Friday, March 13, 2009


The Center for American Progress on March 11 posted on its website an "Interactive Quiz: How Progressive Are You?" On each question, there is a continuum of responses from 0 to 10 with 10 sometimes being the most progressive/liberal and sometimes the most conservative. Overall, the quiz is very impressive with numerous questions clear, unambiguous, and accurately separating liberals from conservatives. From my perspective, they include eighteen questions: numbers 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, 23, 16, 27, 28, 29, 32, 34, 35, and 36.

Far fewer were the poorly worded or misleading questions. They include the following:

16. Healthy economic growth requires eliminating budget deficits, which discourage private investment and raise interest rates.

Most progressives/liberals believe that is the case most of the time, and advocated lowering the budget deficit especially during the Reagan and Bush 41 regimes when the deficit ballooned because the president was intent on lowering taxes on the wealthy, thereby exploding the debt. A corollary benefit to conservative Republicans: it forced responsible liberal Democrats, concerned about the impact on economic growth of a buorgeoning debt, to rethink their commitment to using government to assist the least fortunate. However, given a severe recession, as the nation is undergoing now, most progressives/liberals recognize that in the absence of private spending, public (government) spending is necessary to jump start the economy. As would responsible conservative Republicans, if they could be found.

17. African Americans and other minority groups still lack the same opportunities as whites in our country.

Even most conservatives would agree with this. However, they would would find that such practices as affirmative action have the effect of mitigating, if not negating, this discrepancy. And as to "other minority groups:" how would one evaluate the impact of affirmative action in California's public university system upon the Asian-American community, disproportionately represented therein?

21. Our country has gone too far in mixing politics and religion and forcing religious values on people.

I'm not sure what "our country" refers to: government? religious leaders? the American people? And in what sense are religious values being "forced" on people?

24. The primary responsibility of corporations is to produce profits and returns for their shareholders, not to improve society.

I have to find that guy or gal who believes that a corporation not only should improve society, but be willing to operate at a loss to do so.

31. Cultural institutions, the arts, and public broadcasting play an important role in our society and should receive government support.

Certainly, there are conservatives, especially right-brained ones, who are hostile to public broadcasting but love the arts and support more government funding for them. And there are individuals who strongly support public broadcasting but have major doubts about the wisom of taxpayers subsidizing the arts. Like me.

33. Changes in the traditional American family have harmed our society.

What changes? And harmed- or helped- in what way? There has been a wide array of changes to American society. Respondents, I presume, are supposed to react to question #33 on the basis of their gut instinct. But haven't some of the changes- such as the growing involvement of women in the workforce- also had an (positive, negative) economic impact on American society? This is a big, big question with a lot of ramifications.

37. America has taken too large a role in solving the world's problems and should focus more at home.

If the first thought is Iraq, progressives/liberals generally will say yes; conservatives, no. But if the thought is humanitarian assistance (and maybe foreign aid in general), the responses would be reversed. And most progressives/(#27) liberals, as another question (#27) suggests, are gratified that our nation now has a president interested in the world, its needs, and its sentiments.

38. Religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice, and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights.

Sure, most liberals would leap to support this proposition, and most conservatives would strongly oppose it. Still, there are those who believe that the major focus of religious faith should be on the relationship between god and man and other traditional aspects of religious beliefs.

And my own favorite question? #9, "rich people like to believe they have made it on their own, but in reality society has contributed greatly to their wealth." Coursing through the programs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other conservative talk show hosts is the theme that all wealthy individuals have gotten there completely by their own skill and hard work, with government (and consumers) either having played no role or actually impeding them. It's hard to determine whether these ideologues are extraordinarily naive or attempting to con their audiences, but one of the few benefits of the current economic crisis is that increasingly more people are seeing through this brazen distortion of reality.

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