The politics of mean

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 16 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:52 am in
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By Kathleen J. Hall


Iíve noticed a common thread running through recent political discussions. Has anyone else observed that our conversations about immigration, food stamps, medical insurance, the minimum wage and tax policy all have a rarely articulated but definite subtext? The ďIíve got mine and nobody can make me share itĒ message? I call this the politics of mean.

Take immigration policy: Unless you are of American Indian descent, you or your ancestors were once immigrants. Why are you in favor of harsh restrictions on immigration when our ancestors did not face similar restrictions? Why punish children who did not choose to come to the United States? Why make citizenship so hard to obtain?

Food stamps: Why do you want to cut funding and eligibility for food stamps (SNAP) programs? Donít you realize that the demand for food stamps just demonstrates that more people than ever are hungry?

Minimum wage: How would you like to try to support yourself, let alone a family, on $7.25 an hour? I like the idea of pegging the top paid executive salary to a multiple of the lowest salary. Until we do something, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Medical insurance: Isnít the premise of insurance that people pool their funds and share the risk? So why are healthy, prosperous people outraged that the Affordable Health Care Act has slightly increased their premiums? Healthcare is recognized as a basic human right in most of the developed world. We could have avoided this argument with a single-payer insurance system, a fair and equitable system like the one Canadians enjoy.

Public employee retirement plans: Maybe being a retired teacher biases me, but teacher salaries are not commensurate with the services provided, services vital to our future. And, teachers have paid into this retirement system throughout their working years.

Tax policies: For years, we have reduced taxes for the wealthy, one reason for our widening gulf between the rich and the poor. Do we want to live in this kind of country? Gov. Branstad has just proposed a flat tax, which the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement calls: ďessentially a giant handout to high-end income earners that donít need any more tax breaks.Ē

Environmental policy: Why are we exhausting the resources of our soil, polluting the water, and pouring carbon into the atmosphere? The future of our children, our grandchildren, and our planet is being sacrificed for immediate gain.

Have we replaced the Golden Rule with this message: Iíve got mine, and Iíve going to keep it and make sure nobody else gets any?

Kathleen J. Hall, of Cedar Rapids, is a member of the Whittier Monthly Meeting of Friends, and Workers for Peace Iowa. Comments:

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