When I was a young warthog, my knowledge of the United States’ political system was, perhaps forgivably, quite limited. Since my mushy, porridge-like grade-schooler brain mostly just contained incorrect facts about dinosaurs and schemes to steal Pogs from my friends at recess, my political acumen was more or less non-existent. I basically thought that, if you wanted to be nice, you were a democrat, and if you wanted to be rich, you were a republican. This caused me no small amount of youthful angst, because I had to admit in my secret heart of hearts, that although I knew I was supposed to want to be nice, and for the most part I did really want to be nice, I also wanted to be really rich.
Now, even though I have grown, and matured somewhat, and have a slightly more accurate understanding of liberal vs conservative political philosophies, I must admit that I still don’t really understand where I should fall on the political spectrum. I am not, after all, a 2 dimensional cartoonish caricature of a human being. I believe that there are relevant points made by those looney libertarians, and I salute the refreshing optimism of the other even more minor political movements. There are facets of the Democratic party’s platform that I absolutely support, and facets I whole-heartedly disagree with. Likewise, there are facets of the Republican platform that I support, and facets I despise.
At least, I think there are. It’s hard to tell really, because no conservatives I know will tell me what their platform really is or how it would benefit me.
Based on the year of my birth, I am considered an elder millennial. Consequently, most of the people I regularly interact with in a social setting are also millennials. Maybe it is due to a weird and completely coincidental confluence of circumstances, and not at all an indicator of the health of the parties as a whole, but, at least within the millennial age range, the demographic makeup of my circle of outspokenly liberal friends is wildly different than my circle of outspokenly conservative friends.
Not only are they more ethnically and culturally diverse, which I consider to always be a good thing, but my outspokenly liberal friends also include medical doctors, people with PhDs, masters degrees, and all sorts of other graduate certifications. They read, and research, debate and philosophize. They were the type of kids who spent recess in the library, or robotics lab. They are incredibly smart individuals. Way smarter than me. Look, I am a dumb guy, but I’m smart enough to recognize that I am a dumb guy. So when people who are much smarter than me tell me something, I know I should listen. With them, I am able to have substantive policy discussions, and even though I may not agree with every point they make, we can talk for hours, and when I am demonstrably wrong they can and absolutely do dunk on me with clear, concise, factually robust information. I mean it, these nerds pull out graphs. They bring the heat, and I walk away from a debate with them feeling smarter, even if I lost.
My most outspoken conservative millennial-aged friends on the other hand…well, they’re fucking dumb. Seriously, they have the curiosity of driveway gravel and the unearned self-confidence of walking Dunning-Kruger case studies. While my liberal leftist contemporaries were reading Michener in the school library, my MAGA pals were smoking discarded cigarette butts, huffing rubber cement, and scratching dicks and swastikas onto bathroom stall doors. DISCLAIMER – this is in no way implying that all liberals are brilliant and well-educated and all conservatives are idiots. That is clearly not the case. I am only saying that, of the people my age that I personally regularly interact with, in my particular circle of friends, the most outspoken liberals are actual fucking geniuses, and the most outspoken conservatives are…not that.
Because of this, if I ask the liberals I am acquainted with about their leftist policies and the Democratic platform, they are more than happy to share their theories with me, and it usually results in me going, huh, that makes a lot of sense, I think you might be right. When I ask the conservatives I know about their right-leaning ideologies and the Republican party’s goals, the entire sum of their platform is basically “Fuck Democrats. Fuck the Left. Fuck Liberals.”
Now, that’s all well and good, but… it doesn’t really address any of my concerns, or give me a fair representation of the Republican party’s platform. Like, at all.
I know that a general explanation of the Republican party’s platform is a simple web browser search away. I know that, traditionally, “conservative” values include support for limited government, free markets, and individual liberties *as long as those liberties don’t clash with their own viewpoints*, but I don’t really know what that means for me and the things I care about, and my illiterate conservative friends don’t know enough big words to explain it to me. So maybe a wise stranger on the internet can help.
