What I Believe
1) You mistrust government more than you mistrust large corporations.
2) You mistrust large corporations more than you mistrust government.
Conservatives usually lean to the former; liberals the latter.
It isn’t that I haven’t met any good and decent conservatives; indeed I have. The good and decent ones care about playing fair, good values and their families. But they believe in a fallacy. The fallacy is that unbridled capitalism, free from government regulation will yield a higher standard of living for more people than government regulated capitalism. They point to mismanaged, wasteful government programs as evidence that supports their beliefs. They miscast liberals as being naive and ignorant, who think of the government as a benevolent parent caring for her citizens.
Conservatives also believe that high taxes on the rich are punitive. They use words like “socialism” and “communism.” They think that liberals want to rob from the hard-working entrepreneurial rich people, and give their money to lazy poor people who want to be rich but are unwilling to work for it.
I can’t speak for all liberals, but that isn’t what I believe at all.
I think that governments are corrupt. I think that corrupt people are attracted by political positions, and that oftentimes those corrupt individuals prosper as a result of their political positions. I am as sure of this as I am of the fact that if I place my hand in a pot of boiling water it will hurt and I will suffer burns.
The thing is, I believe that the statements above are also true if we substitute the words “corporations” for government and “corporate” for political, only to an even greater degree.
It isn’t that I trust government to do the right thing. I absolutely don't. It is that I trust powerful corporations to do the right thing even less. Why? Because in a Constitutional Republic, the government is accountable to the people, and politicians can be voted out of office.
A conservative will invariably argue, “Corporations are accountable to the people in the free market. When they misbehave, the consumer will spend their dollars elsewhere. The market takes care of itself.”
And there in lies the rub. This is only true if the corporations are regulated by the government and forced to play fair. When corporations are free from regulations, you get powerful monopolies, price-fixing, workers being stripped of their rights. One only needs to explore how Amercian corporations conduct themselves in third-world nations to confirm these words.
First, I'd like to say a few words about taxes.
Taxes are not charity. They are like rent. You rent the protections of your government. The idea of the progressive tax system is simple really. Never mind that poor people don't have any money so they can't pay as much as wealthy people. That is academic.
The progressive tax system presumes that the richest people have more to lose and more to protect than poor people. They need the police, the military, the roads and all the services of government to a greater degree than the rest of us. Who would have to most to lose to the Communists or the Theocratic Muslims if they invaded the USA and there was no military to protect us? A poor person living in a slum or Dick Cheney? This is the justification, but there is more to it.
The concept of “money” is meaningless in a vacuum. Without a society, money is worthless. Wealth is a relative thing. The society that enables the power of the wealthy comprises everyone, not just the rich. It isn't a moral obligation for wealth to be taxed. It is a necessity to fund the society that enables the wealth to have meaning.
I suppose we could go back to feudalism, where rich people have serfs, castles, moats and their own armies to protect their wealth.
This concept that the progressive tax system is "unfair" to the wealthy is nothing more than an excuse and a justification for greed. I admit that the US government is problematic. One can point to waste and corruption pretty easily. The issue is, what is the alternative to the government regulating business and taxing its citizens? It is fine to say "the government is doing a bad job" but the alternative of an unregulated "Free Market" somehow being better is a fantasy.
Without government controls, the rich will act on its own behalf. They will make the rules by themselves, that will benefit them, that will increase their wealth and power. Does anyone believe most corporations would be benevolent without laws?
This idea that the Free Market will correct itself is a myth, nothing more. Imagine a country where there was no government regulations on pollution. [Not a big stretch under this administration!] Imagine two manufacturing corporations: One benevolent, the other, ruthless. The ruthless one dumps toxic waste on the outskirts of the poorest neighborhood, and then denies they are doing it. The media, also corporate owned with profit as their motive, have no reason (and may not be able to) report otherwise. The benevolent one spends the extra money to dispose of the toxic waste safely. The ruthless ones will be able to sell their goods for less money, and will make more profit. Their stock prices will be higher.
Now, the conservatives who believe in the unregulated Free Market argue that over time, the consumer will begin to buy from the benevolent corporation and the ruthless one will be forced to play fair. Let's all pretend that we actually believe in fairytales and the above is true. What about the people who are poisoned in the meantime? Their tough luck for being poor? The truth is, most people would never connect that the ruthless company is destroying the environment and killing people, because they are too busy just trying to make ends meet. They will buy the cheaper goods and the benevolent company will have to either go out of business or behave like the ruthless one.
One of the things that the conservatives do is debate an issue in simple, unrealistic terms. "Abortion is bad. Women shouldn't get them." "Government is corrupt. Get them off the backs of big business."
A liberal, such as myself argues like this: "Abortion is bad, but what happens when we make it illegal? Will the problem just go away? Will women who are not in a situation where they can raise a child no longer risk an unwanted pregnancy by abstaining? Is this realistic? What will happen to women who find themselves in dire straits with an unwanted pregnancy? Will she have the baby and find a way to raise it? Will she give it up for adoption? If she is poor and has no access to good healthcare, what will happen then? If she keeps the baby, how will she work and make enough money to provide for her? " These are tough questions. The best answers I get from pro-life people are "Well, she should have thought of that before she got pregnant!" Agreed, but still, there she is. When I say I am pro-choice, it isn't because I think "Abortion is good." I think abortion is bad, but I think that the alternative of making it illegal would be even worse.
The same goes for giving power to the government to regulate businesses. It isn't an elegant and perfect solution, and lends itself to corruption. But in the absence of this, the alternative is out of control corporations, abusing their workforce, the environment and the consumer.
And that is what I believe.