Content of Character

We use this day to celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and well as his philosophy.

One of my favorite quotations comes from his “I have a dream” speech.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Thinking about it this day, it raises another question.

What is the content of the character of the current debate between liberals and conservatives and do we actually share a common dream?

The liberal view is that the modern welfare state comprised of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance is a necessary safety net to catch the less fortunate.  CHIP, public education, and Pell Grants are a way for at least some of the next generation to break the cycle of poverty and dependence.  Regulations are required to keep private enterprise honest and government should be the protector of the worker and the small guy.  Finally, liberals believe that it is only right for the wealthy that have benefited from the freedom and opportunity that this society has to offer to help those who have not been as fortunate.

Conservatives believe that people have the right to keep what they earn.  They believe that taxing wage earners to help those who are not supporting themselves, for whatever reasons, amounts to theft.  They believe that misfortune is the necessary and proper punishment for bad decisions.  Any effort to minimize that pain only encourages continued dependence.  They believe that the free market makes better decisions than any government or agency.  They believe that unfettered commerce will generate the best economic and social results.  As a result, they view taxes and government regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

The most recent health care reform bill is a perfect example.  Liberals saw it as the fulfillment of a moral imperative.  They believe that wealthy nations have an obligation to provide all of their citizens with basic care.  They also feel that the United States has been woefully out of step with the rest of the industrialized world in that regard, and the high cost of healthcare in this country is the direct result of the largely unregulated free market way that health care is provided.

Conservatives saw the same reform as a moral outrage.  They see it as a huge entitlement program for the undeserving.  An outright assault on the right of Americans to spend their money any way they choose.

Even though a recent poll shows that opposition to healthcare reform has softened significantly, the new Republican majority feels they were elected to repeal the bill.  In fact the current Republican Party sees much of what modern federal government does as illegitimate, while liberals feel that government still has an important role to play in the lives of Americans.

These are big differences which you can’t just paper over with pleasantries and empty promises of bipartisanship.

So now comes the question, do we have the character as a country to accommodate these differences and still govern effectively?

Fortunately, we do have a template.

The debate over abortion is similarly polarized, but we have agreed on some basic ground rules which have allowed us to continue to co-exist.  It is acceptable to criticize the other side, but it is not acceptable to engage in violence or to encourage others to do so.  Bill O’Reilly, for example, was criticized by both sides for his eliminationist rhetoric which led to Dr. Tiller’s murder.

We may be seeing the green shoots of a similar basic understanding the wake of the Arizona shooting.  Even though it appears that there isn’t much of a connection between inflammatory language and the shooter, the country recognizes that a line has been crossed and we must find a way to walk ourselves back to a better place where we can co-exist.

That place isn’t even close to the dream that Dr. King had, but it may be the first steps in the right direction that will one day get us there.

5 Responses to “Content of Character”

  1. keith says:

    ……….as seen through your glasses which we booth agree are colored.

    How long should umemployment benfits last?…..its gone from 26 weeks to 99 weeks, or more? I simply wonder when the Gov’t obligation ends…something we can’t afford also. States will be doing something akin to declaring bankruptsy soon…..why? How much more can our Country afford?

    You said;
    “They believe that misfortune is the necessary and proper punishment for bad decisions. Any effort to minimize that pain only encourages continued dependence.”

    I wouldnt agree with that…I’d just wonder what the gov’t obligation is in that situation…that an incorrect comment of the right. States will be doing something akin to declaring bankruptsy soon…..why? How much more can our Country afford?

    You said regarding health care
    “Conservatives saw the same reform as a moral outrage. They see it as a huge entitlement program for the undeserving”

    I wouldn’t agree with that. Mostly I viewed it as the first step to nationalized healthcare, single payer, which is the stated goal. And yes you can youtube Obama saying that. I’m not in the camp of “undeserving,” rather….I’ll pass on what your selling. States will be doing something akin to declaring bankruptsy soon…..why? How much more can our Country afford?

