to give him any credit. But with Santorum, the catholic Taliban, Gingrich with his debatable ethics and gynecologist Paul who thinks you can run the country like you did it in 1900, you might wonder if you are looking at political satire, or a watching political cartoon that came to life.

The people of a small village in Massachusetts could see the humerous sides of
the Democratic vs. Republican debate,as seen on this 1999 photo. I wonder if they still do now?

So, what’s it to you, you might ask. Well, more than you think, I fear. The United States regards itself as the leader of the western world, and indeed it is. Not by ethics or moral, but by sheer power and the size of its economy. So, whoever is a president, his actions affect all of us. Am I exaggerating here? Not really. When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, the US could have stepped in to bail it out. But the Bush administration decided it was best for all of us to let the markets deal with it, because a true conservative believes in the forces of free enterprise without government interference. And how right he was of course. The global economy nosedived because of that, but we all know we would be far worse off if this bank would have been nationalized, apparently. Just like Obama's horrible decision to help General Motors and Chrysler. Saving jobs, disposable income and hence spending power of over 500,000 families and keeping away all those people from welfare was a mistake of an unheard magnitude. Well, at least in Republican eyes.

Republicans firmly believe in simple solutions. So simple, that the entire complex macro economic world is reduced to a vending machine where you can pick the solutions of your choice. What global economy? Environmental issues? Foreign relations? Cut tax, create jobs. Ignore environment, create jobs. The ultimate simplification of politics. Which is easy and convenient, because you only have to shout some one liners and you can attract voters who do not question anything. Because they vote for their wallet. Short term individual advantages prevail over the collective well being of a nation. The perversion of capitalism.

Let's start with the basic Republican universal claim that less tax means more jobs. Maybe for businesses, but less income tax resulting in more jobs? Who says so? You can safely assume that extra disposable income will for a great deal be spent on consumer goods produced in Asia – maybe it could create some more jobs with the railroads and at Wal-mart, but that's about it. Or it may be put in a savings account or investment fund. Those don't create jobs either.
The western world is not competing with less tax in production countries. We are competing with a Third World level of income, lifestyle and social standards. Sure, if you want your American workers to earn $100 per month, work 14 hours per day and if possible have 14 year olds to do so, by all means – go ahead and lower yourself to a Third World level of wealth.

There are still too much Eastern European style living conditions for many. A primitive home in rural Georgia.
Not Washington's responsibility, according the conservatives.

The rants against Washington, because government is too big and consumes too much of tax money, overlook something. The money does not simply disappear, it is also used for wages, that translate into the purchase of consumer goods, cars, homes. But more important, it translates into services that are purchased by the government, like road construction, ICT consultancy, teachers... People who earn money and in turn, spend it too. And it denies the fact that when things get rough economically, you are happy that there is a level of autonomous spending that keeps the economy going. Because the businesses politicians so fondly speak off, are the first ones to keep their money in their pockets when difficult times are ahead. Not much help from that corner then.

What is always odd to me, is that people who are on a crusade for 'lower taxes' and less government interference, do not look at countries where higher taxes are proven to have been beneficial for the welfare of all, like the Scandinavian countries, Danmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. No, instead they look the other way, for a direction that is proven... well, actually, nowhere. Sure, it has been tried. Chili and Argentina welcomed Milton Friedman's thinking in the 1980s. And it resulted in a bankrupt Argentina. At least the social disruptance following that economic adventure forced almost all right wing regimes to pack their bags. And we could also look at Russia in the 1990s – on second thought, better not.

But what annoys me too, is that many of these conservative people who are so opposed to 'Washington' and any tax, call themselves Christians. Now, the odd thing is that Christianity is all about solidarity and compassion with the less privileged, and absolutely not with one's own self interest and prosperity. Something that somehow is mysteriously overlooked by right wing America, who goes to Sunday services, but calls a president who comes with a program to provide everyone with health care a 'socialist' or even a 'marxist'. Obviously, when you say that, you don't know what socialism or marxism is. But when religion is only about conservative ethical standards to you, it is not difficult to ignore your social responsibilities.

It is so sad to witness that democracy in the USA means that half of the population hates the person who won the presidential election. These people turn the election process into a travesty of democracy. The country that regards itself as the leader of the free world, God's own country and the best country to you can live in, has lost its moral and ethical rights towards these claims. I remember a sign if front of an old impoverished farmhouse is Washington, telling the world that “God bless America”. Was a this a testimony, or a prayer?

Small town America, as I love to see it.

I love America. I visited it maybe 18 times. So, I hope that sanity and intelligence will win over short term self interest. After all, we can assume that 50% of the population does not believe in the convictions and dogmas I painted above. I'm fairly convinced that, given the qualities of the current Republican candidates, Obama should have no problem winning the election in November. And he must, because even George Bush looks like a liberal compared to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul.