Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Democratic view of culture

Democratic Party Values

Previously, I wrote about several Republican Party Platform issues and general Republican values. Then I brought the post up-to-date with the 2016 platform. In this post I look at the Democratic Party. My focus in primarily on culture rather than on party politics. But clearly, culture can change to the extent more people from a particular party govern according to their espoused values. Here’s a link to the previous platform.

Democrats are known for tax structures that take less taxes from low income workers and more from those who earn more. This is referred to in the platform as paying a “fair share.” If you check the Republican platform, you will see a focus on closer to equal sharing of tax burdens, sometimes referred to as flatter. The question is “What is a fair share of taxes?” And the answer is it is up to you to decide! But here’s more about fairness.

I think most Americans are willing to concede that the very poor ought to pay little to no taxes (after all, Americans are a generous people). But Democrats often point out that those earning more ought to pay more. The question of fairness is tricky because we can talk about an equal percentage (fairness as equal) such as 15% of all earnings or we can talk about the very rich paying a higher percentage (fairness as proportional) of earnings above a specific income level (e.g., pay 30% on earning above $250,000). So, what’s a fair share?

Health Care
It is no secret that the Democrats have pushed for national health care. The Affordable Care Act came closer to providing national health insurance but there are still millions of Americans without healthcare coverage. This issue really divides Americans.

The arguments vary about several issues such as: What is the role, if any, of the federal government in health care coverage? Why shouldn’t individuals be free to choose to have or not have health insurance? Who is going to pay for this major expense if the government gets further into the business of healthcare?

The federal government has been in the business of healthcare insurance for years in the form of Veteran’s Administration hospitals and services, Medical care of those in active military service, Medicare for those at or above age 65, and Medicaid for low income Americans. In a sense, Americans have already approved the government being in the business of healthcare insurance and services so, the issue ought to be about expanding or contracting health care. Unless you favor dumping care for everyone, which neither major party supports.

In my view, refusing to obtain health insurance places an undue burden on other citizens because all health care costs rise when hospitals and other health care providers pass along the costs of caring for those who do not or cannot pay their bills. I also draw an analogy to free education, which has been supported by Americans for years. You can do a lot of jobs without much education but you cannot go to work if you are seriously ill. You don’t need a high school education to stock shelves or drive a truck but you do need your health and strength. And you might not earn enough stocking shelves or driving to pay for health insurance along with the bare minimum of life’s necessities. Of course this could be solved by requiring all employers to provide health insurance but then the cost of products and services would rise. There’s no getting around it. One way or another most of us pay for other people’s health care costs.

Here's another analogy. We willingly pay for defense against those who would do us harm by having a strong military and homeland security. So, why not pay for defense against diseases and illnesses that attack and kill or disable our citizens? A lot of us die or suffer from heart disease, cancers, strokes, and so forth.

Social Security and Medicare
Social Security and Medicare are a mainstays of the Democratic Party. Most Americans depend on Social Security and Medicare to cover a substantial portion of their retirement funds and basic well-being. Most seniors have paid into the system during their working years. The biggest concern is the high cost of the programs, especially as more people live longer.

Getting rid of these programs would be a disaster for so many and would be morally impermissible given that so many have paid into the system and deserve to reap the benefits. Although there are arguments favoring privatization, the problem is private employers vary in the retirement benefits they offer employees. Some employers offer a lot but others offer too little. In some way, Americans need a reliable scheme that allows them to retire with some minimum of income and affordable health care to cover the period when they are unable to earn a living.

Playing politics with Social Security and Medicare happens from time to time. Scaring people about their well-being seems immoral to me. On the other hand, stories about waste in Medicare are not hard to find. All Americans have a moral duty to avoid abuse of Medicare and report those who abuse the system.

Education is expensive. In a free society, it is natural for educators to want higher incomes than available from some poor school districts. In addition, schools vary in many aspects of quality that are tied to available funds. In general, Democrats favor spending more on education.

Funding higher education is a separate issue. Democrats favor increasing the opportunity for the poor to attend colleges, universities, and technical schools. Increasing education is very expensive.

Although it is true that people with a higher education earn more than those with less education, education is not the only factor in higher earnings. Having worked with students and teachers from preschool through graduate school I find a considerable range of ability and motivation. It is incredibly na├»ve to think that all people will be better off with more education. And it is an intrusion on individual rights to compel youth to attend school against their will and then label them as “drop outs” or worse when they quit.

I agree that as good citizens all people need a basic level of education. I do not think it fair to create a culture where those who choose to enter work at a young age are somehow considered inferior. We don’t need more citizens with higher education degrees working in jobs that do not require a college education. Also, we do not need government loan supported quasi-educational businesses selling easy to obtain degrees to people who can ill afford to pay back the loans. No education is free. Someone is paying for it.

Democrats have a reputation for focusing on the working class rather than “Big Business” or “Wall Street.” Many Americans have been appalled at taxpayer funds supporting the big investment banks that were considered “too big to fail.” In contrast, many low and moderate income workers lost their positions in the most recent recession. In some states, workers lack union support to help them bargain for better salaries and benefits.

In general, I think a reasonable role for government is to ensure a productive balance between the rights of businesses to earn a profit and invest in the future of their company with minimal government constraint and the rights of employees to share in the profits of the company they work for in terms of a fair wage and benefits.

From time to time imbalances exist to the detriment of businesses that fail due to excessive costs of doing business in part due to excess government regulation. But at other times, employees suffer when unregulated businesses exploit their workforce and dismiss them for trivial reasons.

Photo note: Photos were selected from using the "free to share and use" category. I will gladly remove photos if there is a mistake.

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I write about culture in general and Christian culture in particular. To read more, see my recent book.

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