Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Con vs. Lib - What's the Difference?

To save space, I have abbrreviated the title of this post from "Conservative vs. Liberal - What's the difference?"  The question came up this morning in the monthly first Wednesday meeting of the Men's Group at a church in Woodland Hills.  We geezers were talking about the new Congress, in which the Republicans have a majority in the House and an increase in the Senate.  We wondered why politicians don't talk to each other and try to find compromises instead of taking absolute stands and trying to suppress any ideas advanced by the minority.

My thought is that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that the two groups do not recognize the same problems as matters that ought to be addressed in legislation.  Consider the health care bill enacted by the previous Congress.  The House, with a Republican majority, is going to spend several days debating the proposition that the bill should be repealed and replaced with something more to the liking of Republicans.  This debate and the final vote will be taken in spite of the fact that we still have Mr. Obama as President and a Democratic majority in the Senate.  It would be a true miracle if the repeal were to be achieved.  (I write "miracle" instead of "calamity" because miracles do not happen in my world, certainly not in the last two thousand years.)  The vote is purely symbolic, a waste of time to please a few constituents.

We geezers still wondered why there are such strong feelings on the two sides.  One reason, I believe, is that conservatives and liberals are concerned about different problems.  Consider American health care.  It is very good.  If you need the latest advances in medical practice, you can get them here - if you have the money to pay or if medical providers will provide them pro bono.  However, a significant part of our population can not afford medical care at all.  This part comprises people without medical insurance to cover expensive medical treatments.  In Canada and in many European countries such care is provided under a system in which the cost is paid by the government.  In other words, the cost of medical care for all is borne by taxes which everyone pays.  In addition, medical practice in these "socialist" countries is less expensive than medical practice in most American communities.

I have written extensively by e-mail to my conservative friends about universal health care.  Neither one of them supports the idea.  One argues that we already have universal health care because hospital emergency rooms are legally obliged to treat everyone regardless of ability to pay.  The other argues that we simply can't afford to provide free medical care for everyone; the government is running big deficits as it is and there isn't the money to provide free care.  My point is that conservatives do not recognize uneven health care as a problem that government should do anything about.

On the other hand, my conservative friends are very much concerned about what I call the "Andy Cap" fraction of society.  Andy Cap is a cartoon character who lives in north-central England.  He lives on the dole and sedulously avoids doing work for money.  Conservatives see any public benefit, such as free health care for the poor (or for all) as a chance for "Andy Cap" or lazy freeloaders to get something of value without working or paying for it.  A related concern is the malpractice situation.  Conservatives see that malpractice lawyers encourage dissatisfied patients to sue their doctors and hospitals.  These lawyers earn enormous fees from successful lawsuits.  In addition, most trial lawyers are Democrats and contribute heavily to the Democratic Party.

We talked also about the influence of money, especially corporate money on elections.  In our country a successful candidate for office has to raise a lot of money.  Two candidates competing with each other vie for money.  The one who can raise the most money usually wins the election.  It is no surprise that the successful one will, in office, support legislation that benefits his wealthy supporters.  As a result, we have a plutocracy, not a democracy, even though the new Republican majority in the House intends to have the federal constitution read to the members.

Naturally, we talked about the "Tea Party" faction in the Republican Party.  Most of us think the Tea Party people have some quaint ideas.  They are sincere and angry.  In my view, they are angry about many things that make me angry but their anger is directed at other things than mine.  I think they are being misled and I hope that in time they will realize that their leaders are using them for some ends that are not good for the country.

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