Saturday, October 01, 2011

When Ideology Meets Reality: The Contradictions of Liberal Conservatives

What's so annoying about talking to my rightwing mom is that I *know* that she's a liberal.  She's *totally* a liberal.  Once you get passed the rhetoric and listen to what she really wants, they're all solutions that can only come from a liberal, while the conservative policies she advocates are responsible for the problems she's complaining about in the first place!

And it's not just her: Almost EVERY conservative really wants liberalism, if only they'd allow themselves to think it.  And if they could erase our minds and grab our policy solutions on everything, they'd gladly do so and be grateful that they finally got a platform that makes sense.

Yeah, they'll wail about how unfortunate it is that Obama's stifling the economy with all that uncertainty caused by him not doing what they were told he was going to do (i.e., anti-gun Islamic socialism), but underneath it all, they know the problem is lack of demand and would like nothing better than to use stimulus spending to pay businesses to build things and improve what we have...if only that wasn't the liberal solution.

Let Them Eat Chalk!

Like with the issue of free lunches for children.  Seriously, I'm of the opinion that a proper nutrition is essential for a child to learn and believe that all school children should be given a basic free lunch that is hardy enough to sustain them for the day, not just as a benefit to the parents or the child, but to the school.  Hungry kids don't learn and have more behavior problems, period.

As things are, when schools do have meals for children who can't pay, it's usually little more than a PB&J with a pint of milk; as if that was adequate nutrition.  And older students are simply told to do without food all together.  Seriously.  If the student doesn't have money, they just have to tough it and go hungry.  And again, it's for the benefit of the school, other students, and society if children are properly fed.  So if any parent feels they can't afford to feed their kid and want to take advantage of these programs, I say, let 'em.  As long as the funds go towards feeding a kid, I can't imagine what the problem would be.

And that shouldn't even be controversial.  Yet conservatives don't like the idea of any free lunches, and as Montana millionaire Rep Dennis Rehberg (R-$$) believes, the program is probably rife with fraud of parents claiming to make less money than they do in order to have their children fed with tax dollars.  Because yeah, the $600-$700 a year these people are costing us is really going to be worth the added layers of bureaucracy required to make sure it's not happening.

But of course, that's why their ultimate goal is really just to get rid of the lunch program all together, and as noted in my last post, that means that their only solution can be one that involves getting rid of the lunch program.  The idea that anyone's getting a free lunch is deplorable enough for them, but to think that someone might get their kid a free lunch fraudulently...well then, that's the final straw and it's time to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Apparently, 'tis better that many children go hungry than one kid get fed erroneously.

No Free Lunches

And my mom feels that exact same way.  Every time we get started talking about free lunch programs, she's instantly against them.  But then, she gets into an odd strain of thinking, as she begins to discuss another reason the lunch program is bad, based upon her personal experience: It's too difficult to get.

And that's from when she was involved with the Catholic school at her church and lamented how they couldn't get the free lunch program because there were too many hoops for them to jump through and bureaucratic audits to make sure the money wasn't being spent fraudulently; and they didn't want to follow the regulations.

That's right: She was complaining that more children weren't getting free lunches, and that there were too many safeguards in place to prevent fraud.  And yeah, on the surface, that fits the conservative line, as it's all about government red-tape and whatnot.  But...the underlying message is quite clear: We need more free lunches.

Her ideology and rhetoric tell her to hate free lunches.  Yet in practice, she understands the importance of these programs and would like to see them expanded; which, of course, is the liberal position.  While the conservative position is to deny these programs all together and make everyone pay for their own lunches.  I tried explaining that to her, but to no avail.

Government is People

And we see this sort of contradiction all the time.  People who complain about fraud in Social Security and Medicare, who also complain about red-tape making it difficult to get benefits or doctors willing to accept the limited payouts.  Or they complain about government interference in healthcare, yet rant endlessly about how their health insurer screwed them over and tried to deny them care while lying to them about it; as well as lamenting the high cost of healthcare and wanting someone to do something about it.

And really, you can see this again and again, as long as you stay away from their rhetorical hand grenades and keep the focus on reality and their real problems.  And the secret is to look for the openings and push past the rhetoric.  You might not see when they're pushing for liberal policies, but it's there.  You just have to keep them talking about reality and actual problems, and not the fantasy problems talk radio and Fox warn them about.

Because ultimately, they don't really want conservative policies.  They don't want a free-for-all which allows the powerful to trample them.  What they want is that ideal world Rush Limbaugh keeps telling them about, where everyone takes care of everyone and no one needs Big Daddy Government getting in the way of that.  And if they could only internalize the idea that the government is people, and is our way of ensuring that everyone takes care of everyone, they wouldn't be suffering from these contradictions.

But until then, they'll keep attacking big government until it finally steps out of the way and lets us work together to fix our problems collectively.  Sigh...

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