Do Businesses Have A Moral Obligation To Their Workers? A Missouri Businessman Says They Do

As the ObamaCare experiment continues, critics are still wishing for, or in some cases trying to engineer, its absolute failure.

Obviously, if you have been following politics closely since 2008, you know that right-wingers want to undermine the Affordable Care Act largely because they believe that doing so would destroy the Obama presidency, a goal they sketched out at the beginning of his first term. These folks did not—and still do not—want this president to be transformative, to go down in history as someone who mattered. And if the ACA turns out to be successful, if the experiment works, it will mean that its presidential champion, and the political party that supported him, will matter a great deal.

Peter Wehner, a very conservative columnist, used to work for George W. Bush. But in Ayn Randish, Tea Party circles, he is considered a “neo-liberal” and a “statist” and one who promotes “wealth distribution.” That’s how far right the right-wing has drifted. In the real world, the world of facts, Wehner is an anti-Obama right-winger who thinks the failure of healthcare reform will not only “indict” the Obama administration, but will “hurt liberalism,” too. Why? Because such a failure would mean that the attempt to achieve “universal health care coverage,” something that liberals “have been aiming for for half a century,” will be politically dead, along with the Obama legacy.

A few days ago, Wehner wrote a piece titled “A Scenario for the Repeal of ObamaCare,” in which he quotes fellow right-winger Avik Roy as saying that if Republicans take over the White’s House and Senate in 2017, and if the number of “newly insured could be dwarfed by the political constituency of those harmed by the law,” then “President Obama’s signature legislation may not be long for this world.” To which Wehner responds:

If so, it would sink the Obama presidency, both in real time and in the eyes of history. Which is precisely what ought to occur.

So, there you have it. They want Obama’s graying scalp, even if it means hurting millions upon millions of uninsured and otherwise uninsurable folks. This stuff is personal.

And speaking of personal, a column that appeared recently in the Joplin Globe was also personal. Except in a good way. A local businessman, who holds a degree in chemistry and physics, wrote a piece (“The impact of ACA isn’t really ‘devastating’ at all”) that blew me away (thanks to blogger Jim Wheeler for the tip).

Kelly Meares, who co-founded and operates a business in Webb City, Mo., was inspired by Senator Roy Blunt’s invitation “to share horror stories and devastation brought upon fellow Missourians by the implementation of Obamacare.” Well, I’m sure Ol’ Roy didn’t expect this ironic reply from someone here in Southwest Missouri:

Thanks for the invitation to share the devastating impacts of Obamacare on our family. If you don’t mind, I will refer to it as the ACA instead of a hate-based euphemism. Yes, Obama has adopted the term hoping to neutralize it, but the Affordable Care Act was created by Congress and built on a hodgepodge of Republican ideas in the hope of bipartisanship while still (regrettably) mollycoddling insurance companies.

Because of the ACA, our business is suffering through lower insurance costs for the first time ever. In spite of staff aging up, our provider has lowered our premium costs. We were accustomed to double-digit increases for most of the last decade. 

Wow! Good ACA news for a change. And from a businessman! Meares goes on to note that an often overlooked provision in the ACA—the requirement that insurance companies in the individual and small group market have to spend at least 80% of premiums (85% for the large group market) Kelly Meares, founderon actual health care or else refund the difference to policyholders—resulted in 588,000 Missourians getting checks from their insurance companies in 2012.

Meares also notes that thanks to the ACA his young adult daughter “has had the security of insurance as a dependent on our policy since leaving college” and “will be able to transition to a plan on the exchange regardless of pre-existing conditions.” That is really “devastating stuff,” he mockingly tells Senator Blunt.

But what is really devastating, in terms of countering enemies of the ACA like Roy Blunt, is the following sweet sarcasm:

I fear that the ACA will allow hospitals and medical practitioners to spend less time chasing debtors and foreclosing on the homes of the unfortunate people who happen to have some assets but insufficient or no insurance coverage for whatever reason. The medicos will be liberated to practice medicine and will have less deadbeat debt to pass on to the paying customers.

And now mom-and-pop businesses that make the sacrifice to provide insurance for their employees will have a more level playing field against those businesses that neglect their moral obligation to their workers. Consider this — if your business model depends on a paying a non-living wage and pushing your workers into the safety net (provided by others), then you are not an entrepreneur; you are an exploiter. To borrow a popular hate phrase: You are not a producer; you are a parasite.

