By Jay Hansen
This video inspired me to make this graphic
(*Please note that I’m using the current definition of progressive)
(Click or download for bigger resolution!)
By Jay Hansen
We interrupt your regularly scheduled political article with some awesome news! Many of you know that I’m The Young Turk’s bannerman for the Oklahoma City area, and have been since last November. Well, early this year, The Young Turks launched the point system to foster a friendly competition among the different TYT meet up groups across the world. The group with the most points by their next anniversary – February 14th, 2015 – will get a special visit from Cenk and Ana at one of their meet ups! When I first heard that, I loved the idea, but honestly didn’t think Oklahoma City stood a chance. I mean, we, Oklahoma City, are competing against Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, Seattle, and many, many more, to see who’s city has the most number and most enthusiastic fans of a very progressive, very secular online talk show. I thought on attendance alone we were going to get clobbered for sure, because you get points per attendee to your meet ups, and my wife and I are so busy with our own group Oklahoma BBW, BHM, and Admirers that we can’t afford the time to host meet ups very often. So surely, we’re near the bottom of the list, right?
Waaaait a minute!
As of last night Oklahoma City is leading with the most points, 1,190! Sure, it’s super early on, and I’m positive we’re going to slide out of the lead at some point in the future, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rise back to it! At the onset of this project the most I was hoping for was just to show people (“people” mostly meaning Ana Kasparian) that Oklahoma City isn’t some barren wasteland of a ignorant Republican masses layered with a thick frosting of FOX “News” and a few sprinkles of mega wealthy businessmen. In a small way, we’ve already achieved that just by making it to the top of the leader board even if just for a short time. Just by hanging in there with the “big guys” like Chicago and Seattle we can prove our worth, but now I can’t help but wonder if we actually have a tiny hope of possibly winning this thing.
Is that blue I see?
Obviously our group’s biggest weaknesses at the moment are that we only have meet ups once every other month, and our attendance is still quite low. Meet ups are worth 100 points, and are the primary backbone of the point system. Also like I said, you get points per attendee (10 points per person). For a full list of point values, go to TYTworld.com by clicking the link. Hopefully, we can soon rectify our low attendance, because I’ve begun reaching out to other group owners such as those of Oklahoma Atheists and the UCO Skeptics Society (I genuinely had to pause there and think is there an apostrophe in ‘skeptics?’). We also have some awesome group members that are trying to bring in their politically like-minded friends, which is always welcome! Attendance will only be as good as our recruitment is guys, so please feel free to invite anyone and everyone you can! Reach out to any organizations you think would be interested in The Young Turks!
I could go on and on about how happy I am about our… appearance on the leader board, let alone being at the top, and my general plans of how to fix our current weaknesses, but if wishes and buts were candy and nuts… something something we’re wasting time. SO, if you’d like to help out our meet up group and help bring TYT to OKC, here’s some super simple things you can do – some of it you can do right now at your computer in the time it takes to read this article or less!
How you can help bring TYT to OKC!
That’s it for today, folks! You’ve got your assignments; now go forth and earn points in any way you can! Together, we may actually stand a chance at winning this competition, and even if we don’t we can at least show the rest of the world that Oklahoma City has plenty of progressives, secularists, and people that care about an honest and independent media, and that, in the words of Cenk himself, Oklahoma City is not to be denied!
For the glory of TYT in OKC!
NEXT MEET UP: Tuesday, May 13th at 6:00 PM
MEET UP LOCATION: Hideaway Pizza, 5950 Memorial Road in Oklahoma City, 73142.
By Jay Hansen
In my hallucinogenic-like attempts at slumber in the past week of drugs, illness, and Star Trek, I had a couple of curious thoughts come across my mind about politics that I scrabbled down on a notepad by the bed. Most I’m still trying to decipher. One I had a little help from The Young Turks in remembering, though, because this was a news story that aired Monday evening.
