Just got into it with someone on Facebook. I realized that my response was lengthy, rambly, and ornery. So, I thought it'd be a perfect blog post!
The thing that bugs me is that Americans want all of these things but don't want to pay for them. We want universal health care (most Americans do - they just disagree on some details of the current plan - and on the circumstances under which it was passed), good schools, a powerful military, good roads. We want our oil wells safe, our coal mines safe, our cars safe, our gasoline safe. We want a safe place to put our money, we want a good mortgage from a company that's not going to screw us. We want safe airplanes, clean air, clean water, beaches, recreation center. We want safe food.
But we don't want to pay for it! All this stuff costs money. Deregulation doesn't work - corporations go out of their way to find opportunities to avoid compliance, just like how individual Americans will go out of their way to avoid paying what taxes they owe (and by the way, NOT raising taxes 5% isn't going to get you that raise or convince the wealthy lawyers to pay their full tax burden). BP avoided regulation, and look what happened. Exxon did the same thing in '89 with the Valdez and refusing to address Hazelwood's alcoholism. Wall Street is fighting regulation, saying they don't need it. I guess they don't - they can't even follow the simple rules that they have in the first place (like, you have to actually own the mortgage in order to foreclose on it).
The auto industry fought regulation about seat belts. Can anyone say they're a bad thing? The military contracting industry fought regulation on their contractors, and now we have Blackwater employees being protected from accusations of rape in Iraq/Afghanistan (an American soldier, in a similar situation, would be subject to a court martial and penalties).
All of this stuff costs money, but are Americans interested in paying for it? NOPE. We want want want, but reject the idea that we need to pay pay pay. Everyone knows this, but the different parties address it in different ways...
Democrats say 'bite the bullet - we all gotta pay for what we want, but let's ask the rich (who have more disposable income) pay for more.' This makes everyone mad immediately, b/c they hate paying for stuff. But, in the future, when they don't have asthma/cancer/traffic deaths/foreclosures, no one ever says 'thanks, dems!'
Republicans say 'we'll lower your tax burden now, because we know you hate paying for stuff.' This makes people happy in the short term, b/c now I can go to Hawaii or order that extra Double Down, but in the future, when an oil spill destroys an entire ecosystem (and threatens multiple industries), no one ever says 'screw you, gop!'
The Tea Party is selling Americans a bill of goods. They want to lower taxes now, because they know that there's no way to be held accountable for the problems later. Rand Paul says he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. If he had done that in '64, we'd be an entirely different country now, but without the ability to jump back and forth between universes, how could we evaluate where we are? He'd be a footnote in the history of how we maintained our segregated society. Sarah Palin wants to open up ANWAR to drilling. Really? Drilling for OIL in an unforgiving region, then having to pipe it halfway across a continent? That sounds like a great idea! And we don't need regulation from the government to ensure its safety - the oil companies do just fine policing themselves! And all of those Tea Party signs that say 'Keep your Government Hands out of my Medicare!' - really? Are people that stupid? I don't remember a single Tea Party leader pointing out the fact that Medicare IS THE DEFINITION of Government Hands.
I may be sorry to see money disappear out of my bank account every 15 April, but I'm happy to be able to avail myself of the things it buys: roads, clean resources, parks, schools (yes, even though I have no children), Medicare (even though I'm too young to take advantage of it), unemployment insurance (even though I don't need it anymore), food stamps (which I don't need), military protection (even though I disagree with their policies), police protection, the fire department, vehicle safety tests, safe food, anti-drug campaigns, etc. Some of these things affect me on a daily basis, some not at all, but I think it's part of my responsibility as an American and a human being to contribute towards a better society.
I believe that it was Cain, in the Bible, who asked, incredulously, 'am I my brother's keeper?' after killing Abel. To which God basically said 'yes, you are, you jerk.'