Whose Freedoms?

  I read the angry letters on opinion pages in the papers and on political blogs conveying a concern that under Obama our freedoms are being removed and our way of life destroyed.  Yet as one who lives among those making such ominous threats, I’m not seeing any of it.  At least not in the ways these anti-government, anti-Obama types are claiming


At age 63 I’ve awaken each morning of my life to find my basic freedoms are still intact after all of these years.   You would think though that this wouldn’t be true based on some of the claims those on the right have been making since Barack Obama took office.   As a white male, much hasn’t changed for me, but that’s not always been so with minorities, the elderly and women in the American social culture.  Only through the efforts and struggles of others have we eventually seen gains made for these groups during the civil rights era of the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s.

Jim Crow laws in the South were found unconstitutional and affirmative action opened the ways for blacks to gain access to all institutions of higher education.  Many of the elderly and poor children no longer fall into poverty thanks to Medicare/Medicaid that helps cover the high costs of health care which many couldn’t afford.  And women gained the right to control their own bodies following the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that would allow abortions for all women who had been raped by a stranger or relative, or simply wanted to end an unwanted pregnancy that occurred at a weak moment when passion overtook sensibility.

Yes things remain the same for me but it looks like there are those who want to take us back to the bad old days when women, the elderly and minorities are being expected to resume their inequalities.




Voter Rights

Republican governors and legislatures and right-wing extremist groups have been working overtime this year to get measures past that would suppress the vote for many and serve to reinvigorate a 21st century version of Jim Crow.

Republicans have proposed voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise. At the same time, the Tea Party group “True the Vote” — which has been accused of voter intimidation — is pledging to send one million observers to polling places on November 6, and has been filing largely baseless lawsuits to purge voters from the rolls.   SOURCE 

Ten states have been singled out by Steven Rosenfeld, author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting”  that have gone beyond mere efforts to require all citizens to have photo IDs to vote.   All of the research has conclusively shown that voter fraud of any consequence does not exist, yet many conservatives have been convinced by GOP operatives that restrictions like picture ID’s are essential for a free and fair election. 

People for reasons of health or choice who no longer drive won’t have a pictured driver’s license.  Many people who have lost everything in this recession and now find themselves homeless have lost their personal records these states now require to register to vote, like a birth certificate.  In some states gun owners can use their registration certificates to vote where out-of-state students with picture IDs can’t.  There are also efforts to inhibit opportunities by limiting early voting times or reducing the number of voting places, especially in poor neighborhoods.  Such restrictions are aimed at imposing burdens on those demographics that are likely to vote Democratic.


Depriving the economically disadvantaged.

Despite the claims of Paul Ryan in the vice-presidential debates, neither Social Security nor Medicare are going bankrupt.  Yet this premise is part of a long time scheme by wealthy financial interests in order to get their hands on payroll tax money  that funds these safety net programs.  The promises of Wall Street are alluring but anyone watching the volatility of the markets today can see that security of investment is not guaranteed, unlike the returns on the Social Security trust fund.

These privatization efforts by the GOP are also seen as a means to reduce the elderly’s Medicare and Social Security benefits through a variety of tricks by raising retirement ages, using a different formula for establishing the cost of living allowance (COLA) and worst of all, enticing unsuspected younger voters to buy into the notion that payroll contributions into Wall Street towards their retirement are safer than the secure system that has served the needs of seniors beautifully for 75 years.

One third of the retirees in this country depend solely on their Social Security benefits to pay out-of-pocket costs for housing, food and medicine.  By itself Social Security benefits will not sustain the elderly in a fashion they are accustomed to so other retirement investments need to be considered by people currently in the work force.  But Social Security should not be excluded from anyone’s retirement plans.