As Cenk’s story about Frank Luntz pointed out though, Republicans are quickly starting to lose the name game. Seriously, who in this country doesn’t know that the phrase “job creator” is a code word for the rich? Or what about that time Republicans pretended that our society is not one of “haves and have nots” by saying instead we have “haves and soon to haves,” whitewashing economic inequality in this nation and making it seem like a good thing. Then we have the word “entitlement,” which was used by Republicans as a derisive way to describe Social Security and Medicare (a sense of entitlement being bad in the eyes of Americans), but as time went on people realized that these programs are entitlements because it’s their money – they’re entitled to it! Plus, as the income gap in this nation grows, people are beginning to see the word in a different light, and are beginning to apply it to those whom truly deserve; the upper-upper class Republicans continue to defend as “job creators.” Now even words like Capitalism and phrases like middle class are polling extremely badly when Republicans talk about them (click here for an excellent example of Republicans trying to seriously wage the language war on the term “middle class,” further testifying to the strength of party strategists like Luntz), likely because they continue to defend the status quo in America and stick these words to it; something along the lines of “America is a capitalistic country, and look at the bountiful, prosperous city on a hill our capitalistic system hath brought us… now go back to working your three jobs for slave wages. I need a second yacht.”
Okay, my guess is they wouldn’t include that last sentence, but that’s my point; it’s the reality Americans are living in every day now. Republicans go on and on, fawning over and praising our capitalistic values, completely ignorant of the fact that for a vast, vast majority of Americans our current (crony) capitalist system is ruining their lives, and in some cases even killing them.
Now of course Republicans are still fighting and winning on the word “liberal,” even if not the ideology, but we’re starting to see a point where their focused efforts on the word may be doing more harm than good to themselves in both ideology and terminology. First of all, the word progressive is the most popular political title in America right now. On that alone, Republicans are fighting a losing war here in terminology, but there’s another shocking occurrence in this same line of thought. A poll from a few years ago found that nearly one-third of the country views the term Socialism positively. Among young voters, that number goes up even higher with half of all 18-29 year olds viewing the term positively, and only 43% viewing it negatively. So for whatever reason, it would appear Americans are actually in a period where they’re turning more towards Socialism, an ideology even further left-wing than contemporary American liberalism.
This always struck me as odd given the demonization of liberalism in America and the fact that no one is defending Socialism. Seriously; when was the last time you got to hear someone defend Socialism in the mainstream media? When was the last time we had a politician, even feebly, try to meekly suggest that Socialists aren’t hell-bound infidels? The fact that the term has come so far with so few people in positions of power even considering defending it has always struck me as odd. I’ve always found a little bit of hope in it, because maybe the American people are turning out to be a little smarter than I thought if, whether you agree with Socialism or not, they’re disregarding the suggestions of the mainstream establishment and going out to find their own ideology rather than thinking and voting however they are told. Now though, especially after this news about Frank Luntz, I’m wondering if there’s another small, extremely ironic, hand at play here.
The word liberal has been demonized to no end. It’s been attacked so much that even left-wingers that clearly and obviously fall under a liberal ideology won’t call themselves a liberal. Republicans did this in a war of words to try to get the establishment to view the country as center-right, since doing so would drive more people to self-identify as centrists or conservatives. What if, though, in driving people away from the word “liberal,” they drove them in the wrong direction? A person likely wouldn’t change their political beliefs based on a word (a rose by any other name), and liberals that wish to identify as something else know it’s just not true to say they’re conservatives or centrists, so where were they to go? Apparently, there are one of two answers; progressive and Socialist.
Could the Republican smear campaign against the word liberal have actually driven more people to Socialism?
As we learned from Luntz, right-wing and conservative terminology and word games are getting harder and harder to play. Conservative terminology and key terms used in right-wing framing are becoming less and less palatable to the American people. We may not be experiencing an equal shift from conservative ideology, but Republicans have never really cared to genuinely persuade people with rational arguments or ideas, just terminology (though their ideology is also starting to take a serious tumble after the past two years). They don’t need to persuade you to believe their nonsensical trickle-down economics or that increases in extreme weather patterns are because of gay marriage and not global climate change; they just have to fool you just enough to swing your vote in an election, which they can much more easily do in a war of words than ideas (given how poor their ideas are). The problem is, this war could be completely back firing on them now in the long-term. Yes, they’ve successfully scared a large portion of this country away from the word liberal, including actual liberals. They’re also driving them away from conservativism by just being themselves over the past couple of years. So instead of identifying in camp right-wing, people are instead running towards either an alienated, angry center that just wants to change our corrupt establishment, regardless of how or into what (America’s independent, untapped anger), or back towards the left, and they go to the left seeking out new terms other than “liberal.” Right now it’s primarily the term “progressive,” as the polls show, but with such a large portion of our nation, particularly its youth, actually responding favorably to Socialism, things could get very interested politically in the next few decades.
