Thursday, October 23, 2008

Erasing the Mark of Cain

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."


Leigh said...

Standing Ovation!!!
:) Leigh

It'll still be just like Christmas morning, you get to see if we all get what we want!

Beth said...

Ken and I are planning on going Mon. or Tues. to vote. LOTS of people are voting early around here, and it sounds like the same is true elsewhere.

The clock is ticking...!


Marc said...

What's so awful about socialism anyway and why should anybody apologize for thinking kindly up such ideas as HORRORS "spreading the wealth?" We have a system that rewards grit, initiative, innovation and rich parents. Since when did normally or below normally intelligent, hardworkers but with no particular gift for entrepreneurship or a certain background, become less deserving a living a life of dignity? What the hell is WRONG with "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs?"
I could go on and on and on but I have my own blog for that. Obviously, we're on the same side of this fence. I even wonder if I'm not turning into a marxist insurrectionist. (Hey, just because you're voting doesn't mean you get to skip commenting on my blog.)

Saltydawg said...

Ahhhhh, that dreaded word Americans fear so much. We've been doing this in Europe for years and we're ok.

Yasmin said...

I for one hope Obama wins the election, he has the right idea about sharing the wealth as everybody derserves a living wage, regardless of skill, rich or poor the bills have to paid. It does and can work.


Dannelle said...

Imagine that! I have be a "closeted" socialist most of my life, scared to say so because of the fear of repercussions! And all along their are sane people who believe the same way. You put the whole idea in a nutshell- I'm taking this class- Sheria's Pol Sci 101 - Thanks for letting me study under you! Dannelle

warrior scout said...

i voted today.. it was quiet and reassuring... and invigorating....
there are so many initiatives that i had to take my blue book to help me remember...

i liked our new machines... and i liked the paper readout to ensure that my votes had been cast as i intended...

Meg said...

Sharing the wealth would also mean something like this: Say you and I were in college together. You turned down social invitations to events that you would have liked to attended to stay in and study. I, on the other hand, went to every shindig I could find and did not study at all. Come test time, you were prepared, I was not. I made a D, you made an A. But the professor, in an effort to share the wealth, gave me part of your A, and we both made a C, you a C+, me a C-. Acceptable? Not to me. If I work for it, I shouldn't have to share with those who won't work, and essentially that's what would happen.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

Addressing this brief comment to Meg regarding her analogy. The grade analogy falls apart because in that situation, each individual has to master a certain amount of material to achieve a certain grade. Master a higher percentage of material, earn a higher grade. But in making a living, not all amounts of effort, ingenuity, etc. are rewarded equally. No one can maintain that a corporate CEO who 'earns' $5 million in a year, has put in a thousand times more effort or creativity than a public school teacher who may put in 60-70 hours a week (in my experience....).

Indigo said...

Loved your analogy of the children Trick or Treating. I see nothing wrong with sharing the wealth. I don't think it would just be given to just anyone , there are those who generally strive to improve their lives, and as you said the ones we still need to work service jobs. Spreading the wealth simply means applying it where it's needed most, or toward balancing the work load vs. money. At least thats the way I understand it. We all need to give each other a hand up. Way too many people think of it as a hand out. There is a difference. (Hugs)Indigo