Friday, April 08, 2011

Voodoo Economics

I'm furious. I'm livid. I've been lied to, flat out, to my face, by someone you would think you would be able to trust.

I took a look at some of the new budget proposal being leveraged by the Republican party this week. Independent analysis -- a simple AP news story -- said clearly that the proposal would do several things, among them get rid of the health care law and to privatize Medicare and turn it into "vouchers." Sounds suspicious to me, just on the surface.

So, I called my local congressional Representative's office -- James Lankford. Didn't get to talk with him (go figure), but I asked The Voice on the phone if Lankford supported the budget proposal. The Voice exuberantly answered in the affirmative, and told me that Lankford had been on the subcommittee that had approved the proposal to go to the full House. Hmmmph.

So, as calmly as I could (probably not all that much) I told The Voice that Lankford needed to reconsider. He asked why. I told him that this proposal would cripple a lot of people -- that we need medicare and the health care bill. The Voice informed me that the proposal did not touch Medicare.

That's a lie. "Hogwash" is the most polite term I can think of here. I can think of many terms more descriptive and therefore more accurate. He's lying. Don't take my word for it. Please. Don't. Check it out.

And check out this column in the NY Times (I know, that horribly "liberal" publication, yada yada yada) by Nobel Prize winner for economics, Paul Krugman.

Notice where he gets his numbers for analysis of the Republican budget proposal: from the Congressional Budget Office -- a non-partisan office. Where did they get their numbers? They were provided by the Republicans.

So, working with numbers provided by the Republicans who proposed the budget -- what did they come up with? Huge deficits. A bankrupt nation. It's nothing but tax cuts for the rich and reduction in spending on programs that help those who need help the most.

This budget proposal is sinful. It attempts to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the elderly. We are turning the nation of "give me your tired and your poor" into the nation of "I've got mine and I'll shoot the b------ who tries to take it from me!"

I'm sorry, but that's just not like Jesus. Wait -- I take that back. I'm not sorry for saying that.

He also lied to me about military spending. Somewhere between 48% and 54% of federal spending goes into the military. Just google for info.

But Lankford's phone Voice essentially told me I was crazy and I needed to check my figures, and that "entitlement programs" make up most of the federal budgets. Bull.

Of course, I told him he needed to check HIS figures. Had a great affect on him I'll tell you. What a snappy comeback.

Well, I've checked around a little more. There are a variety of estimates out there. But all of them demonstrate that the military is our biggest expenditure. And again, I would challenge any Christian to come up with logical support for that expense on Biblical/Christian grounds. It just can't be done. We're supposed to love our enemies. Period. For some odd reason I think that means "don't kill them."

But, even if Christians do support the military -- does it have to be so large? We are the only nation that has military bases outside of our own borders, and we have almost 800 military bases world-wide. We are an empire. A militaristic empire. If we say nothing else here, we must at least say that we could cut back a bit and then we'd have the money to take care of those in our society who are unable to completely take care of themselves.

But, the Republican budget proposal won't do that. It will take care of the wealthiest members of our society and cut out as much assistance to the lower strata as it can. It's the budget of "I've got mine!"

Parting shot, from the Washington Post (no "liberal" source this time!): the report of the words of Rajiv Shah, the administrator for the US Agency for International Development, before congress this week. Shah said:
We estimate, and I believe these are very conservative estimates, that H.R. 1 would lead to 70,000 kids dying. Of that 70,000, 30,000 would come from malaria control programs that would have to be scaled back, specifically. The other 40,000 is broken out as 24,000 who would die because of a lack of support for immunizations and other investments, and 16,000 would be because of the lack of skilled attendants at birth.
The Republican response came from Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.):

Nearly every administration witness appearing before the Appropriations Committee . . . has put forward nightmare scenarios and dire numbers to argue why we should not be reducing spending in any program. Republicans won't be drawn into a debate over what might happen based on speculations and hype.

So, there's your "compassionate conservatism" for you. Is that like Jesus? Really -- tell me. It is just this kind of thing that made me repent of voting Republican. Yes, I did -- I voted for Reagan. May God have mercy.

Monday, April 04, 2011

It's OK to be Jewish (or whatever)

Thanks to the blog of "Beach Bum," (who's been following my blog here for a short time) -- "The Life and Times of a Carolina Parrothead" -- I've also run across the blog of Karen Van der Zee, called "Life in the Expat Lane." Haven't read much of it yet, but what I've read has been more than entertaining and even a bit enlightening. She lives "abroad," and in some very strange places, and she writes about her experiences. She has written a book, available in ebook format for $2.95 (if I recall correctly [yup, just checked]) called You're Moving Where? The first chapter, "It's OK to be Jewish," is available free, and relates her experiences in her first few days living in the Palestinian West Bank town of Ramallah, where she discovers it's ok to be Jewish (which she's not).