Socialists, meet our “alienated, angry center,” and “independent, untapped anger,” and see what happens, because say what you want about Socialism; it would be one hell of a new day in America if actual Socialists were running for our nation’s highest offices.
By Jay Hansen
Some time ago I walked in near the tail end of a political discussion and only heard someone’s closing remarks, which were “I learned a long time ago that government shouldn’t be in the business of charity.”
The man who said it is someone I know to be conservative, and more often than not libertarian. That said, his words reminded me of an old quote from a video I saw a year or two ago. I forget who was speaking exactly, but he was a college professor criticizing the Obama administration and current state of the government over all. I remember him saying about America today, “justice has been reduced to charity.”
I may have forgotten who the speaker was, where I saw the video, or anything else he said in it, but those words stuck with me over a year later. Justice has been reduced to charity. What, exactly, does that mean?
The best, recent story that exemplifies this concept was addressed by Paul Krugman in his piece “Hunger Games, U.S.A.” in the New York Times. In case you haven’t heard, House Republicans basically decided to eliminate food stamps, and not in a rhetorical, faux-political threatening style as they’ve always done; the actually did it. The House passed their version of the farm bill last week – a bill that has been introduced and passed for decades in the same way to provide subsidies for farmers and fund food stamps. Nowadays, the funding for “farmers” goes almost exclusively to massive corporate agricultural companies. You know how it is; America has to pay agricultural companies to do agriculture otherwise they won’t do agriculture, according to right-wingers, even though all their profits are dependent upon doing agriculture. It’s the same argument Republicans make that oil companies need subsidies to drill for oil otherwise they won’t drill for oil; it makes no sense and is anti-capitalistic. This is exactly why House Republicans decided to just say “fuck it” and make all the spending in the bill go to subsidizing big agricultural companies instead of feeding the hungry in America through SNAP benefits (food stamps).
Republicans have always defended their stance against food stamps and other welfare programs by saying the government can’t force people to be charitable, and by collecting our taxes and spending them on aid to the poor (primarily food stamps, in this instance) it is doing just that. Is this really “charity” though, that the government spends money providing aid and relief to those that have fallen on hard times, or is it justice?
Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is famous for once having said “taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” and that’s the truth. It is with taxes a government, any government, can function (even if just in theory here, people). So now we’re faced with another phrase to define; civilized society, but this phrase, I feel, is easier. To put it simply, in a civilized society, people care about one another. People care, at least to some degree, about all other people in a society with them and not just themselves and their family. A civilized society does not allow people to die preventable deaths. A civilized society does not allow the innocent to suffer unnecessarily, be the pain physical or mental. A civilized society treats everyone fairly by giving them what they need for equality of opportunity, but not equality of results. It is this distinction, I feel, that conservatives often overlook when distinguishing fairness and equality either because they’ve been manipulated by propaganda, or because they are the ones making said propaganda.
Here’s a simpler explanation of fairness, and how it differs from “equality.”
In this image, the “liberal” view of equality is actually fairness. People are given what they need for equal opportunity (to watch the ball game, in this analogy). The “conservative” view of equality is just that – equal. All people are given the exact same resources regardless of what they may need to have an equal opportunity for success in life. On top of that, all too often the actual amount of aid Republicans “give out equally” is none.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s even worse than all that. In recent years, Republicans seem to have forgotten that they have to at least pretend like they care about the poor and needy. The House-passed farm bill again serves as an example of both these points. Remember, they completely eliminated all funding to food stamps and gave even more money to the wealthy (i.e. agricultural corporations and those running them). So really, sticking with the above analogy, Republicans had three boxes to give out to the three people of different heights, and chose to give all three to the tallest guy. He clearly doesn’t need them, but with three boxes he can see the game even better than he could with two, or one, or none, and could maybe even climb the fence and actually get into the stadium while the other two can’t even see it. Apparently, this is the new concept of how things should work to conservatives. As Krugman wrote, they may not believe the government can take people’s money and force them to be “charitable” by giving to the poor, but they can sure as hell take your money and force you to give it to the rich without so much as batting of their hypocritical eyelash.
