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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Right People


The Right People v. The Wrong People: An Appeal to Young Voters
(Whatever their ages may be)

As with many fairy tales, there are different versions of the "Red Riding Hood" story. In some stories Red discovers that she is dealing with an "imitation grandmother" too late, and is eaten. In the version I grew up with, Red detects the phony and is saved, (along with Granny) by a woodsman who arrives in the nick of time.

I feel a little bit like Red when I hear the Republicans trot out their ideas on education, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, environmental quality and so forth. After years of bashing public schools, public health, entitlements, and "tree huggers," they suddenly say, "We were with you all along."

When I realize what the Republicans mean when they say they are "for" all of these ideas, first thought up by Democrats, I worry about which version of the story America is living now. Will we discover that when the wolf claims to be "for" these great ideas, he really means he is for them if the "right" people are involved in them?

The Republicans say that they are "for" education. Of course, what they also want is the money that has been going to public schools to go to schools run by the "right" people with the "right" ideological bend who will give students the "right" way to think. Of course many of the "wrong" students, special needs children, behavior problems, learning disabled, will be shut out of these "right" schools.

They say they are "for" Medicare, "for" prescription drugs for the elderly. "All you have to do," they claim, "is make sure that the "right" people get seniors needing drugs into corporate HMO’s, so that the "right" people are selling them the drugs - which cost far more in this country than they do in any other. Never mind the fact that HMO’s keep raising their rates and narrowing their coverage.

They say they are "for" Social Security. They simply want the "right" people to manage all that lovely government money just lying there for the taking. These "right" people want to manage the government’s pension fund because suddenly the money they had to play with in corporate pension accounts, IRAs, and the stock market just isn’t there anymore.

They are "for" environmental quality. Of course, the best way to do this is for the "right" people to "thin out" (read: denude) the forests and get government subsidies for fuel schemes.
In addition to this, the "right" people need to get tax breaks, bailouts, bankruptcy protection, charitable choice - the list goes on and on.

Let’s be fair. Many of the ideas Republicans come up with are original and effective. The only trouble is that their original ideas are not effective, and their effective ideas are most definitely not original. This is the same thing the Republican Party has done since it turned its back on Lincoln and turned its eyes toward the moneyed interests.
Young people remember this:

According to the Republicans,

If you work for wages, you are not the right sort of person.

If you make less than $50,000 a year, you are not the right sort of person.

If you work the land on the farm you own to provide for America the abundance it enjoys on its table, you are not the right sort of person.

If you own a small business where you expect to compete on a level playing field with any other honest business owner, you are not the right sort of person.

And if your business fails, it better be the "right" business because the "right" sort of business will be able to get government welfare assistance. If you have to declare personal bankruptcy, then there will be no relief because you are the "wrong" type of person to declare bankruptcy.

If you believe that your place in this republic of ours is the equal of anyone else regardless of how much you make or how you conduct your own private affairs, you are definitely not the right sort of person -- according to the Republicans.

Remember also that when Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson founded the Democratic Party, they did so for the interests of the worker, the farmer, the small business owner against the interest of the wealthy, the privileged, the elite.

In over 200 years, the two sides have made many changes, but that fundamental difference remains the same – which party considers you to be it’s kind of person.

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