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
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.