Work has been far less busy this week and I haven't been doing my usual hamster on a wheel imitation. I decided to start my day with a trip to the Board of Elections office in downtown Raleigh to engage in early voting. It was a great idea; there were no lines at 9:00 a.m. and I didn't have to wait. It took me about 15 minutes to complete the ballot. I don't like voting a straight party ticket; I like to read all of the names and then color in the appropriate oval next to each of my choices. That's how we do it in North Carolina, with a black pen we must completely and neatly fill in the oval next to our selected candidate. We cannot vote for the office of President or for judges by voting a straight party ticket. You have to vote separately for president and for judges (district court, court of appeals, and supreme court are elected positions and the races are nonpartisan).
I am happy to have voted, although I confess that it's a bit of a let down. What do I do now? It's sort of like opening your Christmas presents two weeks early. It's a lot of fun at the moment, but then there's no reason to look forward to Christmas day.
I'm not complacent that Obama will win. There is still plenty of time for the winds to shift and for voters to change their minds. I hope that he wins because I really do believe that he has the best plans for delivering us from this economic nightmare in which we are trapped.
It seems so clear to me. Obama proposes spreading the wealth around; McCain wants to keep the wealth in the hands of the few and enable them to accrue even more wealth. People keep bandying about the word socialism in reference to Obama's economic policies. If what Obama proposes is socialism, then I think that I like socialism.
Think about it this way. Halloween is nearly upon us (don't worry, I'm going somewhere with this). Let's suppose that you have three children, ages two, six, and ten. You allow the ten and six year old to go trick-or-treating with a group of neighborhood kids. When they come home, the ten-year-old has a bag filled with candy, but your six-year-old has a couple of packs of bubble gum and a whistle. What do you do?
Well, you could say to the six-year-old that he was lazy, didn't say trick-or-treat loud enough, and he'll just have to live with the consequences because it's his own fault that he didn't get five pounds of chocolate like his brother. Or you could explain the merits of sharing to the older child, and provide each child with some candy from big brother's bag. Even the two-year-old who didn't bother to go trick-or-treating in the first place.
I know that this is a simplistic explanation for a complex matter like redistribution of wealth but the premise is essentially the same, especially if you substitute resources for wealth. Essentially what socialism is in its purest form is a concept of ensuring that all of us have the resources that we need--food, shelter, health care, and economic security. Obama certainly is not proposing that the wealthy hand over their wealth to be shared among everyone else--the 95% of us earning less than $250,000 annually. Instead, he is proposing that those who can afford to pay a larger share of the tax burden do so. Why? Because it's necessary for the survival of the whole.
A society is only as strong as its weakest members. When we allow adults and children to live in poverty, we undermine their ability to contribute meaningfully to the society. Their potential is wasted and whatever benefit that they may have brought to the society in which we live is never realized. Our guilty conscience causes us to implement piecemeal approaches to alleviating poverty, but we never really address the underlying causes and so our problem solving efforts are as effective as dousing a 100 acre forest fire with a cup of water.
Somewhere along the way, we have become enamored with worshipping at the altar of capitalism; it's the national religion of this country. We conclude that anyone who struggles financially is unwilling to work, and that only lazy, shiftless people are poor. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I really do wonder if there has been some collective loss of basic math skills in this country. Let's assume that you earn $10.00 per hour, which exceeds the federal minimum wage of $6.55 (effective 7/24/08) and highest minimum wage offered by any state, $8.07 in the state of Washington. Assuming that you have paid holidays and paid sick leave, then you gross a whopping $20,800 per year. That's gross (before FICA and state and federal taxes). On this $10.00 per hour job, it's doubtful that you have health insurance or any retirement benefits. Double the pay to $20 per hour and your annual gross salary is $41,600.
So why not get a better job? Well, the service jobs that pay these low wages are necessary to the functioning of society. All those people who work in retail, or restaurants, or cleaning services, or transportation are doing honest labor, working hard and trying to support their families.
So yeah, I support Obama's plans for changing the way we do things in this country. I believe that there is sufficient wealth to ensure that no one goes without basic necessities of food, shelter, health care, transportation, and clothing. I believe that an honest day's work should pay a living wage, one that allows the worker to obtain those basic necessities.
I didn't get these beliefs from Senator Obama, although he espouses them well. I learned them in my catechism classes as a child where we studied from that great tome of socialism, where when Cain cried out, "Am I my brother's keeper?," the simple, unequivocal answer was, "Yes."