Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Schips passing in the night

The SCHIP "controversy" illustrates some very basic differences between conservatives and normal, decent people and provides a clue as to how we could better win a lot of these arguments (in the arena of public opinion, of course, in real life it's not a contest).

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thought of all the money wasted on our murder spree in Iraq when conservatives complain about a relatively small amount being spent to help hard working families who have suffered devastating medical crises.

It's backfiring on them this time, but in general, the construction "Why should my tax dollars pay for x" appeals to the masses. x can be just about anything and everyone who pays taxes can sympathize.

Still, some x's have more resonance than others. For example, "why should my taxes pay to put out other people's fires?" isn't going to get a lot of traction. What if my house catches on fire? It could happen. Of course I want someone to come put it out.

Same thing with SCHIP. Why should I have to pay for someone else's catastrophic medical condition? Well, that could happen to me as well. The ability to recognize that we are all in the same boat does a lot to bring out the empathy in people.

But I'm an idealist. I think most people can empathize with those who suffer catastrophes that are less likely to happen to them as well, particularly if it is a moral issue. But it often takes more time to for the meaning to sink in and a often a little guidance is necessary.

So although America will not be occupied by a brutally repressive foreign power in our lifetime and the great majority of us will not be secretly imprisoned and tortured by our government or have our family murdered by drunken American mercenaries, errr Blackwater employees, I think most of us would prefer not to spend our tax dollars on murder, torture and oppression, particularly when it is so damaging to the national security, which when the words are not misused, is our security as well.

So maybe decent people should try that old conservative rhetorical strategy and frame the issues we rail against in terms of our blessed tax dollars.

I'll be damned if I want my tax dollars fattening the investment accounts of traitors and murderers that are fucking up the lives of so many people who are ultimately not that different from us. Who does? Particularly when that money could be used to help people, you know, people like us.