I really shouldn’t be writing this, because I have two reviews due today…both of which I started this morning.
But I was just listening to an NPR segment about “How Have The Last 4 Years Affected Your Political Leanings” or something like that. And I kind of want to write on that quickly, because I’ve been alone with Franke and Caleb for days, mostly working, but also thinking a lot, on topics like Paul Ryan. Neither Franke nor Caleb really give a shit.
I should preface this by saying that I think politics is mostly showmanship, and doesn’t have too much of a bearing on actual life. This is probably an idiotic stance, but from what I can tell, Democrats and Republicans mostly just argue in favor of the same things, in different (and flat) rhetoric. What they say in public is to get them re-elected, and what they do in private is in their own best interest.
That being said, I was at first very scared when Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan would be his running mate. Paul Ryan is not some outlier wackadoo like Sarah Palin. He’s actually a formidable opponent, who has made something of a name for himself in Congress. He’s the Chairman of the Committee on the Budget, and he authored the “Roadmap to the Future,” a pretty scary document for people (like me) that proposes to privatize things like Medicare for people under the age of 55, providing vouchers without taking into account inflation.
Then I realized that if Romney does in fact get elected, Ryan will have, in essence, neutered himself for the next 4 (or 8) years. I mean, I can’t even remember the last time I heard Joe Biden’s name in the news, except in relation to speculations that Obama might replace him on the ticket. As far as I’m concerned, as a passive absorber of media, Joe Biden starts drinking at lunch every day, and doesn’t do shit.
(I apologize to you, Joe Biden, no offense.)
Then I started having this really interesting debate with myself about why politicians (and voters) are so into individualism right now, and whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing.
It kind of started when I was Gchatting with my friend Josh about gun control. He’s much more knowledgeable about politics than I am, so I asked him what the justifications are from pro-gun people as to why people can buy like automatic weapons and shit. The easy explanation for this, of course, is that it’s all about the NRA and lobbies and idiots who like to hunt, but that’s all because of the media. The media reports so shallowly, and so quickly about things, that they’re almost as fact-lite as politicians.
Josh—who’s read and thought about this a lot more than probably most writers—said that it’s because there’s this undercurrent of fear in America, fueled by mid-intelligence thinkers penning conspiracy books, that the situation with the government could, at any time, turn all Syria and shit. That people think that they need to arm themselves in case the government turns their backs on them. That we’ve time traveled back to the Revolutionary War, only now, rather than needing to protect ourselves from the British, we need to protect ourselves from, in the words of Josh speaking for said ignorant people: “UN domination, the slow-mo invasion of America by Mexican immigrants, and federal agents who want to confiscate our property and re-distribute it to black people.”
Which ties into this whole idea of individualism propagated by Paul Ryan, who is a fanatic about Ayn Rand. (By the way, seriously, what does that even mean?).
Now, individualism, on a very basic level, makes some sense. Yes, we work hard for our money, and we should be able to choose how it is spent. Right? I used to kind of be like, right. But then, recently, I started having some revelations.
The first came when I was talking to my dad (daddy?), whom I consider to be a very intelligent person. I brought up Paul Ryan, expecting he would call him an idiot, but he kind of went soft on me. Then I remembered that my dad is very much a proponent of individualism. He worked his ass off for this money, he saved it, and he doesn’t want to waste it on a welfare state where everyone sits around on their asses and does nothing.
The problems with that, of course, are manifold. First, my dad was successful because he was intelligent, charming, handsome, ambitious, hard-working, and a naturalized American citizen — a number of qualities that played heavily in his favor. Many people—illegal immigrants working like dogs without any rights, for instance—are not nearly as lucky.
Secondly, he is part of the baby boomer generation, which basically completely fucked my generation. Not only did they raise us to be the entitled little brats they seem to think we are today, they also ran our economy into the ground, accumulated more debt than generations of their offspring will ever be able to pay back, and raised expectations for the quality of life we should expect to live that are unrealistic. (Fuck you, baby boomers).
Thanks to them, we actually will probably need to rely on the government, because we won’t be able to withstand the burden of debt. I can work my ass off for as long as I want, but I doubt that I will ever be able to fully pay off my own student debt, no less that of my children. God forbid Paul Ryan really does pass legislation that does away with government sponsored Medicare, because then I’ll probably have to put myself out on an iceberg when I turn 65, and pray a fucking polar bear eats me. That is, if icebergs or polar bears still even exist then.
Third of all, my dad’s rich. Like Paul Ryan. And Mitt Romney. I don’t know personally what his financial situation is, but I certainly think he doesn’t need any tax breaks in the future. And, I really can’t speak to any of the tax laws that have either covertly, or overtly, been proposed by Ryan and Romney, but it seems like they heavily favor cuts for the EXTREMELY wealthy, which doesn’t do anybody but those wealthy people a lot of good.
I think my dad would say that those guys argue that the money is safer in their hands than it is in the government’s hands. They can give it away as they choose, and they don’t spend it irresponsibly. EEEEEHHHHHH. (That’s a fucking very loud buzzer.)
That’s the whole point of democracy, right? To prevent a few people from having a monopoly of power over the rest? Because do you know what will happen if we start stripping away social programs? Let me break it down for you in the most un-informed way ever, because really, this is all fantasy, and I have almost no facts to back this up.
What will happen is that our relatively safe, relatively stable society will be rocked. People who were living off the fat of other people’s successes (yes they are!) will suddenly be left without comforts to which they’ve grown accustomed. There might not be bloody revolt (wish), but there will certainly be upheavals. Slowly, our cities will become less safe. Slowly, people will turn to illegal activities to survive. Slowly, rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, will rise.
A lot of people aren’t as lucky as my dad, or Ryan and Romney, both of whom came from well-off families. So fucking what if Ryan flipped burgers? I bet that he would have gotten that job before 100 people living on welfare, just because he’s a nice looking white dude, even if they needed money more.
Wouldn’t you rather live in a society where you knew that your basic health, food, cable bills, housing, and car payments were covered, without a lot of excess, than live in a state controlled by 1,000 rich white dudes that’s rocked by upheaval?
Paul Ryan, I guess, seems to think no, not if you’re an individual.
Which is why, I guess, even though I don’t really believe in politics, I am leaning far more Democrat than ever before these last few weeks.