Here are a list of things I worry about, as well as paraphrased responses I’ve received from my more liberal friends, which they have backed up with statistical data and facts. Hopefully a clever reader can help fill in the blanks regarding the GOP’s plan to resolve these issues, without resorting to hypotheticals, what-ifs, and inaccurate comparisons to other countries, societies, and historical eras, so that I can finally make a fair comparison between the two.
Problem: Cost of living has been increasing rapidly over time, but worker pay has not kept up.
Life keeps getting more and more expensive, but income for the vast majority of American citizens has not really risen to match it. In 1980, minimum wage was $3.10/hr., or $10.27 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. Currently, the federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25/hr. So it’s actually 3 dollars less than it was forty years ago.
Worker productivity, on the other hand, has increased. So workers are working longer hours, more efficiently, creating more profits for their employers, but they are not receiving increased compensation for their efforts. Well, who is? Where is all this money going!?
It turns out that over the same period of time (1980-2020), CEO pay has grown 940%, while regular worker compensation has only grown 12%. So that’s where a lot of the money has gone, to make the rich richer.
This was not always the case. Most Americans believe that a rising tide should lift all boats—that as the economy expands, everybody should reap the rewards. And for two-and-a-half decades beginning in the late 1940s, this was how our economy worked. Over this period, the pay (wages and benefits) of typical workers rose in tandem with productivity (how much workers produce per hour). In other words, as the economy became more efficient and expanded, everyday Americans benefited correspondingly through better pay. But in the 1980s, this started to change. From 1948-1979, productivity went up 108.1% while worker pay went up 93.2%. That’s still good, that means we were mostly getting paid for our work. From 1980-2018 however, productivity went up an additional 69.6%, but pay only went up 11.6%.
I think that’s a huge problem. Normal people are working harder than ever, but not being justly compensated for the labor they are providing, and the middle class is shrinking rapidly. Soon we may not even have a middle class anymore, just a few insanely wealthy neo-bourgeoise overlords living in mountaintop palaces while the rest of us toil wearily in their underground sugar caves and are periodically hunted for sport.
Liberal Solution: While everything from housing, to healthcare, to education skyrocket in price, workers are getting paid pennies for their labor. I know what the Liberal Left wants to do about this obvious problem. They want to increase the minimum wage to actually reflect the minimum amount needed to survive, and consequently promote increased wages across all jobs. That makes sense to me. If a human being sells at least 40 hours of their life a week to their employer, no matter what job they are doing, they deserve to at least be paid the bare minimum actually needed to survive. Minimum Wage is not meant to be a “starter” wage or a “practice” wage. It is not just teenagers working a few hours after school for video game money that earn minimum wage after all. In fact, almost 90% of the people making minimum wage are adults over 20 years old. They are real people, with real bills, who cannot survive on their current income.
Conservative Solution: The market will decide? I don’t know. Do conservatives even think it’s a problem that normal people are getting poorer and poorer while like 13 people hoard most of the wealth? I don’t see how reduced government regulation and unrestrained capitalism solves this issue, and no conservative has bothered to explain it to me. The fact that we need child labor laws, and that American companies sidestep that restriction by building sweat shops which exploit child slave labor overseas in the pursuit of higher profits seems like pretty definitive proof that regulations are necessary. We can’t just trust businesses to do the right thing, if that were the case then a federally mandated minimum wage would be unnecessary, because all businesses would already pay their workers a living wage, and not the bare minimum that they are required to by law. The golden era that the MAGA crowd nostalgically reminisces about through rose colored glasses when they say Make America Great Again was a time when American workers were well paid, and the income gap between workers and CEOs was much smaller, so you would think the GOP would be onboard with raising the minimum wage to a survivable level. That is, of course, assuming that middle class prosperity is what they’re referring to when they chant MAGA, and not like, segregating the blacks and preventing women from opening bank accounts again.
Problem: National debt and Taxes.
