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Author Topic: How Republicans are destroying America - an insider's take
Lyrhawn
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Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative who Left the Cult

It's a compelling, damning article that describes pretty much everything I hate and fear about the Republican party, and describes a degree of the stupidity with which the Democrats have handled them to date. It's a fascinating and cogent analysis from a GOP insider.

I can't say I disagree with a single point of it. He pays equal time to the difference between GOP members as blatantly evil, in that some are actively out to get you, and the ones who simple don't care and let their tactics hit people as collateral damage. And he's certainly not a fan of Obama. I also appreciate and agree with his indictment of the media, whose role in this current political climate is all too often underrated.

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Samprimary
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Meanwhile, the republicans' latest gambit in the face of the hurricane was to all but literally hold disaster funding hostage.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/after-irene-fema-facing-a-disaster-of-its-own--funding/2011/08/29/gIQAxgzMoJ_story.html

From the mouth of Eric Cantor himself in the wake of Irene: we'll only fund FEMA when you let us make equivalent cuts are made elsewhere.

Just to remind people where we've been (for long enough to forget, anyway): a multi-year running obstructionism gambit by the minority party.

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Lyrhawn
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I remember reading about Cantor's statement when the hurricane was still churning toward the US.

I'm a little surprised they're going to stick with it so steadfastly, if they in fact do. Republicans haven taken two PR hits with this strategy, once in the debt deal, and one with the FAA fiasco. Now they want to try it again with something as emotionally charged as this?

I appreciate having a serious voice at the table talking about fiscal responsibility. I wish that voice had been louder a DECADE ago. But trying to make up for past silence by shouting at the top of your lungs leaves us all deaf or hoarse. Democrats are building a pretty nice stable of issues to campaign on.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
I'm a little surprised they're going to stick with it so steadfastly, if they in fact do.

Well, the article itself explains why they're going to stick rather hard to this sort of program:

quote:
John P. Judis sums up the modern GOP this way:

"Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today's Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery."

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic.

To tie it in to recent discussions here, it's why I observed they are committed to sustaining our current broken healthcare system and actively preventing its repair.

In essence, The GOP has become a product of perverse incentives that they have inflicted on themselves: they thrive on dysfunction, as Thomas Frank described it. The Republican party says its own mistakes prove government can't work; since they are rewarded by 'vindication' when the government does not work, they have an incentive to ensure that government does not work, so they keep government from working.

quote:
'Remember the $400 hammer? How 'bout that $600 toilet seat?" asks a Conservatives for Patients' Rights TV commercial criticizing President Barack Obama's health-care plan. "Seems when Congress gets involved, things just cost more."

As it happens, I do remember the incident of the $436 hammer, the one that made headlines back in 1984. And while it may "seem" in hazy retrospect as though it showed how "things just cost more" once those silly liberals in Congress get started, what the hammer episode actually illustrated was a very different sort of ripoff. The institution that paid so very much for that hammer was President Ronald Reagan's Pentagon. A private-sector contractor was the party that was pleased to take the Pentagon's money. And it was a liberal Democrat in the House of Representatives, also known as "Congress," who publicized the pricey hardware to the skies.

But so what? Myth is so much more satisfying than history, and with myth the competence of Washington actors from 25 years ago doesn't matter any more. Nor does it matter which arm of the federal colossus did what. Republican or Democrat, White House or Congress, they're all part of a monolithic, undifferentiated "government" that acts according to a money-burning logic all its own.

The myth has been getting a lot of play from conservatives in recent weeks as the debate over health care has heated up. The message, as always, is that government can't do anything right.

Where the conservative mythologists show their hand is when they use their own monumental screw-ups, committed during conservatism's long years in charge of the government, to prove that government in general is a futile proceeding, and that Democratic health-care plans, in particular, can't possibly succeed.

quote:
A government that works, some conservatives fear, is dangerous stuff. It gives people ideas. Universal health care isn't just a bad idea for their buddies in the insurance business; it's a gateway drug to broader state involvement in the economy and hence a possible doomsday scenario for conservatism itself. As two fellows of the Ethics and Public Policy Center fretted in the Weekly Standard in May, "health care is the key to public enmeshment in ballooning welfare states, and passage of ObamaCare would deal a heavy blow to the conservative enterprise in American politics."

