Welfare and Socialism

Today there is a great debate over how much assistance should be given to people just by right. The main arguments go something like this;

“Can I get some help here so my kids don’t starve?”

“Work for it.”

“I work as much as humanly possible, my pay is too low.”

“Go to school to get a better job.”

“I cannot afford to go to school, I can’t even put food on the table.”

“I did it, why can’t you?”

And so it goes. Families that have both parents often find that they have more take-home pay if only one works, due to the expenses of child care. I cannot even begin to imagine how a single parent family is expected to do it.

As with most problems, I think that both sides have the best of intentions, and there is something that just doesn’t convey. I will try to do my best to represent both sides, but I know that it will probably become clear where I stand on this issue if it is not obvious already, and from my other posts.

This is an issue now because the pay that many workers receive does not allow them to maintain a basic standard of living. The national minimum wage is woefully inadequate to support even one person. In fact, many states have higher minimum wages, and many cities are even higher than that. According to citylab.com there is only one state that pays more than bare minimum for one person to get by on.

Many people’s first reaction is to tell the person working at this low wage that it is all their fault. They must have made bad choices in the past, and now they have to pay for that mistake. While some people may have had the opportunity to go to college, or join the military and chose not to, not everyone has that luxury. If your family needs money now, a kid, even still in high school, may need to work to help their family get by. This means that college gets put off until later, if ever. The military is a great option, provided that you meet the physical and mental health requirements. (Not to mention that some people choose not to join for political, religious, or ideological reasons.) There are many people who are in minimum wage jobs not because of their own errors, but because of the cards that life dealt to them.

But let’s imagine that we are talking about someone who had made the grade in high school, could have gone to college, but chose to put it off for whatever reason, a common enough scenario. In the meantime, they get a job and try to get a place. Now they are not living with mom and dad anymore, and they have a whole place to themselves that needs rent to be paid. This makes it very challenging to get together the necessities for school, especially if a second job is needed to pay the bills. While their is some financial assistance available, it is more challenging than getting that assistance straight out of school. (And many of these programs fall into that category of government aid that we are debating here anyway.) The question then becomes how long should they suffer for that one bad choice?

There is also the increasingly common scenario of someone who followed all the rules, they made good grades, went to school, got a degree, worked their own way through school with as little debt as possible. Now that they are out, no-one is hiring in their field. And when they do find an opening the competition is fierce. Employers have their pick, and usually will chose someone who offers not only the educational background, but experience as well. The question then arises, “How do I get experience if I can’t get hired because I have no experience?” In some industries, the answer has been internships, but, potentials for illegality aside, this is a system that does not work in all fields.

It is frightening when even getting a minimum wage job has the same pitfalls I just discussed. Increasingly I hear about people needed to go to two or even three interviews just to ‘flip burgers’! There are so many people actively looking for work, that employers can be, and are, very picky even for supposed ‘entry level’ jobs. If people did not have to work 2 or more jobs to get by, there would be more jobs to go around.

Having established that living itself can get in the way of trying to improve oneself, lets talk about that a bit. There is enough food in the world to feed every person on the planet, and plenty of housing for all homeless, at least in many ‘developed’ nations like the US and the UK. What gets in the way is not supply, but rather, means. In some cases creating the infrastructure to distribute food might take some time, but is within the realm of possibility. In the case of housing, the largest struggle is simply the legality of it.

There are many people who have ‘made it’, and proudly proclaim that they did it all without any government aid. That may be true, they did not file for need-based assistance programs. However, they certainly have benefited from for more socialist type of structure. The type that you don’t need to apply to use, it is available to all. Some examples of this would be public roadways, utilities, and emergency services. These things are generally agreed to be for the public good and are therefore made available to all. Parks and Community Centers are other great examples.

My question is, why are these things thought of as public rights, and the things that are considered human rights and even necessary for life, are things that must be paid for? I have no problem with money. Money is a fine way to distribute wealth and luxury goods. However I do not believe that anyone, no matter how lazy, should be denied basic necessities of life, or the internationally agreed upon human rights.

