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Is the Democratic Party Nicer Than Republican Party?

Over and over again the attitudes of the US Republican party shock me. I just don’t get how they can even propose some of their policies, let alone enact them. From the point of view of the majority of the First World, the Republican party is simply cruel.

It doesn’t matter what area of policy we’re talking about; selfishness and greed seem to be the order of the day. Furthermore, this is the party that supposedly prides itself on its conservative morality, family values, and adherence Christian religious beliefs.

However, the area on which the Republican party prides itself the most is economic management. Their message is always that if you want to do well financially, you should vote for them. But again and again they make policy decisions that are not only deleterious to the US economy, but cruel or unfair to a sizable proportion of the population. Furthermore, almost always, a fairer policy would be better for the economy.

However, that fairer policy would not line the pockets of Republican politicians so well.

 

Healthcare

The most obvious area where this applies is healthcare. Recently, I wrote at length about what I see as the failures of healthcare policy in the US. In ‘The Benefits of a Single-Payer System‘ I outlined, among other things, the multiple economic benefits of a such a system.

The Democratic party has been trying to reform the US healthcare system so that the vulnerable don’t miss out for decades. It was one of the things Hillary Clinton was trying to do during her husband’s administration in the 1990s.

However, the proposal to establish a single-payer system in the US originally came from the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. They were proposing a single-payer system a decade before so-called Hillarycare.

There was opposition within conservative circles because many didn’t think the government should be taking that type of role. But they had a good reason for suggesting it – it would save money.

Conservative Think-Tank Says Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan Saves Money

During the 2016 election campaign, another conservative think tank did an analysis of the Bernie Sanders healthcare-for-all plan. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University calculated that the Sanders plan would cost US$32.6 trillion over ten years. The Republicans said paying for it would require more than a doubling of taxes.

Cartoon: Koch Brothers attempt to scare USians with cost of BernieCare

But what they never said was that this was a more than US$2 trillion saving over what the US is currently paying in healthcare.

It was Sanders himself who made the claim of the saving, so Politifact did an analysis. They rate the claim only half true despite Sanders’ use of Mercatus’ own figures. They say there is no way of knowing what the actual result would be.

I would argue we actually have a pretty good idea. You just have to look at every other OECD country to see that the US is paying way over the odds for healthcare despite not covering everybody like other countries do. I suspect the savings would actually be higher than in the Mercatus study.

Graphic: Healthcare cost per capita US vs Rest of World

In my opinion, the reason the Republicans don’t want to change is they care more about what health insurance companies donate to their political campaigns than the millions who are suffering.

Statistics show that even Republican voters trust the Democratic party more on healthcare. I don’t think there can be any doubt that healthcare is likely to be a major issue in the 2020 elections. In my opinion, Republicans simply don’t want voters finding out how they’re currently profiting off the misery of some of their fellow USians.

 

Drug Costs

Bizarro Cartoon: Pharmacist to customer: "Your money or your life."A subset of healthcare, drug costs is a case in point. This has been in the news in the US a lot recently. The crunch came when even middle-class people were suffering. During the government shutdown, there were workers who could no longer afford their insulin, for example, and so were rationing it at the risk of their lives.

(In New Zealand, this is an unimaginable situation. The most anyone pays for insulin is $20 per year. Many pay nothing. I’m sure those from other countries with single-payer systems have similar circumstances.)

As a result, the Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee is doing an investigation into drug costs. On Monday (US time) we heard that Republicans are actually telling drug companies not to cooperate with the investigation.

Buzzfeed reports:

 In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.

Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigation into how the industry sets prescription drug prices.

In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.

They write that Cummings is seeking sensitive information “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.” They then accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” says the letter. The authors say they “feel obliged to alert” the drug companies of Cummings’ actions.

Of course, accusing Congressman Cummings of such a dishonourable move is in itself downright insulting. On top of that, you have to wonder what the motives of the Republicans are for this move.