On the other hand, government fails constantly when conservatives run it because making it work would be, for many of those conservatives, to traduce the very laws of nature. Besides, as we can now see, bungling Katrina recovery or Pentagon procurement pays conservatives huge dividends. It gives them potent ammunition to use when the liberals have returned and are proposing another one of their grand schemes to reform health care.

This is the perverse incentive that is slowly remaking the GOP into the Snafu Party. And in those commercials and those proclamations we should also discern a warning: That even if Democrats manage to set up a solid health-care program, conservatives will do their best, once they have regained power, to drop it down the same chute they did the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Maybe they will appoint a tobacco lobbyist to run the thing. Maybe they will starve it for funds. Or antagonize its work force. And as it collapses they will hand themselves their greatest propaganda victory of all. They will survey the ruins and chide, "You didn't really think government could work, did you?"

Remember this last part. As this insider account shows us again, this is what the party is. This is what they do. This is — despite the whinging of their latest manufactory of self-serving destruction of government systems, the Tea Party — what they are, and how they work. You will see this again and again until they collapse and reform, or until we collapse and reform. And which outcome we get is largely a function of how easily we are led into the bizarre un-logic of people who desperately assert "But you guys, the Democrats are just as bad!"

Because they've been well programmed to be that stage of false equivalence, of course.

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Lyrhawn
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Seems the easiest solution would be for Democrats to grow a back bone, and unapologetically fight back.

But I'd really like to come up with a more realistic solution than that.

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Samprimary
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quote:
But I'd really like to come up with a more realistic solution than that.
People's political preference is sticky. If you're a liberal or a conservative in your early 20's, you're very, very likely to stay preferenced reliably towards that party throughout your life. The demographics which the Republicans are completely reliant upon to float conservative majorities in most parts of the country have these reliable tendencies.

1. They're very, very old.
2. They often literally desire for America to be a theocracy.
3. They are drawn to the polls by wedge issues en masse as reliable voters. Most recently, because as a group they are comically terrified of gays and gay marriage.
4. They're very, very old. Median ages often in the 65+ range.

Meanwhile, young voters who aren't quite 35 and up (yet) are overwhelmingly liberal in all categories, but young demographics aren't reliable voters. They're actually terrible at voting, and are very difficult to get to the polls. But once they get up into their mid-30's, they begin to vote consistently.

And the wedge issues that the conservatives use to keep the favor of all the old people demographics come off as ridiculously archaic, bigoted, and homophobic to young voters. Being solidly anti gay marriage helps the conservatives keep their candidates desperately floated, but it actively drives off and repulses young voters straight into progressive camps that conservatism vehemently defines itself in opposition to.

Additionally, people's early environments of political exposure are incredibly important to determining their reliable future ideology. Talk radio and newspaper columns and the like aren't that formative environment anymore. It's the internet. And the internet has developed and remained an environment of disdain to conservative ideology, the end result being that conservatives tend to pack and 'bubble' themselves in politically friendly havens, and leave the overall exposure and narrative to progressives. Guess what this tends, much more often than not, to direct in terms of forming young people's ideologies?

Put all this together, and the solution you are looking for tends to seem like "sit back, relax, have a beer, and wait for the old people to die."

Probably important to keep them from trainwrecking the country in the interim, though. Seems to be their eleventh-hour strategy.

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Lyrhawn
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Yeah. I was hoping for something that wouldn't take 20 years though. Or more.

Demographics are on the liberal side, but that's a pretty long arc, and it's not guaranteed.

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Juxtapose
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quote:
1. The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors.
This point really cannot be emphasized enough. The behavior of the GOP becomes so transparent once this is understood.

I've wondered in the past why this is not the Democrats' go-to message every single news cycle. It's brought up, sure, but it's not hammered on like it deserves to be. The Democrats need to link the GOP with this concept inseparably in the minds of voters.

On reason this has not happened is because the Democrats are just bad at it (surprise surprise). Remember when Obama got in all kinds of trouble during the '08 election for saying that conservative voters "cling" to guns and religion? He was basically saying the same thing that this author is, but he went about it from the wrong angle. He talked about the voters, rather than the politicians. Obama, loving complexity as much as he does, recognized that the connection between religious wedge issues, low information voting habits, and the GOP's fiscal goals. The unfortunate thing is that he couldn't talk about the latter without mentioning the other two.

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Lyrhawn
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Whenever they even whisper a peep about it, the GOP starts shouting "Class warfare, class warfare!" Then Democrats back down.

