Conservatives vs. Liberals

A few election cycles ago, Conservatives tried to turn “liberal” into a dirty word. They spat it out in a negative light over and over. And Democrats took the bait.

Suddenly, no Democrat wanted to be called a liberal. By avoiding the label, they reinforced the Right’s claim. And “liberal” became a dirty word in politics.

But what does liberal mean? It means generous. Is being generous a bad thing? Not according to Jesus. Remember the parable of the widow’s mite? It was a small offering in monetary terms… but it was a big chunk of this poor woman’s savings.

Or the parable of the prodigal son. When the foolish son returned to his family, the father killed the “fatted calf” – feast food – to welcome his errant son home.

Giving freely was kind of Jesus’ thing. Which makes it seem odd the political Right claims Jesus as their own. Because…

Jesus Condemned the Religious Right Over and Over

Jesus said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. He criticized the Pharisees – the Religious Right of his day. And he often broke bread with the poor and sinners.

Fast-forward 2,000 years, and who advocates for the poor? Mostly liberals. Programs to help prisoners re-integrate into society? Mostly run by liberals.

On the other hand, who fights against universal health care? Conservatives. In spite of claiming to be “pro-life.” Which also makes the Right’s support of the death penalty seem odd. You can add a few other choices to that list, too.

If you’re pro-life, why would you oppose the SNAP program, which feeds poor children? Why would you oppose a minimum wage that brought the poorest Americans out of poverty? Why would you oppose universal health care.?

If you’re pro-life… all of these programs preserve lives. Fighting them tooth and nail makes no sense.

Unless you’re not really pro-life.

Today’s Conservatives Aren’t… Conservative

To conserve means to save for the future. This is something political Conservatives don’t have built into their DNA.

Take climate change as an example. More than 97% of climate scientists agree that human activity is driving rapid climate change. And that change is a catastrophe.

Ice caps are melting… and low-lying nations are threatened with extinction. Super-storms are becoming more common. And the growth cycle of plants is changing. Bumblebees may disappear – along with many other species.

Yet Conservatives in the U.S. cling to the tiny percentage of scientists – mostly on corporate payrolls – who dispute climate science. And they push for continued use of fossil fuels.

In spite of our quickly diminishing supply of these fuels.

“Conservatives” aren’t trying to conserve energy sources. Instead, they back over-use of limited resources. There’s nothing conservative about that.

These “conservatives” also aren’t trying to conserve states and nations facing obliteration by the over-use of fossil fuels.

According to worldatlas(dot)com, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands are among the countries most threatened by climate change.

In the U.S., Florida – with a highest point of just 345 feet above sea level – faces catastrophic flooding as sea levels rise.

Yet, Conservatives – who supposedly want to preserve the status quo – are fine with most of southern Florida disappearing beneath the waves.

That includes Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s multi-million-dollar social club. Which is barely at sea level already.

The Accurate Name for Modern “Conservatives”

So, todays conservatives actually favor massive climate change… and the economic disaster that would follow. All for short-term economic gain.

Are they pro-life? Only before birth. Do they care about the environment? Not if it costs them money. Are they concerned for their grandchildren’s future?  Not based on their choices.

Because today’s Conservatives show no concern beyond themselves.

To conserve means to save for the future. Which makes it clear these folks aren’t really conservative. So, from now on, we have to use different labels.

“Liberal” is no longer a dirty word. It means giving generously. Which is a concept Jesus promoted.

But “conservative” doesn’t describe today’s political right. They aren’t trying to save for the future. But there is a word that accurately describes these people.

We can still call Liberals “liberal.” And they can hold their heads up, proud to be generous to others. But, from now on, we have to call today’s conservatives what they really are… the Greedies.

How the Right Hijacks Key Issues

Once upon a time, there was a regional airline called Allegheny Airlines. They had such a bad reputation with customers, frequent fliers nicknamed the company “Agony Airlines.”

In 1978, a court famously awarded consumer activist Ralph Nader $15,010. Because ValuJet had bumped him from a flight. The public response was definitely pro-Nader.

Then, in 1979 – largely to shake off its negative image – the company renamed itself. Thus, USAir (later US Airways) was born.

This trick worked so well, another airline used it to shake off a terrible safety record.