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Ideal Education

Okay, I have been putting A LOT of thought into this concept, and it will most likely take many more posts to really flesh out. The reason I have not posted sooner is a fear of not explaining my thoughts coherently enough, so please bear with me.

Children are inherently curious and they love to learn. I see this every day in my 2 year old. Schools today do an excellent job at stamping out that curiosity, and in the U.S. at least, it is getting worse. I will address these causes and specific problems at another time. This is my thoughts on an, admittedly Utopian, educational system.

  1. Everyone chooses what, and when, they learn. If a child starts learning letters early, they can be in the letter class. If someone has a difficult time, they can re-take the class at any age, and as many times as they choose. (Preferably without stigma). This also gives people the ability to balance school with their own lives, whether that is being a kid (see Finland) or raising kids.
  2. Classes are broken down into small units. Rather than having to figure out how to teach letters, sight words, and sentence structure in one class, each student can move on to the next building block at their own pace.
  3. Each teacher creates their own curriculum. All classes on the same topic must cover the same material, resulting in the same end knowledge. However the path to that result can be wildly different. This allows for differences in development and learning styles.
  4. There is a certain level of knowledge required to vote. This would be very elementary. Reading, some basic understanding of numbers (to comprehend the facts behind the issues), basic political systems, and FINDING AND EVALUATING SOURCES for instance. Just the bare necessities to be an informed voter.
  5. Each job would have certain qualifications. Rather than having a bachelor’s degree that shows a person went to school for a certain amount of time and focused on a general field, they could say, ‘I want ___ job, I need to take these certain classes.’ This would make people far more qualified for the job they want.
  6. Education is free for all. No matter how high the level of education, if we want to move forward as a society, everyone needs to be able to better themselves without setting themselves back.
  7. No grades. You either know the information at the end of a course, or you don’t. I hate tests, so finding a way to establish this might be a challenge.

I hope that this brief outline gives an idea of how this system would function. I would love to hear input, and work with others to create a new system, and find a way to implement it.

 

Happiness

They say that being happy comes from enjoying what you have and living in the moment. I believe that, and I try my best. Overall, I am very happy. But this is a lot easier when I ignore what is going on in the real world.

The problem is that ignoring bad things allows them to continue. Some people say that the problem is that I care too much. That may be true, but I know that if we allow bad things to happen, it will affect us down the line. If by acting now I can help prevent that, I will act now.

I keep running into the problem that so many bad things are going on in the world that I cannot really be active enough in any one thing. Especially since I am a parent and I work full-time. This frustration that I have is probably part of the reason that so much of what I post are merely rants. I know full well that I am not adding anything meaningful to the debates. I just feel the need to DO SOMETHING.

I sign petitions, but so many of them ask for money after you ‘sign’ that I don’t even know if it gets counted unless I donate. I am not a bottomless pit, and I cannot donate to every worthy cause I come across.

5 Most & 5 Least Patriotic Things Americans Do

Patriotism. I am a proud American, but I bow my head in shame for some things Americans do.

The most Patriotic things that we do are in support of those principles that make us proud to be Americans.

5)  Vote – In this country we have the ability to influence our government. This is the easiest way to do it. I understand that there are limits on our personal influence for many reasons, but if we don’t even participate in it, we are not only giving up that influence, but we are telling people that we don’t care enough.

4)  Agree to Disagree – This may be the most difficult thing on this list. In order to have a healthy discussion about anything, we must be open to hearing about others opinions. Even though we may be very emotionally attached to our own, hearing others is what helps us to work through any flaws in our thinking. If you are in it to win it, listening may help to understand enough to compromise or influence others.

3)  Petition – This is another very simple gesture that can have a great effect on policy. Voting on who is in office is only the first part of our civilian influence. Those is office want to return, and so they want to keep their voters happy. Let them know what you want them to do, either by writing them directly or signing petitions that others have created.

