Opinions From A Young Progressive, Volume One

Why I Am a Progressive

Because this is the first installment of what will hopefully be a many-part series, I’d like to start off with an introduction and explanation of what this is. “Opinions From A Young Progressive” will be a weekly opinion piece, written by yours truly. It is called such because I am young — 19 — and progressive (seems somewhat obvious). If you choose to discount my thoughts or points based on my age alone, that’s your decision. It’s also a genetic fallacy. For those of you who have yet to enter your larval stage of heuristic philosophizing, a genetic fallacy is when you choose to dismiss a claim or idea based on the origin instead of the merits of the idea itself (I’m a proud larvae myself; no condescension was meant).

That’s enough of an introduction. This week’s edition is “Why I Am A Progressive.” I’m a progressive for a few reasons: the meaning of the word, the ideals of progressive parties (Democrats, mostly), and also because, well, I’m not a conservative.

I know that there will be some people out there that will insist I’m a liberal (I prefer the term “progressive”) out of “rebellion” against my authorities in childhood. I’d like to assure that isn’t true; I grew up with both my grandparents and my mother, and while my grandparents are indeed staunch conservatives, my mother is the polar opposite.

The meaning of the word “progressive” is quite clear: “progress” is defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination” and “-ive” is defined as “a suffix of adjectives (and nouns of adjectival origin) expressing tendency, disposition, function, connection, et cetera” (Google definition).

Therefore a progressive is one who expresses a tendency or disposition to move forward or onward. I like that as a description of myself, so there you have reason number one. The past doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. If it did, we’d still be doing it. Slavery, unequal rights for minorities and women, class warfare—those are all things of the past. Too often they damage present and put the future in danger. I am not happy with the way things are. We have only one direction to logically travel, and that is forward. Conservatism, on the other hand, means “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation” as an adjective, and “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes” as a noun. I’ll explain why I believe that’s idiotic in a little bit.

Reason number two has to do with the ideals of (mostly) the Democratic Party, which is the de facto party of progressives. The current Democratic Party Platform (in short; it’s seventy pages long) emphasizes clean energy, scientific research, education, equal rights, and basic progressivism in every walk of life. That is a noble goal. The history of humankind has been one of progress for the most part, and I am loathe to give the reins to someone whose goal is to push things back.

The biggest reason is simply that I am not a conservative. That ties in closely with the other two, of course; I did, however, feel that there was enough discrepancy to allow for an entire other topic. Let’s look over some conservative goals for the next four years, as seen in their fifty-page platform:

To that end, we propose to:

Extend the 2001 and 2003 tax relief packages—commonly known as the Bush tax cuts—pending reform of the tax code, to keep tax rates from rising on income, interest, dividends, and capital gains; Reform the tax code by reducing marginal tax rates by 20 percent across-the-board in a revenue-neutral manner;Eliminate the taxes on interest, dividends,and capital gains altogether for lower and middle-income taxpayers;End the Death Tax; and Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.

You know, because low-income individuals always have a ton of investment/interest income that should no longer be taxed. It’s funny that the Republican Party would have capital gain taxes removed in their platform. Wait–no, it isn’t. It’s anti-poor. The rich get richer from investments; the poor spend their money on food.

Another excerpt:

A sound monetary policy is critical for maintaining a strong economy. Inflation diminishes the purchasing power of the dollar at home and abroad and is a hidden tax on the American people. Moreover,the inflation tax is regressive, punishes those who save, transfers wealth from Main Street to Wall Street, and has grave implications for seniors living on fixed incomes.

An economic truth that the GOP seems to be unaware of is that inflation is an inherent side effect of capitalism. Something else they seem to be unaware of is that inflation is currently extremely low, and not really part of the economic hardship we’re currently enduring (well, the one we’ve just gotten out of. The economy–and jobs–have steadily improved since President Obama has taken office).

Let’s continue with these excerpts and subsequent debunkings for a moment; they are directly related to why I am a progressive:

We are the party of the Constitution, the solemn compact which confirms our God-given individual rights and assures that all Americans stand equal before the law. Perhaps the greatest political document ever written, it defines the purposes and limits of government and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the U.S. the world’s freest, most stable, and most prosperous nation. Its Constitutional ideals have been emulated around the world, and with them has come unprecedented prosperity for billions of people.

In the spirit of the Constitution, we consider discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, creed, disability, or national origin unacceptable and immoral.

Well, the first paragraph isn’t bad, except for the “God-given rights” bit. The Constitution is what details American’s rights; being born grants them. If Republicans truly believe that the Constitution is simply a reaffirmation of God-given rights, why do so many conservative politicians support Guantanamo Bay for foreign nationals? (Not that I’m necessarily happy with the way the current administration has handled it.) It’s also a counterfactual fallacy for a politician to say, “If I had been in office, things would have been different.” That information is impossible to have.

It’s also funny that they stated “God-given” and then said that they don’t discriminate based on religious beliefs in the next breath. Let’s say that I don’t support the Christian God (I don’t, but that’s hardly relevant and completely unimportant; we’re all entitled to our own personal beliefs). What if I like Pikkiwoki better, and believe our rights to coconuts and pigs come from him? It’s awfully confusing and contradictory.

