Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Help Classify The Huck Behind The Upchuck

I've been thinking about where I fall out on the issues of the day and then wondering where it locates me on the ideological spectrum. On balance, I know I'm left of center; but there are some things I hold that some might say place me squarely right of center. Of course, I maintain that all of my positions make me a Liberal -- at least in the classical sense of the term. But, I'd like to get you involved in helping me to figure out my ideological classification. Let me try a little experiment. If all you knew of me were the following items, how would you classify me:

Some Demographic Data:
(1) I am 40 years old.
(2) I am a Southerner born and raised in New Orleans.
(3) I am a white male.
(4) I have a mortgage.
(5) I earn a modest, middle-class, mid-range 5 figure salary.

Some Educational Data:
(1) I attended private school literally my entire academic life.
(2) 70% of my education comes through private Catholic institutions, undergraduate college included.
(3) I am a college professor and administrator in an Area Studies Program (Latin American Studies, to be exact)
(4) My disciplinary formation is mostly in Political Science and International Relations.

Some Social Data:
(1) I am a Catholic Christian who pays close heed to the Social Justice Teachings of the Catholic Church.
(2) I am married for 15 years and am father to two young children (ages 10 and 6).
(3) Divorce is not an option for me. And I think divorce is the primary cause of the breakdown of the family.

Some Issues Data:
(1) I enthusiastically supported Barack Obama for President and am just thrilled that he will be our next President.
(2) I am pro-life in the fullest meaning of the term; but I do not support government involvement in deciding a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy and I certainly do not think that abortion is a criminal behavior and do not consider abortion to be the functional equivalent of pre-meditated murder. I am categorically opposed to the death penalty. I generally tend not to support embryonic stem cell research when adult stem cell research offers similar promises for stem cell research breakthroughs. I oppose killing through warfare. I categorically and unequivocally oppose torture of any kind -- and this includes any kind of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
(3) I support gay marriage and I think of this as a civil right. I think the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the military is an abomination and should be instantly repealed in favor of allowing gay people the right to serve openly in the military as a gay person. I think the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment movement are inappropriate and unjust efforts to codify discrimination into our law and our constitution. And I oppose both.
(4) I don't like paying too much taxes. I have a sympathetic orientation to the idea of a "flat tax." But, I also understand and find a certain logic to the social justice and utilitarian arguments for progressive taxation.
(5) I generally think that local solutions to commonly-shared problems among local communities is more preferable to federal government solutions; but I think that the federal government does have an obligation to step in where markets don't or won't perform in meeting the basic needs of individuals, and particularly those individuals most marginalized by circumstance and environments over which they exercise very little control.
(6) I think healthcare is a fundamental human right, and that the state should ensure some kind of quality healthcare for all of its citizens, i.e. universal healthcare.
(7) I am pro-"amnesty," if not exactly pro-open borders, when it comes to immigration policy.
(8) I generally think unions are inefficient and corrupt; but I do believe in the rights and the justice of workers organizing and engaging in collective bargaining to secure greater shares of the profits that come from the fruits of their labor.
(9) I think the concept of "tenure" in academia is overrated and mostly unnecessary to protect academic freedom; but I believe 100% in academic freedom and the preservation of it.
(10) I support public charter schools, but oppose school vouchers that will allow public funds to pay for private school tuitions.
(11) I think the government has no business legislating morality and think the government should respect individual privacy.
(12) I absolutely detest government subsidies and bailouts of all kinds, especially the kinds that lead to new stadiums and concessions for professional sports clubs and their owners.
(13) I support free trade as long as it is fair trade, with fair trade being defined as trade which creates jobs that ensure living wages, which protects the environment, which strengthens labor protections and workplace safety, and which diminishes income inequality.
(14) I think Fidel Castro is a dictator and that Cuba is a repressive state. But I think Chavez, while tending towards expressing an inflated sense of self-importance that borders on megalomania, is essentially a legitimate democratic leader and whose government generally respects the basic freedoms of its citizens, including the freedom to criticize and dissent from the government. I feel the same way about Evo Morales in Bolivia.
(15) I think the Iraq war is a fiasco, that it should have never been waged in the first place, and that it ended up being a cynical exercise in privileging and enriching private defense contractors and subcontractors and big oil.
(16) I am a pretty ardent supporter of Israel, but I recognize that the Palestinian people have rightful claims that cannot be dismissed out of hand.
(17) I believe in stricter gun control measures. And I see absolutely no logical reason for certain types of weapons to ever be legal for citizens to purchase. Among those I would include automatic assault weapons. So, I support an automatic assault weapons ban.
(18) I think affirmative action policies were absolutely just and necessary when they were initiated, but I do think they are becoming increasingly irrelevant and unnecessary.
(19) I don't expect to ever benefit from Social Security; but I do not think that the system should be privatized. I support this and other social safety net programs administered by the government as a matter of justice.
(20) I support free markets, but I do not embrace the notion that markets always and everywhere produce optimal outcomes that benefit all. I believe that the government has not only the right, but even the obligation, as a matter of social justice, to maintain social safety net entitlement programs for those who are disadvantaged and penalized, through no fault of their own, by the free market model.

