“In conclusion, I’d like to say I’m glad that despite our differing opinions on these issues, we’re all able to remain friends.” That was the relevant, if awkwardly delivered, closing remark of my friend as four of us discussed our differing votes on the three Massachusetts ballot questions yesterday.
A few of my good friends espouse Libertarian views, though they are not Tea Party members. They were Libertarian before being Libertarian was hip. As a former Christian Anarchist, I’m intrigued by their views and would like to subscribe to their newsletter (ten points if you get that reference).
Yesterday, they voted to cut the state sales tax in half (they failed) and eliminate the tax on alcohol (they succeeded). They’ll vote for anything that lowers taxes. And at first pass, I’m with them. As my friends explain the trickle-down benefits of the free market system, their theories make sense. But upon further reflection, I have a few unanswered questions for my right-leaning brothers and sisters that prevent me from joining their ranks.
1. Why are the most liberal institutions also so successful by free market standards?
There are a few industries that are consistently painted as liberal and dismissed as elitist and out-of-touch. These include Hollywood and Academia. But it seems to me that these two institutions seem so out of touch because they have so successfully taken advantage of free market capitalism.
Actors, directors, producers, professors and administrators make obscene amounts of money, living lives of relative ease. This money comes from a public willing to pay for their products and services – entertainment and education, respectively. If anyone should be championing the free markets that have made them rich, it seems it ought to be these guys.
I also work in an industry that is, to a lesser extent, traditionally left-leaning: Advertising. We make money hand-over-fist while sipping fair trade coffee, recycling prodigiously and doing cool pro bono work for causes we believe in. Why aren’t more of us Republicans or Tea Party members?
2. Why are Blue states the most successful and desirable?
Here I’ll repeat a phrase my former pastor used to use when verbally assaulting liberals from the pulpit: “If you don’t like it, leave.” His challenge to liberals decrying the injustices of the U.S. was to visit any other country in the world and compare the pros and cons for themselves. He contended that they’d come crawling back to the U.S. every time.
I feel the same way about my state, and blue states in general. Over the years, we have thrived. And every thriving industry I can think of is based in a blue state. Private Higher Education in Boston. Film and Television in Los Angeles. Fashion and Advertising in New York. Even more traditionally conservative industries find their headquarters in blue states. Just look at Wall Street or the big tech companies of Silicon Valley. If the governments here interfere with business so much, why not move?
Some conservative Facebook friends, in celebrating the GOP’s national triumph last night, also bemoaned the stupidity of Massachusetts in voting left, as we typically do. I felt like echoing my pastor’s words. If you don’t like it here, leave. Feel free to explore the thriving economy and robust job markets of Wichita or Butte. And be sure to keep me abreast of your new, care-free life in Red State wonderland. Why are you still living in this socialist nightmare we call a commonwealth?
3. What elected Tea Partier will have the political guts to actually lower taxes?
A quick search reveals that about 40% of our tax dollars are spent on Social Security and National Defense. Another 20% goes largely to Medicare and Medicaid*. In order to lower taxes in a meaningful way to the average U.S. worker, someone is going to have to make an unpopular move by suggesting cuts in one or more of these three areas. With another 10% of tax dollars going to interest on the national debt, balancing the budget must be a top priority. But I’m interested to see how the Libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers elected yesterday will approach breaking the news to the public. Who will step up to the plate?
I’ve attempted to be pragmatic and genuine here and I hope you all won’t mistake my tone for one of provocation. I’m genuinely curious about these questions, mostly because I’ve done nothing but thrive here in Massachusetts, even throughout this 2-year recession. In conclusion, I’d like to say I’m glad that despite our differing opinions on these issues, we’re all able to remain friends.
*Incidentally, only 16% of my tax dollars are spent on all types of aid to the needy – Medicare, unemployment benefits, etc. – and in our “welfare state,” only 1% goes to actual welfare. That 16% adds up to about $2,000 for me, an amount I’m happy to part with based on my personal Christian values of caring for the poor, the sick and the elderly. I give an additional 10% of my income, about $4,000 after taxes to the church and other such charitable causes.
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