Dang! How refreshing to see reflected on the local paper’s opinion page, a page usually filled with anti-Obama and anti-ACA nonsense, the point of view of a businessman who believes that businesses ought not “neglect their moral obligation to their workers.” Heck, who around these parts even knew that businesses actually have a moral obligation to their workers? Fantastic stuff.

Mr. Meares urged “the Missouri GOP controlled statehouse” to “do the right thing” by expanding Medicaid in the state, which would affect 193,000 Missourians. Then he candidly admitted that the ACA is not the perfect solution, that “single payer” would be preferable. “But the doomsayers shot that down,” he says. Yes, they did. From the start there was very little consideration of a single-payer system, which is why, as this principled businessman said earlier, that the ACA was constructed with “a hodgepodge of Republican ideas in the hope of bipartisanship while still (regrettably) mollycoddling insurance companies.”

Meares then looked Roy Blunt in the eyes and told him,

Enough of the mock outrage and straw man arguments, please.

And he finished his remarkable column with this:

Of course, it’s human nature not to like the ACA simply because nobody actually wants insurance. Nobody wants hospitals or doctors. Everybody wants to live a healthy, non-medically entwined existence. But unless the GOP can deliver the latter, then you must do more to support the former instead of making political capital on our denial and obstructing the flawed solution.

I request that you serve the people of Missouri and reject the politics of GOP obstruction at all costs.

Bravo!

______________________________

[photo from the website of Kelly Meares’ business]

Romney And Robertson Are Out To Prove God Wrong?

His internal polls must be showing a deficiency in tongue-talking evangelical support for Mittens’ Magical Mormonism.

Why else would Romney appear with that crazy evangelist who talks to TV cameras and God for a living, Pat Robertson? With Robertson approvingly looking on, Romney uttered this weird rhetorical trifecta on Saturday:

I will not take God out of the name of our platform. I will not take God off our coins, and I will not take God out of my heart.

Wow! Thank God that God is safe from yet another Bain Capital downsizing! Those things can get messy you know. One day you think you’ve got a job—in this case God was workin’ three jobs!—and then in comes Bain and faster than you can say Holy Shih Tzu! you’re outta there.

For his part, the electronic evangelist, who on Tuesday said the Democratic Party is “the party of gays, godlessness and whatever else,” had previously endorsed Mittens, despite saying in 2011,

I’ve personally backed off from direct political involvement. I’ve been there, done that. The truth of the matter is politics is not going to change our world. It’s really not going to make that much of a difference.

Well, God ain’t nothing if he ain’t fickle, and apparently the Almighty has taken a divine shine to Mittens and Mormonism, so much so that Romney and Robertson can pal around together in the name of, uh, Jesus? Or is it in the name of Joseph Smith? Ayn Rand? Clint Eastwood?—no, can’t be him. I think he’s still alive. I forget who it is.

In any case, there are plenty of places you can go on the Internet to see the nutty things Robertson has said and done, and I have written plenty about them myself (here and here for instance). Suffice it to say now that I am quite intrigued by the Romney appearance with Pat Robertson because in January of this year Pat Robertson told his viewers the following:

I spent the better part of a week in prayer and just saying, “God just show me something,” and I’ll share with you—uh, some things I’ll share with you. I think he showed me about the next president but I’m not supposed to talk about that, so I’ll leave you in the dark…but I think I know who it’s gonna be.

Okay, Pat Robertson thinks he knows who will win in November. Wait, I’m sorry. He thinks God told him who the next president will be. That’s kind of different, ain’t it?

And, lucky you,  if you watch the entire segment below, you will know too. You can figure it out from what Robertson says God told him, things like “this country will begin disintegrating.” We all know that must mean that Obama wins because any candidate Robertson and God endorses would not countenance the disintegration of the country, right? Well, right?

But I am wondering why, if Romney believes in Robertson and if Robertson heard from God that Romney is already a loser, why would the loser still keep on campaigning such that he might prove Robertson and God both wrong? Wait. Can you actually prove God wrong? Huh?

Beats me. I just don’t know. But I do know that if you watch the entire segment below you will deduce who will win in November as well as note that, as I said at the time, God has replaced his message of “good tidings of great joy” with,

Your country will be torn apart by internal stress. A house divided cannot stand. Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority. Expect chaos and paralysis. Your president holds a view which is at the odds with the majority — it’s a radical view of the future of the country…the future of the world is at stake…

Paul Ryan And “Arrested Adolescence”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd absolutely nails Paul Ryan in her latest column, which is a must read:

He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean-cut and really cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality.

Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?

After so much media blather about Paul Ryan’s “earthiness,” his many menial jobs as a kid—how many pics have you seen of that dreadful Oscar Meyer Weinermobile?—Dowd gets the Ryan biography just right:

Like Mitt Romney, Ryan truly believes he made it on his own, so everyone else can, too. He shrugs off the advantage of starting as the white guy from an affluent family, able to breeze into a summer internship for a Wisconsin Republican senator as a college student.

The columnist also mentions a couple of facts that so far, as far as I know, have mostly gone unreported:

Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Life Act enshrining a fertilized egg with the definition of “personhood” and supported a bill Democrats nicknamed the “Let Women Die Act,” which would have let hospitals that get federal money deny women abortions even in life-threatening circumstances.

Have you heard one word about that?

And Dowd neatly distills the essence of the weird libertarianism espoused by Ryan’s ideological Jesus, Ayn Rand:

His long infatuation with her makes him seem even younger than he looks with his cowlick because Randism is a state of arrested adolescence, making its disciples feel like heroic teenagers atop a lofty mountain peak.

Amen.

Finally, Dowd says what I have said about Mitt Romney’s ideological insecurity, which is why I argued that he was the most dangerous right-winger running this year and Democrats must constantly point that out:

The secretive, ambiguous Romney was desperate for ideological clarity, so he outsourced his political identity to Ryan.

This just proves that Romney will never get over his anxiety about not being conservative enough. As president, he’d feel the need to prove himself with right-wing Supreme Court picks.

Yes, among other things. He will always have to prove himself to the yahoos now running the Republican Party. They will watch his every move, always threatening to pull the electoral rug from beneath his feet. And for a man who wants nothing in this world more than to become and remain president, that is a scary prospect.

The last line in Dowd’s column is priceless, but I’ve excerpted too much already. You should get it from the source.

Cogs

…the campaign is really a choice between two starkly different philosophies. One could be summed up as: “We’re all in this together.” The other: “I’ve got mine.

—Eugene Robinson

 saw Pulitzer-winning columnist Eugene Robinson on television this morning discussing his most recent column, “Romney and Ryan’s disdain for the working class.”

The column centers on the Romney campaign’s response to the “you didn’t build that” idea that President Obama is now famous for uttering:

…Romney has told campaign audiences variations of the following: “When a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll.”

When he delivered that line in Manassas on Saturday with Ryan in tow, Romney drew wild applause. He went on to say that a person who gets a promotion and raise at work, and who commutes to the office by car, doesn’t owe anything to the clerk at the motor vehicles department who processes driver’s licenses.

What I hear Romney saying, and I suspect many others will also hear, is that the little people don’t contribute and don’t count.

Robinson rhetorically wondered whether any of Romney’s children ever rode the bus to school and he went on to describe the importance of good bus drivers in terms of their interaction with children and their Image of old cogs and gears lay rusting in the grassimportant role in ensuring a child’s physical and emotional well-being.” Then he wrote:

School bus drivers don’t make a lot of money. Nor, for that matter, do the clerks who help keep unqualified drivers and unsafe vehicles off the streets. But these workers are not mere cogs in a machine designed to service those who make more money. They are part of a community.

The same is true of teachers, police officers, firefighters and others whom Romney and Ryan dismiss as minions of “big government” rather than public servants.

Well, it is painfully obvious that community is a contemptible concept to today’s breed of high-profile Ayn Randish Republicans. Those who are wealthy, or those who are on their way, are the ones worth worrying about, and the rest of us should consider ourselves fortunate that these “job creators” bother to throw us a few crumbs in the form of often low-paying jobs with little or no benefits.

Many times I have heard grateful anti-big government crumb-eaters extol the virtues of the moneyed class by saying something like, “I have never got a job from a poor person.” So essentially these folks would rather think of themselves as wards of the wealthy than wards of an activist and effective government that seeks not to destroy capitalism but to regulate it such that it works for all people, for the entire community.

Although he now says he rejects Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Paul Ryan has as late as 2009 embraced her ideas, which Robinson says place “self-interest as the highest, noblest calling and equate capitalist success with moral virtue.” As for Romney, “While he has never pledged allegiance to the Cult of Rand, his view of society seems basically the same.”

