Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Guest Post: by Matthew Miller

A few days ago Matthew and I traded emails about 'torture' at GITMO. He asked if I would be interested to hear the why behind his politics and agreed to do a post about the beliefs of a thirty-something socialist in America. ...The cartoon was my addition :)



"Why I Am A Socialist" by Matthew Miller

"Politically, I would classify myself as a partial socialist. Why partial? First, I do not want the government controlling every aspect of my life, spying on me, telling me what I can wear or eat or drink. In that regard I suppose I exhibit libertarian tendencies. But I do believe that the government has the duty and right to control certain areas of life, or else there would be no need for government. For example, I think liberals and conservatives alike would agree that it is the right and the duty of the government to criminalize and prosecute murder and rape. I also consider it very practical and convenient that the government constructs and paves my roads, instead of my having to go out and pour asphalt.

But there are two particular areas in which I consider myself a socialist, that I am fairly certain most conservatives would disagree with. Those two areas are social welfare, and social medicine. I believe that the government should provide aid and healthcare to its needy citizens, and I would like to briefly explain why.

I was a conservative in my younger years. I believed specifically that no one needed help, that any American could, so to speak, pull himself up by his bootstraps. I believed that anyone who worked hard would succeed in America. Then I started working in the restaurant business.

I worked in the restaurant business for ten years in various cities, working my way up from dishwasher to manager, and finally attending culinary school and being a chef. There was something in particular that I noticed in every single restaurant that I worked at, in every city. That is, certain people, mostly minorities and the lower class, were hired as dishwashers (the lowest position in a restaurant) and never worked their way up. They were consistently passed over for promotion, and never got to be anything but a dishwasher. This was especially true of blacks, who almost never were hired as waitstaff. I saw dozens and dozens of good, honest, sincere people who not only worked hard, but worked incredibly hard, up to 100 hours per week, in the hard, manual labor of scrubbing dishes and industrial pots and pans. These people worked just as hard as anyone else. They did good work, they never stole, they were honest, and they were good people. But they never got help. They never got a hand up. They remained dishwashers. While young, attractive white people would make their way to the front of the house, old black people would stay at the dishwashing station. Of course there was no real way to prove discrimination. Employers had a hundred different ways of explaining this.

This is foremost why I believe the government has to duty to help the poor financially. Some people are very good people and extremely hard workers, yet they suffer throughout their lives, never quite making enough, struggling each month to pay the rent and bills, and buy food for themselves and their families. These people are not lazy welfare cheats who sit on their porch all day and push out welfare babies. Rather they are conscientious, hard workers who try their best every day yet still come up short. These people need help. No one else is helping them. The government has trillions of dollars, and the percentage of that money that goes to individual welfare cases is nothing compared to, say, corporate welfare. I believe it is a Christian duty for the rich to help the poor, and to pay taxes (Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's). I believe that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus demonstrates this best. Thus, I see no problem with people who have millions and billions of dollars, who every day live lives of extreme luxury and privilege, giving a small percentage of their money to help the poor who live in misery.

Next, I believe that the government has the right and duty to assure that all of its citizens receive healthcare. I base this belief on my own situation. I am a part of what is called the working poor. That is, I have a full-time career (and I am going to graduate school full-time). I work very hard every day, and I provide for my basic needs. However, I simply cannot afford health insurance, nor could I possibly afford to pay a doctor directly for treatment. Because of that, I have not been to a doctor in years. Now, I know that emergency rooms have to treat me even if I do not have money or insurance, but that is in regard to emergency care. If I were to get cancer, for example, I would have no way to receive regular treatment of chemotherapy. If I had some disease that required regular, ongoing treatment, I would have no way of obtaining it. Moreover, I cannot get preventative care. In other words, even though I support myself through hard work, I cannot afford healthcare. If the government provided free healthcare to people like me, then I could live a healthy life and at least live without the worry of someday contracting a disease for which I cannot afford treatment. Healthcare is not, in my opinion, a commodity or a luxury, but a necessity.

Granted, not everyone needs this kind of assistance. Bill Gates can pay for his own healthcare. But there are Americans out there who are good, decent people, who are not welfare cheats or lazy, who try their best, who work just as hard as the CEOs of corporations, yet who never get a hand up, never get help, and struggle just to survive. For that reason, I believe that some socialism is good, that the government can and should provide for these people."

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