The Republican party and its conservative base has made a lot of noise about values, values voters, and moral leadership rooted in faith. They now have an opportunity to prove that they really mean it - that all the values talk isn't just a noisy cover for an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, pro-gun agenda.
The upcoming budget proposal from the Bush administration is where the values talk hits the real world. The values represented by the budget aren't ones I embrace.
The basic structure of Social Security is under attack (on the grounds that the program is in crisis, though most respected economists say it isn't). Pell Grants for college tuition are on the cutting block. So are Section 8 housing vouchers (which started under Richard Nixon) and food stamps. Programs that have offered some protection for people in the lower third of the economy are under threat of evisceration.
And the rationale for the attack is a budgetary crisis created by the gift of $1.8 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. (WaPo)
The values party budget doesn't support programs that help the working poor, the elderly poor, the hungry poor... Just what is the principle underlying this lack of support? Every man for himself? I thought they were the party of faith and the Constitution. But this budget doesn't support that idea. Certainly, it doesn't align with the teaching to do unto others, to love your neighbor, to put others ahead of yourself. It doesn't recognize Christ's teaching that says 'as you do unto the least of these you do unto me'. On the Constitutional side, it seems to ignore the fact that the Constitution itself was established not only to provide for a common defense but also to promote the general welfare of US citizens. Of course, I understand 'general welfare' to mean just that - watch out for the general well being of the citizenry. But the conservative interpretation, while depressing, shouldn't surprise:
"The Constitution makes clear, through the further explanation of specifically enumerated powers, what the Founders meant when referring to promoting the general welfare throughout the United States. The Founders meant by this defense of the nation, as discussed elsewhere in this Platform, and the preservation of the nation's economic integrity. " (New Federalist Platform)
Said more clearly, the conservatives think 'general welfare' means national security and the business economy. (Click the link and read more to understand how much they really mean that general welfare means protecting business.) It's in the interpretation of 'general welfare' that a significant distinction between conservatives and liberals exists. It's when I look at this conservative interpretation of the Constitution that the budget begins to make sense, since it does include national security and certainly protects the interests of business. It's just the average citizen - not the wealthy one but the average one - that's left out. They're acting out their beliefs:
We therefore favor elimination of congressional action in regard to all matters on which the Constitution is silent, including the following subjects not specifically mentioned in the Constitution: aid to specific industries such as agriculture, education (including student loans), energy (except insofar as related to the common defense), the environment, health care, and pensions. However, as the nation has extracted money from taxpayers in exchange for promises of health care (such as Medicare) and pension benefits (including Social Security programs), in the process preventing citizens from using those funds in accord with their own free decisions concerning their personal welfare, we strongly support continuing these programs for current recipients while gradually transferring responsibility for such programs back to the citizens themselves. (New Federalist Platform)
We're on our way - pell grants are being reduced, environmental regulations are being gutted, energy has no better friend than Cheney, no serious health care solutions are on the table, social security is targeted for dissolution. These folks must be happy.
I'm not. We need to fight. One arena for fighting this is the reality that most conservative Christians do not want to abandon the poor, strip social safety nets out from under seniors, deny talented but needy students the opportunity to get an education, et al. They do want to live the values that their faith teaches them. We need to ask them to do so. We need to ask them if they really agree with this conservative position - that when it comes to the general welfare of US citizens, the government's only job is defense and the economy. This is the conversation I'd like to have with folks on the other side of the aisle. It is this disregard for the less fortunate, for the American who is trying so hard to achieve the American dream but instead lives a life of 'one step forward two steps back", that I cannot endure. It seems so terribly unAmerican to me. Isn't it?