In 1996, ValuJet flight 592 crashed in Florida’s Everglades. Oxygen canisters had been mislabeled… some didn’t have safety caps… and they were stored in the cargo hold improperly. A fire broke out. 110 people died in the crash.

ValuJet’s already spotty reputation was in tatters. That’s how AirTran Airlines was born.

Both airlines were later absorbed into larger companies (American Airlines and Southwest, respectively), but the lesson was pretty clear. Rebranding works.

Which is exactly what the Right has been doing with issues for years.

When In Doubt, Rebrand

Remember the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Today, more Americans probably know it as “Obamacare” than by its proper name. Why? Because the Right rebranded the ACA, thinking the link to Obama would turn off their base.

It did. And a good idea began to struggle for survival.

But Obamacare is hardly one of the Right’s most successful rebranding efforts.

Changing their position from “anti-abortion” to “pro life” is one of the Right’s big rebranding successes. And it put the weight of the entire Evangelical Christian movement – not to mention the Catholic Church – solidly behind their agenda.

It’s virtually impossible to take the moral high ground back from a group that says it’s “pro life.”

Never mind that the Right wants nothing to do with either mother or child after the birth has taken place. They’re opposed to welfare, government-subsidized healthcare, food stamps, Head Start, women’s reproductive health clinics, and virtually every other service a struggling young family may need.

For Republicans, a fetus has all the rights. A young mother and her infant, on the other hand, are a burden on society.

Time after time, the Right has used rebranding to win on issues that – at their heart – go against the best interests of the American people.

One of those issues is the textbook case Progressives should be studying.

When Is a Gift Not a Gift? When You Die.

Nobody likes paying income taxes. But most of us recognize they’re necessary. We all receive benefits and services from the government… and they have to pay for those benefits and services somehow.

Do you like having roads to drive on? Soldiers to defend you? Doctors to prevent the next big epidemic? We pay for them all through our taxes.

The income tax is the federal government’s big moneymaker. You pay a certain percentage of your income to cover the many benefits and services you receive.

Now, gifts aren’t earned income. They’re unearned income. And why should they be treated differently from any other form of income? Much like the prizes on TV game shows, they enrich you. So Uncle Sam asks for a portion of any gifts over $10,000.

That seems reasonable.

Gift taxes are linked to another form of taxation. They’re really the same thing, but the Right has lobbied for years to say they’re not.

You know how the losers on TV game shows receive “parting gifts”? Well, these gifts are taxable. And so, Congress originally thought, should be another type of gift.

Such as the money and/or property you receive upon someone’s death.

Of course, at the behest of their masters, the Right objects.

The Right Invents the “Death Tax”

What’s the difference between your father giving you $5,000 while he’s alive and giving you the same amount when he dies? If you guessed “nothing,” congratulations. Because you’re absolutely right.

A bequest is nothing more than a gift given after death. Any gift – which is unearned income – is taxable after the $10,000 exemption. A bequest is exactly the same thing, except bestowed upon the donor’s death. What’s the difference?

It’s simply that the rich stand to pay substantial taxes on this unearned income. Because millionaires pass on millions. And billionaires pass on billions.

So the wealthiest Americans have opposed paying taxes on these gifts. And they’ve won concessions by dangling big donations in front of politicians on the Right.

So, the Right invented the “Death Tax.”

It’s unfair, they claim, the government should take a chunk of money just because someone died. It’s okay to take a chunk of any gift over $10,000 while they’re alive… but taxing the transference of wealth is wrong.

After all, the beneficiaries worked hard to earn their inheritance. Oh, wait… They didn’t.

Here’s how insane the Right has made this issue. In 2009, only estates with more than $5 million in assets were subject to an inheritance tax. By 2019, Congress had raised that number to $11.4 million.

The Country’s Disappearing Income

In other words, only the tiniest fraction of America’s wealthiest are now subject to the estate tax. And every estate is protected up to $11.4 million.

If you earned $15.00 an hour, it would take you 760,000 hours to earn $11.4 million. That’s some 365 years at a standard 2,080-hour year.

Yet the Right was able to whittle the estate tax down to almost nothing. Just by rebranding it the “Death Tax.” Nobody should be taxed just because they die, right?

Well, they aren’t. The estate tax applies to unearned income to the survivors. They’re already getting a big financial boost. Why should this gift be taxed differently from any other gift?

The answer is obvious: It shouldn’t.