2)  Protest – We have a right to fight for what we believe in. Although the Patriot Act limits this,  we still are able to make a difference through these means. This can mean private corporations, or even, the government.

1)  Stand up to Government – There are many protections that the founding fathers set up in our government to protect the people from the government. These are being systematically removed. As Americans, if we want to make sure that our country is still worthy of our loyalty, we need to keep the government within its rights and make sure that we protect the rights and privileges of all for the future.

The least Patriotic things are about blind loyalty.

5)  Flag waving – This is not inherently unpatriotic, but it is if we are out of touch.

4)  Give up on Democracy – I fully understand that our democracy has limitations, and has evolved over the centuries for better and for worse. Our job is to make sure that it keeps getting better.

3)  Trying to Force Others to Agree With Us – The greatness of America lies in the multitude of varying opinions and backgrounds. No-one has the right to tell someone that their way is inferior. That applies to everything from freedom of religion to the ‘Spread of Democracy’. If we truly want to prove that our way is better, let us try to lead by example, not force.

2)  Creating, or Allowing the Creation of a Class System – Throughout history, all over the world there have been class systems. The people at the top were able to control the people on the bottom to varying degrees. Today we may not have an official system of nobility and citizenry, but we do have it. This is the most damaging thing to the functioning of democracy and the greatness of this country.

1)  Pledge of Allegiance – I feel a chill down my spine when I hear a classroom full of children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Children memorize it before they even know what the words mean. That said, I do support the principles of the pledge, ‘liberty and justice for all’. The problem is that it is just words. If you think about it, we pledge our allegiance to nothing but a piece of fabric. That fabric holds a lot of symbolism, but in reality is nothing more. We are also pledging our allegiance to the republic. We are vowing to help hold up not the liberty and justice part, but the republic that happens to have those. Before anyone recites this pledge, they need to fully understand what it means. I fully Pledge my Allegiance to this great nation – so long as liberty and justice prevail.

 

Donald Trump as President

At first I thought this post would say something like, ‘Ok, the joke is up, it’s not funny anymore.” But it is way past that point. I am truly terrified about this. At first it was just as an idle ‘what if,’ but the polling numbers make this a real possibility.

facebook page supporting Bernie Sanders posted a question, ‘What worries you about Donald Trump being president?’ I found that my answer was far too long for a response in the comments.

Entitlement – It started with Trump’s 1% attitude. He thinks that he got himself where he is today. As I have said before, I don’t really believe that is how capitalism works. Our economy does not get people where they belong based on work or ethics, but primarily on family wealth and/or unscrupulous behavior. This is shown with his ‘small $1 million dollar loan’. Little does he realize that this is more money than most Americans will even handle in their lifetime.

Trump feels that he is the best. His success has given him the idea that he can do whatever he wants. And the US legal system supports that. The fact that he has declared bankruptcy makes him feel that he has seen the worst. And the fact that he came back stronger makes him believe that he is even stronger than an ordinary millionaire. He thinks that he is so infallible that no matter what he does he will succeed.

As someone who already benefits from the elaborate protections the wealthy have on their money, Trump is likely to keep those and create more. All of these protections are damaging for those who cannot take advantage of them. For every penny that they keep is a penny out of circulation. Each penny is another one that will not be paid to the hard-working employees to buy food. In the end, each penny they hoard is a penny they don’t have to steal a second time.

Cruel – The television show, The Apprentice, is known for Trump’s coldhearted treatment of the contestants. While one could hope this was just for sensationalism, it is precisely that sensation that propelled him to where he is today. It is that attitude that has earned him fans. Having anyone in charge who thinks that people are disposable is a recipe for disaster. I doubt the people who work for him are treated very well. And these people we see on the show have been mentored by him, sometimes for several weeks. Even that does not help him to show any sympathy. What can we expect him to feel for people he has never even seen?

