Politics is a sensitive issue for most people. Any political discussions generally turn ugly quick, with both sides fiercely defending their side. That's a shame, because it makes it nearly impossible to have a rational discussion on politics with someone from the opposite side.
I think of myself as a rational person. I consider myself an average American. I certainly wouldn't classify myself as a wacko or an extremist. But I realize Democrats would likely classify me that way. The liberal views are so far removed from my views, I've always wished I had someone I trust on the opposite side of the fence I could have a friendly conversation with about why they believe what they do.
I had an interesting experience one day while watching The Late Show. I had always felt like James Carville and Bill Clinton and Bill Maher and other Democrats had a perfect knowledge of their fraud. They were too smart to believe the things they were saying -- They had simply chosen a side for popularity or power or legalization of drugs (in Maher's case), and they would say whatever they could to defend that side.
But then I was shocked to hear David Letterman say the same thing about Rush Limbaugh. He said that Rush was a talented guy who could have been successful at many things, and he just happended to choose conservatism. Having listened to Rush's show (which I'm guessing Letterman has never done if he has that opinion) on a fairly regular basis, I knew that was a false statement.
It then dawned on me that perhaps Carville and Clinton and Maher actually believe what they say, and that was a huge revelation to me. How can rational people actually believe those things?
So yesterday when I saw a story entitled "Here are the reasons I am a Democrat", I immediately clicked on the article. I am honestly curious about how the Democrat brain could be so vastly different than mine. I have had enough experiences to know that we have to be open to hear other points of view because we are not always right.
As I read through the article, I think I gained a huge insight into the mind of a Democrat. Mr. Nielsen describes a world that would be perfect to live in. Who wouldn't want to be a Democrat? I realized that one of the main differences in Republicans and Democrats is reality.
That isn't an attempt at being smart. I honestly think that if I told a Democrat something is impossible, they would say, "With that kind of an attitude, it really is impossible. You just have to do your best and eventually we'll get there."
I agree with many things Mr. Nielsen said in the article. In fact, I think we ought to take it a few steps further and add: "I am a Democrat because I believe that everybody should be happy, and that nobody should ever be sad. I am a Democrat because I believe nobody should ever die. I am a Democrat because I believe the world should be at peace and there should never be another war."
All of this in a Republican mind is like saying, "I am a Democrat because I believe we should be able to drop a rock off a cliff and not have it fall. I am a Democrat because I believe that every action should not have an equal and opposite reaction. I am a Democrat, and I believe that water should not boil until 312 degrees fahrenheit."
No wonder so many people agree with the Democrats and think of the Republicans as cold-hearted people. The Democrats say, "I believe no one should go bankrupt, lose their home and life savings, or die because they can't afford health care and don't have reasonable health insurance." The only response Republicans can give is, "How is that going to work? It makes no sense." And Democrats infer from that that Republicans don't want good health care for everyone.
It might surprise Democrats, but Republicans would love for everybody to be wealthy. They would love for everybody to be happy. They would love for there to be no war. They would love for everybody to have their health care covered. They would love to allow all immigrants into the U.S. to receive the same blessings we've been given. They would love for everybody to be equal.
The dilemma for Republicans is that they have to face reality and realize that you can't make everybody happy, you can't stop war, somebody has to pay for health insurance, if everybody who wanted to come to the U.S. was allowed to come to the U.S, the system would immediately crumble under the weight of the physical and financial strain, and that no matter how hard you try, life will never be fair.
The thing I think that Democrats don't understand is that the Republicans have the exact same end goals in mind. I realized in reading this article that we just have different philosophies on how we get there. A few examples:
TAXES & BUSINESS
Many of Mr. Nielsen's points had to do with taxes and where the money should come from to equalize the standard of living.
"I believe in economic security for everyone, not just the top 5 percent of Americans."
"I believe that government giving money to the rich doesn't create jobs for the rest of us."
"I believe government should reward businesses only after they have created jobs for Americans."
"I believe in a free enterprise system for the working and middle classes, not just global corporations."
"I believe in both limited government and limited big business."
"I believe in free competitive economic markets for local and small businesses, not just distant and monopolistic corporations."
"I believe, neither in raising nor lowering taxes, but in a fair tax system — one that promotes innovation and industry, not an imbalanced tax system that rewards greed and excess."
"I believe in fiscal responsibility, but that sacrifice should first come from those who can afford it, not from the poor."
"I believe the rich don't always earn their wealth, and the poor frequently aren't to blame for their poverty."
"I believe no one should be homeless, hungry, abused, or neglected regardless of the causes."
Mr. Nielsen seems to take the approach that most Democrats do: to place a heavier burden of taxation on wealthy businesses and individuals, and to redistribute the wealth to the poor. This seems like a fair and charitable thing to do on the surface.
The first obvious flaw is that when you pay a person to not work, they have no incentive to work. In fact, the opposite is true -- Unemployment and welfare give individuals incentive NOT to work. The natural result of the system we have in place is an increase in consumers and a decrease in producers.
