Few things in life are so readily identifiable as the confusion created by human beings who are trapped in conflicting versions of their own proposals. However, when ideas fail one can always chant. Witness the Heller-Rubio-Amodei entertainment in Nevada — as described by the Miami Herald:
Heller and Rubio also campaigned Thursday in Reno. Obama’s ideas are “the same ideas that have kept people in poverty for centuries,” Rubio told the crowd of more than 300 at a nightclub a few doors from Washoe County GOP headquarters.
“Our rights didn’t come from government, they came from God,’” he (Heller) said to the loudest cheers.
Republican Congressman Mark Amodei predicted Washoe County would help the Romney-Ryan ticket carry Nevada, and Heller led chants of “Where are the jobs?” before introducing Rubio.
There are a couple of obvious themes to be explored here. The reference to keeping people in poverty is a variation on the Government Creates Dependency theme currently popular among right wing supporters.
A real stretch is required to describe the flow of U.S. history as borne by the Rugged Individualists of the Golden Past. The European settlers were all parts of military and religious imperialist policy (Spanish), or associated with religious organizations spawned from the English reformation (Plymouth, Boston), or members of joint stock companies seeking to establish commerce in precious metals, natural resources, and agricultural products (Virginia). While right wing ideology requires that a sneer or hissing sound must be associated with the word “collective,” all colonies were the result of collective religious, commercial, or governmental action.
Right wing radicals may be loathe to admit it, but the entire reason for Paul Revere’s ride to Lexington and Concord was to prevent the British army from confiscating a cache of arms and ammunition stored for collective use by the Massachusetts rebels. We were, and are, the nation of community barn raisings and quilting bees. Of school pot luck suppers, and town board meetings, and sheriff’s posses. For better or worse, the nation of committee meetings and councils. Government as “the enemy” is a relatively recent concept.
Government as the perpetrator of individual dependency is an artificial construction in the service of the economic elite. Government programs, it is a alleged by the servants of power, keep people “dependent.” In order to make this argument work, the servants of the corporations such as Rubio, Heller, and Amodei must conveniently ignore the traditions of American civic spirit and focus on the narrow interests of the economically successful while stripping the landscape of some basic geographic realities.
For example, when Boston’s population stood at 24,973 in 1800 private charity for the preservation of the poor was already considered inadequate and each town was required by law to sustain ‘paupers’ for up to three months regardless of their official residence. [Carr] The transition from “the poor will always be with us,” to poverty as a form of criminal behavior is a holdover from Victorian times in which the powers that be proclaimed the Iron Law of Wages and the notion that Work Houses should be deliberately made so onerous that they would serve as a deterrent to being “poor.”
In short, the philosophy extended by Rubio, Heller, and Amodei comes not from the civic spirit of communal post-colonial America but from the Victorian era’s Malthus, Ricardo, and Bentham.
“Our rights didn’t come from government, they came from God,’” he (Heller) said to the loudest cheers.” Now, we’re back to Question 94 in Aquinas’s Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae. God gives divine law, divine law is a manifestation of providence, man receives natural law, and man devises therefrom the principles of practical rationality. The problem, of course, is that the Rubio-Heller-Amodei version omits the critical step by which the reception of natural law is transformed into practical rationality in human actions — the government.
For all their banging on about preserving the Constitution, the Trio has missed the part where the “natural laws” are rendered into practical form by the creation of the U.S. Constitution, which inconveniently for their argument creates – a government. It is the Constitution and its created government which formulate, and then define, protect, and preserve the rights we enjoy as citizens.
Oh, Good! Let’s Talk About Jobs
Yes, where are they? Some pretzel logic is required to first denigrate the capacity of collective action (government) to create jobs and then to immediately castigate the government for not creating them. However, let’s focus on the “practical rationality of human actions” for a moment or two.
As a practical matter, the government has and does create jobs, and not just for politicians. Highway department officials do not create jobs, but they do evaluate bids from construction companies and contract with firms to perform the work. Those who aren’t sure of this should consult a history of Ryan Incorporated Central, Paul Ryan’s family business, which began by getting railroad construction projects in 1884 and then moved into highway construction including the Interstate Highway System. [TP]
The only jobs bills to come to the floor of the House of Representatives have been sponsored by Democrats, and the Republican majority has voted NO on every single one to date. [Leader] We can look at a few specific examples.
#1. House Democrats sought to recommit H.Res. 38 (spending bill) to insert a provision calling for ending government contracts with corporations which ship American jobs overseas. Representatives Heller (R-NV2) and Heck (R-NV3) voted against this. [roll call 19]
#3. American Jobs Matter Act – to give preference in federal contracts to U.S. manufacturers that create jobs here at home, went down on roll call vote 257.
#4. The American Jobs Act, [fact sheet] gone from the House but not forgotten, “…would cut payroll taxes for businesses, double the size of the payroll tax cut for individuals, give aid to states to prevent public sector layoffs, and increase infrastructure spending. All together, the Jobs Act would create 1.9 million jobs over the next year.” [AmProspect]
Thus instead of offering specific proposals for putting Americans back to work, the House Republicans prefer to deliver ethereal sermons on the application of Bentham’s Philosophy, lightly gloss over the part in the discussion of Natural Law in which government provides the vehicle for translating providential intentions into practical rationality, and then ices the entire pottage by refusing to consider jobs bills because “government can’t create jobs.” Of course it can’t when the House of Representatives won’t enact jobs bills!
Here’s hoping the 600 who bought the $50 tickets had a good meal at the Venetian — because they certainly didn’t get anything substantial from the speakers.