Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's wanting in public debate

The Chicago Sun-Times has a story this morning about a proposal to put pictures on Link cards, the ATM-like cards that have replaced paper food stamps for welfare recipients. The Sun-Times article, by Dave McKinney and Stephen Di Benedetto, quotes Ken Dunkin, a Democratic legislator from Chicago, asking the bill's sponsor, "Are you picking on poor people, representative?"

That's when the light bulb went on.

The recent federal budget compromise was attacked as mere 'accounting tricks' on the one hand and 'an assault on poor people' on the other.

Do you see the pattern?

No one, on either side of our increasingly wide political divide, can publicly admit that anyone on the other side might be motivated by good faith or good intentions.

Thus, the Democrats see any proposed reform of any government program as a Republican attempt to mug the poor and the Republicans see any revision of our Byzantine federal tax structure (the U.S. Tax Code is now 72,000 pages long according to a column today by Jacob Sullum) as an incitement to class warfare.

In the words of Rodney King, can't we all get along here?

Granted, if every dollar spent by government were wisely used, poverty might not be eradicated, every roadway might not be as smooth as a pool table -- but does this mean that no investigation can be made into the efficacy of our considerable expenditures? Can no program, once enacted, ever be abandoned? Why must any economy move be seen as an assault on the less fortunate?

On the other hand, while I hate paying taxes as much as anybody (and more than most since, as a self-employed person, I must withhold money from my own wages and personally send it off to Washington and Springfield), can no revision of the tax code be permitted? Deficits, like credit card balances, add up quickly. Rich people pay willingly for luxury cars and premium service; wouldn't most of us be willing to pay a little more in taxes for streamlined, more efficient government services? The two cents on the dollar Illinois income tax increase has supposedly resulted in a 71% increase in state revenues in March 2011 (when compared to revenues in March 2010). The pain involved in forking over the extra money would be greatly soothed by some assurance that it wasn't going to be entirely wasted.

Democrats are going to have to acknowledge that their Republican brothers and sisters are not heartless monsters bent on starving the unfortunate. Republicans are going to have to admit that their Democratic brothers and sisters are not communists bent on imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat on the Land of the Free. And, if they won't, we have got to get us some new Democrats and Republicans.

1 comment:

Shel said...

Well,I have to admit I'm all for pictures being put on LINK cards. There are times in my job that I know, I mean beyond a shadow of a doubt KNOW, that the person using the LINK card is not the person the LINK card was issued for. This disturbs me, but short of mugging the customer and demanding to see their ID, there's not a thing I can do about it. It's bad enough with WIC - at least with WIC I get a signature to look at.