The GOP playbook since Reagan has basically been: Promise to lower taxes to get elected. Lower taxes and watch the deficit skyrocket. Lose office to Democrats. Complain about the deficit as if it were the Democrats fault. Prevent the Democrats from passing any useful legislation or achieving anything while they are in office. Complain about how the Democrats never pass any useful legislation or achieve anything. Promise to lower taxes. Get re-elected. Rinse/Repeat.
In 1960, wealthy Americans were taxed at 56%. In 1980, that dropped to 47%. In 2020, it has plummeted to 23%, and is now actually lower than the tax rate for the average American household, which in 2020 was 24.2%. The top 400 families currently have more wealth than the bottom 60 percent of households, while the top 0.1 percent own as much as the bottom 80 percent. Bruh.
Championed by the GOP, the theory of trickle down economics has had 40 years to bear fruit, and it has definitively shown itself to be a complete sham. Making it easier for the super rich to get even richer has only resulted in further hoarding of wealth by the lucky few. The greatest indicator of future wealth and success, BY FAR, is not a person’s intelligence, or work ethic, or anything they can actually pat themselves on the back for. It’s familial wealth. Rich people are rich because they are born rich. It’s way easier to work your butt off and create a company from the ground up if you’re starting that company with a massive cash infusion from mommy and daddy. Economic policies specifically favoring the wealthy and privileged have done nothing to benefit the vast majority of American citizens, and have in fact contributed to an increased national debt, and burgeoning wealth inequality in an increasingly stratified society. In the 1950s and 1960s, the “Great” times so constantly referenced by the MAGA crowd, when the economy was booming, the wealthiest Americans paid a top income tax rate of 91%. Today, the top rate is 43.4%. In our current system, while the richest among us are coddled and protected, the most vulnerable are forced to fend for themselves.
Liberal Solution: Make the rich pay “their fair share”. Democrats want to increase taxes on the uber-wealthy, not even back up to where it used to be historically, but just a little, just enough to close some glaring loopholes being exploited by the rich, in order to take some of the burden off of the working poor and shrinking middle class who have been footing the bill since Reagan. Democrats argue that increasing taxes on the wealthiest people and biggest corporations is fair because not only are they most able to easily pay that amount without any increase in hardship or decrease in quality of life, unlike their poorer fellow citizens, they are exactly who benefits the most from the products paid for by those taxes. The wealthy and corporations rely on, and benefit far more than your average Jack or Jill, from government investment in infrastructure, law enforcement, or military, and their continued profits rely on a healthy, well-educated workforce that is protected by a robust social safety net which reduces crime and promotes productivity. Since the super rich have more money to spend, and receive more benefit from the government services that our taxes pay for than poorer people do, Liberals feel that increasing taxes for the super rich makes sense.
Conservative Solution: I don’t think they consider this a problem? They pretty much universally hate taxes, right? Unless it’s to pay for tanks and bombs? Even if my conservative pals making $30k-$50k a year would not be affected by increased tax rates for wealthy people, and would almost certainly indirectly benefit from the funds collected, as far as I know they’re against the idea just because the Democrats support it. Conservatives moan constantly about the national debt, and blame the Democrats, but during my lifetime at least, the national debt and budgetary deficits actually increase more during Republican presidencies, and the economy has actually done better during Democratic presidencies, so when Republicans claim that they are the more fiscally responsible party, the data would indicate otherwise and they seem a little hypocritical to me.
Problem: Healthcare Costs Big Large
Americans spend twice as much on healthcare now as they did in the 1980s, and as we know, we aren’t all getting paid twice as much as we were in the 1980s, so every penny of that increase is felt. We pay so much, not because the actual cost of healthcare is that high, but because our For Profit healthcare system is allowed to price gouge us viciously, from charging $10 for a single cough drop, to charging thousands of dollars on life saving medications that cost $3 to produce. Since our income has not also doubled from the 1980s, this massive increase in healthcare costs is clearly an issue. I have a friend that is self-employed, and a few years ago he got injured in a motorcycle accident. Since he was self-employed, he was not protected by an employer health insurance plan, and since he could not afford the wildly expensive private plans available then, he was un-insured at the time of the accident, and his medical bills for a relatively minor surgery were so high that he lost everything. His house, his car, his boat, his RV, everything that he had worked hard his entire life to build for himself were gone practically overnight.