Romney made much of his fortune by buying and selling businesses, always doing so with indifference to each transaction’s effect on the community. The principle involved in making these purchasing or selling decisions was not consideration of the flesh and blood cogs in any of the business machinery, but in the profits that could be reaped from such deals. Nothing could better illustrate Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” than that.

Ryan in denying his affection for Rand, says it’s because her ideas constitute “an atheist philosophy” that “reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”

If that is so, if reducing “reducing human interactions down to mere contracts” so appalls him, he should explain why he is willing to serve with a man whose fortune was made by doing just that.

Romney Hood Rides Again!

Okay, it’s official. Romney Hood is now all-in on robbing the poor and middle class to give to the rich.

In March, Ezra Klein wrote this:

Here’s the basic outline of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget in one sentence: Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor.

What Romney’s pick of Ayn Rand-fan and right-wing social engineer Paul Ryan shows is just how desperate the embattled candidate is to keep the Ann Coulter-Rush Limbaugh creeps on his side. And while there will be a lot of whoppers told between now and November 6, the biggest whopper of them all was told this morning by Paul Ryan:

I believe there is no person in America who is better prepared, because of his experience, because of the principles he holds, and because of his achievements and excellence in so many different arenas, to lead America at this point in our history.

Because of the principles he holds“? Huh? Maybe he means that Romney is better prepared because he has held at one time or another most of the available principles:

I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose.’ [1]

‘I never really called myself pro-choice.’ [2]  

_____________________

‘It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.’ [1]

‘I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I like mandates. The mandates work.’ [1]

‘I think it’s unconstitutional on the 10th Amendment front.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I will work and fight for stem cell research.’ [1]    

‘In the end, I became persuaded that the stem-cell debate was grounded in a false premise.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.’ [1]    

‘Ronald Reagan is… my hero.’[2]

Wow. Romney does have the monopoly on principles alright.  But what about Ryan himself? He certainly sounds like a man of principles, especially now that he is charging President Obama with failing to fix the mess George W. Bush left us. But put your peepers on the following, a graphic presented by Chris Hayes on MSNBC this morning:

One would have to squint really hard to see how Ryan’s austerity-for-all-but-the-wealthy-because-we’re-going-off-the-fiscal-cliff principles today mesh with those principles he actually used to cast votes in that crucial period leading up to the Great Depression. As Chris Hayes put it,

Those are his votes—we’re not event talking in the abstract—I mean Paul Ryan was sitting there during that period of time, making those votes, and I think what drives people crazy is the sense that, “You burned the house down and now you’re complaining about there being no house!”

But as with Mitt Romney’s principles, those votes were Ryan then and this is Ryan now:

President Obama, and too many like him in Washington, have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation. We might have been able to get away with that before, but not now. We’re in a different, and dangerous, moment.

Yes, the moment is different, and it is beyond dangerous to put anywhere near the White House a man who helped create the mess we are still living with today. Especially a man who appears to have learned nothing from the mistakes of the past.

These days both Romney and Ryan are hell-bent on demonstrating that trickle-down economics, a scheme of giving mythical “job creators”—those fortunate few who already enjoy a disproportionate share of America’s wealth—more and more in hopes some of it will, like a leaky faucet, slowly drip on the rest of us.

Perhaps now, at this moment when Romney has doubled-down on the failed economics of the past by picking a Randian True Believer for his running mate, it is appropriate to look at a sentence in Robert Reich’s recent column:

The 400 richest Americans are richer than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.

Think about that. No, really, think about it. Read it again. And again. As Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan stood on that retired battleship this morning, they unequivocally and unapologetically stood for those 400 folks, who will do just fine no matter who wins the election.  The question is where do those 150 million Americans, who stand to lose so much if Romney wins, stand?

Paul Ryan did get something right this morning. People have now been given a choice:

What kind of country do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?

The selection of Paul Ryan, an advocate of radical austerity for all but the wealthy, has definitely given folks a choice, and we shall soon see how deeply planted in American soil are the roots of extremist Tea Party philosophy.

Because Paul Ryan is its champion.

The Spirit Of Ayn Rand Versus Obama

Please tolerate the length of this essay. Hopefully you will be rewarded by staying with it:

othing causes conservatives more consternation than hearing the truth about what actually makes human societies flourish.