Cartoon: Congress sucking pig of health insurance industry

Democratic Response

On Tuesday (US time), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) made a response to the Republican move on MSNBC. Raw Story reports her comments from ‘All in With Chris Hayes’.

“The American people deserve to have lower drug prices,” said Speier. “The president even said so. And so two of my Republican colleauges [sic], rather than being on the side of their constituents trying to bring down the cost of drugs, are writing kiss-letters to the pharmaceutical companies telling them to be aware of what the chairman, Mr. Cummings is doing trying to lower prices. It really shows you where the two parties are in terms of drug pricing.”

“Chairman Cummings has gone out of his way to show that he wants to cooperate,” added Speier, but “they are going for the jugular. They have no intention to work cooperatively with the chairman.”

Speier made clear the stakes of this congressional inquiry.

“Four of the top 10 [drugs] in America since 2011 have seen a price increase of 100 percent,” said Speier. “Type one diabetes insulin, again, 3-4-500 percent increases. Epipens have gone up 500 percent. So the drug manufacturers are taking advantage of the opportunity to raise prices because they fear there might be controls placed on the prices of drugs. It’s obscene … this is a ripoff of the American people.”

I can only agree with her.

 

Tax Changes

There is widespread agreement, even amongst Republicans, that the recent changes to US tax policy benefit the wealthy much more than the poor and middle class. The general consensus appears to be that 80% of the benefits from the Trump tax changes went to the top 5% of income earners. That includes, of course, himself and his family.

Whether or not you think that is fair appears to be a decision that relies on your party affiliation rather than your income. While only 21% of Democrats with an income over US$75,000 p.a. think it fair they get most of the benefits, 68% of Republicans in that income bracket are of that opinion.

More puzzling to me, a majority of Republicans on lower incomes also think it’s fair that the wealthy are benefiting more than they are.

Pew Research Center: Survey on Fairness of US Tax System

(Click graphic to go to source.)

I can’t help wondering if conservative religion plays a part in this. The idea that whether you do well or otherwise is because of God is deeply ingrained in some people. Suffering is seen as God’s will. Therefore, it’s God’s will that the wealthy are where they are.

When I was still a Christian I used to wonder what I’d done that made God want me to suffer so much. Those thoughts made everything else worse. When I realized there was no God, there was a lot less sadness in my life.

Pics of Trump supporters wearing absolutely deplorable t-shirts.

The Prosperity Gospel takes this to the extreme. A few years ago I made the (bad) decision to watch Creflo Dollar (just once!). He was telling his congregation that if they were following God’s laws and giving 10% to his church and they still weren’t prospering, then they should look at how much they were giving the church. Was it really 10% of all their income? Was it 10% of their gross income or their net income? Because it should be 10% of their income before tax.

Cartoon: Religious Right acting in an un-Christian way re money and healthcare

Immigration Policy

The reaction of the Trump administration to what’s happening at the border with Mexico is an absolute disgrace. Not so long ago, Trump was ending his own deliberate policy of separating parents and their children. Now he’s bringing it back.

Worse, he’s implementing it in a way that will put any blame for negative results on vulnerable asylum seekers. They’re to be given two choices. One: stay with your kids and take your chances. Two: Separate from your kids and maybe you’ll go through the process more quickly.

Oh, and he’s trying to blame Obama too. I’ll let Stephen Colbert of ‘The Late Show’ settle that one:

 

On top of that, he forced his head of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, to resign. Her fault? Refusing to break the law.

In a visit to border security staff, Trump also told them to break the law.

Trump’s not replacing Nielsen at this stage. Instead, alt-righter, white supremacist, and White House advisor Stephen Miller is to be given responsibility for border security.

Very dark cartoon of Miller's new responsibilities.

This is another appalling situation as a result of electing Trump. But are Republicans saying anything in protest? Stupid question really. As long as Trump’s in the White House, they have power. They’re not giving that up for something like basic human decency.