We've been engaged in class warfare for decades, the only problem is that the rich and the GOP are winning hands down because the Democrats are afraid to get into the ring. They always feel like they have to apologize for being liberal or for defending workers and the poor.

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BlackBlade
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Thanks for the link. It was an interesting read.
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advice for robots
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I don't identify myself with the GOP and never have, regardless of the tendency of people in my church to be Republican. I agree with the article for the most part--it's my sentiments exactly. However, I found it to be somewhat light on proof in many places and heavy on opinion, with over-the-top touchpoints from the author's own brain at some points in place of actual facts or quotes or even hearsay. I felt I was being herded into a conspiracy theory. I would have liked a more insider look at how a lot of what the author claims is happening is happening. Again, I don't disagree with the author, and I'm not going to defend the GOP here, but I don't see the value of this article as an exposé. Maybe a strong-arm editorial piece.
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Tresopax
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At least in this upcoming election, there seems to be a sharp difference of opinion between the two parties over how reasonable the American people are: Democrats, and Obama especially, seem to have a great deal of faith that the voters are reasonable and are going to be able to see through fictitious Republican arguments. And Republicans seem confident that voters will believe the Emperor has no clothes if enough Republicans claim it to be true. Each party has made this bet, and seem to be building their respective strategies on it.

I'm inclined to think reality will win out in the long run. Sarah Palin would be a prime example - she was a rising star for a while, but slowly and surely the public began to figure her out.

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Parkour
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But then palin is just replaced with people more dangerous than her, like Rick Perry. Reality isn't the winner when the sideshow is "improved" into a more practiced government destroyer and political opportunist.
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Amanecer
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Thank you for the article, I enjoyed reading it.

I'm not religious, so perhaps I have no grounds in talking about it. But it is so beyond perplexing to me that his items number 1 (protecting the wealthy) and number 3 (being the "Christian party") are so regularly grouped together. Sure, the Republicans have anti-homosexuality stances and are against abortion. But the Biblical Christ was so thoroughly anti-wealth and in favor of helping the poor that I don't understand how these clearly and repeatedly stated stances take the backseat to culture war issues. I don't think either party seems to completely embody Christian teachings, but the Democrats can certainly make that claim as much as the Republicans. But they don't.

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BlackBlade
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Democrat is also the party that is pluralistic and more secular in nature. Invoking the teachings of Christ so as to support a policy initiative by nature would make Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, etc uncomfortable. Not only that, it makes Christians who don't like mixing religion and politics feel squicky.

The GOP in general does not have a problem with invoking God in the business of government, and so those who don't see it as a problem are more likely to feel comfortable in that party.

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Juxtapose
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A lot of it also has to do with the rise of prosperity theology.
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Jon Boy
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This is just my own take as a religious person. The actual gospel espoused by Christ (in a nutshell, "love everyone") is hard to live. You have to overcome a lot of biases and prejudices in order to love everyone.

On the other hand, this particular brand of Christianity (prosperity theology or whatever you want to call it) is appealing because it frees you from having to worry about others. Under this mindset, everyone fends for themselves. You're no longer your brother's keeper or a neighbor to all those you meet. It's appealing because it's easy, and it lets you hang on to your prejudices and judgements about others.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
But the Biblical Christ was so thoroughly anti-wealth and in favor of helping the poor that I don't understand how these clearly and repeatedly stated stances take the backseat to culture war issues.
For a lot of Christians, the main reason to help the poor isn't that the poor need help, its the cultivation of personal virtue. Those Christians tend to feel that government programs that help the poor, deprive people of the opportunity to develop personal virtue by voluntarily helping the poor.

I think those Christians have their priorities screwed up, but understanding that reasoning does help explain why so many Christians oppose government programs to aid the poor.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
This is just my own take as a religious person. The actual gospel espoused by Christ (in a nutshell, "love everyone") is hard to live. You have to overcome a lot of biases and prejudices in order to love everyone.

It is hard. Which is why most don't, and revel in prosperity gospel christianity and do things like have 'everything i needed to know about islam i learned on 9/11' bumper stickers on their cars right next to the Terrorist Hunting Permit.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
But the Biblical Christ was so thoroughly anti-wealth and in favor of helping the poor that I don't understand how these clearly and repeatedly stated stances take the backseat to culture war issues.
For a lot of Christians, the main reason to help the poor isn't that the poor need help, its the cultivation of personal virtue. Those Christians tend to feel that government programs that help the poor, deprive people of the opportunity to develop personal virtue by voluntarily helping the poor.

