A friend posted this picture earlier today, and combined with another headline I read, really got me thinking. A good portion of this started out as a comment under that picture, but then I thought “Why should Facebook get these thoughts for free?”
One of the arguments against large corporations is that they are unjust; and, as much as those of us who recognize them as the energy driving the gears of our economy, they have proved by their actions that they need checks and balances to prevent that very thing. The key, of course, is to strike the right balance where growth is not hindered, but abuse is prevented.
Now, consider the pharmaceutical industry. The desire to produce medicines to help people live fuller lives is a good thing, but this picture (and the society it accurately represents) proves that they are no more immune to self-serving actions as the oft-termed “evil” coporations that produce food, consumable goods, technology, etc.
How about higher education? I don’t think anyone reading this ever heard, going through high school, “You know, when you finish here, you should go ahead and get a job, and be productive.” No, we all heard “Graduation is just the beginning; you need a 4-year degree before you’re really ready! Because it’s so important, we’ll outright give you some money, and lend you the rest; don’t worry, this will be easy to pay off once you’re out there making six figures!” Yet, who is benefiting from our current under-30 sea of student loan debt? Colleges and banks, that’s who. Meanwhile, students are finding no job market for their degrees. Were they sold a useless product?
The point is that, in each of these cases, the original thought was a good one. This product will make people’s lives better. This pill will take away pain. This knowledge will give you a leg up in the world. Then, bit by bit, that germ of an idea grows, until you end up with something large and successful, which leads to an increasingly self-serving outlook. It’s the old “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing in real life.
The key to this is character in those who gain this notoriety. However, we cannot control others. In our fallen state, the one thing we can control is our reaction. Do we really need that product? Have these degrees really lead to higher incomes? Do these drugs’ claims make sense? “Buyer beware” is always good advice. If more people took it, maybe the market for the speculative advertising that has launched these areas into such heights would dry up, and they would have to start being more honest about what they can really provide.
One final note - government is no more immune to this than education, medicine, or corporations.
Today marked the end of my wife Michelle’s four-year leadership of the base homeschool group. Our family’s journey with homeschooling is nearing the end of its seventh year, but when we arrived here, we had about a month’s experience. The base homeschool group provided playmates for our children, and support for Michelle, as the majority of the homeschooling duties fell to her.
Three years in, the group had shrunk to just a few families, and Michelle stepped up to assume the presidency of the group. Her first year, the group grew by a few families. However, in her second year, there was a huge influx homeschooling families, and the majority of those were families who were new to homeschooling. During that year, she spent lots of time talking with individual people about homeschooling, while managing the calendar for field trips, parties, and other social occasions. Not all the families were new, though, and as she transitioned to her third year, she restructured the group and set up “coordinators” who were responsible for various aspects of the group’s activities. This divided the work, and allowed people to be even more effective; some of the field trips involved nearly 50 kids! Her title changed from “President” to “Group Coordinator,” and freeing her from the party and field trip planning allowed her to focus on helping new families get oriented, as well as sharing information on curriculum and relevant legal information with the group. This coordinator style of leadership proved its value as the third year transitioned to the fourth, the group continued to grow, and nothing fell through the cracks.
Oh, by the way - while doing all this, she is also currently homeschooling a 10th grader, an 8th grader, and a 3rd grader.
Michelle, you have done an absolutely amazing job. You’ve not only educated our children well, you have worked countless hours to help other families exercise their right to educate their children the way they see fit. If there is anyone more deserving of an end-of-tour medal than you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them. I’m proud of the leadership you provided for the past four years, and I’m very proud to be your husband.
A friend asked me today, “Why do you think the Republicans lost?” It’s a good question; one I’m sure will be asked in many strategy sessions across the country. I have my theories - and they are as follows:
The Republicans abandoned the principles for which they had been elected. Campaigning on a platform of smaller government, a balanced budget, and more accountability, Republicans swept into power in 1994. Each of the 10 planks of their Contract for America were brought up for a vote, and many passed. Through the years, though, the '94 freshmen have lost their zeal; and, in many cases, have gone the other way.