Trump’s supporters are also excusing his actions. For example, his threat to deport those who were brought to the US illegally as children and babies by their parents and have known no home but the US, has the support of many in his base. “They committed a crime by coming here,” is their mantra. The fact they had no choice in the matter seems not to concern the cult.

 

Gun Safety

It’s because of the Republican party and the close financial relationship they have with the NRA that thousands of USians die needlessly every year. In a country that’s obviously crying out for better control of guns and who can get hold of them, the Republicans go out of their way to thwart any attempt at reform.

USians die as a result of guns while politicians say things like, “Gun control regulations don’t work.” I’d like to know why they think that when they clearly work in the rest of the world?

Gun murders in US versus similarly developed countries

Four weeks ago, we had a gun massacre in New Zealand. To the shock and horror of most New Zealanders, the murderer was able to obtain the guns he used legally. A couple of days ago, changes to our laws were passed so that would no longer be possible.

In addition, magazines that hold more than ten rounds, and all equipment that could modify a gun into an automatic or semi-automatic, is also now illegal. I note that when a mass murderer made use of a bump-stock to make his gun fire like a semi-automatic in the US, lawmakers were unable to pass legislation to do the same because of (mainly) Republican opposition.

In order to try and ensure maximum compliance with the new law, the government is instituting a buy-back scheme. People can register their guns on-line with the NZ Police already, and they will contact them to arrange to collect them. This will cost many millions even in a country as small as ours. However, few are complaining; some things are more important than someone’s right to own an automatic or semi-automatic killing machine.

US political cartoonists have been making the above points for years. My collection of such cartoons on the topic is in the hundreds. There are dozens just about the relationship between the Republican party and the NRA. This is only a small selection of them:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Environmental Policy

Pew: Partisan Divide on Global WarmingOne of the most important of the Republican party’s failures to  care for the people they govern is in the area of Environmental policy. The US Republican party is the only major political party in the developed world that denies the reality of global warming.

Democratic President Obama brought the US into line with the rest of the world. It was his actions that enabled the international agreement that led to the signing of the Paris Climate Accord. Most USians now recognize that Global Warming is a real thing, and something needs to be done about it urgently.

However, perhaps taking a cue from their political leaders, a majority of Republicans still need convincing. Going back two decades, there is plenty of evidence that senior Republican politicians used to be on board that global warming was a reality. Their change of heart appears to have come about as a result of money changing hands.

The Trump administration has been systematically reversing all of the work done by the Obama administration to try and reverse global warming. It is clear that this is being done because of the lobbying of the fossil fuel industry. Money is changing hands, whether personally, or as donations to political campaigns.

I wrote about Trump’s appalling first head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt over a year ago. His corruption forced him from office after just sixteen months. The current head, Andrew Wheeler, is still officially only acting in that position, but he’s been nominated. He’s a former lobbyist for the coal industry. Surprise, surprise.

 

Other Examples

There are obviously plenty of other areas I could go into. The appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary was one of Trump’s more appalling moves. I wrote about it at the time, and her actions have shown that the education of children is not her primary motive.

As an example, one of the policies she is pushing is tax breaks for those who donate to private schools. This at a time when public schools are crying our for more funding.

Cartoon: Republican agenda for private and religious schools

There isn’t a policy area in the modern Republican party that doesn’t appear to suffer the taint of money, greed, religion (which is illegal under the constitution), Trump, or a combination of the four.

I didn’t agree with the late Republican senator John McCain on a lot, but his death last year appears to have set the party free from any pretence at morality.

The party of morality couldn’t get any more immoral if it tried.

Pic of protest sign: I'm a better Christian than any Trump supporter and I'm an atheist


 

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50 Responses to “Is the Democratic Party Nicer Than Republican Party?”

