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Republicans two-faced on public entitlements

Jennie Young • Sep 16, 2013 at 9:24 AM

The only reason I can think of for seeking radical change for change’s sake is boredom. To indict liberals on such a charge and absolve conservatives is a silly sound bite. Whatever the issue and whoever the players, political agitation for change is goal- oriented.Conservatives in Congress and Republican-dominated statehouses enthusiastically legislate for rapid, radical change at unprecedented speed. They’d set in motion radical changes to Medicare and Social Security, designed to erode both out of existence as publicly protected and administered programs within a few decades. They’d eliminate or severely reduce all public assistance programs and remove 50-year-old environmental protections.They pass unjustified onerous voter ID laws. It’s radical enough in Tennessee, but look to Watauga County, N.C., where 60 percent of Appalachian State University students voted for Obama in 2012. To “correct” that, not only was the on-campus polling station eliminated, but the other eight accessible county stations were also dismantled, creating one super district of 9,300 registered voters with one isolated, inconvenient station with 30 parking spaces. (North Carolina law limits each polling station to no more than 1,500 people.) In 2012, North Carolina was among the top-rated states for voting accessibility. In one short year, it’s become one of the worst. (Happy footnote: Facing embarrassing national attention and threat of legal action, Republicans have since blinked and reinstated all nine polling stations.)Consider radical efforts in every red state to privatize public education and the unprecedented insults to public school teachers from ill-thought legislation. Look to the attack on labor and workers’ rights.It’s on issues involving tolerance, social justice and human need that conservatives, with some notable exceptions, have historically insisted that change comes not at all or at a snail’s pace. I suggest it’s at the point of human vulnerability that liberal and conservative ideologies clash most starkly, today and historically.Conservatives characteristically communicate that on issues of social justice and equality they require more time to adjust, even to inevitable change. After all, people with different sexual orientation, say, are used to the ramifications of intolerance, even outright brutality. Surely, say conservatives, they can endure a few more decades while conservatives ease into a new norm. Recall how they felt entitled to a few more decades to adjust to desegregation, racial equality and equal voting rights. After all, “those people” were used to “separate but equal” and essentially content “in their place.” (Odd, though, how often conservatives forsook patience in making their case.) Dare I suggest conservative resistance to change in areas of social justice indicates an unhealthy attachment to illusion and a propensity to sugarcoat racial and other realities where intolerance and injustice persist even to this day? (We liberals, by conviction, generally say it right. Our failing is we’re usually late, from cowardice or lack of faith, to set things right. It‘s to our discredit that positive change in the areas of social justice and human need takes such an ungodly long time.)As to fierce conservative resistance to social safety nets and health care reform, I’ll just tell a story. Ann and Frank O’Connor signed up late for Medicare and Social Security when Ann developed lung cancer at 69. Though not poor, they realized that medical costs would bankrupt them. They’d been rabidly opposed to all social safety nets as they “encouraged weakness and dependency.” They were atheist and despised Christianity specifically for teachings regarding the poor and sick. It was particularly difficult for Ann because, you see, she was also Ayn Rand, renowned guru of Darwinist capitalism, the severest brand of economic conservatism. Once exposed, embarrassed defenders explained she’d paid her dues and was entitled. Ironically, those few words make the liberal case. I don’t respect O’Connor/Rand, mean-spirited to the core in my judgment, but no one should die as she would have without Medicare, knowing her last legacy to loved ones would be crushing debt. The crux of the message is that, at a point of common human need, staring into the jaws of the for-profit American health care system, Ann/Ayn needed me, you, all of us.America’s profit-obsessed path to health care must be addressed because it’s indecent, and the Affordable Care Act is a major step forward. Recently a Winston Churchill observation about liberals and conservatives was used to buttress a defense of conservatism. Maybe the theorist doesn’t know that when Churchill and the Tories were in position to walk back the young National Health Service, Churchill first commissioned a study to see if it was a prudent use of taxpayer funds. To the dismay of many fellow Tories, he concluded not only that it was, but it merited more public monies. It isn’t fair to align notable historical conservatives, no longer here to defend themselves, to the low-grade variety that has hijacked today’s Republican Party. It’s shameful what they do, and that’s no caricature.Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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