It seems obvious, but I never thought of it quite in that way.

I had formed the answer in my mind as being something closer to: "systematic relief is an entitlement, while voluntary charity is a gift," meaning that the important distinction was to maintain the help we give the poor is an undeserved gift, and can be used to demean, while an entitlement is seen as deserved, and therefore not demeaning.

But your view also makes sense. I'm sure there's an element of truth in both.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:

On the other hand, this particular brand of Christianity (prosperity theology or whatever you want to call it) is appealing because it frees you from having to worry about others. Under this mindset, everyone fends for themselves. You're no longer your brother's keeper or a neighbor to all those you meet. It's appealing because it's easy, and it lets you hang on to your prejudices and judgements about others.

Basically being a Christian, without actually being a Christian?

For all that I balked at my own Catholic education's silly conceptions of sexual morality, the ethical morality of Catholicism is something I ended up internalizing and drawing from in my adult life. The stern rejection of personal enrichment as a source of lifelong satisfaction and righteousness, was, at least in my school, an important lesson- particularly as it was a school full of affluent people.

I don't speak for all Catholic educated people, or all Catholics, but in this particular school, charity was not stressed as an experience in personal enrichment- but rather as an expectation placed on the vital and productive to give that which they could to those who did not have what they needed. The *obligation* aspect of that view was particularly important- it was taught that you do not do good in order to "be" or feel good, but because you are expected to do so.

That kind of lesson wouldn't work for a lot of people, but if taken as part of a curriculum and school mission that stresses the functioning of community, and the role of the individual as a part of the whole, it makes much more sense than appealing to the delights of personal enrichment. There of course *were* lessons about the importance of personal enrichment in academics and the arts- but it was always about how the strength of individual experience helps society to function.

I disliked a lot about my educational experience, but these lessons have proved to be formative for me. So much so that when I later met people who called themselves Christians, and yet who did *not* understand or accept these tenets and actually live by them, I was somewhat aghast. If I can say one positive thing about modern Catholicism, it is that it teaches outward looking just as much as personal spiritual growth. Meeting evangelicals in college who were so *personal* and private and exclusive in their spiritual experience was baffling for me, for a long time. But when I meet fellow catholic educated people, I often get the sense that they also see charity and giving to others of our time and energy as a necessity, and not a personal statement.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
But the Biblical Christ was so thoroughly anti-wealth and in favor of helping the poor that I don't understand how these clearly and repeatedly stated stances take the backseat to culture war issues.
For a lot of Christians, the main reason to help the poor isn't that the poor need help, its the cultivation of personal virtue. Those Christians tend to feel that government programs that help the poor, deprive people of the opportunity to develop personal virtue by voluntarily helping the poor.

It seems obvious, but I never thought of it quite in that way.

I had formed the answer in my mind as being something closer to: "systematic relief is an entitlement, while voluntary charity is a gift," meaning that the important distinction was to maintain the help we give the poor is an undeserved gift, and can be used to demean, while an entitlement is seen as deserved, and therefore not demeaning.

But your view also makes sense. I'm sure there's an element of truth in both.

The fact that you guys genuinely believe you have accurately summarized their views explains a lot.
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Jon Boy
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So how about you help out by offering your own views instead of being disdainful of everyone else's?
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Samprimary
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quote:
The fact that you guys genuinely believe you have accurately summarized their views explains a lot.
So does the fact that it is far too easy to find christians who vigorously agree with that summation, and/or act and speak their mind on the subject in such a way to ensure that you know that it's where they stand.
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Dan_Frank
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Really, Samp? You think that Christians prefer charity because they can use it to demean people? And it's easy to find people who vigorously agree with this? I'm skeptical.

Or is it the other one you think they agree with? That charity is good because it helps the person giving charity become more virtuous, not because it actually helps the poor. You can find lots of examples of Christians vigorously agreeing with that one, too?

Jon Boy: How about, Christian Conservatives like giving freely to help the poor, but don't believe it is moral to take from people and give to the poor at the point of a gun. Even though giving to the poor itself is a good act.

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advice for robots
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There are numerous reasons and motivations to give charitably, and many avenues through which to do it. While I agree that legislating giving kind of takes the charity out of it, that doesn't mean that lots of people won't benefit from it in a positive way. In most stripes of Christianity helping the poor is taught as an essential of the faith. Often that giving is institutionalized to a certain extent, which can take the edge off of the "stepping out of your comfort zone" feel that voluntary, off-the-cuff charitable giving can come with--while at the same time ensuring that certain amounts of charitable giving are maintained. When that giving becomes politicized, however, is when I think it stops having much to do with Christians living their faith and becomes just another lever for gaining power.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Really, Samp? You think that Christians prefer charity because they can use it to demean people?