Well, that's enough to go off of for now. Use this and chime in your thoughts about where you would locate me on the ideological spectrum in the comments section.


Schroeder said...

"the government has no business legislating morality"

Pinko commie terrorist! You probably hang around with that Bill Ayers guy too.

Eric said...

Without some sort of scale, it is hard make a classificaton based on this info. I would say that, among Democrats I know, your set of policy beliefs would match up with most of theirs.

I do wonder though, how much of your own income you'd be willing ot give up to enact such an agenda. Would you be willing to be taxed at the same rate as the wealthy if it meant you could get all these things? Is a 40% tax rate reasonable? 50%? 60%?

I have been doing some thinking about taxes lately, and I think part of the disconnect between liberals and conservatives on this issue has to do with how their income structure works. I fit the mold for a lot of conservatives in that for over a decade, I've not had any salary, hourly pay, or any type of set, stable monthly income. I've worked for sales commission, shares of department profit, or (for the last two years) earnings from my own company. Now, I have made a good income from this, but there have also been plenty of months where I worked 60 or 70 hours a week and made zero dollars (hell, last month I made less than zero dollars). A lot of business-oriented conservatives work under similar arrangements, and I think it gives them a different outlook on monetary income than people who have more stable and longterm agreements with their employers. Because they always face the possibility, every day, even when employed, of making nothing... they have a more entrenched sense of entitlement regarding the money they make.

I know this is completely off topic, but I just wondered if that makes sense from your perspective. Also, please note, I'm not saying they actually are more entitled to their money (the 16th Amendment to the Constitution effectively ended any American's legal entitlement to any money they make), I'm just trying to figure out why high taxes, which are such a huge and politically encompassing issue for me, are so easily dismissed by so many liberals.

Huck said...

Eric - I really don't know what would be an appropriate and reasonable tax rate. I would say that what has to happen is to figure out what operational expenses for these programs would be and then to figure out what would be a reasonable budget for the federal government and then calculate a tax rate from that point. But there are so many factors in tax policies beyond simply income tax to consider in the budgeting process. I am very much in favor of working off of a balanced budget. I also think that tax rates, if driven by market forces, would find an equilibrium. I do believe there is a rate which society as a whole can stomach. The question is figuring out that rate. I think just about everyone considers taxes a necessity, and most people know what incomes are necessary to live a dignified life with all necessities met. So, if I made a million dollars per year and knew that I could live on a net income of $500,000, then I might be willing to tolerate a 50% tax burden. If I made $25,000 per year and knew that I could survive with dignity on $22,500 per year, I would only be willing to tolerate a 10% tax rate. How this translates to a national average is beyond me, but I believe that there is an equilibrium point. And it is this equilibrium point which should guide tax collection and budgets.

Regarding your differentiation between conservatives and liberals, I don't see how the generalization you propose really holds under scrutiny. There are many liberal supporters of progressive tax policy who are subject to the income structure that you mention, and I'd say a significant number of conservatives, perhaps a majority, who hold stable wage or salaried jobs.

I think it's probably less what you suggest and more a difference in social values: I think liberals, even the entrepreneurial kind, who support more progressive tax plans, probably do so out of a sense of social obligation and see the state as the appropriate filter for this. Perhaps conservatives embrace a different set of social values that doesn't see the state as the appropriate filter for fulfilling one's sense of social obligation.

Eric said...

Also, for the record, I agree with you on a few of these issues, with some caveats:

2) I would take the federal government out of the abortion debate and let it be a state issue. I'd vote to allow it in my state, though I am personally opposed to abortions in most cases. I agree with you on embryonic stem-cell research. On the other life-centered issues you mention, we disagree (I am pro death-penalty, think war is at times necessary and just, and under some circumstances would support actual, real torture, something that I don't consider waterboarding to be).

3) I think, as far as government is concerned, all marriage (gay or straight, mono or poly) should be treated as a civil contract, and people should have the right to do this in whatever way they want. However, employers and insurance companies should also have the right to disperse benefits and covereages however they see fit. I oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

7) I support letting a lot immigrants come here legally when unemployment is low (less when it is high). I am increasingly open to the idea of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay and work here if they pay a steep penalty for breaking our laws. Some call this amnesty, but I'm not so sure it is.

8) Unlike many conservatives,I actually agree with the basic idea behind unions, that workers should be able to engage in fair minded collective bargaining with their employers (and be prepared to face unemployment if they overplay their hand). I generally only take issue when unions (or businesses)employ the government to intervene on their behalf.

11) I agree the government has no business legislating morality, including legislation that enforces moralizing concepts of 'social justice' and altruism.

