There was a time in my life when I held a dim view of anyone who operated out of self-interest. As a dedicated Sunday School child I knew that JOY meant Jesus, Others,Yourself — in that order. It didn’t take me very many years to realize that total selflessness was not only impossible, but also occasionally dangerous. Obviously those who operate only out of the rule, ”what’s in it for me,” are probably a serious threat to the rest of us. But at the same time, those who continually make decisions contrary to their own good, degrade themselves and will probably have little regard for others.
These days I am struck by how so many Americans have been deluded into forsaking what might be in their self-interest, having been propagandized by a very powerful political attack on the things they ought to value.
Some of the provisions presented in Congressman Paul Ryan's recent proposal, which claims to balance the budget in 10 years, are familiar: repeal Obamacare in its entirety, and replace it with “patient-centered health care” — yet undefined — insist on “work, not welfare,” seriously defund student loans, take the heart out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and much more. The already tattered social safety net under this set of budgetary provisions would be further ripped apart. Every one of these proposals is a denial of the critical needs of millions who strangely may end up supporting them.
Who benefits? The already wealthy, whose tax breaks are undiminished, and who would be further enriched. Who gets hurt? The poor, students, children, the struggling lower middle-class, the un- and under-employed.
At the same time, in a dozen states with Republican governors, efforts have been made to restrict voting by the same people the budget proposal would harm. The excuse is “voting fraud.” But in State after State, the evidence suggests an almost total absence of this specter. So the real reason for these new guidelines is clear. Make it more difficult for the already marginalized to get to the polls. All of these proposals are being enacted basically in red states. And those most damaged may either stay home from the polls or line up and vote for the party making proposals which directly counter their self-interest. Is it because they are simply patriotic Americans? Or will the millions of dollars pumped into political campaigns by the Koch brothers, and those with a similar ideology, trump common sense?
What becomes increasingly obvious is the critical nature of this fall’s election. As things stand now, the Ryan proposal, which has already passed the House, will die in the Senate. But if the Senate falls into Republican hands, only a Presidential veto can save the middle-class from disaster. And that is just another reason for the judiciary to look carefully at all the measures to thwart voting by the already marginalized. The Supreme Court has made this problem more difficult by having gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
America emerged from a plutocracy in FDR’s New Deal. It has continued to move toward some measure of economic justice with the enactment of Social Security, Medicare, the Voting Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act. This present effort to turn the nation back to the rule of the most affluent at peril to the rest of us, is what the next elections will be all about. Whether the nation’s vulnerable will wake up in time to realize that they are about to be even further cheated is as yet unclear.