Yet the Right has managed to pick your pocket for more and more in each ensuing year. Until just a tiny fraction of the richest Americans pay any taxes on inherited wealth at all.

A gift is a gift. Unearned income is unearned income. Until Progressives take the Right’s rebranding of issues seriously, they’re setting themselves up to lose.

Because you can’t give everything up to the rich and still maintain a Democracy.

**************************************************************************************

“Allegheny Airlines,” Wikipedia.org. March 24, 2019.

Robinson, T.S., “Nader Awarded $15,010 in Airline Suit,” The Washington Post. Jan 11, 1978.

Candiotti, S., “ValuJet 592 crash to be blamed on oxygen canisters,” CNN.com. Nov 15, 1996.

“ValuJet Airlines,” Wikipedia.org. Mar 8, 2019.

“Estate Tax,” IRS.gov. Nov 27, 2018.

Is Donald Trump a Christian?

The Religious Right has rallied behind Donald Trump in huge numbers.

He’s a twice-divorced serial adulterer. His attacks on his opponents are often petty, vile, and lewd. As president, he’s lied over 12,000 times to the American people. He once ran a gambling empire. His company has been accused of systematic racial discrimination.

Hardly hallmarks of Christian purity.

Yet the Religious Right clings tenaciously to Trump. Almost as if their loyalty to Trump is more important than their loyalty to the Son of God.

Let’s take a quick look at just how “Christian” Donald Trump really is. In his own words…

Trump on Violence

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” – Donald Trump, February 1, 2016

“If she [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people… maybe there is. I don’t know.” – Donald Trump, August 9, 2016

“The audience hit back and that’s what we need a little bit more of.” – Donald Trump, regarding a violent incident at a Las Vegas Trump rally, March 11, 2016

“Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” Donald Trump to Fox & Friends hosts about an African American who interrupted a Trump Rally, November 2015

Trump on Women

“You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful… I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump, September 2005

“You know they’re standing there with no clothes. Is everybody OK? And you see these incredible looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.” – Donald Trump to Howard Stern regarding his ownership of the Miss Teen USA pageant, 2005 (Yes… TEEN.)

“Such a nasty woman.” Donald Trump referring to Hillary Clinton as she suggested raising taxes on the rich in 3rd debate, 2016

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things… but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” – Donald Trump on fellow candidate Carly Fiorina, September 2015

“I heard poorly rated @Morning Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” – Donald Trump, June 29, 2017

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes… Blood coming out of her wherever.” – Donald Trump to CNN’s Don Lemon regarding Megan Kelly’s debate questions, August 2015

Trump on Racism

“You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. The press has treated them absolutely unfairly… You also had some very fine people on both sides.” – Donald Trump on Charlottesville rally violence, August 2017

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.” – Donald Trump in response to a reporter’s question on the “Send her back!” anti-Omar chant at a Trump rally, July 2019

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” – Donald Trump, December 2015

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.” – Donald Trump, June 2015

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” – Donald Trump on Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, January 2018

Violent, misogynist, racist… Donald Trump framed in his own words. Are these the words of a Christian? Not that I’d recognize. And I studied for the ministry.

Yet the Religious Right Clings Desperately to Trump

Sadly, the Christian “revival” in America has become a one-issue movement.

If you’re pro-choice, you’re out. If you’re anti-abortion, you’re in. No matter how un-Christian your other actions or opinions may be.

So, Barak Obama, a faithful husband, devoted father, and observant Christian, didn’t measure up. His work as a civil rights lawyer? Didn’t matter. His time as a community organizer? Laughable. His service as a U.S. Senator? Meaningless… Because he’s pro-choice.

And Donald Trump? Sure, he’s an inveterate liar. That’s no big deal. Sordid affairs with porn stars and Playboy bunnies? Who cares? He seeks help from the Russians to win an election? No big deal. He’s anti-abortion… so he’s just fine.

Which brings us down to a rather sobering conclusion. The Religious Right is willing to trade virtually everything that identifies them as Christian to favor a position that’s not once mentioned in the Bible.

But here are a couple of opinions the Bible does venture. And the Religious Right would do well to start paying attention to them.

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:16 – 19 (NIV)

“So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

Is Donald Trump a Christian? Not by the definition in Matthew 7. And the Religious Right folks who follow him? Well, I’d reevaluate my position, if I were them. Because backing a reprobate isn’t exactly the Christian ideal.