  1. Historian says:

    Heather, I appreciate the time you took to write this excellent analysis. The Republican Party consists primarily of the business interests, white religious conservatives, and white cultural conservatives. Members of the latter two groups overlap greatly.

    The last decade of the 19th century was characterized by the origins of the differing views of the party regarding governmental regulation of the economy. The Republicans evolved into the party of “free markets” and limited government regulation. The Democrats began to approve of this role of government. This Republican evolution was not straight forward. The Republican president Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) did promote government regulation, but he was somewhat of an anomaly in Republican Party ideology. The administration of Theodore’s cousin, Franklin (1933-1945) marked the emergence of the parties as we know them today: The Republicans anti-regulation and anti-labor (unions) while the Democrats supporting these. It must be clear that the Democrats are in no way socialist or anti-capitalist. They are as much capitalists as Republicans. They differ in their conceptions of how best a capitalist society can thrive. Indeed, since FDR’s New Deal or perhaps earlier, the American left has argued that there are no fundamental differences between the parties since they are both pro-capitalism. One need only visit far left websites to learn these arguments. The history of the American far left has been one of disappointment. After all these years, capitalism in the U.S. is as strong as ever. Despite the emergence of the “democratic socialists,” the real debate is what kind of capitalism the country should happen. This will not change even if Bernie Sanders should win the presidency.

    The Republican Party since its founding in the 1850s was the party of white Protestantism. Its opposition to slavery was to a large degree religiously based. The Democratic Party at the time was more tolerant of Catholics. Indeed, Republicans were leery of immigration because many of the migrants were non-Protestants. Today, white religious Protestants and Catholics have called a truce in their theological differences to ally against a common enemy: those who have challenged their common, core Christian beliefs. The abortion issue is perhaps the most prominent. The increase in the religious “nones” have them very frightened. It is no wonder that the religious leaders have tried (largely successfully) to whip their flocks into states of panic, with the Republican Party as their savior.

    The cultural conservatives overlap to a great extent with the religious conservatives. Cultural conservatives fear cultural change due to the changing demographics of the country. The Republican Party stokes these fears as it has abandoned its roots as being pro-African-American and morphed into a party that welcomes racists (although, certainly, not all its members are racists). Cultural conservatives, most of whom are far from rich, do not oppose the economic policies of the party, despite getting screwed by them, because resistance to change is much more important to them than economic policies. One thing that cultural conservatives profess is that only the “deserving” should receive government largess. They perceive that government programs seem to be aimed at helping welfare cheats and the lazy. For them, such people deserve no government help and if they should receive help such as in the form of Obamacare or unemployment insurance, well, they deserve it. The cognitive dissonance must be great. Of course, the economic conservatives cheer them on.

    My above analysis is by necessity, somewhat simplistic. After, all thousands of books have been written on these topics. But, I hope to have captured the essence of the Republican Party today – one dominated by the fear of losing power due to their diminishing numbers.

    • Thanks for that analysis. Although an historian myself, my knowledge of US history is pretty limited so it’s really interesting to hear your take. (My main focus was British and European medieval history.)

      I’m worried for US women about how the abortion battle is going right now. Red states are introducing laws that are clearly in opposition to Roe v Wade and the other cases that cement a woman’s right to choose. Then the battle against these laws is being fought in the courts. Eventually, one is going to make it to the Supreme Court where the appointment of Kavanaugh means women could lose their rights in the whole country. e.g. Ohio has just introduced a foetal heartbeat law. A foetal heartbeat can be detected at six weeks, which is obviously before many, if not most, women even know they’re pregnant. There are several others. It is clear that most USians (more than 70%) actually want to retain Roe v Wade, even if they’re against abortion personally. However, the religious conservatives on the court won’t care about that.

  2. Linda Calhoun says:

    “Suffering is seen as God’s will.”

    Mean people enjoy their meanness immensely. If you’re not a mean person, you tend to see this as dysfunctional. But, mean people do not see themselves as dysfunctional at all.

