Heading into the 2012 Presidential Election, Governor Mitt Romney’s opponents will continue to attempt to portray him as politically inconsistent. And the mainstream media will continue to ignore the far greater problem: both of America’s political parties are internally inconsistent at the very core of their own professed ideologies.
History also shows that the two party platforms are constantly evolving, and in many instances, they trade positions back and forth as they reshape themselves and maintain their duality. This systemic madness dwarfs the significance of an individual politician changing his mind. However, it is far easier and more satisfying to call an individual a “flip-flopper” than it is to examine contradictions across a broader spectrum.
Most politicians change their minds and adapt, but only some are labeled as flip-floppers. President Obama recently shifted his position when he announced that he is now in favor of gay marriage. In the process, President Obama effectively hinted that he had previously misrepresented his true feelings on the issue. He said that his past support of civil unions was an attempt to be “sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.”
If liberals permit President Obama to disguise dishonesty as sensitivity, surely Gov. Romney should be free to do likewise. Perhaps he took on past positions in order to be “sensitive” to the concerns of the liberal constituents of Massachusetts, and perhaps his more recent positions during the Republican primary were adopted out of sensitivity towards his party’s base. Politicians are entitled to educated changes of mind, and they are entitled to make decisions with the intent of providing dutiful representation of the electorate’s beliefs, even if doing so contrasts their own personal inclinations. That is one of the quandaries of leadership and they may navigate it as they see fit. In turn, the public is entitled to question the integrity of politicians if they think that it is lacking, and it is certainly lacking in Washington D.C. today.
However, to portray a politician as a flip-flopper conveniently distracts from the many ways that the Democrats’ and Republicans’ stated objectives are thwarted by their own actual behavior, and the many ways in which their rhetoric lacks a consistent logic. Why do some liberals cry out that the guilt of death row inmates is in doubt, only to simultaneously ridicule anti-abortion activists for having their own doubts about the stage at which fetal pain and fetal personhood are alleged to occur? Why do some conservatives claim that government is inherently ineffective, only to simultaneously trust that the judicial system is effective enough to ensure that only the guilty are executed? Why does President Obama seek support for his flawed healthcare reform by urging the justices to consider the human element of the issue, when he himself fails to acknowledge the human element of forcing future generations to pay oppressive taxes in order to offset his administration’s profligate spending? Why do both parties engage in excessive military spending to allegedly defend the American people if the resulting debt compromises our autonomy and subordinates us to foreign creditors?
This month, the Supreme Court will rule upon the constitutionality of "Obamacare", which serves as a prime example of the dysfunction that both self-contradicting parties have caused. Opposing the President’s healthcare legislation is not difficult as the President’s own words from 2008 sum things up excellently: “If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house.” There are additional problems with the legislation, beyond the compulsory insurance provision that has struck so many Americans as an infringement upon liberty and a perilous precedent.
Leftist critics of Wall Street have cited the deleterious consequences of incentive structures that existed in the financial sector prior to the economic meltdown, and it is true that a lack of risk-adjusted compensation led to recklessness. However, imprudent incentives can produce undesirable consequences whether they are posed to financial managers or the working poor. What will be the consequences of determining Medicaid eligibility based on the federal poverty line without adjusting for the geographic variations in cost of living that are most evident in Fair Market Rent data? It is possible that poor families will constrain their own income levels and live in areas with a low cost of living so that they can keep themselves on Medicaid. This will reduce their opportunities for upward social mobility because they will be displaced from active economic centers.
Senator John McCain’s 2008 plan for healthcare reform called for interstate competition amongst insurance providers, which could have lowered insurance prices and enabled poor families to secure coverage while still living in cities. His plan also explored the use of tax credits to subsidize the insurance costs of all Americans equally, which would have removed the current unfairness of employer-linked benefits. Imagine the following: You just lost your job. Perhaps you will seize upon this unexpected change in your life by starting a small business or becoming a freelancer. But either way, you need to eat. You go into the grocery store and discover that all of the food has now become prohibitively expensive to you because you are no longer the employee of a company that provides grocery benefits to its employees in return for government tax breaks. This may seem like an absurdity, but we readily accept this scenario in the context of health insurance.
