We have a tendency in this country to treat politics like a sport and forget that it has very real consequences. But unlike a football game, the radical policies the tea party supports will directly change our lives in fundamental ways.
If we privatize Social Security and hand over our retirement to Wall Street, we will have less secure retirements. If unemployment benefits are eliminated because they are thought to be unconstitutional, millions of families whose jobs were outsourced during this recession will fall further into poverty. If Joe Miller gets his way, rape victims will have to give birth to their rapist's child. If we adopt the Republican health care plan, millions of Americans will remain uninsured or be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
The fact is that people like Sarah Palin and Miller only offer simplistic sound bites, not solutions. They tell us: "drill baby drill," "tax cuts pay for themselves," "cutting welfare and foreign aid will balance the budget," "more competition will solve our health care crisis," "an unregulated market will regulate itself," "the financial crisis was caused by poor people," and "greed is good." They combine these talking points with a healthy dose of misinformation and fearmongering to convince people to accept the status quo and avoid making difficult choices.
They also use a lot of lofty rhetoric about freedom and cite the founding fathers to justify privatizing government functions, cutting services for the middle class, making the rich richer, and passing a radical social agenda. But most of us like Social Security and Medicare because we appreciate the freedom that having a secure retirement and basic health care affords and we know that paying some taxes is necessary to give our kids the same advantages our parents gave us. We want government to spend our money efficiently and to stay out of our personal lives, but we don't trust unregulated corporations either.
The founding fathers recognized that governments serve many vital functions and they trusted the voters to create a government to collectively improve everyone's lives. That government built the strongest middle class in history with progressive taxation, free K-12 education, affordable colleges, strong unions and good public services.
Our problem now is not too much government; our problem is that we have lost control of our government. As billionaires and corporations have taken control of the levers of power, the once-great American middle class has crumbled. The tea party policies will not fix that, they will hand even more control to unelected corporations. Health care will continue to be rationed by health insurance companies, Wall Street will still take 40 percent of corporate profits and hedge fund managers will continue to have their own lower tax loopholes, brutal spending cuts will pay for tax cuts for the rich not to lower the deficit, more jobs will move offshore so corporations can maximize profits, and corporations will have a freer hand to pollute our air, land, and water.
Forty-five million Americans, including 1 in 5 children, now live in poverty. Income inequality is the highest it has been since 1928, and economic mobility in the U.S. is lower than many other developed countries. Despite what we have been told, in the U.S. if you are born poor you are very likely to remain poor and if you are born rich, you will most likely stay rich. The richest 1 percent now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent and that wealth still hasn't trickled down to the rest of us. Instead of creating jobs, the rich have been using their wealth to buy politicians who will make sure they stay rich. The radical policies that Joe Miller and the tea party are advocating will only make these problems worse. They are the same ideas that failed miserably when President George W. Bush tried them, just rebranded with a new spokesperson.
Pritchard is a Fairbanks resident.