    The reason that Christianity attracts mean people is that it gives them a means of never having to confront their own meanness. It’s LOVE, donchaknow? If people suffer, it will bring them to Jebus, and then they’ll have eternal life. So, wanting them to suffer is actually kindness.

    So, now, not only do they get to be as cruel as they want, and get the buzz from that, they never have to confront their own sadism, or acknowledge to themselves who they really are.

    The idea that bad behavior is unChristian is nonsense. It is VERY Christian. They go to church on Sunday and get forgiven so that they then have permission to do whatever they want the rest of the time. OTHER people have to be personally responsible, but each of them believes that s/he is forgiven.

    Yech.

    L

  3. Randall Schenck says:

    So if I understand your post correctly, you are not a big fan of the republicans. I concur in total and you have covered most of the current far right attitude we have in this Trump republican club or cult. In our history of this party it is almost impossible to believe but it started out much different in the beginning. Abe Lincoln came to the republican party as many did, from the Whig party, mostly due to slavery and the need to consolidate their power. Nearly everything about that original party is now upside down and Lincoln would not recognize.

    I am currently reading a new book by Michael Tomasky, If We Can Keep It, How the republic collapsed and how it might be saved. He reviews and reminds us of our political past and particularly our economics. One note of importance in looking at how we got here is to review what happened in the 70s because that is when things begin to come unglued. Inflation was nearly out of control, running 5.7% in 1970 and 10.3 in 1981. So for 12 years it was crushing. At the same time wages went nowhere. Neither party took steps to correct this economic disaster that just kept getting worse with huge inequality in this country. Blame both parties for this.

    The answer to lousy economics is not simply to replace it with social programs but you must do some or you lose everything. That is what the republicans want to do – give it all to the richest and the rest of us…too bad. Remember, the democrats gave us social security and medicare, two of the best social programs we have. But today, that is not enough and much more must be done – universal health care being first. We will never save this country if we do not do this. If we do not get Trump and the republicans out of there soon, nothing will matter and it will be too late.

    • I admit I got a bit carried away! I felt a need to vent, and that is, after all, one of the reasons I started this website.

      Just after I posted this, I heard that Trump, Stephen Miller, et al, wanted to bus asylum seekers to the districts of their political opponents (Pelosi was one they named) and were only stopped because it’s illegal. Absolutely outrageous. Again. Over and over I think Trump can’t surprise me with how low he’ll go, and then he does. (How many times have I said that now?)

      Even the fact that Trump opposes sanctuary cities is due to his inability to properly understand the policy and think deeply on the topic. And, of course, the Brown Menace (the phrase Chris Cuomo uses to describe Trump’s characterization of immigrants etc that come via the southern border) is useful for scaring people into voting for him.

  4. Paul Topping says:

    Good analysis. After reading articles like this, my mind turns to sadness that Dems can’t make more headway against the Selfish Rich Party (Republicans). Most voters are not rich and should be able to see how bad their policies are for the country and, perhaps more importantly, for themselves. The Republicans have been much better than the Dems at offering a vision that aligns with many voters wishes, hopes, and fears. Dems are often put in the position of having to explode their lies and that is an intrinsically negative message. Dems message needs to stress what good government can do. The most recent example is eliminating the health insurance industry’s ability to invoke pre-existing conditions. They need to say “we built that” more often.

    • I’m of the opinion that basic economics should be taught at high school as a compulsory subject. I’m not sure if it’s taught in high school in the US or not. Perhaps someone can enlighten me? You can take is as an option here, but it’s not one that a lot take. A big part of the problem is people just don’t understand what’s wrong with the economic policies of the modern Republican party. They see that the economy is currently doing okay, and think that’s because of Trump. They don’t realize the basics were put in place by Obama, and that if the Trump tax cuts gave more to low and middle income people and less to the top five percent, the economy would be doing a lot better. It’s actually doing well in spite of Trump, not because of him.

