An important measure of a country’s “greatness” is how it spends its money. When Trump and others talk about “making America ‘great’ again,” they’re almost always aggressively non-specific about how. By whose definition? And more importantly, is greatness a thing we can buy with dollars?
It turns out there is a measurement of a country’s greatness — rather, a measure of the quality of a country’s democracy — as well as a way to, after a fashion, buy your way to the top. In 2016, unfortunately, America continued its long and heartbreaking decline by failing to place in the Global Democracy Index’s top 15 nations. Our terrible national priorities are to blame.
As more civilized people than our leaders have already discovered, a country is only great if it seeks to ensure equality for all its people. We’re not necessarily talking about equality of wealth, but rather equality of opportunity — coupled with a guaranteed safety net for your health, and reasonable financial protections should capitalism fail you.
This equality of opportunity is far more likely to occur if a government invests heavily in the well-being of its citizens. One has to wonder: With so many more enticing definitions of greatness, why spend our money on a wasteful and totally unnecessary boondoggle?
This topic should never have even come up for debate in a country that claims to be the strongest in the world. Health care is, and always has been, a right for all people who call themselves civilized. And the most logical, affordable form of health care is the universal kind. You’ll also hear it referred to as Medicare for all, single-payer and socialized medicine.
Yes — socialism! Many under-informed people still quake in their shoes when they hear this word, so let’s clear the air: Anybody who pays taxes is a socialist.
That’s right, you’re already practicing socialism, even if you don’t recognize it. The simplest definition of socialism is paying into a communal fund through tax dollars. What better way to share burdens and care for our neighbors than to pool our resources and our talent in favor of practical applications for our tax dollars — including medicine?
We already take various benefits of citizenhood for granted, including paved roads, first responders, the postal service, national parks, infrastructure, and a vast selection of other sensible institutions that make life fuller — and, in many cases, more possible — for average voters and working Americans. When you average out the cost of adding universal health care, the price is considerably lower per person than if you privatize every piece of this beautiful apparatus and lock it all behind a corporate paywall governed by boardrooms.
Universal health care is vastly more affordable, eminently sensible, less redundant and far easier to administer than the appalling, unsustainable and basically abusive system we have in place now. It is, to borrow a phrase, the “fiscally responsible” thing to do.
Americans didn’t always take access to elementary, middle and high school for granted. We had to decide basic schooling was something we valued. And so we added it to the list of benefits enjoyed by American citizens. Public education as we know it today was born.
I’d say we’re standing at a similar crossroads right now, but we’re not. We can’t talk about even higher education — “free” public college — yet because we’re still fighting about the importance of primary education. The appointment of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos as secretary of education — who came into her role with zero experience in school governance — is corporate America spitting in the face of anybody who values the quality and integrity of public education. And for many, many Americans, public education is the only option available.
Oh, and by the way, we used to have tuition-free public colleges in America. They went away as a national priority after the Nixon administration created the Student Loan Marketing Association in 1972.
In America, the “two sides” may not be who you think they are. One side is corporate interests. The other is the real needs of real people.
So how do we elect representatives who serve the latter instead of the former? Turns out it’s pretty easy: Ban private campaign donations from corporations and all other private interests, and run elections off the public treasury. America needs to institute publicly funded elections today if we want to be taken seriously as a real, grown-up democracy tomorrow.
Yes, it is possible to spend money on spreading the ideal of equality. No, it has nothing to do with selling weapons across the world and engaging in endless “democracy-building” conflicts.
Under far more reasonable and tolerant administrations than this one, Americans have enjoyed the presence and benefit of nonprofits that actively promote equal housing and hiring practices, lobby for minority rights and march to stop the democracy-ending practice of gerrymandering voting districts.
Under the current leadership, we suddenly can’t find the money to support pro-social groups like these anymore. These leaders aren’t just ignorant of the zeitgeist — they’re fighting for a set of values straight out of medieval times.
And that brings us back to Trump’s folly — the wall on the border with Mexico — which feels like an attack on the very idea of unity. Rather few people cross borders in a permanent way unless they really want or need to — and that means refugees, immigrants and other asylum-seekers who just want a better life need our help, rather than our scorn. Consider for a moment what would happen to our gifted minds and pools of talent if we spent our money uplifting people in desperate need, instead of actively shunning them.
If nothing else, self-interest reigns as it always does: It’s well-documented that immigrants are actually good for a country’s pocketbook. If the moral angle won’t sway us, there’s always the almighty dollar to fall back on.