One of the things that amuses me is when I see the typical demographic of Tea Party or “true conservative” Republican Party members. Why does it amuse me? Well, I fall into that demographic as well. I’m in my 50’s, a rural white male. My childhood was spent in rural areas, and today I live in one. We were (and are) hard working, independent, “take care of yourself and your family” people. I had a strong religious background, in fact, many people assumed that when I grew up I’d be a minister. I went to college, joined the military afterward, and after leaving, went to work in the private sector. I even ran my own business for a few years. So “obviously” I should be a conservative Republican, not a liberal Democrat!
So why am I a liberal Democrat? It’s because I can see what government does, as well as having experienced it. I have family oral histories as well as having studied history, as to what various government programs – or their lack – meant. It doesn’t mean I think government should be involved in everything, shouldn’t be closely monitored, or that it’s perfect, but I’m not dumb enough to believe that we don’t need it or most of the things it does that the current iteration of “conservative” would have you believe.
Like what? Public education for one thing. A couple of years ago a commenter here assumed that I’d gone to private schools. No, I went to public schools. There was a time – and around here, it still is – when education was not only valued, public schools were strongly supported. I learned the “3 R’s” and more, and it was all paid for by taxes. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I can look back and say that I received a good education in those schools. What about college? Well, I went on a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and what I made working. Those scholarships and grants? Government provided. The loans? Government guaranteed. Yes, I could afford to go to college because the state and federal governments thought if someone wanted to go to college, they should be able to do so even if their parents couldn’t pay for it. In fact, the colleges I went to were state colleges, built and paid for by the state government, which meant “subsidized tuition.” After that, my graduate education was paid for by … the government. Yes, I took advantage of the government’s willingness to pay tuition for active duty military. I can look around at many of my age group in this area, and see the same thing. We’re solid members of society, educated, taxpayers … because of “social spending” on education. That’s why I cringe when I see the various cuts and attacks made on public education by conservatives. There’s a difference between “fiscal responsibility” and what they’re doing.
The second reason is infrastructure. As I’ve mentioned, I live in the largest state park in the country, in fact, larger than most national parks. All around me is infrastructure paid for by government. I drive on public roads to get to work. If I want to go fishing, hiking, or camping, it’s all feasible because of state infrastructure. Boat launches, trails, campgrounds are all here, and they were the result of public spending. It’s now a linchpin of the local economy. Most of the “founding families” up here can tell you stories of how they got through the Depression: Building those facilities. Yes, my family as well. I’ve lived – and run a business – in a “low tax, small government” area, and you know what? It wasn’t all that great for me as a businessman. Things that I used to take for granted in my “overtaxed state” suddenly weren’t around. Just as an example, roads weren’t plowed very often, let alone paved. It’s not very conducive to business when you either can’t make it to a work site, are seriously delayed getting there, or can’t get supplies delivered because of that. My business – and most businesses – depended on there being a public infrastructure around them. Construction, renovation, and maintenance funding is one of the areas that conservatives have been slashing, with the result that many “red states” are now having to turn formerly paved roads into gravel roads. There are a number of bridges, dams, water, and sewer systems which are in serious need of repair. All of which impacts business, and funding for which is … not appearing. But hey, low taxes!
The third reason is regulations. Yes, I know, it’s popular among conservatives to moan about the “burden” of regulations. Sure, anyone can point to some inane one or one that had unintended consequences. But as I’ve stated here in the past, regulations turn out to be necessary. One of the advantages of being older is that I remember what it was like before those “horrible environmental rules” came into being. I haven’t heard of a river catching on fire for quite some time, although it used to be a regular occurrence in “the good old days.” I’ve also had enough education that covered the history of laws relating to various things. Gosh, in the good old days, you could buy any drug, and it might not kill you! It wouldn’t cure anything, but at least it wasn’t regulated. Buying food? Well, if you were careful, the meat might not be spoiled, the cans might not contain botulism, and well, heck, a little food poisoning wasn’t too bad. Those were all things that were routine in the past, along with badly polluted air and toxic waste dumps next to homes. At the time, they were considered “a bad thing,” and we demanded our government do something about it, which meant … regulations. We’ve managed to clean things up a lot, we generally know drugs work, we consider it “big news” if there’s any food poisoning outbreaks, and in general things are a lot better.
The final reason is the safety nets. Yes, plural. Today we take them for granted, although there’s always people who either think they’re unnecessary, or “too expensive.” Usually the same people who rely on yet another safety net. One example was during the shutdown, when ranchers in South Dakota were hit with a blizzard which killed their cattle:
The state’s ranchers could apply for disaster relief under the Livestock Indemnity Program that would pay them a portion of the animal’s market value.
Yes, a “safety net” for them, just like the one that farmers have with subsidized crop insurance. Back in “the good old days” they pine for, what would have happened is that they’d have been … out of business. The same for farmers who lost their crops. Not just out of ranching or farming, but “pack up and get out.” The reason that those programs exist today is because “liberals,” who were often those same farmers and ranchers’ ancestors, thought it was a “bad thing,” and worked to get those programs into place. It used to be common that when you got old, you were often in dire poverty. Social Security helped make that better, and Medicare helped as well. Childhood nutrition programs? Not just because they made people “feel good,” but because it turns out if you want healthy adults for things like … a draft … or need a healthy population for a modern economy, you need to make sure that children have an adequate diet right from the start. Across the spectrum of programs, I know people who are on them, who benefit from them, and need them. Not because they’re “unwilling to work,” or “lazy,” but because they can’t work, jobs are unavailable, or the jobs they have don’t pay.
Those are why I’m a “liberal Democrat.” I’m pragmatic though. I’m absolutely willing to discuss any and all of them as long as the results are better. I don’t have much patience with people who tell me they should be done away with, and point to an exception to the general rule as a reason. Tell me how you’d fix the exception instead. Oh, and if you want to discuss doing away with some “entitlements?” I have a pretty good list of the ones I’m willing to do away with. I’m also sure that they’re the ones that would cause conservatives to scream the loudest.