Do you think that's what Orincoro is saying?

quote:
That charity is good because it helps the person giving charity become more virtuous, not because it actually helps the poor.
Do you think that's what Rabbit is saying?
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
But the Biblical Christ was so thoroughly anti-wealth and in favor of helping the poor that I don't understand how these clearly and repeatedly stated stances take the backseat to culture war issues.
For a lot of Christians, the main reason to help the poor isn't that the poor need help, its the cultivation of personal virtue. Those Christians tend to feel that government programs that help the poor, deprive people of the opportunity to develop personal virtue by voluntarily helping the poor.

It seems obvious, but I never thought of it quite in that way.

I had formed the answer in my mind as being something closer to: "systematic relief is an entitlement, while voluntary charity is a gift," meaning that the important distinction was to maintain the help we give the poor is an undeserved gift, and can be used to demean, while an entitlement is seen as deserved, and therefore not demeaning.

But your view also makes sense. I'm sure there's an element of truth in both.

The fact that you guys genuinely believe you have accurately summarized their views explains a lot.
Recognized an element of truth, and "accurately summarized their views," are distinctly different positions.

Besides, this is not a summary of views, it is speculation on motivation. I for one don't "genuinely believe" that I have summed up anyone's views here. But evidently you believed that you have summed up mine. How interesting that you would presume to do so. How very interesting that you would do that.


It feels like there has been a rash of this: "you assume you know someone else's thoughts" nonsense counterargument around here lately. No. Drawing conclusions about people, and speculating about their motivations is not inherently wrong. Assumptions are not bad. Blind assumptions are bad. If you draw conclusions and make assumptions with good reason, based on sound evidence and thinking, and are willing to abandon that assumption in the face of compelling evidence against it- there's nothing wrong with assuming.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
Really, Samp? You think that Christians prefer charity because they can use it to demean people?

Do you think that's what Orincoro is saying?

quote:
That charity is good because it helps the person giving charity become more virtuous, not because it actually helps the poor.
Do you think that's what Rabbit is saying?

What I was trying to point out is that there exists a quality of shame and diminution in Christian charity (despite the best efforts of the writers of the new testament, and if he existed, Jesus). And that shame and diminution are important to the act of charitable giving by Christians. That it is important that this shame and diminution exist. Where an entitlement exists, this shame and diminution may disappear, as the reception of charity, or that which is not seen as strictly deserved, is not accompanied by obeisance to the giving party- as that party is compelled by law to give.

And you can see the results of this kind of impulse, to preserve shame and obeisance, in the ideas of conservatives who want to introduce various stigmas against welfare collection. For instance, demanding that welfare mothers go on birth control, welfare recipients submit to drug tests, not be allowed to buy alcohol or tobacco, or specifically restrict their spending in other ways, pass language tests, should not be allowed to vote, etc. The need for the recipient of charity to observe and to be submissive to the will of the giver is key to that. "Live under my house, and observe my rules," only works when it's *your* house, and not a house you share with the person you are forced to support, because they vote too.

I think Rabbit is saying that the main reason a lot of people give to charity is to feel good about themselves, and that this accounts for the concomitant unwillingness in the same people to support social programs which seek to accomplish the same goals. If you're forced to give, you don't feel good about it. And if you don't feel good about it, then what's the point? Intellectual understanding of the effect social welfare has on society doesn't make these people feel good. The personal adulation of giving, personally, does.

Though this is often dressed up in the canard of public vs. private sector efficiency, that argument rather avoids the fact that public social programs are written into law, and private charity is not. One is an obligation taken on as a group, and the other is not.

[ September 07, 2011, 01:54 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Samprimary
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quote:
I for one don't "genuinely believe" that I have summed up anyone's views here. But evidently you believed that you have summed up mine. How interesting that you would presume to do so. How very interesting that you would do that.
<_<

Anyway, I'm still amazed at the major contortions of the christians at issue. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, the bible says — but don't dare take this quietly if this obligation dare extend to rendering unto the poors, of course.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
How about, Christian Conservatives like giving freely to help the poor, but don't believe it is moral to take from people and give to the poor at the point of a gun. Even though giving to the poor itself is a good act.
Setting aside the question of whether social-conservative, politically active Christians *do*, as a group, like giving to the poor in this country...it's quite safe to say that the conservative Christians so often at the base of right-wing politics in the US don't. Or if they do, we can only take their word for it.