Such a truth was spoken  by President Obama last week during a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., and what he said has driven already hateful right-wingers even further into the abyss of Obama-hate.  Here is the part of his speech you usually hear critics play:

That one phrase is played or quoted again and again, including on Tuesday by Mitt Romney:

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

So, what was Mr. Obama’s point? Oh, I’ll let him tell you, in context and as as part of the rest of what he said:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

Wow. What a controversial idea! We’re in this together? Nobody can do it alone? Are you kidding me? No wonder Rush Limbaugh said this about Obama’s words:

Somebody who loves America, who loves the founding, who understands it and knows everything about it, this is a declaration of war against the country.  This is a declaration of war from the White House.  This is a declaration of war against what this country’s always been.

And Limbaugh said this:

I think it can now be said, without equivocation — without equivocation — that this man hates this country. He is trying — Barack Obama is trying — to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream.

Now, it is easy to dismiss an ideological prostitute like Limbaugh. But rising Randian star Paul Ryan—who Romney is considering as a VP pick—had something to say about Obama’s remarks too:

This is not a Bill Clinton Democrat. He’s got this very government-centric, old 20th century collectivist philosophy which negates the American experiment, which is people living in communities, supporting one another, having government stick to its limits so it can do its job really well … Those of us who are conservative believe in government, we just believe government has limits. We want government to do what it does well and respect its limits so civil society and families can flourish on their own and do well and achieve their potential.

Gawd. As an aside, you gotta love the right’s recent embrace of Bill Clinton (see here  for Romney’s version), a man some of them accused of drug trafficking and murder just 15 short years ago. But beyond that,  look at what Paul Ryan said more closely. He contrasted “collectivist philosophy” with “the American experiment, which is people living in communities, supporting one another…” Isn’t “living in communities, supporting one another” what collectivist philosophy ultimately entails? Huh?

Ryan said,

We want government to do what it does well and respect its limits so civil society and families can flourish on their own and do well and achieve their potential.

How, you have to ask yourself, can civil society and families flourish “on their own,” if it is conceded that government is necessary for them to do that? I have discussed before the incoherence of the anti-collectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand (and Ryan is a Rand devotee, despite what he claims now), but the incoherence here is stunning.

But perhaps the most stunning thing I saw related to Obama’s common-sense comments about success was on MSNBC on Tuesday.  S. E. Cupp, who used to spout Obama-hate on Fox and other places, is now a regular panelist and rotating host on a show called The Cycle. Today she offered an incoherent commentary that included an on-screen quote from none other than Ayn Rand:

Cupp began,

According to President Obama, you don’t get anywhere through your own hard work or ingenuity. Every success you have is thanks to the collaborative work of thousands from the people who collect your taxes to the people who pave your roads. Well, of course that’s true in that most folks have a kind friend, a nurturing relative, a wise mentor or, well, a paved road to drive. We’re all products of an American community that helps each other out from time to time. But that generosity of spirit is the very reason the president thinks we should abandon the notion of the American dream and individual success in favor of collectivism, that incredibly inspiring belief that success is shared and the state alone can make all your dreams come true.

Besides the shocking incoherence of this paragraph—she is criticizing Obama’s remarks even though she admits, “We’re all products of an American community that helps each other out from time to time”—Cupp lies about what Obama said. He did not say, “you don’t get anywhere through your own hard work or ingenuity,” nor did he say, “we should abandon the notion of the American dream and individual success in favor of collectivism.” What he actually said was a variation of what Cupp herself admitted:

…when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.

You see, the problem with the right-wing punditry and the right-wing political class in the Age of The Scary Negro is that even a simple declaration that we’re not in this world alone, that we can and do depend on others for help—something that conservatives gladly admit—becomes on the lips of the right-wing’s black devil, a thing of disgust, of hate-inducing hysteria.

When these hysterical reactionaries, most of them Christians, invoke the name or reference the ideas of Ayn Rand, they are endorsing a strange and silly philosophy, one which completely misunderstands how mankind has engineered success against the vicissitudes of nature.

Ms. Rand’s heroes were “the men who produce,”  those,

who think and work, who discover how to deal with existence, how to produce the intellectual and the material values it requires.

These “forgotten men of history,” she said,

are first to discover any scrap of new knowledge, are the men who deal with reality, with the task of conquering nature, and who, to that extent, assume the responsibility of cognition: of exercising their rational faculty.