Although it is cruelly uncompassionate to do so, you can argue that he brought this financial ruin on himself, by exercising his freedoms and choosing to roll the dice and live without health insurance, but there really were no attainable options for him to obtain, and besides, other friends of mine that have employer funded health insurance and have also had the bad luck of getting sick or injured, have shown that their situation is not much better, with thousands of dollars still paid out of pocket, even though they pay a large portion of their paycheck into health insurance every month. That’s right, even people who have done “everything right” and have insurance, and an HSA, and savings, are still being financially ruined by a single illness or injury because of our current system.
We KNOW that our system is not the only option. We KNOW that almost every other developed country has a less barbaric healthcare system, where people can receive the care they need without going bankrupt. We KNOW that the healthcare we receive is not notably better than other countries, it’s just more expensive. And yet, here we are, charging hundreds and thousands of dollars for services and medications that don’t actually cost nearly that much to provide.
Liberal Solution: Medicare for All, or some other form of single payer health insurance. When economists analyze the US health care system and look for inefficiencies, they look first at the for-profit insurance provider. Overhead at private insurers in the US is in the range of 15% of total costs, while overhead at Medicare is about 2%. Medicare for All would eliminate the role of the for-profit private insurer, resulting in massive reductions in administrative costs. These savings – hundreds of billions of dollars a year – could be funneled into providing care for the 30 million Americans without health insurance and the nearly 100 million Americans who are under-insured, without increasing overall costs of financing health care.
Additionally, the best way to control the artificially inflated costs of healthcare in the US is through a Medicare for All universal system that would use regional global budgeting and eliminate fee-for-service medicine. Hospital and doctor costs would be controlled through regional management and pharmaceutical costs could be controlled through negotiation. This would be good for both doctors and patients—there would no longer be an incentive for a physician to perform certain medical procedures or prescribe certain medicines because they would make more money providing them, patients would receive more medically necessary care, and health care resources would be distributed in a more regionally appropriate manner.
According to Democrats, by controlling prices and getting rid of the private insurance industry, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would save hundreds of billions of dollars per year that would be directly translated into needed medical care for more people. Even with the expansion in coverage and benefits to every resident of America, ALL recent estimates—both liberal AND conservative—of an Expanded and Improved Medicare for All system show that national health expenditures would be decreased by trillions of dollars over the next 10 years.
Conservative Solution: There doesn’t appear to be one. If there is, we can’t know what it is, because they haven’t presented it, and if they have, my conservative friends certainly haven’t heard of it, because when asked for their thoughts on healthcare costs, their response has basically been “Obamacare is bad! Michelle Obama is a tranny! Illegal Immigrants! Build the Wall!” which… isn’t an appropriate or sensical response. Trump had 4 years to present his promised healthcare plan, and we got nothing. Now, nobody is going to argue that the liberal plan of Medicare for All would have an easy, painless, or even efficient rollout. There are problems and concerns that would need to be addressed, but at least they have a plan. The Republican plans submitted to date look like an undergraduate’s half-finished homework assignment, and basically amount to – Get rid of the Affordable Care Act to save money, and replace it with the Dying If You’re Sick plan. They’re unfinished at best, and malicious and cruel at worst.
Problem: Education costs have, you guessed it, skyrocketed!
Like healthcare, the cost of college has doubled since the 1980s. At most universities and colleges, it has gone up even more than that. In a depressing lack of a twist, I must remind you that, no, unfortunately, income has not also doubled. Consequently, we now have an entire generation of people who have been crippled by sky high student loan debt, and have also graduated into a series of economic recessions and disasters that have created a super competitive job market, where they are fighting for the privilege to be overworked and underpaid in positions where their limited income will never be able to pay off their loan debt (or pay for astronomically inflated home prices, or healthcare). This has led to countless millennials with college degrees working 40/50/60+ hours a week at multiple jobs, but still living at home with their aging parents, or renting with multiple roommates, and putting off marriage or having children because they literally cannot afford them, and meanwhile, older generations, who were able to pay cash for college with a part time summer job, and immediately had corporations lining up to suck their dicks and offer them lucrative positions with pension benefits as soon as they had their degrees, or who were able to secure high paying manufacturing jobs right out of high school, and to buy a house for 16 cents at 19 years old, having the GALL to claim that millennials aren’t achieving those big milestones of adulthood because they are immature and lazy.