That aside, let's look at the situation from the perspective of a business. If a business that makes $10 million per year in revenue is currently paying 60% in taxes, and the tax rate is raised to 65%, that means that that business now has to make up $500,000 somewhere just to keep everything even. Where does that $500,000 come from? As we've seen, the easiest place to cut back is through layoffs. Lay off a half dozen employees, and we are back in business. Those individuals go on unemployment, and become consumers instead of producers for a year. The government now uses the additional tax revenue they recieved to pay those individuals not to work.
But what about those individuals at banks receiving a $1 million bonuses? They can afford to pay more taxes, right?
What do the wealthy do with their money? How much money does the average millionaire have in his checking account? My guess (based on hearing a millionaire speak on the subject) is that it's no more than $25,000. The wealthy generally don't get to be wealthy by being foolish. They don't let their money sit collecting 1% interest. So what do they do with the rest of their money?
Well, first they spend it. They buy big homes with lots of furniture and big yachts and they take trips and fly on airplanes and they eat out and drive fancy cars. This keeps construction workers working, furniture shops selling, boat manufacturers building boats, economies in different tourist areas growing, and airlines, restaurants, and car dealerships in business. Which in turn gives all of the employees of all of these businesses a paycheck. Which they in turn spend on gas and groceries and heat and light and an occasinal movie. Which keeps the gas station, grocerty store, gas companies, and electric companies in business. And so it goes.
What do individuals who are in lower income levels do when they receive an unexpected $500 check... oh, say from a stimulus? They save it. That's what I would do. I don't buy new cars, I don't eat out often, I rarely buy new furniture or travel, and I throw any big chunks of money I get in savings where it does little or no good to anyone but my bank.
Next, the wealthy realize that the interest earned on a checking or savings account is paltry. So what do they do with the rest of their money. They invest it. Where? In other businesses. They invest venture money for startups and put money into the stock market. What do those companies do with the money? They expand and grow in order to get bigger and make more profit, which means more jobs for more individuals.
How many people below an average income invest their money in businesses? When you redistribute the wealth, you cut off investment, and a decrease in jobs is the natural result (as we've witnessed over the past two years.)
When taxes are low, the wealthy tend to make more risky investments with start up companies and small businesses and to put more money into the stock market because of the potential for higher returns. But when the tax rate is raised (especially on capital gains), the wealthy tend to invest in more safe "guaranteed" investments like T-Bills because the post-tax return they would receive is not worth the risk. The money is pulled out of the system.
Higher taxes = Less investment. Less investment = Less jobs. Less jobs = More consumers & Less producers. Consumers > Producers = An economy that cannot sustain itself.
The reason that the United States is in the world financial position it is in now is because of capitalism. Someone like Oprah, who started out in extreme poverty, can become one of the nation's most wealthy women. She has created an organization that employs many people, and her millions of dollars in investments create employment for many other people. And on top of all of that, she gives a lot to charity as well and tries to help individuals out. She does a lot of good in the world, and she has that ability because of her wealth.
Bottom line: Republicans want everybody to be wealthy. They want to take care of the poor. This is demonstrated by the fact that Republicans give a bigger share of their income to charity. They believe, like the Democrats, that "nobody should should be homeless, hungry, abused, or neglected regardless of the causes", and that is why they donate to charities that make it their mission to remedy those problems. The end goal is the same. Republicans just realize that the way to make individuals wealthy is not to hand them money (which cannot be sustained), but rather to give them the means (in terms of employment, education, and opportunity) to allow them to make themselves wealthy (which is self-sustaining.)
"I believe no one should go bankrupt, lose their home and life savings, or die because they can't afford health care and don't have reasonable health insurance.
"I believe in the family; specifically in policies that support the family — like paid parental leave, more support for public schools, a safe and sustainable environment, more prenatal health care, better support for working moms, better day care programs for our children and immigration policies that don't punish children or split up families."
Again, health care for everyone is clearly a noble pursuit. But it is not based in reality. Death is a part of life. Doctors and hospitals are not in the business of working for free. This means that for someone who gets cancer and receives $300,000 in medical care, there is $300,000 that needs to be paid. So who pays it? Insurance companies, right?
Insurance companies are businesses that need to make a profit in order to stay in business. The reason they didn't accept pre-existing conditions is that the risk is too high to take on that individuals. If I were to tell you I would pay you $250/month, and that there was a 95% chance I would need you to pay me $300,000 sometime in the next 5 years, what would you tell me?
Passing laws that force insurance companies to take on individuals with pre-existing conditions is forcing those insurance companies to either A) Go out of business, or B) Raise the rates on all customers in order to stay in business, which makes health care even less affordable.
That's simple -- Just get the government involved and raise taxes on the rich to fund it, right? (See the previous section.) Raising taxes reduces jobs and slows economic growth, creating an unsustainable system with even more individuals dependant on the "free" health care. That system will eventually fail.
