I read a link on Facebook today that reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Dark Knight. In the scene, two different ferries loaded with people take off from a dock to cross the river and get their passengers to safety. One is filled with convicts and the other is filled with average citizens. Once they get half way across the river, all the engines stop and everyone discovers that the boats are filled with explosives. Each boat has a trigger for the other boat’s explosives and if they use it to blow up the other boat before midnight, they are promised they will survive. Very morbid, I know. But the study in human behavior is fascinating.
Very little focus is placed on the convicts. Most of the attention is placed on the average citizens and their belief that the convicts had their chance at a full life and gave it up because of their sins. Therefore, they are completely justified in blowing them up and saving themselves. A vote is taken and confirms that a majority of the average citizens feels this way. But when it comes down to it, no one can pull the trigger. Everything is fine when it is theory we’re talking about, but when it comes to the actual application of hurting or killing others, we want someone else to do it for us so we don’t have to live with the consequences or guilt.
It might be a little bit of a stretch, but this little drama I described seems to be where the conservatives and tea party in this country find themselves.
A little over two years ago, the right burned several of their own at the stake (example: Bob Bennett from Utah, rated one of the most conservative senators in the country) for voting in favor of the bank bailouts. Never mind that most economists said our economy would collapse if we didn’t have the bailout. If a RINO (Republican In Name Only) Senator dared to vote for it, he had to go, according to the new right wing of the Republican party. After all, wouldn’t it be better to let it collapse and build it back up correctly? When it was pointed out that millions of people would be REALLY hurt financially, the response was basically a shrug. It could be painful, but it is what’s right for the country, was the general consensus among this group.
This cleaning of the house brought us new political names like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. You may recognize them as the leaders of the Shut Down The Government if We Don’t Get What We Want crowd. They vehemently argued that Obamacare will bankrupt an already debt-ridden country. To be honest, they may be right. And my argument today has little to do with Obamacare. But the point of their diatribes is that we must cut spending. That has been one of the key components of the Tea Party from the beginning. We have to shrink the size of government and bring spending under control.
But then why am I reading posts today about the conservatives and Tea Party calling for the head of Paul Ryan over veteran’s benefits being cut in the new budget? And why for weeks, months and years have conservatives fought any and all efforts to shrink the size of the defense budget?
We need a strong country, Rapier. Don’t you want to be safe from terrorism? And as far as veterans go, you ungrateful young snot, they fought for this country and they deserve everything we can give them. It is atrocious that we dare think we can balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.
Okay, I hear your arguments, but my response is, it’s time for you to choose. What is it you really want? Lower taxes? Spending cuts? Smaller government? Or do you want the exact opposite. Because the message you are sending is this. We want all those things but we only want cuts made to things we don’t support.
We want to pull the trigger on the button that blows up the other boat.
I’m sorry, that’s bullcrap and it isn’t the way this country works.
See, the issue here is that we on the right tend to get a little tunnel vision sometimes. Let me ask a question. What, according to conservative thinking (which I agree with in this situation, by the way), destroyed the auto industry in America?
Answer: Labor Unions. They were getting too much money and benefits for the jobs they were performing.
Except that wasn’t quite it.
The thing that labor unions had done to bankrupt Detroit was the pension packages and health benefits for retirees they had negotiated over the years. Auto makers could have survived if they only had to pay excessive wages and benefits for the people still working for them. It was the folks who no longer provided anything to the bottom line that were sucking the life out of the industry. Most conservatives agree on this point.
So, if conservatives support restructuring pensions and benefits for retirees for the bankrupt auto industry, why are we so up in arms when a new budget calls for the exact same thing within the ever increasing ranks of veterans who served a country now on the verge of bankruptcy?
Like we said, Rapier, these people fought for our country. It’s different.
You mean, they are on our boat. Republicans are the champions of patriotism and the military. We can’t dare take money away from our guys. Take it from someone on the other boat.
Think about the astronomical costs associated with providing VA health benefits to every member of the military who has ever served and then add the pension benefits from when they retire on top of that. Then factor in how much longer the life expectancy for human beings goes up year after year after year. How are we supposed to afford that forever without any cuts?
As far as defense. I work at a hospital that has had to deal with lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid for the last five years. In order to stay alive, we’ve had to evaluate our processes and we have discovered ways to save thousands upon thousands of dollars. Are you telling me that this would not be the case with our defense department? Over the years, there have been multiple examples of massive waste inside our defense spending. It’s time for them to work with less (like we expect other government agencies to do) and find where the waste is themselves and get rid of it.
Now let’s look at another conservative ideal: self-sufficiency. I served a two-year mission for my church. Should I expect them to kick in when I retire? Of course not. My life is my responsibility. Now, if I were disabled while serving, that would be a different discussion. But individuals who served in the military should be as responsible for their lives as anyone else. In my opinion, we should pay them much better while they are in, and let them figure out how they will survive with much less being provided directly from the government (like the rest of us) when they wish to retire.
But that isn’t what conservatives and tea partiers are saying. They are calling for someone to get rid of Paul Ryan and all of the Republican leadership for suggesting that we can’t keep paying for the lives of veterans in perpetuity. Based on conservative ideals, who are the true fiscal RINOs in this scenario.
Secondly, there is anger on the part of conservatives and the Tea Party for Ryan’s having worked with a democratic senator to ensure the budget would pass. Republicans have been hammering the Obama administration and Democrats for not passing a budget for years. Now that they are willing to do so (with extremes in both parties unhappy) we want to kill our guys for working with them. How unbelievably hypocritical!
So, can we figure this out before we get to 2014? What does the Tea Party want? Do they want smaller government, lower taxes and spending cuts or do they want the status quo? Because here’s a hint. You can’t keep moving the goalposts for your own team and expect to win. Republicans are doing what they believe they were asked to do only to be told they are wrong and it is time to get rid of them. It’s highly unfair and borders on a system of insanity. There is no politician alive who can promise to leave everything as is for the programs they support while also promising lower taxes, smaller government and spending cuts. (Sorry Ted Cruz, that means even you.)
I would like to see Republicans take the Senate in 2014 and increase their numbers in the house. But if we don’t start taking a rational and pragmatic approach to politics, we will see 2012 repeated again, and again, and again. We can’t expect to get everything we want and give the opposition nothing. Politics in a democratic or republican system just doesn’t work that way. And frankly, I like my odds on a boat filled with explosives better than living within an alternative to democracy. Even if the alternative includes an invitation to a Tea Party.