12) Agree with you unequivocally on government subsidies.

15) I agree that the Iraq war was a fiasco, though I disagree with you it was based in cynicism. I think President Bush and his advisors were genuinely convinced and committed to finding WMD's and creating a foothold for democracy in the Middle East. It was a fiasco becasue there were no WMD factories, because the occupation of Iraq was tragically mismanaged for years, and becasue democracy ultimately isn't a magic bullet that will solve the problems of the Mideast.

18) Agreed, though I think it is beyond question that Affirmative Action has outlived its usefulness and now is simply a racist and unfair policy.

Eric said...

"I think it's probably less what you suggest and more a difference in social values"

Likely so. I'm just trying to better understand how we are ending up with such polarized social values in America. It confounds and frustrates me.
Welcome to democracy, I guess.

Eric said...

Also Huck, one clarifying question regarding your support for stricter gun control. Do you support a federally enforced concealed carry ban? Obama has voiced support for such a measure (though he doesn't advertise this support on his website), and I think, if it is pursued, it will be a much more contentious issue than the Assault Weapons Ban.

Huck said...

Eric - I'm not sure I understand how you consider "social justice" and even "altruism" some kinds of moralizing values. Perhaps you can explain where you see the morality in these concepts. When I say I oppose the federal government legislating morality, I don't include things like racial discrimination or penalties for rape and murder. Even though there are "moral" dimension to these issues, they are much more connected to ideas of an objective sense of social justice than strictly whether the government should be in the business of legislating against smoking pot or viewing adult pornography because they are "immoral" behaviors.

On the subject of gun control, I personally wouldn't mind a federally enforced concealed carry ban. However, as a matter of pragmatic policy and deference to the 2nd amendment of the constitution, I would have no real issues with not having a federally-enforced concealed carry ban. It's not a make or break issue for me. But on this subject, do you support concealed carry rights on school grounds or at sportings events or other kinds of contained environments? I guess what I'm asking is whether you think there are proper places for an enforced concealed carry ban? If so, then I can't see how you wouldn't then have to admit that the question is not the legitimacy of a concealed carry ban policy in and of itself, but rather the when, how, and why of such a policy.

Eric said...

"I'm not sure I understand how you consider "social justice" and even "altruism" some kinds of moralizing values"

I meant that I resent the government forcing people to engage in charity just as much as I resent their trying to protect people from every vice "for their own good". Putting a person in jail for the simple act of possessing marijuana is unfair, but so is forcing a person to buy prescription medication for people they don't even know. Withholding charity should never be a crime, but our social programs make it so.

"do you support concealed carry rights on school grounds or at sportings events or other kinds of contained environments?"

Absolutely. I believe law abiding adults should be able to discreetly possess a firearm in any public place. I'd prefer that they not even have to be discreet about it, but am fine w/ it as long as we are allowed to protect ourselves. I have applauded the advances made over the last few years in concealed carry and self-protection gun laws all over the nation (at both the state and federal level) and would probably chose to personally ignore a federally mandated concealed carry ban if the state of Oklahoma left its carry laws on the books in the face of such legislation (and I'm pretty sure we would).

Huck said...

"Absolutely. I believe law abiding adults should be able to discreetly possess a firearm in any public place."

Well, at least you're consistent. But I think it's pretty safe to say that you are in a distinct minority when it comes to this position. I know of very few folks, even among stalwart conservatives, who wouldn't find it troubling to know that people whom they don't know are walking around their kids' elementary schools with concealed, loaded weapons.

Also, Eric, what you think of as "charity" some think of as matters of justice. Is it "charity" to legislate against racial discrimination? Or is it justice? Is forcing me to make a contribution to the re-building of Iraq "charity" or would you justify it using some other criteria? There is space for debate over what one considers "charity" and what one considers a matter of justice or what is right.

Eric said...

"I know of very few folks, even among stalwart conservatives, who wouldn't find it troubling to know that people whom they don't know are walking around their kids' elementary schools with concealed, loaded weapons."

I never said I don't find it troubling. I just happen to believe that, excepting cases where metal detectors are present, there are ALREADY plenty of adults walking through our schools carrying concealed weapons in spite of the federal law making such an action illegal.

"Is it "charity" to legislate against racial discrimination?"

No, and those are not the type of laws I was talking about. I was talking about laws that redistribute wealth in an attempt to create some (quite arbitrary)form of social and monetary equity in society.

"Is forcing me to make a contribution to the re-building of Iraq "charity" or would you justify it using some other criteria? "

That's an excellent point, and I would agree with you on this one. While the government does have a clear Constitutional mandate to use tax dollars to fight wars, I don't think we should be in the business of rebuilding people's countries afterwards. If I'd had my way, we would have high-tailed it out of Iraq as soon as we had captured Saddam and realized there were no WMD factories. I think you and I have both been done a disservice by our government for every tax dollar spent rebuilding that country.