Tuesday, October 08, 2013

"The Gap Between The Rich And Poor", And Where We Are

We have to talk about it. I'm sure you know, this is a progressive slogan, a throw-away line. This is the moral trump-card, the "End of discussion, I'm better than you, because I CARE" card played against every conservative since at least 1492. I'm taking this card away today. We're talking about it, because it's important.

The gap between the rich and poor in the US is ridiculous. Completely. It's really a scandal. And the reason it's only gotten worse is because we have lost the concept of true meritocracy. So-called liberals run around creating who knows what trying to address it, our government grows, poverty persists, and someone else gets blamed. Republicans either like the wildly unjust system the way it is, or pretend it's not real, thereby losing the people who still have souls to speak of, and at least half the people with brains. But our political class wants you to believe that poor people are some weird species of leper. Both halves of it believe this, and they're both wrong in different ways. So-called liberals or progressives seem to think it's like a disease you catch, like polio or something. They're always chasing some indicator showing How Bad It Really Is. If I hear one more personal story about some person or family who hit some hard luck, in the service of policies that enrich the political class but not all of us, I'm going to freak out. They don't care about that person; Hillary Clinton doesn't really care about that person; she wants you to think she does. She wants you to think that you do. So that we all can feel better about ourselves, while we go back to doing whatever it is we do. Firstly, let's acknowledge our limitations: if we're not close to someone, we can only care so much. Secondly, if Hillary or Obama says, "We're going to spend 300 billion dollars to help the poor" that sounds good, right? We don't deal in numbers that large. My brother likes to say, "It's all Monopoly money at that point." That's his way of saying he doesn't understand numbers that big. Who does, honestly? But if they spend 3 times more than they said they would, and Bob is still poor, when do you lose the "A" for effort? When have the Democrats ever lost it? Well, I say that life and death is pretty high stakes. "Well, at least they tried" isn't good enough.

Being poor sucks. If I may go on a brief digression, only a person who is poor understands that morality and politics can never be separated. Whether you are poor by choice that is culpable or not, you know that your next move could be your last. The consequences hit heavier and more acutely. That's the nice thing about being rich materially in this life: stuff comes at you slower. If you're addicted to something--unless it's good deeds--you're just short of finished, because all that matters is getting that feeling. There is no big picture; there is no hope for the future. In fact, there is no one else. There's a moral distinction, never made by the progressive dreamers and the Randian fools: Drugs hurt everyone, and it's a moral crossroads at some point, even if not at every point. How much damage one does really depends only on how many depend on you.

Not every rich person is a saint, and not every poor person is a lout. The converse is also true. Unless and until the economic indicators reflect human flourishing, both materially and otherwise, we are chasing ghosts. And no amount of faith in markets currently undoes the fact that a great many of us apparently can't get access to them. There is an unholy alliance of Big Money and Big Government that grows stronger by the day. This is why the federal government went from a budget of roughly 2.3 trillion dollars in 2002, to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.8 trillion today. Actually, we don't know, because our dutiful servants, the Congress and the president, haven't actually passed a budget in 5 years. You know, our previous president, God love him, left the war expenditures out of the budgets, actually. So it's probably far worse than we know. In either case, I can't think of a single intractable problem that would require a doubling of our federal budget in about a decade. Who are they "helping?" How are you feeling about your economic situation? But those "too big to fail" seem to be doing fine. Doesn't it seem like every political discussion sounds like a commercial for The Running Man, or The Hunger Games?

I'm a conservative, OK? That means I do think government is a huge part of the problem. But let's be clear: I believe in "limited government." Not "less." Not "none." Limited by what? By the powers WE THE PEOPLE have allowed it at every level to have, and no more. The reason we have federalism in the first place is so that Bob doesn't become a statistic, whether because he died, or he's trapped in the bureaucracy. If we do not address the fundamental access points to the system of voluntary free exchange, and its end or purpose in relation to the body politic, we have no claim to be statesmen. If we do not address the various impacts of unwieldy government on that same body politic and our much more significant familial and social relations, we likewise have no claim to be statesmen.

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