Because now? When was the last time the right in this country mentioned the poor without talking about how what we're doing for the poor is crippling us as a country, how we need to cut spending on the poor (not so much, y'know, WAR which Christ just lubbed), how the Founding Fathers blah blah blah less taxes!

This in a world where we can look at our peers and see, hey, we *don't* actually pay a hideous amount in taxes (that sort of judgment being entirely relative). You can take umbrage all you like, Dan, but the simple truth is *politically active* conservative Christians, the groups which shore up the GOP's and Tea Party's base, are deeply hypocritical by their own religious teachings.

Prosperity theology, support for international war, and decades now of attacks on social programs are, well, pretty easy ways to tell this is true. The first one in particular. I could've *sworn* Jesus had something to say about the relative worth, in God's eyes, of the rich and poor. Wasn't it that God rewards the virtuous with material wealth, and that it is a sign of God's favor? Yeah, that was it. (Unless he's a Saudi prince with oil money-*that* cash comes from Satan, despite its bein' founded on natural resources).

Dan, they're hypocrites. They just *are*. You've gotta be able to acknowledge that, man. I'm not talking about the kind of conservative Christian you don't see at a political rally for the Tea Party, or who doesn't like Bachmann. I'm talking about the conservative Christians who *do*.

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Strider
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quote:
Or is it the other one you think they agree with? That charity is good because it helps the person giving charity become more virtuous, not because it actually helps the poor.
Dan, I think you're misunderstanding virtue ethics here. Yes, giving to charity is good because it helps the person giving to charity become more virtuous. The reason it helps someone become more virtuous is because it helps poor people.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
I for one don't "genuinely believe" that I have summed up anyone's views here. But evidently you believed that you have summed up mine. How interesting that you would presume to do so. How very interesting that you would do that.
<_<

Come on, "here," as in: "in the above quoted post." Otherwise, yes, I sum up other people's views all the time. Although, I rarely believe that I can actually capture the nuanced motivations of people I have never met. In general, yes, in the specific, in what a person tells himself and the words he speaks to himself alone, in the dark, in quiet voices no one else can hear, generally no.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
How about, Christian Conservatives like giving freely to help the poor, but don't believe it is moral to take from people and give to the poor at the point of a gun. Even though giving to the poor itself is a good act.
Setting aside the question of whether social-conservative, politically active Christians *do*, as a group, like giving to the poor in this country... it's quite safe to say that the conservative Christians so often at the base of right-wing politics in the US don't. Or if they do, we can only take their word for it.

Because now? When was the last time the right in this country mentioned the poor without talking about how what we're doing for the poor is crippling us as a country, how we need to cut spending on the poor (not so much, y'know, WAR which Christ just lubbed), how the Founding Fathers blah blah blah less taxes!

This in a world where we can look at our peers and see, hey, we *don't* actually pay a hideous amount in taxes (that sort of judgment being entirely relative). You can take umbrage all you like, Dan, but the simple truth is *politically active* conservative Christians, the groups which shore up the GOP's and Tea Party's base, are deeply hypocritical by their own religious teachings.

Prosperity theology, support for international war, and decades now of attacks on social programs are, well, pretty easy ways to tell this is true. The first one in particular. I could've *sworn* Jesus had something to say about the relative worth, in God's eyes, of the rich and poor. Wasn't it that God rewards the virtuous with material wealth, and that it is a sign of God's favor? Yeah, that was it. (Unless he's a Saudi prince with oil money-*that* cash comes from Satan, despite its bein' founded on natural resources).

Dan, they're hypocrites. They just *are*. You've gotta be able to acknowledge that, man. I'm not talking about the kind of conservative Christian you don't see at a political rally for the Tea Party, or who doesn't like Bachmann. I'm talking about the conservative Christians who *do*.

They might very well be hypocrites regarding what the bible actually says. Full disclosure, here: I'm an atheist who was raised Buddhist. I've never read the bible. Cracked it open maybe twice in my life. I'm not able to say whether or not they are staying true to the ethics Christ espoused. I wasn't trying to, either, and I apologize if I gave that impression.