Although there is a segment of the population known as “values voters,” values are important to most voters - people vote for folks who they feel share their values. The class of '94 were elected based on these values - and, as they have drifted towards the center, they have alienated the base who elected them. The middle of the road is where they’ve moved - and often, this is where you find roadkill. If folks wanted people to govern by polls, they would vote for Democrats. When folks vote for Republicans, they expect people who will stand by their principles. This is a good segue to the next point…
Republicans have participated in the very corruption they decry in the Democrats. Jack Abramoff. Mark Foley. These are names that, until recently, we hadn’t heard. And, in both cases, they were people involved in activities that no one has any business involved in. Jack Abramoff was connected to people of both parties - but this association only seemed to hurt Republicans. This goes back to the principle thing - when you elect people who you know have no principles, then expectations are low. However, when you elect someone who claims to share your principles, and is found to be corrupt, there is a valid charge of hypocrisy. The problems in the Republican party are, I believe, nowhere close to the “culture of corruption” that the Democrats have been trying to spin. However, even one corrupt Congress-critter is one too many.
I hope that this will open the eyes of some Republicans who may be considering doing things that would cause shame to the party if they were revealed. It is noble to be someone who cleans up corruption - we need more of those sorts of people. But years of good can be erased by one hypocritical action, which causes observers to question the previous successes, and make assumptions about the group as a whole.
Republicans acted like they were afraid of success. President Bush won in 2000 - every recount has borne that out. The Senate was split 50-50, which meant that Vice-President Cheney held the tie-breaking vote, which meant that the Senate was in Republican control. Rather than assert that power, they agreed to a ludicrous “power-sharing” agreement with the Democrats - joint chairmanships, etc. Later in 2001, “Jumpin’” Jim Jeffords changed from a Republican to an Independent, which actually changed the control of the Senate.
In 2002, this trend reversed, and the Senate was once again in Republican control. But, numerous judicial nominees were held up in committee, or filibustered on the floor. Republicans had the majority, but they would not flex that muscle to get things accomplished. We’re still several judges short in the Federal system; and through these filibusters, the reputations of some of the smartest jurists of our time have been sullied.
When President Bush won re-election in 2004, along with keeping a Republican House and Senate, we heard about all this “political capital” that he now had, and how all these policy initiatives were going to get through. What we got was a half-way done Medicare prescription drug benefit, and no meaningful Social Security reform at all. We also got a limp noodle response to border security, port security, and endless rhetoric about the war in Iraq.
I hope that the Republicans will watch how the Democrats run the House and (likely, as of the time I’m writing this) the Senate over the next two years. They need some lessons on how to govern when you have the majority.
Republicans allowed the Democrats and the mainstream media to frame the debate. In a debate, there are underlying assumptions. Many times, the one who controls these will make them more favorable to their position. It’s not an underhanded thing; everyone does it, and it’s often the most contested part of a debate. If you can’t agree on the problem, how can you agree on a solution? In this election cycle, nearly every issue was framed from the Democrat point of view.
The biggest way to combat this is with education. This was illustrated in vivid detail by the Amendment 2 debate in Missouri. Michael J. Fox recorded ads supporting the Democratic candidate (now Senator-elect), and the state Constitutional amendment. To hear him spin it, if you vote yes for amendment 2, people with Parkinson’s disease will be healed! In actuality, the amendment was actually a right to human cloning.
And, even the issue of stem cell research isn’t debated honestly. It is not illegal to perform embryonic stem cell research today. The issue is over who pays for that research - these researchers want the taxpayers to pick up the tab for their work. And, while embryonic stem cells have yet to show any promise, adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells have - and these can be obtained without the destruction of their donor human life. It’ education like this that would make these issues lose their resonance with voters. The key is to educate the electorate on each of these issues - not “I’m for it, he’s against it”, but real, substantive education on why the view held by the more educated one is the one to hold.
In summary - I’m mad. While this 6th-year election is not as bad as others over the past 50 years, it’s still bad. And, the most frustrating thing is that these losses were preventable! Had the Republicans stuck to their beliefs, governed with the mandate they had been given, educated the voters, and kept their noses clean, we would probably be talking about 30-seat gains for the party. Instead, what chance they had to do what the people had elected them to do is gone.
One of the sentiments that was heard was that Republicans needed to be taught a lesson. When Republican control is restored in 2008, I hope that they will have taken good notes over the past 2 years, and will be ready to do what we the people want them to do.