Responiblity of Knowledge in Voting and the Bail-Out Failure

September 29, 2008

Today the bail-out plan failed to pass in Congress. This was an incident when several House Representatives chose to vote in a way they felt was “safe” rather than for what may have actually been best for everyone in the long run. A lot of average citizens influenced their representatives; they spoke loudly in their opposition to this bill, misperceiving it as simply a government sanctioned “save the fat cats” deal. By listening to their constituents, many congressmen took the loud prostrations of average citizens who don’t comprehend the complexities of such a serious situation as political guidance and hoped that turning down the bill would save them face and keep them their job. This is one of those instances when a politician should vote for what’s best for the country, not for what is most popular. Politicians have to make the difficult decisions sometimes, and if helping to prevent a catastrophic economic crisis with your vote costs you popularity or even another term, if you are an ethical person you will make that vote anyway. I’ve never been a Republican, but I feel that when George H.W. Bush went against his stated “no new taxes,” and increased taxes, he did so at a time when that was by far the best choice. It cost him another term, and as such brought in Clinton, whom I felt was very much needed at the time, but I respect Bush senior for making that hard decision. The problem with a senator listening to his constituents over his common sense at certain points is that a lot of average Americans are uneducated when it comes to the issue at hand.

What follows is the article I penned in longhand before I heard that the bill had failed, and it fits perfectly with what I’ve covered so far.
Much of what I want to say ties in with a point I made in my last blog, which is that it takes action on the part of all potential voters to understand the issues at stake.
“Girl, you know what they’re wanting to do with our taxes?” , a customer asked one of my co-workers today. “You got to watch them Democrats the most, they want to raise our taxes and take away our money, too…my kids live off of money I get back from the government and those Democrats want to take it away.” She continued to rant, saying that she had just heard about the bailout today (this despite the fact that it’s been major news for some time now), and that she had, “never voted in my life, but I will this time.” My co-worker laughed and nodded politely, conversing with the customer. I bit my tongue, knowing to never argue politics with a customer on the job. I think my blood pressure rose as I pushed back he anger and bewilderment for such comments; this type of mentality truly frightens me. In America, every adult citizen has the right to vote and every vote should count. But shouldn’t anyone taking advantage of their right to vote be conscientious enough to bear the responsibility of learning a bit about the candidates and the issues before voting? I won’t make the claim that reading and educating yourself about the issues will make you agree with me in my belief that Obama is the best choice in this election; there are educated people who support McCain, people who know about the issues and believe he is the better choice because they have different worldviews, opinions and priorities than I do. But I feel that a lot of people voting this time, and probably in a lot of past elections as well, vote with a lack of knowledge and a lot of misperceptions. How else to explain why single mothers can vote against a candidate and a party-ticket that aims to help single moms in ways the other side has declined to even consider? Or how schoolteachers can vote against a candidate that wants to give them a raise, provide more funds for education and elevate the status of educators in ways that haven’t been done in years? Or how a working-class or poverty-stricken voter can complain that “Obama wants to raise our taxes,” while Obama’s stated plan aims to give the poor and middle class tax cuts they haven’t had in a very long time and instead gain new funds by increasing taxes for those that make more than $250,000 a year, a sum about 8 times what many middle class workers make in a year these days. How can unemployed workers actively seeking employment vote against a candidate that wants to provide millions of jobs that can’t be out-sourced? How can a woman vote for a candidate and a ticket that has opposed equal pay for equal work and overlook the alternative candidate that has made that issue a priority? Furthermore, how can a certain woman run on a ticket with a man that has done as such; how can this same woman, a mother of a special-needs child, look into the camera and promise parents like herself with their own special-needs children, that they “will have a friend in Washington,” when she is running with a man who has voted against legislation that would benefit families with special needs children?
The answer for all of these head-scratching scenarios has to be that many people today are ignorant, misled, misinformed or confused. People don’t take time to read and educate themselves like they should. People trust blatant propaganda and lies that pass as news in the faux-news channel Fox News. People feel like they can’t trust a candidate like Obama because he sounds too “professorial” and intelligent because they themselves don’t put pride in knowledge and education like they used to. People grow apathetic and confused because things seem to only get worse and they forget what type of policies and philosophies put them in this sort of situation in the first place. If you do the research and the reading, and you form an honest and informed opinion and you come to the conclusion that based on your beliefs and opinions (not your prejudices and your fears) that McCain is the best choice for you, then I can respect your opinion. Although I will disagree with you based on my convictions and beliefs, I will respect that you’ve done the work in determining your choice. I will not respect you, however, if you choose to vote for McCain as a result of prejudices, fears, misinformation or lack of knowledge.

So that’s it. Statements from many financial advisors and commentators have stressed the point that too many congressmen followed advice from constituents who didn’t fully grasp the complexities involved in the bailout, that those “average citizens” didn’t comprehend how everyone can easily be affected by a wall street collapse. As a Bishop in my Episcopal church recently stated, the current national crisis reflects failures on all of our parts. Not just “fat cats,” but everyone who took a mortgage out knowing that there was no way they could ever pay it back. Honesty and integrity should always be a part of all our dealings, even our business dealings. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no,” the Bishop stressed in church last Sunday. He’s right; I’m all in favor of tag-ons to the bill that help to erase “golden parachutes” and runaway corporate salaries. I’m all in favor of increasing regulation on Wall Street (something McCain was always against). I’m also aware that even though I rent and do not own a house and that I’ve never had a mortgage, I am a citizen of the U.S. and that as such I and all of my fellow citizens are tied up in a world of bad debt, bad loans and harsh times. We have to do what’ s best for all of us, even when some of us don’t understand that.


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