All this, in a time when most of those aforementioned manufacturing jobs have dried up, and there simply aren’t enough high-paying blue collar positions available in our highly out-sourced modern economy, so not everybody can go work in a factory, or go to trade school and become electricians, or welders, or plumbers, or any of the other valuable skilled technical careers that you can obtain without a 4 year+ college degree. At the end of the day, the majority of the jobs that pay living wages nowadays, like it or not, are jobs that require a college degree, so college is more important and essential than ever. The fact that it is being priced out of attainability for most Americans without coming from a wealthy family or without crippling your future economic prospects by shouldering tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, is a major issue.
Liberal Solution: Progressives have toyed with the idea of forgiving federal student loan debt to help struggling citizens survive and thrive in our troubled economy. Proponents say this will allow millions of struggling Americans to save more money, which will then be used to stimulate the economy, all while directly benefiting lower and middle class families. Detractors say “I had to pay my student loans, why should they get theirs forgiven” to which I say, sometimes it’s okay to want good things to happen to other people. Democrats argue that instead of spending money to bail out multi-million and billion dollar corporations, we should instead spend the money helping normal people.
Democrats have also promoted the idea of free public colleges and universities for lower income students, paid for by taxes. Personally, I’m all for that, and I’m happy to pay for it. The government is already taking a quarter of my paycheck, I’d be much happier if that money went toward educating America, instead of bombing little Afghani children. We spend more than everyone else on our military BY A LOT, and I’d rather have those trillions of dollars go toward improving the lives of American citizens, than taking the lives of people in other countries just so that we can enrich a few oil executives. That’s the type of America First policy I can get behind.
Especially because education, as we can clearly see in this time of QAnon and anti-intellectual conspiracy theorist congress members, is so very important. College is so very important. Not necessarily because of WHAT is taught there, but because college teaches students HOW TO LEARN. It teaches students data literacy, how to review and reflect on the information that are receiving, to look and test for bias and inaccuracies. The sad truth is, I really don’t remember much of the specific information I learned in my college courses, but I do retain the skills I honed while I was studying for those courses. The information itself may fade, but my ability to examine and assess new information remains. Those life skills are so, so important, and always will be, since we are constantly bombarded by false, misleading, or misinterpreted information on TV and from the internet. By being forced to submit your own research, tests, and essays to the rigorous academic scrutiny needed to successfully earn a higher education degree, regardless of the major or course of study you pursue, College creates an invaluable bullshit filter for weak, faulty, flawed or biased information that is applicable throughout the rest of your life.
Conservative Solution: Like most conservative solutions, their plan is to do nothing. I say that facetiously, but that really is their platform. Conservatives agree that education costs are too damn high, but they do not think the government should be involved in any potential solutions. In fact, they want to get government out of education altogether, and stop providing federally underwritten student loans, instead freeing up the market exclusively to the private sector. That, somehow, is supposed to then result in reduced prices due to healthy competition amongst student loan lenders. How very…optimistic.
That’s really the main difference between Liberal and Conservative philosophies as far as I can tell.
Conservatives believe that the government should do less, regulate less, restrict less, cost less. They believe that governments are guaranteed to be bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and greedy, and that individual people, businesses, and NGOs are shining beacons of intelligence, efficiency, benevolence, and generosity. They therefore think that governmental oversight and interference is an unnecessary evil, and that when left to their own devices, humans will create utopian paradises where nobody is taken advantage of, and everybody works together in harmony.