The task of conquering nature” is given to those producers and everyone else is a parasite, living on their efforts. The “rational faculty” is man’s “unique reward,” his instrument of survival, his means of conquering nature:

…animals survive by adjusting themselves to their background, man survives by adjusting his background to himself. If a drought strikes them, animals perish—man builds irrigation canals; if a flood strikes them, animals perish—man builds dams; if a carnivorous pack attacks them animals perish—man writes the Constitution of the United States.*

Ah, there’s the obvious silliness, the unmistakable flaw in Rand’s elaborate, self-created philosophy she called “Objectivism.” In that Constitution she praises, in that document she regards as the product of man’s reason designed to combat the “carnivorous pack,” are the words,

We the people…a more perfect unioncommon defence, general Welfare…

In the preamble to our Constitution those collectivist words represent the secret of man’s tentative success, the only hope he has of conquering nature, of overcoming the carnivorous pack. Our Constitution, with its appeal to collectivism, is perhaps the last best hope of mankind for conquering the worst angels of our nature, of making a civilization out of competing individuals, of ensuring that “success” includes all of us, not just a fortunate few.

And in their obvious and embarrassing hatred for Barack Obama, conservatives are willing to attack the premise of our American civilization, so eloquently expressed by the President:

We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

___________________________________

All of the Rand quotes are from my copy of For The New Intellectual.

Jesus Christ Supersocialist

A commenter on my post, “The Socialist Capital Of Missouri: Joplin,” wrote:

I would submit the idea that Christ would be in favor of socialism!

It so happens that Gregory Paul, who knows a little something about sociological research, wrote a piece for The Washington Post a few days ago that addressed the Jesus-as-socialist idea.

In fact, Paul went further and questioned “a set of profound contradictions” that “have developed within modern conservative Christianity.” If that critique sounds familiar to readers of this blog, it is because I, a former conservative, evangelical Christian, have offered the same criticisms.

Paul wrote:

Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christian capitalists are ardent followers of Ayn Rand, who was one of – and many of whose followers are — the most hard-line anti-Christian atheist/s you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinistic strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism!

He then goes on to discuss chapters 2 and 4 of the book of Acts in the New Testament, especially:

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Paul comments:

Now folks, that’s outright socialism of the type described millennia later by Marx—who likely got the general idea from the gospels.

The pro-capitalist Christians who are aware of these passages wave them away even though it is the only explicit description of Christian economics in the Bible.

Mr. Paul also comments on the odd affection that a lot of Bible-toting evangelicals and fundamentalists have for the rabid atheist Ayn Rand:

…many influential conservative Christians have embraced her expressly atheistic theory of Objectivism that in her books such as The Virtue of Selfishness, they propose that government must be shrunk to a bare minimum so socially Darwinist that it dances with anarchy. Only then can entrepreneurial greed have the free run that liberty demands…

In the Randian hyper-materialistic world those who are on the financial make are the exalted makers, the impoverished that accept tax payer assistance are parasitic takers who need to fend for themselves. A radical modernist ideology in greater antithesis to the traditional scriptural favoring of the poor over the rich can hardly be imagined. Yet the economics of the plutocratic Republican Party that embraces the Christian, anti-Darwinist creationist right are essentially those of the uberatheist, anti-creationist, Darwin-adoring Christianity-loathing Ayn Rand. So we have Christian creationists like Jay Richards writing books titled Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem. Can a stranger amalgam of opposing opinions be devised?

Can a stranger amalgam of opposing opinions be devised?” No.  And I experienced that strange amalgam first-hand here in Joplin at the April Tea Party rally.  A state legislator from Springfield, Eric Burlison, spoke to those gathered and mentioned his enthusiasm for Ayn Rand. I wrote at the time:

I can’t be the only one who finds irony in the fact that a man like Eric Burlison—a “pro-life” Christian who advertises that he gives back to the community by “serving” and “volunteering“—is behind a podium at a Tea Party event extolling the philosophy of a godless “baby-killer,” who would openly ridicule and scorn Mr. Burlison’s work on behalf of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Ronald McDonald House.

I can’t be the only one.”  No, as it turns out.

And thank God for that.

Senator Ayn Rand

I found the following clip via Jonathan Chait at The New Republic.  It demonstrates, as Chait points out, just how philosophically deranged devotees of Ayn Rand are:

Get it?  If you believe people have a right to health care, then you believe in slavery.  It’s just that simple in a Randian mind.  And that is the dominant mind of the Republican Party these days.