Here’s a longer couple of GOP Platform excerpts regarding marriage:

A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which,for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.

It’s funny that they stated “a blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition” because the explicitly defined duties of higher courts are the definitions and re-definitions of laws. Well, interpretations. It comes to the same thing. They are quite obviously referring to gay marriage, as you will see in a moment. It’s also quite silly that they say that the heterosexual parental institution is entrusted with the rearing of children…what about single parents? And the transmission of cultural values? What the hell are they talking about? Oh, that’s right–  homophobia, bigotry, and blind hatred of that which is not understood.

Here’s another gem:

That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle—in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts—makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath. We commend the United States House of Representatives and State Attorneys General who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

If you read that carefully, you’ll notice that they first state that gay marriage is unconstitutional and then propose an amendment to define it as unconstitutional. Also, considering that the only real argument against it is religious, and they already stated that they don’t discriminate based on religion. Dear GOP: you can’t have it both ways. Which is it?

Lastly, a beautiful piece on the Tenth Amendment:

We support the review and examination of all federal agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, operational inefficiencies, or abuse of power to determine whether they are performing functions that are better performed by the States. These functions, as appropriate, should be returned to the States in accordance with the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We affirm that all legislation, rules, and regulations must conform and public servants must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, as originally intended by the Framers. Whether such legislation is a State or federal matter must be determined in accordance with the Tenth Amendment, in conjunction with Article I, Section 8.

The most hilarious–and scary–part of this is that this reads almost identically to Tea Party stances two years ago, showing how the far right-wing of the Republican Party is becoming the only wing as fringe groups drag it away from sane political thinking. Not only that, but the paragraph above shows a firm lack of historical and legal knowledge as well as a seemingly forgotten Confederate loss to the Union in the Civil War. They also seem to have forgotten that the “Framers” intended the Constitution to be a living document and that times change.

Here’s the deal on the Tenth Amendment. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That has been broadly misinterpreted by the Republican Party lately. In fact, I reported on it September 5th. An excerpt from my article:

A variety of landmark decisions go to show that the tenther mindset is either misguided or historically uneducated. In 1819, McCulloch v. Maryland, a Supreme Court case, helped to decide two things: The supremacy of the federal government over that of the states, and the existence of implied powers beyond those enumerated in the Constitution. The first of those, the supremacy of the federal government, ensures that federal laws preclude state laws. This has clearly been shown in the DEA raids on “legal” marijuana farms in California and Oregon. While legal according to state laws, the federal mandate against marijuana allowed the raids to be carried out, and will continue to allow such until medicinal marijuana is legalized on a federal level.

In 1824, the Supreme Court decided in Gibbons v. Ogden to increase the power of the federal government in commerce regulations by “broadly defining commerce to encompass virtually every form of commercial activity.” (Government in America)

We certainly mustn’t forget the Civil War. The Civil War was, essentially, a war about the states’ rights versus the power of the federal government. The conflict regarding this power was decided in favor of the national government.

It should also be noted that any discussion on taxation and spending being reserved as states’ rights is utterly ridiculous. In the above listed Supreme Court cases, it was clearly decided–and set precedent that stands to this day–that taxation and spending is the ultimate authority of the federal government.

The tenth amendment discussion currently occurring under the present GOP platform is pointless. However, it is also dangerous, and threatens to undermine the very fabric of what makes our country great–solidarity from diversity, and working together on a large-scale. The answer to corruption and government wastefulness is not to make ridiculous spending cuts to everything but defense or to “shrink” the size of the federal government. It is, always has been, and always will be, to enhance government transparency and remember that we are a nation and government by the people and for the people.

This is running long, so I’m going to call it a day. Be sure to tune in next Sunday for the next installment of “Opinions From A Young Progressive,” wherein I dissect the religiously obsessed portions of the GOP Platform and educate them on a few more bits of the Constitution they’ve seemingly missed.

UPDATE: I’ve had some questions or concerns with my statement that capitalism causes inflation. It does. The methodology is like this: with unrestricted capitalism, monopolies and oligopolies quickly form. They have the ability to raise price for no reason other than human greed, and do. In order to stay competitive in a market where more and more industries are monopolies/oligopolies, employers must raise wages. This lowers the value of the currency in question regardless of whether it is backed up by a gold or other “real” standard.

When people say that money is worthless (it’s just paper, after all), they aren’t looking at money with the right paradigm. Money is just another good; a form of credit. While Keynesian economics also creates inflation, remember that Keynesian economics simply means regulated capitalism (and “regulated” seems to be a stretch in the US). While I agree that the banking system is financially damaging to our country, I believe that is the elitist nature of the super rich — not necessarily because of “banks.”

Furthermore, those who say capitalism doesn’t cause inflation apparently don’t realize that ideas that look good on paper (cough cough Ayn Rand cough cough) don’t work in practice when it comes to the economy because people can’t be guaranteed to be rational. Take Communism, for example. It seems like a good idea on paper; in practice, it miserably fails.

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