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The NeoCon Standard
March 19, 2004
By Greg Whitaker

The intellectual bankruptcy of neoconservatism is based upon the fact that the public and the press has allowed these loudmouthed bullies to define the terms of our national political discussion, to dictate the terms under which it may be conducted, and to draw uncontested conclusions from their own deeply biased concoctions of reality which are wholly unsupported by the facts.

Key to the neocons' utter disdain for any and all governmental social initiatives is the absolutist terms in which they have defined success, terms under which no other public or private program in the history of mankind could be ruled a success. We have allowed them to describe all social initiatives as "failures" based upon the single fact that the problems addressed by those programs continue to exist. We hold no other program to this standard for the simple reason that it is foolishness to do so.

They say that the War on Poverty was an abject failure because the poor still exist, as though the millions of lives made better, the multitudes of children better fed and better housed and better educated made zero impact on their lives. They say that "we have thrown millions at these problems to no effect - the poor are still there". Do we hold the Pentagon to this standard? We have "thrown" trillions at the military over recent decades, and there is still war and rumors of war, strife all over the globe. We have less security than we did even here at home! Is the military thus a "failure" which should be defunded and thrown upon the ash heap of history?

We have "thrown" trillions at healthcare, building hundreds of hospitals and clinics, treating millions of patients. Yet people still get sick, in numbers greater than ever before. People still die. Should we redirect all these monies, since healthcare clearly does not permanently solve the problem of illness? This is the neoconservative standard by which they judge all social programs. And it is utter bull. And it is past time that someone pointed this out.

Just as the dollars spent on healthcare made millions of lives better, longer, richer, and more fulfilling, so did the dollars spent on social programs. The fact that people still fall into poverty, like the fact that people still fall ill is a constant of human existence. Just as part of the money spent on healthcare should be spent on determining the root causes of disease so as to prevent others from succumbing to the same fate by changes in our preventative-health planning, so should the root causes of poverty be investigated in order to change public or business policies that are causing this condition.

But it is a continuing need, just as defense spending and healthcare spending are expected to continue. We cannot fill every hungry child's belly just as we cannot cure every sick child or prevent every crime or every war - but we maintain our vigilance on all these fronts as a civilized and sane society. Every time you hear or read a neoconservative decrying social programs with a dismissive sniff as an experiment which has obviously failed, bring this up. Demonstrate the falseness of the premise so as to lay this relentless attack upon the decency of our society to rest.

The beloved "market" being sold as a panacea for all of our problems by the neocons is absolute snake oil, as morally and intellectually bankrupt a notion as has ever taken root in western thought. The market does a magnificent job of maximizing profits and selecting products and manufacturers, but it can and should be expected to do nothing more. It cannot maximize human virtues or provide social justice - it is simply the wrong tool for the job. A shovel is a wonderful tool for digging a trench, but it cannot and should not be expected to be useful in painting a house.

All of this is simple common sense, but the relentless attack of the neoconservatives whose assumptions are never challenged or debated in the press have allowed this false assumption to take deep root in our national political system of beliefs. Let us step back, examine the obvious truth, and plunge re-energized into this important fight. Let us take back the debate on honest terms as we struggle to take back our democracy. Our stance is valid, it is important; it is life and death for millions of Americans who have no other place to turn but to their fellow Americans through their government. And the neocons would gladly and smugly watch them die in the ditch. Only we liberals stand between our fellow man and the imposition of a truly vicious neofascist system of government. We are the boy with his finger in the dike, holding back a flood of hatred, callousness and greed that threaten to swamp the nation we so love. It is time to recognize the importance of what we do, and time to mobilize to fix the dike.

Throw off the implicit hatred of social Darwinism and proudly take up the charge laid upon us by every major religion on earth: we are our brother's keeper. We will be judged by our treatment of the least among us, and it is our duty and our privilege to take up this burden. A rising tide does lift all boats, but drowns those shackled in the tidal flats by the chains of poverty. It is the common-sense goal of liberalism to ensure that everyone at least has a boat, that everyone has the basic necessities to have a chance to make it.

I, for one, am proud to uphold the only truly compassionate political philosophy. I am a liberal.

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