Feb 14, 2013

Obama's SOTU Address: A Progressive View

There were two distinct views on the role of government as their speeches demonstrated by president Obama and GOP Senator Rubio on Tuesday. It also demonstrated the conservatives' anachronistic view of liberalism. 

The notion of freedom that came out of the Enlightenment was to define it by the individual; free countries weren't necessarily free unless their citizens had individual freedoms which were guaranteed by a social contract. 

After the American Revolution, the question was, what kind of political system should we have here?

Those early leaders of the new country-to-be chose liberalism, representative government, popular consensus, and the radical idea that the new entity should be a commonwealth--that is, work for the benefit of the people.

Ever since, and in order to fulfill this goal, government is engaged in the redistribution of resources, enhancing access to opportunity and maintain fair play. At least this has been the principle.  

Of-For-By The People
 Now, let's think how this social contract principle was implemented in the early days. "Of the people"? Well, not so much. Common people weren't invited into government. "By the people"? Not so much either. Only white men with property were allowed to vote. "For the people"? OK, more or less, if you excluded the slaves, the very poor, and the absence of a social safety net.

Since those days, there has been an evolution in the role of government, culture, society, gender roles, racial relations, economic activities, all sorts of ideas and views, etc, etc. And, our country has been better off, because of it. Look at any country where most of its citizens are faring well and you'll see that's a liberal, social democracy with an activist state.

FDR's New Deal put in practice the evolved liberalism--an expanded notion of freedom--which went beyond the narrow definition of the absence of restraint. What prevents a person from enjoying freedom is the absence of access to opportunity, lack of meaningful choices and actions. An in the absence of an activist state, the marketplace alone or even charity and human fellowship weren't enough to give individuals of the middle and lower classes a pathway to freedom.

It's the activist state--which according to the main principle of the social contract should serve the people--that helped create a more even playing field and ensured the rule of law. We still have a long way to go, so the conservatives' and libertarians' view that the state should be limited makes no sense whatsoever, unless, of course, this is designed to further the gap between the classes and ensure our system becomes plutocratic, unjust, immobile, and unfree!

The SOTU, 2013

Federal budget reflects the values and priorities of government. Here are some of the president's points that I share:
  • Wages and benefits haven't risen in decades
  • We're in this together
  • Fairer tax burden; not fair for wealthy to pay less of a share than working class people
  • Debt: health care costs rising; tuition debt
  • Cuts in social services, job training, green economy are not good for us
  • Medicare reform; Affordable Health Care Act necessary to improve the health of the nation, including access to medical treatment
  • Social Contract should be maintained, and paid for; it's what a modern country does for its citizens.
  • We shouldn't cut medicare and education, ss, for the benefit of preserving tax breaks to the wealthy.
  • don't play with the credit and credibility of the USA
  • A strong economy is based on a strong middle class
  • Gov investing in green energy, innovation, scientific research
  • Climate change is upon us, not a coincidence; Science v. wishful thinking
  • Internet, infrastructure, efficient, less corrupt system, educated workforce, tolerance, etc.
  • investment in education, early access to learning, makes individuals more productive, more successful, less prone to crime, etc. Better for US
  • comprehensive immigration reform, now!
  • Women's rights, like paycheck fairness act, more protection from violence
  • minimum wage should rise
  • shared prosperity
  • end of war (started by previous prez)
  • gay and straight in the military should have equal benefits and treatment
  • right to vote, fundamental right; why do we place obstacles to voting? 
  • reduce gun violence; sensible gun control laws;
  • I made it on my own; don't need Washington's help
  • Free enterprise economy is the solution
  • More government is the problem; but not if it has to do with intrusion into our privacy,  abortion, and the .."moral fitness of America"
  • More government breeds more rules, laws, and taxes. Who needs that, right?
  • No Obama care; without explaining the particulars since most Americans are in favor of the new health care law if its provisions are explained.
  • Role of gov: security, night watchman, not much more
  •  blah, blah, blah
  • ....
  • have some of the same medicine that got you sick in the first place....