A theme I've touched on before on this blog and on Facebook is that the Muslim faith is not "inherently violent," and that all Muslims are NOT "terrorists," etc. And it's a topic on which people like to disagree with me. Well, I think I have an advantage in this argument because I have some Muslims who are friends. In fact, I've made friends of Muslims in various places around the world -- New York, Vienna, Austria, the Philippines. The one on the train from Poughkeepsie, New York, admitted to me (in 1985) not only that he was Muslim, but "it's even worse than that," he said: "I'm Shiite." And this was only a few years after the incident in Iran during the Jimmy Carter administration. The fellow in the Philippines (on an all-night ferry from Butuan to Cebu) drank his beer and confessed to me why he was a lousy Muslim (in part because he was drinking beer!). Oh -- and I forgot the mention the guy (apparently Turkish) we shared a train compartment with in Europe who looked like Sadaam Hussein. No kidding. He gave chocolates to the kids. Nice guy! We communicated a little in broken German (well, mine was broken). And the pizza guy in Vienna who wanted to practice his English. Yada yada yada (a Hebrew expression; "yada" means "I know" in Hebrew).

So, thanks, Beach Bum -- who has some really good posts of his own.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Intervention in Libya

Just as I'm nearly always unable to watch violent crime shows (whether "reality" or merely fiction), I've been unable to pay attention to most of what is going on in Libya. Violence is abhorrent to me. I cannot stand to watch the newscasts that show bombs being dropped, and so on. Knowing that we -- the US -- had just started a THIRD war just pains me.

And it's not that I'm incapable of violence. Unfortunately, far from it. I am committed to non-violence, but in part because I know the kind of hate that I feel from time to time -- but I don't like it. I won't give you examples, but you can take my word for it.

I am also committed to human freedom, and I empathize with the folks in Libya who have suffered repression for many years. I want them to have something better. No one should have to live in terror. "Give peace, O Lord, in all the world, for only in you can we live in safety" -- this is part of one of the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that I say almost daily. People should be able to live in peace and safety because we are all children of God.

But, though I empathize with the rebels in Libya, I cannot support the role the US is playing in that conflict. I cannot support it because, though we might regard Gadhafi and his forces as our enemies, we Christians are called to love our enemies -- even (and perhaps especially) those who would like to kill us and may be actively trying to do so at some given moment. Think Jesus here. He didn't hate (wow!) those who were beating him, spitting on him, insulting him, pounding nails through his feet and forearms, cramming a ring of thorns down on his scalp, and so on. And it wasn't just that he was the Son of God -- a ploy we sometimes use to try to keep Jesus sanitary and out of the way of any real temptation. Nope. He faced temptations with exactly the same tools available to me and to you -- prayer, fasting, scripture. He was tempted in every way just as we are. Which means he was tempted to hate those who hated him and insulted him and insulted his God!!!! Tempted; but he didn't do it. He didn't hate them. We cannot hate our enemies. We must love them. Even Gadhafi.

But, so it has been argued, if we didn't intervene, Gadhafi's forces would have overrun the rebels and made a quick end to the effort to secure their human rights. We could not just "do nothing." Intervention was the right thing to do.

This is the stereotypical argument against non-violence. Non-violence is simply equated with "doing nothing" or non-intervention, and those two (alleged) opposites are juxtaposed as if they were the only two possibilities.

That's simply a lack of imagination, at best, and at worst it is a lust for and trust in violence. Is it true that violence breeds violence? Doesn't history teach us that much? Can we really count on violence to "change the world" (as if creating more violence would really constitute a "change")? The Dr. Phil question needs to be asked here: "So, how's that working out for you?" So long as we keep our historical blinders on, we might think it's working out pretty well.

"Pacifism" does not equal "passivism." Non-violence is not non-intervention. It does, however, require more imagination and infinitely more courage. Could we have sent blue-helmeted UN troops into Libya? Could we have encouraged the rebels to follow the example of Egypt and renounce violence?

"But that wouldn't work!" I can hear the protests already. And they may well be correct. It may not, in this particular case, work. There is equally no guarantee that the violence will "work." So violence is what nations do in place of trusting God.

But it's not what Christians are called to do. We are not called to "solutions that work," or that we think we can secure under our own power. We're not called to make things work. We're called to be faithful to the one we call "Lord" -- the very one who loved his enemies.

Simon Barrow of the Ekklesia Project said a similar thing in this article. He has imagination. And courage. And he points out that it is a lie that violence was our only option. Good stuff.