This Child Would Like to Talk to You About Personal Responsibility

March 25, 2009


Personal responsibility. How such a simple phrase has become such a loaded phrase.

Yesterday I was speaking with someone over an issue we agreed on in which a person was blaming a company for something that was unquestionably her own fault. I said that “people just don’t want to take responsibility for anything.” He agreed and later I kind of shuddered a bit thinking of how such a phrase has become so broad and encompassing. I do believe in personal accountability and responsibility, yet the very term has come to verbalize the belief that people are almost always fully responsible for every situation they find themselves in.

So, last night I did a double-flinch when I got around to finally seeing this 13 year old book-deal novelty character, this uber-conservative child speaking about the core values of political conservativism. Jonothan Krohn, author of “Define Conservativism,“ has video clips being bandied about all over the web, addressing CPAC and others. The speech I saw had him follow “respect for the constitution” with “personal responsibility” in a list of core conservative values. Used in this way, by the Republican party, with this mind-set, personal responsibility goes far beyond the belief I share in that one should be held accountable for one’s own choices and decisions, as well as that one should be responsible for making up for one’s own wrongs, apologizing, admitting fault, taking blame, etc. So, the “Conservative” party extends this idea to mean that big government is wrong. The government can’t help you–you have to help yourself. That’s a tent-pole in conservative thought. Yet taken to it’s logical point of tension, it’s not the governments’ responsibility to ensure you can get affordable health care, much less “free” health care provided by the government and paid for by taxes (like most other industrialized countries now do in some form). No, you should work hard enough to afford health care and health care’s price should only be kept in check as a market decision through competition (we see how well that has worked). Furthermore, if you are poor, homeless, drug addicted or prison bound, this is solely due to factors under your control and it is your fault. So prison reform is unneeded, welfare is simply an enabling method that drains cash from the “good tax payers,” heck, under Reagan even AIDS was only an individual responsibility requiring no government involvement in addressing it as a problem or offering treatment or research.

So really, does this child speaking at a conservative rally really understand the myriad tangle of factors that lead to poverty, disease, prejudice and mistreatment? Speaking from his cushy existence as a wealthy, novelty, pseudo 15-minutes-of-fame celebrity, he really has no knowledge of real world life, its problems and suffering.

That’s all I really have to say about him, I’m not going to waste space berating a flash in the pan novelty neo-con, especially one that’s a child. Looking at Coulter, Limbaugh and Palin and realize it was only a matter of time before a child was recruited to be a party face.

When it comes to personal responsibility, I feel like reclaiming the term from the conservatives. In it’s truest sense, I’m all for it and it is unquestionably noble. Take responsibility for your own mistakes, work as hard as you can to get where you’re going, admit when you are wrong. Forgive and be forgiven. Yet don’t take such a belief to the extreme that the GOP has. Sometimes people need a hand. Sometimes people need assistance to get them where they’re going. Quite often, people end up in lousy situations through no fault of their own.

Government isn’t just ‘the problem.’ Why do GOPers even bother running for and serving in office if they truly believe Government is just a problem. I assume they want to get in office to theoretically pull back power and government that a Democrat would otherwise extend. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way. Government should be able to help its people. People pay taxes for the government to take care of them in matters they can’t take care of themselves. If someone is hardworking their entire life, paying taxes and struggling to get by, the very fact that they’ve been paying taxes should ensure that if they are hurt and can no longer work they will be taken care of; when they age and must retire, they should be taken care of. Any wealthy, industrialized country when ran correctly can ensure that its citizens do not go bankrupt trying to pay for medical bills or medicine and that any hardworking and aspiring person can afford to attend a university and learn a skill or trade, to name just a couple of examples.

I’m not so naive as to think that assistance programs, universal health care and free education are cheap and easy things. In the current economic state, it seems many things must wait. A recent PBS program detailing Bush showed many economists claiming that although a very “moral” issue conservative, Bush was not a fiscal conservative by any means. He let “pay as you go” expire and signed the largest Medicare bill yet, a bill costing billions per year that will never expire, a bill much more expensive than the Iraq war. Obviously the funds aren’t available to support this program, so each year we go more in debt to keep it running. And…it’s very popular with almost every senior citizen because it covers huge portions of their pharmaceutical needs (so people aren’t opposed to every form of “socialism,” even conservative elderly folks when it suits them). While watching this program I turned to my wife and commented that such a thing is indeed good, yet it needs funding to offset the debt it induces. She asked how I would suggest paying for such a thing. I still stand by my belief that the tax system should be better structured. The type of tax system wealthy folks and radio talk fans shout out as being “class warfare.” Simply put, those that earn the 25 percent lowest earnings a year should pay very little tax…they simply can’t afford to. Those in the middle 50 percent should pay a little more than they pay now, say 3 percent more per year in federal taxes. Those that are wealthy enough to fall in the top 25 percent should pay 5 to 6 percent more than what they pay now…they’ll still be making more than enough to live on and they’ll be creating a society that can afford to take care of it’s citizens. Of course I also feel there are many lines of wasteful spending on the federal budget that could be trimmed each year, I think the military and defense budget can slack off some when peaceful negations increase, you can always increase the cigarette tax, I could go on but I’m won’t.


One last point to make about recent conservative opinions and I’m done. Thomas Sowell, the syndicated op-ed columnist who spent months berating Obama during the campaign, published a piece this past Sunday in which he bemoaned recent “transgressions” of his peers for not sticking with the “foundation” of the party, the big “important” folks like Limbaugh and Coulter. He complained that John McCain’s daughter misspoke recently when she said she was embarrassed at trying to explain away Ann Coulter when dealing with non-Republican friends. Sowell complained about RNC head Michael Steele’s month old comment against Limbaugh as well. Sowell said that where other members of the party were fickle, compromising, pandering and barely conservative, folks like Limbaugh, Coulter and Palin are strong, clear, conservative voices that unify the party and require all republican support. Wow. Now, although I’m not a Republican I can handle the George Will’s and other educated old school conservatives, and I feel that middle ground can be found with such folks. Defending and encouraging Coulter is mind-blowing. Despite Sowell’s praises of journalistic integrity for Coulter, her books are so full of un-cited, misquoted, misused, and outright lies not to mention their mean-spirited and hateful tones, there is absolutely no excuse to defend her. Limbaugh is only slightly better, at least he occasionally fact checks and to my knowledge hasn’t encouraged the “raping of the earth” (as Coulter has said in those very terms) or called out the entire denomination of Episcopal as not really being Christian (again, Coulter has),but he has had his share of gaffes, lies, ignorance and hatred to spew.

I’m done with political articles for at least 2 weeks, granted that nothing ridiculous happens. Sorry.


One Response to “This Child Would Like to Talk to You About Personal Responsibility”

  1. Michael Cartwright said

    I just read a few of your posts, the ones on evolution, Neko Case, and personal responsibility. I’m very impressed and looking forward to reading more of your stuff. Your points of view seem to align well with mine. I guess what’s really driving my curiosity right now is, “Who are you?”


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