Another viable approach to healthcare reform could be found in publicly funded healthcare, in which doctors would maintain private practices but be compensated by government, with funds raised through the tax power. Publicly funded healthcare may strike some as a far left solution - but most western industrialized countries have enacted some variation of it, and our failure to do likewise could be deemed relatively extremist. Furthermore, with government reducing the burden placed upon employers to provide insurance for their employees, corporations would be incentivized to grow and create more American jobs. A worker would be attracted to a job position based on its responsibilities, not its insurance benefits, and workforce productivity would rise. This would lead to an increase of taxable incomes, sales, and profits, which would contribute to the public healthcare funding. Instead of feeling held hostage by jobs with benefits, natural born freelancers and entrepreneurs would be more readily able to pursue their dreams and reinvigorate this economy.
Too many small businesses have shuttered their doors because the owners needed to procure their own insurance by becoming employed elsewhere. In some instances, this has meant the loss of multi-generational family businesses originally started by immigrants who were emboldened by the American dream. Families have also been destroyed by our country’s inadequate healthcare system. Harvard researchers concluded that 62% of all personal bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses, and 78% of those filers had insurance at the onset of their health problems.
In 2010, it was reported that up to 16,500 new IRS personnel will be needed to enforce the new healthcare reform scheme. In March of 2012, the IRS announced that it will spend $303 million building a system to oversee "Obamacare". We must ask ourselves: Would we prefer a nation of insurance companies and IRS agents, or a nation of doctors and entrepreneurs and employees who are more satisfied with the nature of their jobs? With some level of publicly funded healthcare, existing entitlement programs could be rendered redundant, and a more ideal balance of the public sector and private sector could be achieved. The purpose of government is not to directly employ people on unnecessary public works projects, as President Obama has done. Nor is the purpose of government to shrink itself to a size at which it can provide nothing of value.
The purpose of government is to strike the optimal balance by which citizens are granted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Tea Party has been committed and astute when it comes to holding this administration accountable to budgetary realities, but government is also accountable to the needs of its people. We must ensure that spending is reduced, reformed, and reprioritized in the way that best serves the people. The issue of healthcare in particular is a moral imperative, with the Vatican urging member States to strive for equal healthcare access for all citizens, and Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski emphasizing the need for “real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all”. McCain’s healthcare reform plan showed significant promise, and publicly funded healthcare could do a lot for everyone. Yet curiously, the Supreme Court is about to rule upon the merits of a plan that is fundamentally bipartisan, being as it was originally based on "Romneycare" and the GOP's own ideas from the 90s. Despite this, surveys indicate that the healthcare reform law widely lacks broad public support. This epitomizes the present political dysfunction.
When the Democrats argue that we must raise revenue through taxes and the Republicans argue that we must cut spending, we forget about the actual dilemma: what is it that we want government to cooperatively do so that we may independently thrive, and what can it do within feasible budgetary means? We must evaluate each issue on a case by case basis instead of lazily resorting to partisan packaging for ideological answers that aren’t even internally congruous. Amidst all of D.C.’s superficial rhetoric, substance is lost, fervor replaces nuance, and divisiveness takes preeminence over our commonalities.
"We The People" all want a nation in which a vote has more political power than a dollar. We want the world to know the benefits of freedom, and we want to retain our freedoms here at home. But if we don’t disregard partisanship, we will continue down a destructive path. Our function will be to serve the national debt of a government that seeks to resolve the struggles between partisan platforms instead of the day-to-day struggles of citizens. As an independent activist, I believe that we should all work together, but I’m not bipartisan. I’m nonpartisan. Two parties directly or indirectly arriving upon an ineffective solution is not innately good simply because both parties were complicit. Sensible, effective, non-partisan solutions are much more preferable. If those solutions are enacted through bipartisan means, so be it. Ultimately, political parties don’t matter. People do.