Today’s youth need to be very leery about the promises of privatization that have robbed many a 401k pension of funds that retirees were relying on to buy that retirement condo in Florida or that 4-week cruise around the world.  Take it from someone whose done this and is there now.  It ain’t cracked up to be what the claims say.  Investments deductions from your paycheck in the market are unreliable, unlike those deductions that have traditionally ben deposited in the Social Security trust fund.

Women’s Rights

But I guess what is perhaps the most egregious affront to me, as it should be with everyone, are those actions by people who claim to be grieved about losses of personal freedom yet who want to control the bodies of women and forbid them necessary medical attention that could in fact prevent the very thing that many of pro-life “reformers” claim they are against – ABORTION. 

By creating barriers for many poorer women to purchase contraception through their insurance providers, some employers, along with the support of local and state governments, are in fact inviting unwanted pregnancies that may well result in abortions.  And though the pro-life camps have always vigorously fought to repeal Roe v. Wade there were those who were still willing to allow abortions in the cases of rape and incest, along with saving the life of the mother.  But that’s changing now.  Today there are many, including Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, whose interpretation of scripture claims that God uses even a brutal rape to promote new life and that to abort the effects of this crime against women would be in opposition to a plan these Christians are willing to attribute to someone who even they claim they cannot understand at times.   

So when I read and hear opinions from those who bemoan our loss of freedom, I know that they are NOT talking about women, the elderly and minorities.  I am equally certain that they are not speaking for all older white guys like me either unless of course you are part of that wealthy 1% who owns 40% of the nations wealth.  That 1% who are focused on their portfolio returns from corporate profits gained in large measure by sending jobs overseas to cheaper labor markets and avoiding their fair share of taxes by manipulating legal schemes for placing profits in off-shore and overseas accounts.

Claiming that taxes and regulations are hurting them from investing more to create new jobs is extremely misleading.  The 1% has seen their earnings and profits sky rocket while most low and middle-income wage earners have seen stagnant or reduced wages.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, though the U.S. Corporate tax rate on the books is one of the highest in OCED countries, the “effective tax rate” that they actually pay after many deductions, credits, and other mechanisms by which corporations can reduce their taxes, is significantly lower than many other capitalist nations.   Another report in an October analysis by Bloomberg in 2011 showed there were actually fewer new regulations under Obama than under Bush and yet we hear the hue and cry of people who are sitting on billions claim that their trickle down policies won’t work until such taxes and regulations are cut even further

Such views are not a part of our reality so I can only conclude that these people live in another world.  One where real freedom exists only for white, male property owners and where clean air and water are abundant, uncontaminated from industrial pollution.  There was a time in our early past when this was the norm.  Could it be that this is the world of those who support Romney/Ryan want us to relive?  Is THIS the America they want to recapture?

Hey!  I’m a white guy who owns some property.  Why should I care?  Perhaps because if one person is unduly harassed and oppressed by stronger, wealthier interests we are all on the hook to ensure that democratic principles which began over 225 years ago are not slowly eliminated in piecemeal fashion, leaving us with a system of government that is once again concentrated in the hands of an elite few.


The Morning After

11 responses to “Whose Freedoms?

  1. Throughout this entire election season, I’ve not once heard from any Republicans or voters who support them, just exactly, EXACTLY, how “big government” has been a detriment to their lives. Specifically. Details. There’s nothing. It’s a stupid meme that has absolutely no substance. And, if they cite regulations that harm business – it’s most likely they’re talking about regulations that benefit the employees and the rest of society. Yeah, let’s remove regulations so that we can have more food poisoning, less safe cars, dirtier air, and lax pharma manufacturers for a start.

    • Yes, many have been falsely led to believe that their taxes are higher, that their guns are going to be taken away, that they will be told which doctor they can and can’t use under Obamacare. It’s all malicious pandering to the fears of the uninformed.

  2. A very thick chunk of beef to chew on there, Woodgate. (And a well done one.) A few thoughts.

    Obama has really only damaged the following freedoms:

    1) The right not to be spied upon, followed by drones, targeted for assignation, or taken to Gitmo, by your own government. Fairly quietly, many Post 9-11 Bush human rights abuses weren’t ended and some where extended. That said, no President would be keen to give back such arbitrary powers, even if they don’t plan to use them.

