I see these five myths which continue to be perpetuated by conservatives as a very clear sign of the emptiness of the conservative argument. Paul Buchette presented them very nicely in an editorial on Nation of Change but I also want to summarize his article and possibly make a few comments.
The first myth is Entitlements and I have discussed this before but Buchette is clear: Social Security, Medicare, etc. are entitlements because we pay for them and are entitled to their use. They do not affect the budget or the deficit; in fact, the Social Security fund is the owner of a great deal of the American debt. We worry about China calling in their markers, but what about Social Security. It’s a little complicated and the conservatives will tell you there really is no Social Security funding but that is because the conservatives want to have all the money tied up in government bonds be transferred to their own funds. Social Security goes away and the conservatives are that much richer.
The Federal government is clearly viewed as a money management system for the rich, richer, and richest.
I have never been in favor of replacing the public school system with a privately controlled alternative system such as charter schools. Education should be a right of all citizens and the only way to support that right requires the Federal government. I do believe in specialized education, though, but only after the fundamentals are taught. Vocational schools, Magnet schools, etc. are valuable in the community since they recognize the differences between students and the directions their lives may take. At the same time (and this sometimes makes me crazy) I understand that one of the primary reasons for public education has always been to prepare new workers for the corporations and businesses to assure continuing profits.
The need to work to earn money to live is hard to avoid and I accept that an education benefits both the worker and the captain of industry (although if not evenly). But I would like to see more emphasis placed on thinking than on learning. It is clear to me over the last few years that the population of the United States is inadequate to compete in the world and is too easy to fool. We are living in a cesspool of mendacity and corruption that only seems to be getting worse.
Most conservatives will be quick to point out that corporate taxes in this country are higher than in most other countries. That may seem true but it has about as much validity as the savings a television pitch-man promises at three in the morning if you’ll only send him $19.95 for not one but two amazing magical replaces-all-the-tools-and-chemicals-in-you-house wonder widgets. The real amount of taxes being paid by corporations is slim and none, depending on how much corporate welfare they have been gifted by corrupt politicians and the Republican party (redundant?).
The fourth myth is that Jim Crow is dead. I certainly have never felt the urge to consider this country free of racism and the manufactured biases which associate any one group of citizens with something evil from the dark-side. Buchette has an interesting point in what we called cardinality in mathematics: it’s bad to be racist but since so many non-white people live in poverty and crime, there are far more non-white people in prison for felonies and such. Then, when the prisoners are released they are tagged as ex-cons, felons, and can be openly discriminated against no matter what color their skin is.
Next comes the myth that poverty is disappearing around the world, which is interesting since studies show that poverty is increasing in this country. It seems that if you take the World Bank statistics, poverty is declining around the world, but it more because of the definition of poverty that the real betterment of humanity. Consider the menial worker in an obscure country who is earning one dollar a day to break up dirt clods with a big stick and one day the patrón sees that breaking up clods is hard work so he increases this man’s salary to two dollars a day. That is considered a movement out of poverty by the World Bank but I don’t think it would be a popular equation in the United States (although I’m sure there are capitalists that start to drool when they hear about a worker being available for only two dollars a day). So telling a low-end worker receiving minimum wage with a wife and kids at home that he is advancing out of poverty based on a statistic skewed by a worker in a non-industrial country is perpetuating a myth.
Buchette passes quickly over the last two myths since they are so obviously ridiculous: Evolution is a scam and Climate Change is a hoax. I think we should send anyone expressing these beliefs off to that obscure country with all the dirt clods. My way of thinking: if you insist on primitive thinking (or non-thinking) then you might as well move to a primitive country.
I can see that “thinking” is central to all these ideas. Too many people in this country spend their thinking on developing ways to feed their greed, greed for power and for money. Imagine if society were to change and our thinking was directed to better the lives of ourselves and all those around us … could it ever happen?