Let’s have an adult conversation about compassion.
You know, President Obama or his acolytes drag out the “adult-conversation” line every time they want to change the subject, or portray their opponents as relying on simplistic slogans.
Of course, with major campaign slogans of “Hope and Change” and “Change We Can Believe In” for the 2008 campaign, you know they’re not serious. It is hard to get more amorphous and less substantive. It’s just another way of saying, “Hey, don’t look at unemployment, the debt, the deficit, Gitmo or the endless war. Look over there!”
But, lately they’ve been sloganeering about compassion, so I think they should be given a few adult-conversation talking points. An adult conversation is supposed to eschew straw men and exaggerations. It is supposed to include things like context and nuance. And it is supposed to be free of ad hominem attacks.
But in the world of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic attack mob, after they deliver the grudging, obligatory “OK, they’re good family men,” they declare Republican almost-nominee Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan are extreme, cold, heartless number crunchers lacking even a shred of compassion for the “least fortunate among us.”
You have heard, and you will hear, that Romney and Ryan have a vision of society where they want to eliminate community in America – that their message is, “You’re on your own. Good luck.” Which is an absurd, straw-man attack. People aren’t on their own in America unless they desperately want to be and are hiding in a hole. Both Romney’s and Ryan’s expressed goal is to make sustainable the programs that keep people from being on their own.
You have heard, and will hear, President Obama say he wants to “invest” in higher education, but Mitt Romney does not. Which ducks the fact that Obama doesn’t want to invest his money. He wants to invest yours. It avoids the reality that every time government “invests” more in education, the price goes up. The students don’t benefit. They are just a conduit for money that doesn’t make college more affordable, but simply provides better pay and benefits for administrators, faculty and staff.
You have heard, and will hear, that Romney and Ryan want to steal money from the poor and elderly, so they can reward themselves and their rich friends with tax breaks. That ignores the fact that Romney wants t
o maintain lower tax rates for everyone, and eliminate deductions that mainly benefit the wealthy.
And you will hear, if you haven’t already, from those like Time contributor Erika Christakis that, “As near as we can tell, Jesus would advocate a tax rate somewhere between 50 percent ... and 100 percent,” for the wealthy.
This is one of the most absurd slogans yet, on a couple of levels. First, Christakis and others are invoking Jesus to support a public policy. If anyone else invokes Jesus on a topic they oppose, they rise up in outrage, foaming at the mouth about how it’s a violation of the separation of church and state.
Second, if Christakis wants to make this argument, she needs to point to the verse in the Bible where Jesus exhorts his followers to pay more taxes. He never does. He exhorts them to give to the poor, but never calls for the agen
t of “compassion” to be a secular government. He calls for the religious community to do it. If Democrats want to follow the teachings of Jesus here, they are asking for a theocracy.
Still, the constant subtext of all these attacks is: Romney and Ryan have no compassion.
And that is because Obama, Biden and their followers are preaching a distortion of real compassion. In their view, the only legitimate compassion is found in paying higher taxes. They fault Romney, who has given vastly more to charity, both in raw dollars and as a percentage of his income, than they have, for not “giving” more of that money to government. In their world, private charity and churches are illegitimate agents of compassion.
But taxes, even if they are being used for “social justice” or some other redistributive purpose, fail the true test of compassion at every level.
First, the “giver” is not making a volunta
ry donation out of compassion for others. It is being taken from him by force of law.
Second, there is no compassion, no sacrifice, on the part of politicians who spread this money around and then congratulate themselves for “serving” the public. If I take money from you by force, skim 40 percent off the top to go to myself and my friends for “administrative costs” and then give the rest to the poor and elderly, are you going to praise me for being compassionate? If so, you are delusional.
Finally, there is no compassion felt by the recipient. He has no connection to those who “gave” the money,
and no sense of accountability to them to use that money wisely. Most likely, he gets a check in the mail – about as personal as a feed pellet dropping into a livestock trough.
If the president and his followers want to claim that they are compassionate, they should dig into their own pockets, not yours.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org