Chris Jepson: What works versus what's right

If we were to have a discussion-debate if you will-over public policy, chances are the conversation would bog down, be reduced to what is "true" and what is not.

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  • | 6:54 a.m. September 3, 2015
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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If we were to have a discussion—debate if you will—over public policy, chances are the conversation would bog down, be reduced to what is “true” and what is not. Whether it is family planning, immigration, foreign interventions or our economic system, arguments would be offered claiming the truth of one position over another. I suggest a different approach. Skip the “truth” of the matter and focus on what works.

Right now for example the state of Kansas is offering the nation an excellent test of Republican fiscal policies. It should be evaluated on whether or not it produces desired societal results. Republicans there, led by Gov. Brownback, have slashed taxes, regulations, government agencies and employees with the idea that such cutbacks will spur economic development that, in turn, will provide a better quality of life for all Kansans.

If Brownback’s “experiment” in government retrenchment (cutbacks in public education, etc.) produces a better life for Kansans, we should applaud and support such efforts. If not, I recommend back to the drawing board.

Many conservatives deplore Social Security. They view it as an immoral taking (social security taxes) of one’s personal income, that the individual herself should be solely responsible for managing her own retirement planning. If we lived in the best of all possible worlds (we do not) such arguments would be evident to the most casual observer.

Rather than tossing out the baby with the bath water (making social security voluntary or self-directed), let’s devise a plan, a strategy, a thesis and test it over 25 or 30 years. Select 100,000 average-income Americans who wish to opt out of Social Security and let them do so. Evaluate the results. Adjust (or not) accordingly.

We’ve already tested (are testing) the idea of militarily overthrowing a foreign government for reasons of “X.” See Iraq invasion of 2003. We see firsthand how that is working out for America. Arguments for “spreading democracy” at the point of a gun barrel have been discredited. We can legitimately say, “Tried that, been there.”

The GOP has repeatedly attempted to repeal “Obamacare.” Fine. I get it. It’s yet another government program, another intrusion into one’s personal life. Again, if we lived in the best of all possible worlds, everyone would be wise, mature, responsible and lucky. Bad things (bankruptcy, poverty, cancer, car accidents, birth defects, etc.) would not happen. But they do. How then do you provide healthcare for all Americans?

Maybe that is crux of the issue. Maybe the only thing making Americans Americans is simply residing legally within the geographic borders of the nation. There is no solidarity, there is no commonwealth. We have no bond with one another or for one another. Is it to be every man, woman and child for himself?

I sympathize with conservatives who say, “I damn well don’t want to support the lazy or nonproductive among us. Why should I?” Again, in the best of all possible worlds, you wouldn’t have to. But alas, sigh, we do not. But then what?

What do we do with the impoverished, the sick, the old, the unfortunate? Turn our backs? I think—if push came to shove—that is what many Republicans prefer. We have social programs (Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, environmental regulations, etc.) so that America does not devolve into an India.

Elections matter. Truth not so much. Consider politicians who offer specific solutions (options) not empty platitudes such as the “truth.”


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