I was responding to what I saw as Rabbit and Orincoro attributing motives to people. Motives that are not borne out by any conservative figures, Christian or not, that I have followed. So, I'm questioning that. Orincoro, I'm sorry if you feel I misrepresented you. To whatever extent you think that your average conservative is fond of charity only insofar as it is a tool to demean the recipients thereof, I think you are wrong. But only that far. Any other opinions you have on the subject, I would have to see before I could accurately tell you that you were wrong. [Smile]

One more thing, Rakeesh:
quote:
it's quite safe to say that the conservative Christians so often at the base of right-wing politics in the US don't. Or if they do, we can only take their word for it.
Where are you getting this, exactly?

The last hard data I saw on charity donations indicated conservatives out-donated liberals by a wide margin. But of course there are several caveats: It didn't break down by religion, for one. And more importantly, that was several years ago, and a brief google search seems to indicate that was the last time it was widely publicized. So I have not seen any data for recent years, and it could very well support your claim. But until I see that, I will confess to being skeptical.

If there's no data per se, then... is this based on rhetoric only? Because again, not supporting federal intervention is not the same thing as not wanting to help the poor. I don't agree that the rhetoric coming out of Tea Parties has been railing against the poor. If anything, I've seen more railing against entitlement programs like Medicaid and Social Security. Except those are divisive issues even among Tea Parties, because of all the old people who planned their retirement around their entitlements.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The last hard data I saw on charity donations indicated conservatives out-donated liberals by a wide margin.
This number flips if you remove their "donations" to their own churches.
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Scott R
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I'd like to see the numbers, in any case.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Come on, "here," as in: "in the above quoted post."

Don't worry, I'm not calling what you said into issue. That's my way of saying 'yup, suspicious indeed'
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Tresopax
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quote:
For a lot of Christians, the main reason to help the poor isn't that the poor need help, its the cultivation of personal virtue. Those Christians tend to feel that government programs that help the poor, deprive people of the opportunity to develop personal virtue by voluntarily helping the poor.
I've never heard someone advocate such a view - for one thing, there's never any shortage of opportunities to help the poor, no matter how much the government provides.

I think a more accurate summary of the common conservative view is that helping the poor by having the government give them stuff isn't really helping them because it teaches them to rely on the government rather than themselves. "Give a man a fish" and all that.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
The last hard data I saw on charity donations indicated conservatives out-donated liberals by a wide margin.
This number flips if you remove their "donations" to their own churches.
That's both a myth and misleading.

It's a myth because there isn't any data to support it. What data there is, (See Arthur Brooks: Who really cares), indicates that religious people give more of their money to both religious and secular charities. They are also more likely to donate their time and their blood.

It's misleading because many of the leading humanitarian aid organizations in the world are church based. Organizations like "Catholic Relief Services" and "LDS Humanitarian Services" are among the most effective and efficient in the world. They cooperate side by side with secular groups (like the Red Cross and the United Way). Dismissing these donations because they are made to one's "own church" is biased and indefensible.

And putting the word "donations" in quotes, suggest that religious people don't really have a choice, is insulting and condescending. It implies that religious people are some how less capable of making a free choice than non-religious people which is unsupportable BS. Furthermore, it is totally unfair to equate the tithes I pay to some sort of club membership dues. I receive no bill. I'm not kicked out if I don't pay. Currently, I make all my church donations electronically to the central church. No one in my local ward, including, Bishop gets any information about how much I pay. As far as my Bishop knows, my total contributions to the church are zero. That's what his records say. He accepts me at my word when I tell him I'm a full tithe payer. Find me a club that as a matter of policy accepts members word that dues have been paid, even when the records show the opposite. The money I donate to the church is 100% voluntary.

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MattP
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quote:
It implies that religious people are some how less capable of making a free choice than non-religious people which is unsupportable BS.
Maybe things work differently for your ward, but I know people that get regular visits from their bishopric about their tardy tithing status on top of the yearly tithing settlement meeting where every member must state their tithing status. As part of that process you get a printout of your contributions for the year. You are also asked if you are a full tithe payer during your interview for a temple recommend. With temple attendance considered a foundational element of one's personal and familial salvation, that's a pretty strong motivation to keep the balance sheet in order.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Maybe things work differently for your ward, but I know people that get regular visits from their bishopric about their tardy tithing status on top of the yearly tithing settlement meeting where every member must state their tithing status.
I have *never* ever seen this done.

This isn't exactly something to brag about, but I have not been to tithing settlement in years, I still pay a full tithing, and at temple recommend interviews I state I am a full tithe payer.