Bottom Line: Republicans would love to have excellent health care for everyone on the planet. But the solution is not to force the insurance companies to do anything. The solution is to lower barriers and create more competition in the health care industry to naturally reduce the astronomical costs of health care. More competition = Lower prices. Then to shift back to insurance being insurance. Demolition derby drivers don't buy insurance on their cars. Insurance is for unexpected events like getting cancer or having open heart surgery -- Not for dental cleanings or having a baby.
If health care insurance were truly insurance (with a $10,000 deductible, for example), it would truly be affordable for everybody. That's why we can insure a $200,000 house for $400/year. For those who still could not afford health insurance, that could be handled through charities. Same end result, but through means that are self-sustaining and do not infringe upon our freedoms.
"I believe terrorism is a reprehensible criminal act, not an act of war. Thus the 'war on terror' is deeply flawed."
I guess maybe this is the one point we disagree on. The "reprehensible criminal act" on 9/11 killed twice as many Americans as the attack on Pearl Harbor -- I don't know about you, but it sure felt like a declaration of war to me. I would be interested to know Mr. Nielsen's philosophy on how he would have responded on 9/11. Ho do you handle terrorists who do not come out into open battle, but rather who hide, and infiltrate, and strike at innocent people. They have killed thousands, and if it could have been millions instead, it would have been.
Democrats wants peace. Republicans also want peace. But Al Queda does not want peace. Iran does not want peace. North Korea (making threats every day to use their nuclear weapons) does not want peace. Iraq most certainly did not want peace.
When you live in a world where there are individuals who simply do not want peace, what are your choices? The Democratic solution is to be nice. How did that work with the bully at school?
When I was in junior high, I had a neighborhood bully tease me on a regular basis. He continued to do it until one day he came up from behind and slapped me on my neck with a ruler in science class. I knew at that moment that I had a decision to make. I knew there would be consequences, but I was willing to accept them. I pushed my chair out from under the desk, stood up, turned around, and stared the bully in the eyes, ready for a fight. He turned, walked away, and never bothered me again.
The Republicans believe that you can never reach peace through being nice, because there are people like Hugo Chavez, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this world. If any of those individuals had a button they could push that would wipe the United States off of the earth, they would do it without blinking.
The way to achieve peace is through strength. One of the most striking exampls is when Iran held 52 U.S. Citizens for 444 days while Jimmy Carter was President. Asking nicely did not work. 20 minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office in 1980, Iran released the hostages. Why did they not release them in any of the previous 444 days, in spite of all of the talks and negotiations and attempts to have them released?
When Al Queda attacked us on 9/11 and killed thousands of innocent civilians, we realized as a nation that this type of thing could not stand. The attack was completely unprovoked. The attackers were not a formal nation. But we needed to end the bullying, or watch more innocent Americans die.
We had a decision to make. The Bush Administration responded exactly the way it should have. Because Al Queda is not a specific nation, the administration had no choice but to identify those nations that were a threat to the U.S. either directly or indirectly by harboring terrorists and funding terrorism. (Iraq had done both.)
The United Nations (consisting of many different countries) did not allow Iraq to build or possess weapons of mass destruction. Both U.S. AND British Intelligence showed that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMDs. The U.N. sent in inspectors, but Saddam Hussein refused to let them do their job. The U.S. gave Saddam Hussein the ultimatum: Allow the inspectors in by a specified day, or we will launch an attack. Saddam refused, which left the U.S. no choice. Had he cooperated, he would likely (and unfortunately for the Iraqi people) still be in power today. But as it happened, Iraq is no longer a terrorist threat to the U.S. or Kuwait or the United Kingdom or any nation for many generations to come.
The United Kingdom, South Korea, Austrailia, Poland, Romania, Denmark, El Salvador, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Latvia, Albania, the Czech Republic, Mongolia, Lithuania, Armenia, Bosnia, Estonia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Fiji, Hungary, Nicaragua, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, the Philippines, Thailand, New Zeland, Tonga, Portugal, Singapore, Norway, the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Japan, Italy, and Slovakia ALL agreed with President Bush as they deployed forces into Iraq as part of the colation. They all saw the same thing he did.
I would really like to hear what Democrats would have done differently. It sounds like Mr. Nielsen's plan was to arrest the terrorits that flew the planes into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers... except they are dead. How would that have helped prevent future attacks? I've heard President Obama say we should have focused on Afghanistan and not gotten distracted with Iraq. But then Iraq would have continued funding and harboring terrorists and being a scourge to all nations. Has Mr. Nielsen read the history of Iraq? Has he read about Bill Clinton boming Iraq during his presidency?
The U.S. has showed their strength in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan just like they did in World War II. Thousands and tens of thousands of terrorists have been killed. And, as a result of the strength of the Bush administration, there has not been another attack on U.S. soil. That isn't because the terrorists don't want to attack us.
Bottom Line: The Republicans hate war and want peace, just like the Democrats. But they understand that the only way to achieve peace in this world is to stand up to your enemies.
I could go on about illegal immigration, or big government, or social responsiblity, but I'm already setting a new length record, even by my standards. It was simply interesting to me to get a peek into the mind of a Democrat and realize that for as different as we are in the roads we travel along the way, it seems that on many issues that we all want to arrive at the same station in the end.