We hear a lot about the fiscal deficit and how it could destroy the lives of our grandchildren, but we so rarely hear about how the loss of the little social safety net we have could destroy the lives of our grandchildren. We have become a society that too often accepts the value of the dollar over all else, without question, which is why we hear nothing about the empathy deficit.
The Tea Party best represents the cruel, merciless Ayn Rand social Darwinism that is currently most vocal in driving the Republican Party over the compassion cliff, but in truth, the Tea Party are merely puppets for the corporatists. The Tea Party represent the segment of the population who can be swayed to vote against their own best interests over cultural issues; they are the radical social agenda activists, providing the gas for the Phantom Koch.
The Tea Party voted for McCain in 2008, they also represent the poorer and uneducated segments of society; in other words, the folks who might stand to use a social safety net. This might seem odd, but psychologically it makes sense. It’s called self-loathing and denial, and you can see both in the rabid hatred of projection they spew in comments aimed at the rest of humanity, whom they clearly hate and despise.
Being attacked every day by rabid Tea Partiers only divides this country further. After all, there’s only so long we can listen to just what pieces of crap we all are according to them before we push back. But that war masks the larger war; the war on empathy — the very real war on the notion of social justice and the value of compassion.
All around this country today we have hard-working people out of work. We have women who have no medical care and use Planned Parenthood for affordable birth control and exams. We have children going without proper nutrition. We have the “other” being bullied in classrooms, outside their place of worship, and more. We have elevated hate as a value, in the name of money.
The far right justifies the lack of empathy, in fact, the cold-blooded approach of their fiscal attacks on average Americans, by the righteousness of the profit motive. Americans were weaned on this, and those who weren’t were taught under Bush to just go shopping. We’ve been conditioned to worship and crave the power of wealth and fame shoved down our throats on reality TV, sports, celebrity magazines, and more. Then the religious right weighs in with the new Christian memes that having money is better than not having it, and if you don’t have it, you are a loser who does not deserve anyone’s help. God helps those who help themselves and God rewards power grabs with money. There is endless gloating by these folks about how Sarah Palin has money and therefore is right, or Fox has high ratings and therefore is right.
Yesterday, when the media asked Senator Reid (D-NV) what was holding the budget up, he said he was unwilling to sell out his wife and daughter’s health. A journalist demanded to know how much they had “given” the Republicans. That question, asked repeatedly, is laden with assumptions, faulty premise and bias, as it assumes the Republicans are fiscally conservative (they are not, or they would be dealing with revenue and they know it), it presumes that cutting spending is a gift to Republicans (and the country?) without acknowledging that the cuts take a social safety net away from Americans and it is based on the premise that the deficit is more important than any other fiscal challenge facing the nation now (in spite of non partisan economists pronouncing that in a recession, you don’t deal with the deficit first and foremost), and it’s biased because it suggests that Democrats should give spending cuts.
If we lived in a culture that valued human beings, the question could have just as easily been, “What did you agree to take away from the American people? And what will the ramifications be of this choice?”
Much has been made of the “heroism” of certain Republicans in being willing to tackle the deficit with the “hard issues”. But that meme assumes that it is hard for Republicans to tell Americans to go starve. It is not. They have sold their base on how those “others” deserve to starve, and meanwhile they work to disenfranchise those voters whom they are alienating, so no, this wasn’t hard. What would have been heroic is if the Republicans had been willing to cut money to defense, cut funding to red states that are bleeding the country dry, and raise revenue by taxing corporations.
That would have been “heroic” because it would have involved going after their own base for money. It is not heroic to come for the poor, the voiceless, the elderly and the disabled.
Furthermore, it’s not heroic to operate government without empathy. Government is in place to protect the citizens, and while we can debate to what extent we want to do that, to suggest that it is a bad goal is disingenuous and more importantly, utterly lacking in empathy. As a culture, we are judged by how we treat the weakest among us, not how we bow down to the most powerful.
What kind of world do we want to live in, and what does America value? Are we to pray at the altar of Koch money for our neighbor to starve because they once had a union job? Is the dollar more important than anything else? Is this how we run our own families?
What we have here is an empathy deficit and the only way to fix it is to stand up proudly for what we believe in and begin to reframe the discussion. It’s not about what Democrats will “give” Republicans to address the deficit. It’s about what Republicans want to take away from the people in a recession to cover up for their irresponsible fiscal behavior in denying their need to do the grown up thing by collecting revenue from their buddies. When the Republicans start talking about stopping subsidies to red states and corporations, along with collecting revenue from the top percentage of income earners, then and only then will they be worthy of calling themselves fiscal conservative heroes.
Republicans assume and presume that subsidies to their favored institutions are a given, while ignoring the plight of the people. They need to walk their talk, by demonstrating in their own states a reliance upon their own bootstraps, and not the blue states. And as a society, we need to discuss the very real, devastating impact of the empathy deficit.