Sunday, April 30, 2006

Judging a society

Blog Meridian makes a valid point about What the manner in which schools are funded says about a people:
No one likes to pay taxes, of course, and politicians in election years are reluctant to raise (the issue of) taxes; nevertheless, the representatives of a state should be politically willing to ask its people to invest directly and adequately in those things we collectively say we care about. Gambling revenues and other so-called sin taxes are disposable income, monies that people have decided they don't need for other things. To fund schools in this way, [Wichita mayor] Mayans is suggesting, is to imply that schools are being funded with left-overs: a disgraceful attitude.

If there's one certain thing a state can do to better ensure a brighter future for itself, it's not granting massive tax incentives to businesses to lure them there. It's investing adequately and wisely in education from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate. Well-educated people attract businesses with higher-paying jobs.
W.E.B. DuBois is reported to have said that "I would judge the wealth of a nation not by the presence of millionaires, but by the absence of poverty." From such simple statements come a diversity of policy positions, and all the divisions between parties and political groups become clear.

Set aside the revelations about convicted bribe taker Duke Cunningham's flings with prostitutes at (of course) the Watergate. I'm talking about securing the homeland, with Democrats proposing a requirement that every shipping container be scanned before it leaves the docks, and Republicans spiking it because a few campaign contributors thought it was too expensive. Safety and corporate profits came in conflict, and the two parties went different directions.

Or in foreign policy, Time magazine reporting that "Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq." This crass approach, precipitating conflict for political gain, would sound paranoid if Francis Fukuyama weren't out discussing how, during the 1990s, "There was actually a deliberate search for an enemy because they felt that the Republican Party didn't do as well" when they couldn't run on national security. They settled on China and ignored Islamic terrorism (the runner-up) until 9/11.

Meanwhile, Richard Clarke told us how the senior leadership of the Clinton administration were focussed on al Qaeda, and how a Republican Congress and a reluctant military blocked effective action. Republicans seek conflict to make themselves feel strong, Democrats fight battles only when necessary.

On the economy we can see a Republican President caving to Democratic demands for an investigation into gas price gouging, or the internal divisions among Republicans over immigration, or a dozen other stories we've all seen. At long last, people are seeing the modern Republican agenda, the return to its aristocratic roots and the culture of 1984, and we wind up with a Republican leaders asking "How the GOP Lost its Way," while Democrats lay out short, simple agendas, and gain strength and support across the board.

All of this made it very easy to go canvassing yesterday. Democrats are excited. The canvass took us to houses of registered Democrats who don't always vote, and we asked them what issues they worried about.

One woman's answer was a perfect expression of where we're heading. She was a mother of two children and her first thought was that education was a priority. On consideration though, she switched to jobs and the economy, saying "if we get jobs and the economy fixed, the rest will come along." The Democratic agenda, boiled down from any of the discussions you see around you, is that the government should be an agent of and for the people, and that good governance improves everyone's lot, not just a select few.