    Taxes, simply 50% pay nothing in fed taxes, 10% pay most and they are constantly attacked….sound fair. I am not in the camp that 3% increase back to the CLinton rates is a big deal. Historically that is still low. Cap gains up to 20% is ok also. The problem is spending which nobody has attempted to fix. Revenues rose lets say 1980 – 2007 i’m guessing. And the debt has gone up 14 times while revenue up 3.5 times. (I heard the numbers from Reagans budget director in Bioll Mahr.) SO “More taxes” for more revenue isn’t the answer would’t you agree. So if your going to raises taxes on a very few Americans shouldn’t you show them budget cuts as well?

    I also don’t understand the “moral outrage” comments either over healthcare. If its so moral why doesn’t everyone who believes that just pay for someones insurence? Then the uninsured would be insured, yes?

    You said;
    “We may be seeing the green shoots of a similar basic understanding the wake of the Arizona shooting. Even though it appears that there isn’t much of a connection”

    Nice choice of words, however…..THERE IS NO CONNECTION!!!!
    Further it continues from the left…..on the floor of the house calling conservatives Nazi’s…..nice tone…..Bob Beckel laughed at the notion it was conservative talk or Sara Palins “cross hairs” as he was taking credit for DOING IT FIRST many years ago!

    I had hoped at some point in the last several days you would have denounce the libral media who from the very first interviews were asking questions trying to get the intended result of “its conservitive talk and Sara Palins fault.” Here’s your chance again…..Feel free to donounce the libral media and the shariff who said it was conservative talks fault.

    Bob Beckel laughed at the notion it was conservative talk or Sara Palins “cross hairs” as he was taking credit for DOING IT FIRST!!!

    Jeff you truely can’t speak to this until you objectively understand whats happening. you’ve told me who you listen to and read. For 60 days it would serve you well to listen to Rush for a while 12 – 3pm , Bill O’s first 20 mins, Rachel Maddow’s first 20 mins, Chris Matthews for a bit, Ed Schultz, and Lawarence O’donnald some…..2 convervitives and 4 libs (unfortunately Keith just got canned) listen to the context over time and the tone and the redoric, not just pick and choose a few sentences where the context isn’t known or the intend…’ll find this is not two sided torch throwing….the left’s presentation is filled with inteses hate. As a Christian you will be suprised my friend. I will never assume you will come to your senses and agree with conservativce thought, like Reagen I’ll continue to try. You’ll see that the main stream of the right is a heck of a lot more civil then the main stream of the left.

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:


    Your responses, pretty much support my premise.

    Liberals and conservatives simply don’t understand each other.

    I’ve answered your question about extended unemployment benefits before. They are the most effective stimulus program that we have.

    What is your alternative when there are still far more people out of work that there are available jobs?

    This is what my post was about.

    Liberals believe that there should be a safety net. Conservatives don’t.

    The implication of your statement is that extended unemployment payments are bankrupting states. Since 2009, the federal government has been funding ALL of the extended unemployment benefits under the stimulus act. Get your facts straight.

    What is bankrupting states is the same problem that is driving up the federal deficit. There are too many people out of work and businesses have too much idle capacity. Tax revenues don’t match spending so states run a deficit. The problem is that most states by law have to balance their budgets, so they have been forced to cut services and sell off assets. Cutting services and laying off state employees only slows the economic recovery and worsens the unemployment rate. But states don’t have any choice. California, for example, has laid off almost 30,000 employees in the last two years. States are in trouble because they are running out of things to cut and/or sell. Illinois recently passed a bunch of big tax increases, but that is also at best a short term rememdy.

    These are ultimately problems that are going to require some level of federal intervention. States defaulting on their debts is bad for everyone.

    The solution to the problem is economic recovery.

    That’s why short term federal spending to accellerate the economic recovery still makes sense.

    People are scared about the size of the debt, but in a previous post, I showed that it came primarily from the Bush tax cuts and the Bush wars. Economic recovery will repay the stimulus funds quickly. Hopefully we can gracefully exit Iraq and Afghanistan and stop that spending. And hopefully with a growing economy we can agree to raise taxes back to a level that will alllow us to pay down the debt.