Bigot – Trump has gained his thunder through cruelty in general, but now he is directing it. He knows that he needs certain individuals to support him, and is directing their existing fears and prejudices to his advantage. His hate speech is terrifying to me. We forget that Hitler did not round up everyone he disliked at once, he started small and gradually worked his way up as fewer and fewer groups were there to protect one another. This is one of the reasons that we must protect other people’s freedoms as well as our own. American history that I grew up learning was a consistent progression of gaining equality and rights for the disenfranchised, but within my lifetime we have gone back centuries when it comes to this progress. Trump is even more overt about it than Bush.

Followers – The most terrifying thing to me is not that there is someone in the world like this. I know they exist. The fact that he has power is frightening, but what scares me the most is that people follow him. He has supporters who believe the outrageous claims. He is working them up to a fever pitch, allowing people who were considered ‘fringe’ before for their radical views to come into the limelight. This is the Tea Party, but perhaps even more extreme. This is dangerous.

 

Republicans & Gun Laws

I am honestly confused that in the minds of many Americans it is Republicans who are the ones who support gun rights. I know I normally try to keep party politics out of my discussions, but in this case it is the actual affiliation that confuses me. I have had conversations with people who heard my opinions on gun laws and assumed I was a Republican, to the point of questioning my other values.

Let me explain my views first, then I will explain why I have a hard time understanding the affiliation, and why I believe it exists.

I am a big supporter of the second amendment. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” There are several reasons that the founding fathers saw fit to include this right in our constitution. Hunting and personal defense are the most oft cited today. Some people think that both are outdated. I disagree.

I do not support hunting purely for game. I believe that hunting is a good skill to have, and acceptable as long as the animal is not endangered and over-hunted. Most numbers permitted by the Department of Fish & Wildlife are created with this in mind. But the most important part to me is that all parts of the animal are used. If you kill an animal, eat what you can, tan the hides, carve the bones. Find a use for every part of it. The animal gave its life to you, the most respectful thing to do is not waste it.

We do have police to keep people in line, but they cannot do anything about a crime that has not happened yet, and they may not respond fast enough in a crisis. That said I know that shockingly high numbers of gun-related deaths in this country are of household members with their own weapons. This does not mean we should not have guns for our own protection, it means that we need to make sure that guns are out of the reach of children. It also means that we may need to find a way to make marriage counseling more normal. I cannot imagine a scenario where a person in a healthy, functional relationship would ever pull a gun on a member of their household.

The main reason that we have the second amendment though is just as important now as it was in 1777. Fighting the government. And I think I can hear my name being put on a government watch list right now. Thomas Jefferson believed that in order for the government to remain fair, we should have a revolution once a generation. I agree. This revolution does not need to be bloody, but it does require awareness of the populace. At some point I would like to go through the history of this country and point out the types of revolutions I am referring to.

The founders of this great nation had just been through a war against the tyrannies of a government, and knew that they alone could not create a perfect system. They left us the ability to improve upon it, and evolve it. Voting, protesting, the process of constitutional amendments are all examples of this power. The founders knew that they did not win the Revolutionary War with a traditional military, but rather a loose militia. Our soldiers did not stand in neat little rows and fire off vollies in unison. We were the original guerrilla soldiers, the snipers and the spies. When they gave us the right to have a militia, they did not mean a government backed military. They meant that the people should have the ability to stand up for what they believe in. That is the principle of The United States of America.

So why am I confused about the party affiliation?

Republicans are doing all they can to take away these rights that every American should hold dear. They are making voting more challenging for millions, under the guise of stopping a few fraudulent votes. They are changing the voting boundaries (Gerrymandering) in order to maintain power. The Patriot Act took away many of the rights that we had as Americans to change how the system works. They are trying to make decisions for us by taking away the choices of patients and their doctors.

So why are they fighting to keep a right that I associate with keeping governmental power in check? They blatantly ignore this part of gun ownership, along with the NRA. Republicans have been able to distract from the fact that they have been taking so many freedoms by championing that they are protecting this one. They control us with the fear of our guns being taken away.

