The Polite Liberal

A rant-free discussion of liberal philosophy and policies.


The Polite Liberal is the pseudonym of a "nontraditional" graduate student in mathematics (for nonacademics, "nontraditional," is a polite way of saying, "older than 25.") The Polite Liberal is an attempt to spur real policy debate, instead of partisan insults and conspiracy theories. Conservatives (and liberals, of course!) are welcome.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Red/Blue silliness

Let's take a quick break from policy.

Catherine Seipp, in an article on the National Review Online, has created one of the sillier arguments to hit the Web this week. In her first paragraph, she argues that Blue-Staters don't understand Red-Staters, but that, "small-town red staters are exposed to big-city blue-state values every time they turn on the TV."

Is she serious? Is she really trying to argue that what Hollywood is producing is an accurate reflection of blue-state values?(Well, more correctly urban values, as is clear from any look at a county-by-county map.)

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the bluest areas of the country. Kerry carried my county by more than a fifty-point margin---and that wasn't the biggest margin up here. Strangely enough, life here doesn't resemble the sort of television fare I assume she's referring to. What exactly is she talking about?

This strange notion that blue-staters are living some sort of alternate, amoral lifestyle is terribly destructive. It feeds this new tendency to speak as though the two (enormously artificial) regions are separate countries forced together by an accident of history. The only real difference between the regions is population density. About as many people voted in my county, for example, as live in Wyoming. More people voted in Los Angeles county than live in Arkansas. More people live in Los Angeles county than in the state of Virginia. "Values," though? Do folks in the South actually imagine that life in San Francisco is one long episode of Charmed, minus the witchcraft?

I can see why you'd be disturbed (and a tad jealous), but for better or worse that's not how it is.


Blogger Key said...

I'll admit that we struggle with our mental perception.

To a conservative, the ideas are so logical and sensical that we struggle to understand why anyone would object to such fiscally sound reason.

We figure that many want aid rather than work, and that's why they are liberal. We figure that many are so absorbed in social issues such as abortion and gay rights that these issues blind whatever fiscal logic they would have otherwise possessed.

I think the stereotype you described here is a result of the latter assumption.

WHY ELSE would someone who works hard and appreciates our freedom vote for a system that wants to cut defense spending and pad entitlement benefits??

It just doesn't make sense to us.

That's why I'm glad you're here. Help us understand. ;)

11:59 AM  
Blogger The Polite Liberal said...

First of all, if the current administration is conservative, I don't think you can defend conservatism as the position of fiscal sanity. It would be fiscally sound to cut spending and lower taxes, or to increase spending and raise taxes. There's nothing fiscally sound about lowering taxes and increasing spending.

Liberals tend to look at the total obligations of a family, rather than simply taxes. For example, fewer and fewer employers are providing health benefits, and more and more of us are working as freelancers. Compared to my family's position four years ago, our taxes are lower by about $1500, but our health-care costs are up $3600, so we're behind where we were.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with having employers pay heath-care costs, but (in this age where we tend to freelance and move between jobs more frequently) liberals like me tend to think it makes more sense for the government to provide subsidized basic health insurance. This is true particularly because we (as a society) are not prepared to actually let people without heath insurance die unhelped; we require that emergency rooms treat everyone without regard to ability to pay. Wouldn't it make more sense (if we're going to pay for hideously expensive emergency care anyway) to provide basic health care (immunizations, prenatal care, and the like) at government expense?

Your comment about "lower defense spending and higher entitlement benefits" has two problems. First of all, it's not true of all liberals (just the very noisy ones that get heard in red areas, I suspect!). I personally don't think that the defense budget should be cut; although I'd spend it differently (in particular, I think having more special forces and more and better armor for our troops is much, much more important than "deploying" a missle-defense system that isn't remotely ready for deployment). Secondly, on its face there's nothing fiscally irresponsible about cutting one thing to pay for another, although you (almost certainly) might disagree with it as a matter of policy. Fiscal irresponsibility is fighting a war without budgeting anything for it, then periodically putting through "supplemental" requests off-budget.

2:41 PM  

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