Can’t march to 2012 in shoes from ’64

We all have them, those old, comfortable walking shoes that our feet know and love so well. If you lead with the left, you know you have a pair of moccasins or desert boots somewhere that are like a soft glove, perfect for a protest, gifted with gummy gumption necessary to pound the pavement for PIRG. All the while, the effort was for the benefit of others, those who could not defend themselves at the ballot box, feed themselves from the grocery, or keep themselves out of trouble on the street.

All that hard work paid off for America. Laws were passed enforcing civil rights, regulating polluters and providing medical access to veterans and the needy.

That’s great, but guess what? The movements to defend civil liberties, feed the hungry and rock the vote have evolved, and you haven’t kept up.  Your feet prefer new shoes now; even your Chuck McCann’s are retro.  You may still wear Merrells, or even BoBo‘d yourself into some fancy flip-flops, but you have to put your kids through school and care for your aging parents (or their estates), and you’ve counted on your elected government officials to be caretakers of the principles you cared so much about when you were younger.

Newsflash: it didn’t happen! While you were being responsible creating your life, Reagan and his worshipers were busy drying out the soil you fertilized around the roots of the Roosevelt’s New Deal. One can see how the conversation revolving around Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) embattled Medicare plan (which was just defeated in the Senate with the help of five Republicans) may cause you to take your beat up, old shoes out of the mothballs, smile as you try them on and go “Ahhhhh, all is well,” especially after the Democratic startling victory in New York’s 26th Congressional district last night.

But it’s not that simple.

If the point of Social Security, Medicare and other programs is to help others, then we cannot look at the Medicare argument in NY26 as the means  to regain the majority;  we have to look at it as a call to do what we can to retain this assistance. “You shouldn’t draw the conclusion that the New York race means that nobody can do anything to slow the rate of Medicare costs,” former President Bill Clinton told a group of budget wonks Wednesday morning, according to the New York Times. “You should draw the conclusion that the people made a judgment that the proposal in the Republican budget is not the right one,” he clarified.

Finding the right proposal will be impossible to do without some ideological repositioning. Tax increases are one answer – especially by revoking the Bush tax cut extensions on the upper two percent. But the House passed, GOP/Ryan budget allows for no tax increases, and you can bet that a revamped bill will allow for no taxes without spending cuts.

If we want this to go forward, that is, the ability for government to provide assistance to those who need it the most, then we have to come up with a plan that does not cast these programs as things that are necessary for those unwilling to help themselves. For too long, those who benefit from entitlement programs have been demonized as social parasites, and even as those who vigorously defend those programs are called “demagogues” by GOP stars like Congressman Ryan.

It’s that kind of rhetoric that makes your mind glaze over, so you forget all about your marching shoes. Before you go totally blank, though, make a note to yourself that you owe something to your future, and find your way to a store to get some new marching shoes on your feet. I think they still make them in your size.


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