    2) The freedom to gamble with your life by choosing to go without health care insurance. Sure, only a small percentage of the public is stupid enough or strung out on Libertarianism to take such a risk. But the gub’mint shouldn’t be tellin’ us we can’t play Russian Roulette, either.

    But “freedom hating” Obama allowed gun “freedoms” to be mildly extended and did nothing to limit them or renew the assault weapons ban, even after one of his own was shot using something that was forbidden by it. I’m against Obama’s actions/inaction. But for some reason, the drooling right takes the total silence as an assault on their freedoms. That tells you how deluded these mouth breathing ass-clowns are.

    Unfortunately in Modern America, Freedom has been re-defined as the following:

    – the freedom to engage in stupid, macho, violent, behaviour that is dangerous to yourself and/or others
    – the freedom to shop till the whole nation drops.
    – the freedom of rich, powerful, white males to have dominion over a nation with an increasingly poorer, less white and less male populace.

    • You’re right Sedate. The rights that the Obama administration are violating are not raised by the angry white men supporting Romney/Ryan. Should fate somehow pick them out of all the dark-skinned people in this world and wrongly be accused by the government as a national security threat, they would get a taste of what real freedom loss is all about.

      Instead they sit in their comfort zones feeling that their physical appearances will prevent them from experiencing such judicial abuses, yet are ready to impose a form of oppression on teenage girls who get raped by a drunken uncle or their mother’s boyfriend. They do so with a callous disregard for how the girl gets pregnant. They need only to make sure that the life that is now in her womb – not from an act of love but from a brutal act control – must be brought to full term to appease the God of their own creation so they can thump their chest and score some points with their fellow religionists. The young girl’s traumatized life is subjugated to the twisted interpretations of ancient scriptures most likely written by those self-anointed seers of that imaginary being they were certain is out there somewhere.

    • Good comments, Sedate Me. I appreciate your listing some specific issues. I wonder when the post Bush restrictions will be lifted. It sure wouldn’t be a very popular thing to do. As far as #2, I just don’t see the restriction on our rights. I look at the penalty as being a tax on people who think life doesn’t have any risks and that the rest of us ought to pay for their “emergency” medical care. In addition, the benefits of limiting the egregious behavior of insurers far outweighs the minor limitation on “rights” to be an unhealthy load on society.

  3. You got your priorities all wrong. Better that 10,000 be denied the vote than one sneaky ex-felon or “illegal” cast a ballot. That is so American. The disadvantaged have no rights. Their right is to work hard and the fact that they are disadvantaged is proof that they haven’t. The Constitution was not written with women in mind, so technically they have no rights, except that stupid moment when we went soft and gave them a right to vote. The freedoms that count are : the right to have laws reflect our Christian founding, the right to arm ourselves against the Muslim menace, the right for criminals to die, the right of me to not be taxed more than I feel is appropriate–fund the Military!, the right to sue anybody I choose, the right to not have to look at a black man in the White House which is absurd when you really think about it, and most of all the right to call people queers and not be called a bigot. There is your rights… brought to you by the Tea baggin’ Right Wing of Patriotic Americans. Love it or leave it!

  4. The Republicans are focused on ‘negative freedom’ – the government preventing you from doing something. They ignore positive freedom, which involves people being able to overcome obstacles to live fuller, more free lives. Sometimes positive freedom requires government action and even *gasp* redistribution with a goal of creating equal opportunity. More people live free if positive freedom is enhanced.

  5. Republicans dislike the government because they want to go back to the days of absolutely no regulations in industry or the workplace. The Republicans think that less government would also allow they to pay as little as they want. Prices are rapidly increasing in fast food establishments not because workers are making more money but because the price of food before they get it has increased.

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