    The biggest long term risk we run is the rising cost of healthcare. This is a problem that we will not be able to grow ourselves out of. It is not a problem that the free market can solve. It is not a problem that we will be able to solve with increased taxes or spending reductions in other parts of the government.

    The ONLY way to effectively attack the healthcare problem is to get everyone insured and change the method payment from transactions to outcomes. Republicans don’t seem to have an appetite for either of those two options.

    As far as your simplistic solution to the insurance problem, the insured ARE paying for the uninsured now. That’s why our rates continue to go up even though most of us with insurance remain fairly healthy. Your solution doesn’t work, and Republicans have failed to propose a workable solution either.

    As far as denunciations are concerned, I’ve suggested a template. Criticizing is fine. Violence or encouraging others to violence is not. I don’t recall ANY liberal media encouraging a violent response.

    My hope is that both sides can stand down and agree that violence settles nothing.

  3. keith says:


    I didn’t say the states are paying the unemployment benefit.
    You missed my retorical point with the question I continued to ask which was;

    “States will be doing something akin to declaring bankruptsy soon…..why? How much more can our Country afford?”

    Here’s what I ment. In most cases I conceeded to at least understand your view. However with my retorical, I was wondering how much and how long this can continue….. I was using the finacial status of some states, nearing what most would call bankruptcy, to illuminatte where I believe all the debt spending the fed is doing will lead. So when I say we’ve gone from 26 weeks to 99 weeks I asked how long and how much farther…. really a simple point. Even if I agree with your point that its money well spent how much longer can we do it? Where’s the end and what’s it lead to? My point is in the same position the states are in. Do you disagree?

    I also fail to see the moral arguement as legitimate. If its moral to be at 99 weeks now then how was it moral for the unemployeed guy 5 years ago who couldn’t find work. Pain and suffering don’t know the difference between good times and hard times.

    Here’s the problem….A friend in Illinois teaches. He makes 75k per year. When he is 52 he will be able to retire with full benni’s and at 75% of his best 5 years pay. I begrudge no one anything. However, how will this be paid for? It was ALWAYS a bad deal for the tax payer, from day one. How is that sustainable? Add on to that all the local county and state employees….I’ll simply say it isn’t.

    You say all we need to do is manufacture more. I agree but the demand for that must return. We cant keep propping up these bad deals for generations. I say S.S., medicare and medicaid are right there with it in a class of generational supports that are helpful but need to be cut to what was AFFORDABLE and intended. You’d suggest that they are affordable. They are not sustainable in present form. You and I agreed, in the true sense of the word bankrupt, that s.s. is going bankrupt for the second time, medicare and medicaid are heading along the same path. Healthcare as presently passed WILL lead to the same thing as it will naturally follow course to single payer and then bankruptcy. Thats whats happened to the other three entitlements, why would anyone think differently of this one.

    And fyi for Obama being post partisan

    As to the unemployment bennis not at 99 weeks my comment stems from states going bankrupt from unfund liablities and the fed gov’t headed in the exact same direction. Why should we assume it will be different? It won’t. Jeff if you make $5,000 a month and you have debt of $7,000 a month and a very large percent of your monthly out lay goes to service the interest of your debt and your debt in $1,000,000 how much more NEW debt will you take on and for how long? So it is with unemployement benifits, Yes for awhile. Forever, No.

    That wasn’t my solution for healthcare you called simplistic. I was merely pointing out the hypcoracy of the left. If its a moral outrage then I can only assume its a moral outrage for the individual who’s on his/her box yelling “moral outrage” to have NOT exausted all their personal funds paying for the uninsureds insurance. Then they would truely have the right to yell “moral outrage.” If you haven’t don’t so then that makes you a hypocrit. Unless moral out rage only applies to everyone elses money…get it?

    as to appitites the only solutions going forward tha will work must be accompied by drastic budget cuts. Reagan’s budget director said, to clearify my last comments on him, since 1980 the economy has grown 3.5 times and the debt 14 times. Jeff clearly revenue has increased. Wheather it be while tax cutting, Reagan & Bush 11, or raising them, Bush 1 & Clinton until he cut them by lowering cap gains tax. So why the long term debt increase….Spending.