My bishops have never said a word about it, and it never comes up in stake interviews. If a bishop were doing that, I submit they are doing it of their own volition and initiative, or under directions of the stake president or area seventy. But certainly not because they were instructed to do so by the top church leadership, or by their instruction manuals.

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The Rabbit
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MattP, I have never known a Bishop to visit people about their "tardy tithing status". I don't even know what a "tardy tithing status" would be since tithing isn't due in regular installments.

I can imagine that if someone had been paying tithing regularly for years and suddenly stopped, the Bishop might ask them why (and as often as not this might be to make sure no errors had been made on the part of the church) but that's very different than pursuing every member who isn't paying. There isn't a Bishop on the planet that has enough time to visit every member who isn't making regular contributions to tithing

Every year I get a print out from my ward saying how much I've contributed. For the last many years, that print out has said I contributed nothing. I also get a receipt from church head quarters that details the contributions I made electronically. No one in my ward but me knows what's on that receipt. I did have the ward clerk as me if they'd lost anything since they had no record of contributions from me but that's the only time the question has been raised. When I have my tithing settlement, I tell the Bishop I pay a full tithe -- he believes me. No one ever asks to see my receipts or tax returns to verify if I've paid in full. If I were so inclined, I could pay nothing and keep my temple recommend. There are no balance sheets kept (except perhaps by God).

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BlackBlade
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Not to mention many people pay their tithing annually as their work compensation package necessitates that arrangement. My parents do it, and I don't think anybody has ever questioned it.
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Xavier
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I'm a little confused as to why you think that your situation is important, Rabbit. It sounds like you are required to tithe to be in the good graces of your church. That this requirement is not enforced in foolproof manner doesn't render it less of a requirement.

If I found a way to cheat on my income taxes in a way that the government doesn't realize I'm not paying anything, does that mean that taxes are optional?

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Scott R
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I've never heard of anyone paying tithing directly to Church headquarters. I wasn't even aware you could pay tithing electronically.
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Amanecer
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quote:
If I were so inclined, I could pay nothing and keep my temple recommend.
Only if you lied. Just because they don't require bank statements doesn't mean it isn't a requirement.

quote:
Furthermore, it is totally unfair to equate the tithes I pay to some sort of club membership dues.
Sure, a good portion of the money goes to genuine charitable deeds. But a good portion also goes to supporting church infrastructure. That is providing a service that you partake of rather than benefiting external parties (charity). Why is it unfair to point that out?
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Scott R
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I really would like to see numbers.
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MattP
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quote:
I don't even know what a "tardy tithing status" would be since tithing isn't due in regular installments.
I apologize for the imprecision. I just mean that the bishop knows they are not full tithe-payers and has made multiple home visits to discuss their situation. The purpose of his concern is their lack of temple attendance and he wants them to get up to date on their tithe so they can be temple-worthy again.

quote:
There are no balance sheets kept (except perhaps by God).
I presume that God's balance sheet is meaningful to the people that pay tithing, so I don't see it as a parenthetical.

When I see "100% voluntary" it suggests to me that there are no discrete benefits to the action nor detriments for refraining from it for the person who is choosing to perform or abstain from that action. In the LDS church you are told that if you don't pay tithing you are not worthy for temple attendance and that you are stealing from God. You are also told that if you pay tithing that you will receive a blessing "that there shall not be room enough to receive it." This is commonly understood to mean that you will not want materially, provided you pay a full tithe. I know this isn't supported doctrinally, but that's really a separate issue when it comes to people's motivations.

Kiva has never suggested to me that insufficient donations constitute theft or that I'm going to get something back for my contribution. OK, well I did get a free t-shirt for getting some friends to sign up, but other than that...

[ September 07, 2011, 01:34 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Sure, a good portion of the money goes to genuine charitable deeds. But a good portion also goes to supporting church infrastructure. That is providing a service that you partake of rather than benefiting external parties (charity). Why is it unfair to point that out?
It's not unfair to point that out. Its unfair to disregard the entire contribution because part of it goes to church infrastructure. Its also unfair to imply it isn't really a voluntary donation.
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Scott R
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Interestingly, when I see the phrase "voluntary" I take it to mean "without coercion or manipulation."

I do not think it matters, in terms of deciding whether an action is voluntary or not, what the consequences of that action are (beneficial/detrimental); it's the lead up to taking the action that matters.

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