May 23, 2013

So what to do?

I was discussing the state of things this morning with another fella. Not sure of his views, other than he seems to watch Faux Noise. We were discussing the homeless here in town, and I said something about not having the money to pay for housing, he smirked and said "or drugs." No way would I deny that there is not some reality behind his comment, but it seems to stem from the whole "if they are living on the street, it's their own fault" mentality.

Let aside for the moment whether that is even a little bit true or not, how is it that in the richest nation in the world, a country that spends more on its military than all the other developed countries of the world combined, we can't find a way to provide adequate housing for those that need and want it?

We have an entire segment of our society that believes if you are broke and living on the street, or if you can't feed your kids, its your fault! Why should society have to pay for it?

As a nation we will be judged on, among other things, how much compassion we have shown for the least among us. I shudder to think how historians will view "this grand experiment" in the light of our inability to see further than our own selfish desires. From our refusal to educate the next generation, to our willingness to let those without medical care suffer and die from easily preventable or treatable conditions.

When I was young, I read avidly the works of authors like Asimov and Heinlein. I dreamed with them of a future so grand that robots and technology replaced grinding labor for all. When one could pursue any endeavor without having to worry about the next meal. A future where a person could dedicate their time to exploring, writing, painting, or just thinking. There are people who love to build things; let them! People who want to drive a taxi; have at it!

I know, I'm lost in a utopian dream, but it's a dream that could become a reality if there was just the national will to accomplish it. We have the robotics for the most part. We have the money, although it's locked away in the vaults of the super wealthy. It goes beyond socialism. It doesn't prevent one from becoming wealthy, if one wants. It merely establishes a baseline below which we allow no citizen to fall. A baseline that requires everyone to have adequate food, housing, and healthcare plus a stipend to pay for clothing and other items.

It could be done. In most Scandinavian countries, it is being done. Yes, Denmark, for example, has the highest tax rate in the world. But they don't blow it on a bloated military, either. It is spent on education, infrastructure, and social welfare. Guess what? Denmark is number one on the recent global happiness survey. The US did not even make the top ten.

Why can the United States not be the same kind of country? The very country that our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Not the corrupt Plutocracy that we currently are stuck with.

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