Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton’s Home Run

Well, I am here to tell you: Bill Clinton hit it out of the park with his Democratic National Convention speech. He made a very convincing case for reelecting Barack Obama as president. I really liked the approach he took. He didn’t just throw out innuendo and make snotty remarks about the Republicans, he actually started out talking about how he had worked with many Republicans on a number of projects by cooperating with them. He then turned to answering most of the negative charges leveled against Obama by Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans. I don’t know if all his answers were totally truthful or not, but they seemed credible. And the fact that both parties like to skew facts to make their candidates look good while making their opponents look bad made Clinton’s refutations even more believable. Or, could it be that he was just skewing the facts back in the other direction? That is the frustrating thing about elections. It is extremely difficult to know the exact truth about the things politicians talk about because those things are usually so complex and nuanced a person who is trying to live his own life and not shadow politicians simply does not have the time, resources, or background to thoroughly investigate these things. This leaves us with having to depend on other people to investigate them for us. But which investigators should we trust?

My favorite line in Clinton’s speech was when he told the crowd that he had been asked many times over the years what the secret was behind his balancing the budget. He said he always responded with one word: ARITHMETIC. I love that. Indeed, if somethin’ dudden add up, it ain’t gonna work. But again, which party has the best plan for making things add up? It’s difficult for an average Joe to know.

Given the difficulty of knowing the real facts so as to be able to call out politicians on their lies, I have found it helpful to rather listen to what their vision for the future is. And I have to say that my vision for America is very similar to Bill Clinton’s and the Democrats’ vision. I very much want to see everyone have an opportunity to succeed in life. I want everyone who wants an education to be able to get one. I want everyone who needs healthcare to be able to get it. I want everyone to have a job. I want world peace. (Yes, inside I am a beauty pageant contestant.) I want all those things. But here’s the problem. Republicans want all those things too. I dare say that there is only a small percentage of Americans that want to see any of their fellow citizens fail. So, why can’t we all just come together and work to accomplish these things? Well, it boils down to methodology.

The Republicans by and large believe that society as a whole rises the highest when its citizens are left free to pursue their own interests and interact with others on the basis of voluntary trade and contract. This is the concept of the “rugged individual” and is the idea our country was founded on. The Democrats for the most part believe that citizens are “in it together”. We all rise and fall in unison. Well, there is some truth to that. After all, if there was only one person on the Earth, he would pretty much live in poverty. Further, if all seven billion people on the planet lived only by and for themselves, never interacting with anyone else, it would be as though each person was the only person on Earth. They would all live in poverty. It takes a large number of people cooperating in creating and building to take a society to the mountaintop. But the issue is the motivating force behind people cooperating.

Bill Clinton mentioned several times in his speech about building a 21st century society of shared prosperity and shared responsibility, in other words, a we’re-all-in-this-together society. When a modern day Democrat uses these words, he is usually talking about a redistribution of wealth using the force of government. He is saying we all share the responsibility to work hard, and those who become successful MUST share their prosperity with those who didn’t. Now, there is nothing wrong with successful people sharing their wealth with the less fortunate. In fact, I have heard a statistic that says conservatives give away a larger percentage of their income than do liberals. So, contrary to what a liberal might have you think, conservatives like helping others. It’s just that they want to be able to choose for themselves who they help rather than have government choose for them. Liberals like to talk about the “right to choose” when it comes to abortion, but how about the “right to choose” how we use the wealth that we earned ourselves?

So, here’s what it all boils down to for me. Do I want to live in an America where the government decides where my charitable dollars should be spent and then uses the force of government to take that money from me for those purposes? Or do I want to live in an America where the government respects the rights of its citizens to keep the fruits of their labor and decide for themselves who they want to help? For me, I want to live in the latter. While no society will ever be perfect as long as there are imperfect people living in it, I believe a free America will lead to the best America.