The truth is that Democrats are not trying to take them. They are trying to limit access to ever-higher powered weapons. My personal opinion on this is still open. I do not think that everyone should have access to nuclear warheads, but I do believe that those who protect the constitution should be able to do so. Democrats are trying to limit who can buy guns. This is supposed to be about making sure that people who are unstable and liable to go shooting up a school should not be allowed to have them. That is a short-sighted solution.

Despite a massive amount of research and science, there is still no way to predict this behavior. What would be better is providing accessible, normalized mental care for all. In the meantime, preventing people with a proven track record of violence from owning firearms is a good first step.

 

Abortion and Adoption

The abortion debate has been a hot-button issue for a long time. To recognize the fact that this issue could possibly shut down our government, I thought I would talk about it today.

First off, the monikers. The fact that both sides refer to themselves as Pro-something is a hint that no-one feels that they are against something, but rather in favor of it. The opposite of Pro-Life is not Anti-Life, but rather Pro-Choice, and vice versa. It seems that the Pro-Lifers actually think that people who do not want to completely abolish abortion must be in favor of killing babies. This is absolutely ridiculous.

I recognize that many of the points defending legal abortion have been made many, many times before, so I will not focus on these issues, but just mention them quickly.

  • People who want abortions will get them. We just want to make sure that it is safe.
  • We want to make sure that the mother is safe in the event that the pregnancy is dangerous to her.
  • Rape victims should not be forced to raise the product of their rape.

All of these issues are very valid, but they have all been said before. Here I will focus on an issue that is often raised in defense the of Pro-Life perspective. It is often said that if a mother does not want a child, they should just put the child up for adoption. This argument is never really touched on by the Pro-Choice side.

Yes, a woman does have the option of bringing an unwanted child to term, and then giving it up. In order to consider that option, we must also have information regarding the foster care and adoption systems that would care for the child.

The foster system is already incredibly overloaded with children. Not all of these kids are not eligible for adoption, although they may be later. These kids are intended to be placed with relations, or group foster homes. There are stories of foster children sleeping in office buildings because there is no-where else to place them. This means that these kids do not have access to adults to give them limits, direction, or advice. On the positive side, they are protected from foster parents. There are no-where enough people who are willing to foster kids. Unfortunately, even of those that are willing, some should not be allowed. Foster parents receive a small monetary compensation, and that can be taken advantage of. While many foster parents do what they do for the right reasons, not all do. Some kids end up in a situation no better than the one they were removed from, if not worse.

The situation of adopted kids is usually better. At least these homes are permanent. They are also subject to more scrutiny than foster homes. Unfortunately nothing is perfect and kids can still be endangered. The biggest problem though is that there are never enough people willing to adopt. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. Many people think of adoption as the alternative to having kids of their own. If people cannot conceive, only then they will consider adoption. Adoption is not lesser than biological. The kids that are up for adoption are no less than those that a couple could conceive themselves.

Even when people do consider adoption, people usually think of adopting newborns or kids from different countries. Yes, these are good things to do, However older, American kids need forever homes too.

The newborn adoptions and the overseas adoptions have very heavy legal costs associated with them, that are not necessary in country. The perception of these fees is often enough for people to dismiss the possibility of adoption entirely. Spread the word, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE RICH TO ADOPT.

I remember telling someone once that I wanted to adopt kids when I grew up. I was told that all kids up for adoption are crack babies. I was absolutely shocked by that assumption. Kids are kids no matter where they are. Sure chances are good that with so many kids up for adoption, some are. By the same logic, so are some of the kids that your children go to school with.

Kids that are up for adoption have undoubtedly been through a lot, but that does not mean that they are dangerous. Most would be very grateful for the being removed from the traumatic life, and loyal to the person who saved them.

Today I have kids of my own, and I plan to adopt one child for each that I have. A family is made by love, not blood. Let me repeat that; A FAMILY IS MADE BY LOVE, NOT BLOOD. There is already an overpopulation problem in the world, there is no need to produce more children when so many need good homes.

I understand the reluctance that people have to abortion. I don’t advocate having them, but I DO ADVOCATE HAVING THE CHOICE.