Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It 's That Social Contract Thing

Repub Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma opposed aid, which he called a "slush fund," to mitigate the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  However, he said on MSNBC this morning, that

was totally different.  They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there, they were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.

Nope, can't have that- roads people can drive on, houses with roofs, and other luxuries.  Still, this attitude marks Inhofe, perhaps his chamber's foremost climate change denier, the more progressive and humane Oklahoma Senator.   Coburn spokesman Tom Hart has notified Politico in an e-mail "He'll ask his colleagues to help Oklahoma by setting priorities and sacrificing less vital areas of the budget."

Luckily, there is a third option, somewhere between the double standard of James Inhofe and the ruthless dogmatism of Tom Coburn.  Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island responded on the Senate floor to Inhofe by declaring (hat tip to Charles Pierce)

So, you may have a question for me. Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I'll tell you why. We're stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn't just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we're in this together.

Rush Limbaugh, as expected, missed an important point today when he remarked "Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island senator, got on an anti-Republican rant over global warming five minutes after the tornado hit."

Whitehouse, unlike the senior Senator from Oklahoma who opposes aiding his own citizens unless he can make others suffer at the same time, wasn't talking only about climate change.  He was speaking of us, a concept Limbaugh, Inhofe and Coburn (both of whom opposed Hurricane Sandy relief aid), and some other Republicans are unable to grasp.  It is about an assumption of responsibility, about our responsibility for us as a community, us rather than I or my.

It is an idea as old as the founding of the Republic, the notion of a United States of America, and a motivating force behind enactment of Social Security.   Wage earners of today take care (however inadequately) of the elderly, who helped raise them.  Later, these wage earners in their declining years, will be helped by that day's wage earners.   Pay it forward.  And on and on.

The same spirit lives today in politicians like Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren, the latter who, upon announcing a proposal to require banks to offer students the same loan rates as banks get from the federal government, noted  "in effect, the American taxpayer is investing in those banks.  We should make the same kind of investment in our young people who are trying to get an education. Lend them the money and make them to pay it back, but give our kids a break on the interest they pay. Let’s bank on students."  And in the same vein when last autumn she reminded us

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along. 

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