Democrats need to make the 2012 election a referendum on this Randian philosophy.  They need to make it clear that a vote for a Republican is a vote for a party that has unmistakably embraced a dark and disturbing selfishness, which in the world of Ayn Rand and her followers, is a virtue.

Turn To Page 1 In Your Hymnbook

Gene Lyons, whose column appeared in today’s Joplin Globe, as usual, gets it right:  

Increasingly, one of our two great political parties appears to be governed by what Charles P. Pierce calls the “Three Great Premises” of talk radio: “First Great Premise: Any theory is valid if it moves units … Second Great Premise: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough … Third Great Premise: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.”

No doubt, if we could measure the fervency of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s beliefs, we would have one whopper of a Truth.  A couple of days ago, I heard Paul say the following on Dylan Ratigan’s show:

I think the debate is going my way…When the financial bubble burst—and the housing bubble burst—all of a sudden Austrian, free-market economics gained a lot of credibility…

Yep. In the mind of Ron Paul, all we need to solve our troubles is more of the same stuff that caused our troubles: free-market economics.  And, of course, he is not the only one singing from the Gospel According to Ayn Rand hymnal.  Nearly every Republican leader, and potential presidential candidate, is singing from that hymnbook, which really only has one song: An Anthem to Greed.

Fortunately, though, in a moment of repentance, the contemporary high priest of Randian economics, Alan Greenspan, put down his free-market hymnal in October of 2008.  Contrary to Ron Paul and the Republican Party, he said the following to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: The question I have for you is, you had an ideology, you had a belief that free, competitive — and this is your statement — “I do have an ideology. My judgment is that free, competitive markets are by far the unrivaled way to organize economies. We’ve tried regulation. None meaningfully worked.” That was your quote.

You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others. And now our whole economy is paying its price.

Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, remember that what an ideology is, is a conceptual framework with the way people deal with reality. Everyone has one. You have to — to exist, you need an ideology. The question is whether it is accurate or not.

And what I’m saying to you is, yes, I found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is, but I’ve been very distressed by that fact.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality…

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?

ALAN GREENSPAN: That is — precisely. No, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

Ayn Rand Would Laugh At Him

Eric Burlison, a state legislator from Springfield, Mo., spoke at Saturday’s Joplin Tea Party rally.  During his speech he mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see the new movie, Atlas Shrugged, which was released last Friday.

As most of you know, Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, the pro-choice atheist philosopher whose childishly tidy philosophy argues that selfishness is a virtue and altruism is a weakness, a deadly weakness. 

I can’t be the only one who finds irony in the fact that a man like Eric Burlison—a “pro-life” Christian who advertises that he gives back to the community by “serving” and “volunteering“—is behind a podium at a Tea Party event extolling the philosophy of a godless “baby-killer,” who would openly ridicule and scorn Mr. Burlison’s work on behalf of Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Ronald McDonald House.

Except that when you think about it, what is the Tea Party movement about, if not essentially about selfishness?  At the Joplin Tea Party event, the crowd was mostly made up of older folks, many of them, no doubt, on Social Security and Medicare, who nevertheless enthusiastically applauded speaker after speaker who spoke about a too-large government, a government that takes too much and redistributes it to those who don’t deserve it.  These folks essentially epitomize a version of Randian selfishness philosophy:  They’ve got theirs and to hell with everyone else.

Isn’t that what is happening in Tea Party America?

Just look at the Tea Party’s favorite candidate these days.  Donald Trump, the Ugly American, is riding high on a wave of paranoia, perverse pride, and petty grievances.  His appearance this past weekend at a Florida Tea Party event was both clownish and vicious, both absurd and revealing.

What Trump’s well-received appearance in Florida—as well as his other public statements that have impressed teapartiers—reveals is a disturbing development in American politics. That there are people who take this egotistical, uninformed fool seriously says more about America than I care to acknowledge.  The fact that he is cheered as he denigrates America and brags about his intelligence and his business acumen—despite much contrary evidence—is symptomatic of how far a significant slice of the American electorate has fallen into a sort of Randian trance, where all but the self-described “producers” are leeches who deserve an ill fate.

And here in Joplin I watched a conservative Republican from Springfield, a man who boasts of his volunteer spirit and his “pro-life” credentials, a man who claims he shows “humility and humbleness in an open setting,” salivate over the release of a movie based on the philosophy of a woman who would mock him and his Christian beliefs.

As I said, absurd and revealing.

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