We cannot live in a society that is dependent upon the benevolence of the wealthy, powerful, comfortable, and ultimately complacent. This is what the man in the video meant by charity when he said “justice has been reduced to charity.” If there’s no obligation that a small portion of society’s money be spent stopping preventable death and unnecessary suffering then it won’t happen. It’s just not in our nature as individual human beings to simply give and give without mandate or personal gain; that much was proven by the massive failure of communism. If we’re not preventing such death and suffering, then we are not a civilized society and there is no justice. If we are not a civilized society, a civilized race, a civilized species, then what are we doing here at all?
Justice has been reduced to charity.
We create an obligation, a mandate, that the wealthy, and everyone for that matter, care about preventing unnecessary suffering at least to a small degree through taxation and government, and thus, we create justice. Through these social constructs, and programs like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and many more, we can make great strides at preventing unnecessary hardships and pain. This is what the man in the video meant by justice – giving people what they need to prevent unnecessary suffering and death as to ensure they have equality of opportunity, but not necessarily equality of results. The results, as individuals, would be up to them and how hard they’re willing to work.
In other words, justice is fairness. Without justice and fairness, we are not a civilized society, and are really nothing more than animals living, dying, and killing by the laws of nature, even if it’s all been “prettied up” by big buildings, fancy suits, and “captains of industry” hero worship of the wealthy. This is the same wealthy whose benevolence we are dependent upon because they are the venerable “job creators.” Even insinuating that they should pay a penny more in taxes is tantamount to blasphemy, because if we do anything of the sort that even slightly displeases or inconveniences them, they won’t “create jobs” any more.
(Because, you know, they’re so busy making jobs right now with their record-breaking profits).
So, to address the initial quote that launched a thousand thoughts to form this article, you could say that it’s not the government’s job to do charity, nor does it do it well. What the government should be in the department of doing, though, is justice and fairness. I would hope that the differences in charity and justice, not to mention equality and fairness, have become abundantly clear by this point.
Generally, somewhere in my above pontifications conservatives will object with angry cries of socialism, that we’re giving to the undeserving and lazy, and that we’re fostering a “nanny state” and perpetuating an epidemic of “welfare queens” that have overrun the country. Buried in their highly political and polarizing rhetoric is a small kernel of truth; there are a very small minority of people who abuse welfare, social safety nets, and systems created to serve justice and fairness to those who actually need it. Never forget, though, that the same is true for the upper echelons of society as well. There upper percentages of income earners in America are ripe with corruption and abuse of the system as well. Off-shore tax havens, corporate tax loopholes, repeated tax cuts, endless subsidies for the most profitable companies in the world, bribing politicians to pass laws and deregulate in their favor, and much more. Heck, you really needn’t look any further than the farm bill I’ve now brought up three times now.
The difference, of course, if that when a member of the lower classes or a dreaded “welfare queen” abuses the system in this way, he or she gets enough money from the government to afford a single meal. When a member of the upper class abuses the system, he or she gets enough money to purchase their third house, second yacht, and fourth member of Congress.
The wealthy “leach” far greater amounts of money from the system than the poor through truly inappropriate abuses of it. More importantly though, I’d rather my tax dollars unintentionally assist someone undeserving in finding a second meal on any given day, provide them the opportunity to go to a doctor when they’re sick, or generally achieving a slightly higher level of squalor and impoverishment, than I would my tax dollars unintentionally go to an undeserving multi-millionaire under some ridiculous premise of “job creation” so that he or she can buy another politician to further rig the game in his or her favor at the cost of hurting the poor, and in some cases almost literally taking food out of their mouths.
But I guess that’s what makes me a liberal.