While I agree whole-heartedly that many governmental organizations are mired in bureaucracy, and move with the glacial slowness of shifting tectonic plates, and operate with the efficiency of high displacement big block V8 motors from the 1960s heyday of American muscle cars, a certain national emergency occurring in Texas right now due to their independent, privatized electrical grid refusing to adhere to governmental requests to winterize their infrastructure in an attempt to cut costs and increase profits, and the inevitable collapse of that system following *precedented* but infrequent winter weather, has resulted in massive multi-day power outages, and subsequent deaths and property damages due to hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, and floods from frozen and burst plumbing pipes, is a stark reminder that most people are indeed lazy, greedy, and short-sighted, and that a certain amount of governmental oversight is probably unfortunately necessary to protect us from ourselves.
But then again, I am biased. I KNOW I’m biased. That’s the entire point of this post. I have been drawn in by the sweet siren songs of the brilliant liberals I know, who provide me with clear, concise, substantive information backed by replicable and reviewed data, while the conservatives just spew verbal diarrhea, and share inflammatory and inaccurate Facebook memes.
Some other topics I am passionate about that my most outspoken liberal friends constantly discuss are:
- The war on drugs/mass incarceration/ and the for profit prison system.
- Our flawed justice system, police brutality, and systemic racism.
- and white privilege.
They acknowledge these problems exist, and they seek ways to solve them.
My conservative friends don’t seem to give a crap, or refuse to admit that these are problems, and I’ve never heard them talk about ways to solve them. All they seem to care about are –
- Gun control
- Hating the Libs
I’ve never been bothered by an immigrant, and most of the ones I know, legal or otherwise, have been wonderful hardworking people who have improved my life with their presence, so that’s not really as much of a concern for me as say NOT BEING ABLE TO AFFORD TO GO TO THE DOCTOR, so I don’t really connect with the conservatives and their fixation on that topic. Likewise, I am incapable of carrying a baby, so I am unqualified to weigh in on the abortion debate, and I think that it is a women’s issue involving women’s bodies, that should be resolved by women, WHEREAS WORKERS NOT BEING PAID ENOUGH TO SURVIVE WHILE CEOS AND BUSINESS OWNERS ARE RICHER THAN EVER is an everybody problem and therefore one I have a much stronger opinion on. So, if I want to talk about the evils of socialism with people that don’t know what socialism is, and slavishly label anything progressive as “socialism”, great, I can do that with the conservatives I know. If I want to talk about how gun control bad with a group of people who refuse to acknowledge basic statistics about gun use, gun ownership, and gun violence, perfect, I know just who to call up.
I know what problems concern me. I know that the liberals are also concerned about those problems, and I know what their plans are to solve those problems. I don’t know if conservatives share my concerns, and even when they say they do, I don’t know what plans, if any, they have to solve them.
But I want to. Because currently, it seems to me that conservatives hate the government and don’t want to rely on it for anything, but also don’t want to come with any alternative solutions to our modern problems. It seems crazy to me that the conservative’s entire platform seems to be – privatize everything because the government can’t do anything right, but they’re IN the government ACTIVELY working to prevent the government from doing anything right, just to prove their point. It’s like, if you imagine the country is a ship, and our government is the crew. Half the crew are the liberals, who are just trying to steer the ship and keep it afloat, while the other half are conservatives, who are saying this ship doesn’t work, it’s going to sink, there shouldn’t even be a crew, we should let the passengers sail it instead, all while they’re cutting ropes and drilling holes in the hull to guarantee it sinks. Like yeah, of course the government doesn’t work, YOU’RE BREAKING IT ON PURPOSE. You can’t complain about inefficiencies, when you’re the inefficiency.
At least, that’s what I think, mostly because I’m a dumb guy and my most outspokenly liberal friends are super smart and super persuasive geniuses, whereas my most outspokenly conservative friends are even dumber than me. If I’m going to be shifted toward conservativism, I’m going to need some friendly conservative geniuses to speak up and lure me over to their side with shiny baubles like data, science, and reason. Sadly, easily refuted lies and incorrect Facebook memes just aren’t going to cut it.