    Jeff my belief is most local, state and federal officals are incompitent when it comes to budgetting. they create budget that based on fantisy assumptions. the state pension fund are my favorite examples. They assume a rate of return that isn’t realistic. Then when the funds exceed assumptions for a year you get crazy things like what just happened in San Fran where they paid BONUSES with that years wind fall. Douring the 2000’s they hired people and bought stuff they never should have all due to a housing bubble. Your solution seems to be, and I’ll exagerate, keep spending at the bubble level supported by something from the feds so the pain won’t be felt…..can’t happen.

    You failed at my simple plea to condemm the libral media for their actions immediately following the shootings…..I’ll give you another chance. At least agree on this.

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:


    I addressed your question about the deficit in great detail a couple of months ago in the “show me the money” post.

    The bottom line is that ALL of the spending that you are concerned about won’t have any significant affect on the deficit over the next ten years. The BIG issues are getting the economy going again, ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and eliminating the Bush tax cuts. Everything else is chump change in comparison.

    In fact as I pointed out in that post, if you eliminate all of the one time factors from the equation, Obama HAS run a balanced budget for his first two years in office.

    That’s why it is hard to answer your question because it implies something that isn’t true. Obama IS NOT spending us into oblivion. The Bush tax cuts, the Bush wars, and the deficits that we ran up while the economy tanked are the big problems.

    The economy will get better, tax revenues will increase, and spending on recovery items will stop, but we won’t slow deficit growth until we raise taxes and stop blowing stuff up.

    BTW, the fed doesn’t create debt, at least not directly. They control the supply of money based on interest rates and creating markets for particular types of securities. Congress determines how much debt we carry. The fed only helps sell the bonds that we use to finance some of that debt.

    There is a lot of speculation about how much debt the rest of the world will allow us to carry. That is probably the best answer to your question of how much we can afford to spend. The best evidence of the world’s confidence in our debt is the interest rates that the fed is able to get on the bonds that we sell. At the moment is it still very low in historical terms particularly given the fact that we’ve been following a policity of depressing the value of our dollar to stimulate exports.

    I agree that there are problems with some poorly structured pension plans. That doesn’t meant that all pension plans are bad. But you could fix all of the public and private pension plans in our country and not put a dent in the deficit. Pension plans are not the problem.

    The same thing is true about Medicare, Medicaid, and SS. We need healthcare reform to fix Medicare and Medicaid. We need some simple tweaks and economic recovery to fix SS. These are all fixable issues if we act soon.

    If you have some data from somewhere that says that the healthcare reform bill will somehow morph into something else, please share it. Just saying that everything else gets bigger isn’t proof. Everything else you mentioned got bigger during times of prosperity when it appeared that we could afford it. We are going to be paying down the Bush debt for quite a while. So I suspect that there will be a lot of sensitivity to expanding programs in unsustainable ways.

    What is not fixable is refusing to deal with the reality that taxes have to go up and defense spending has to come down – which is right where the Republicans are right now.

    As far as post partisan, are you suggesting that the waiver that this particular union received wasn’t deserved? From what I read, it met the criteria of the waivers that were being offered to the requirement to have a higher lifetime cap on insurance expenditures. I agree that it smelled bad, but that was posted by a site with an admitted right wing bias, so I didn’t take the time to dig into it deeper to see how much was true.

    As far as your “moral outrage” argument, from what I can tell, you’re suggesting that liberals don’t put their money where their mouth is. I’ll dig into that a little later, but I suspect that liberals probably ARE more generous that conservatives. I’ll see if I can find some data on that.

    As far as condemning anybody, I took a pass.

    I do agree that there were excesses by both liberal and conservative media in the Arizona shooting case. It was fairly predictable given the differing points of view that I tried to document. Hopefully both sides had an opportunity to do a little soul searching as a result.

  5. keith says:

    BOTH SIDES?????/

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