In the Answering Tough Questions debate of 7 November of this year at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, one analogy seemed to have credence between both sides. The example was of a baseball game. Seventeen kids want to play baseball but have no ball, bat, gloves, or other tools required to play the game of baseball. Then an eighteenth child climbs the fence from the gated community nearby. He has all the balls, bats, gloves, and related materials to play the game. The game begins.
As often happens amongst children, the eighteenth child decides to dictate the rules to his advantage. Although he is not a good pitcher, he decrees that he be in the glory position, pitcher. He decrees the strike zone to be wide when he is pitching and narrow when he is batting. When a player on his team catches the ball, it can be on the first hop to create an out. When the other team is batting, the player must catch the ball while standing, and not on the first hop.
The questions presented by the affirmative speaker were: (1) who owns ball, bat, gloves…? (2) Who owns the game? (3) If you should be the uncle of the rich child and see this travesty, what would you do? We all agreed, the rich child owns the equipment to play the game, but all the players own the game. The vocabulary was slightly different, but all agreed that all came to the game with skill sets and for getting something out of the game. One conservative was so steeped in Thomistic thinking, he insisted the goal was virtue. So much for academics, we are talking about baseball and the game of life and business.
In the debate, the affirmative speaker presented very disturbing figures:
Before 1981, the percentage of income going to the poorest 50% of the population was between 25% and 27% of all income. The percentage earned by the top 5% was steady at between 14% and 17%. When conservatives were in control of the White House, unemployment was slightly higher, between 4% and 7%. When liberals ruled, the rate lowered a bit to 3%.
Something radically changed after 1981, and it is directly attributable to Kemp/Roth, and the changes to the tax code afterward. Unemployment shot up; many economists now say the unemployment rate we took for granted under Truman and in the late ‘60s is impossible. The US changed from being the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation. We had plenty of funds for the war on poverty until ’81. After 32 years, we are now broke. We can no longer fund the programs we took for granted a third century ago.
The conservatives argued they are not libertarians so do not want to be clumped among those supporting no government. At the same time, their favorite alleged saint was the very president who foisted this economic policy upon us. The rich child, the one who climbed the fence with balls, bats, gloves and the like insists they own the game, the business they run, so have the right to set the rules to their advantage. As a result, the affirmative speaker presented these facts:
45,000 including 28,000 children in their first year of life die each year from a lack of affordable health care. 2,000 people lose their lives in New Orleans because some do not want to invest in infrastructure. 50 million people live a living death of poverty in food-insecure households while 20% of the population controls 80% of the wealth. 30,000 preborn who die each year because of a lack of pre-natal care.
The US already has 5% of the world’s population, 25% of its prison population. At the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, ‘in 11” 146 people died. The Hamlet Chicken Processing Plant Fire was in ‘91, again behind locked doors. Twenty-five people died. In Wisconsin last year, the governor locked his employees inside the State Capital. Two years ago, we had the Deepwater Horizon Disaster; eleven died. Under regulation contributed. The conservative’s desire to under regulate resulted in the Monongah Mine disaster in ‘07. 362 died. The Sago Mine disaster was in ‘06. Twelve died.
One conservative argued that the governor did not intend for his employees to burn in a fire. The fact remains; New York was commemorating the One Hundred Year Commemoration of Triangle Fire while this governor locked his employees inside the building. He knew it could happen and chose to engage in this culture of death anyway.
In May of ’73 another conservative governor, Jim Rhodes sent over tired troops to Kent State University and directed they violate a dozen well-established procedures. Four died and thirteen were seriously injured. Did Jim Rhodes know these students would die? Of course not. Did the conservative celebrate the deaths and brag the students earned it? Yes! One student was a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, ROTC, and supported the governor and the war in Vietnam. We can expect the same, should a fire have broken out at the Wisconsin Capital Building. One conservative did complain at the debate, how the conditions were right for a fire.
The conclusion is clear; the conservatives have no legitimate claim to being pro-life. The person arguing for the negative in the debate argued the conservatives are not modernists as Pope Pious X defines the term. Again, if the shoe fits, wear it. Pope Pious X was describing the rich robber barons of his time, the business owners who wanted to define the rules of their corporations to fit their interests. As Uncle Sam, we the people have the moral obligation to correct these wayward children and bring them back into the republic, something the conservatives at the debate oppose.