  5. Lee Knuth says:

    Thanks for that compilation of political cartoons. Our cartoonists get it right but our legislators don’t. It’s getting even worse on women’s reproductive rights when a Texas legislator calls for the death penalty for an abortion and the Ohio governor signs a bill legislating abortion is illegal after a heartbeat is detected. The GOP has been pandering to the Evangelicals for years to the detriment of everyone else. Your article certainly should be read by all those who think Trump and the GOP are friends of the middle class.

    • Thanks Lee. You have a lot of fantastic political and editorial cartoonists there and I’m glad to be able to use some of their work.

      I just mentioned that Ohio bill in the reply to another comment before I saw yours. I find it really worrying what the religious right are trying to do re a woman’s right to choose.

  6. Curtis says:

    You are a leftist and think that leftist policies are better. That’s fine. However, instead of stereotyping and vilifying, you might actual trying empathy and understanding their reasoning. According to you half of Americans are “simply cruel” and are motivated by “selfishness and greed.”

    I will give just one example of your mischaracterization of motives – Devos and schools.

    The US school policies have not helped the poor even though we have tripled spending over past 50 years. DeVos spent her money and time to for charter schools in Detroit. She tried to improve schools for poor kids. We can argue about the effectiveness but her motive was good. For you to say she does want to educate kids is beyond absurd.

    Charter schools are a very personal issue for me. When my oldest child was four, I lived in area with horrible schools. Because I am upper middle class, I was able to move to a place with good schools before he entered kindergarten. Our best friends could afford to do the same. However, our poorer neighbors could not and were stuck with bad schools. I believe that poor people should be able to choose their schools as well. You may disagree with my solution but do not question my motive.

    When you demonize people instead of debating them, you lose your credibility.

  7. Mark R. says:

    I guess we can come out and say that the Republican party is evil. I can’t really think of a better word to describe the party. What’s even more frustrating than the party leaders though is the party followers. Talk about millions of useful idiots. This country has so much potential to do good in the world and for its own citizens; every policy and ideology the Republican party enacts and supports is antithetical to progress, life and liberty. Thanks for taking the time to illustrate the Republican party’s lack of human decency and its inherent evil.

    One typo:
    The Trump administration has been systematically reversing all of the work done by the Trump administration to try and reverse global warming.
    What’s funny about the typo is in the world of Trump, something like the absurdity of this sentence can actually be a reality.

  8. Colin McLachlan says:

    Excellent analysis as usual, Heather.

    You might want to check this sentence for a typo: “The Trump administration has been systematically reversing all of the work done by the Trump administration to try and reverse global warming”.

    It’s actually quite depressing to see it all set out so clearly. The US democratic system is seriously flawed. Our system in the UK is far from perfect (Proportional Representation, anyone?), but it is far from the abuse engendered by the US system. You are so lucky to live in NZ (we’ll be back!).

    • Thanks Colin. It was lovely to meet you when you came here.

      As I’m sure you know, we used to have the same system as you except no House of Lords. The unfairness of it when things were happening like a party getting 15% of the votes but no seats in parliament was what prompted the change. It took a while because the bigger parties didn’t want to give up their grip on power, but thankfully we got there in the end. It’s not perfect, bit it’s a helluva a lot better than before.

      We have this law about the provision of unbiased information regarding referenda by our Electoral Commission. There are people who push their agenda of course, but because the facts are also out there from a trusted source, it’s difficult for them (the Nigel Farages of the world) to get away with too much.

  9. Colin McLachlan says:

    I commented before refreshing, and would just like to say that I appreciate all the comments above mine.

  10. Curtis says:

    My last comment disappeared so I assume this one will as well. If it was a technical glitch, I apologize.

    My comment called out Heather’s name calling – “the Republican party is simply cruel” and “selfishness and greed.” I defended DeVos’s motives and said Heather should try using sympathy and understanding. Unlike Heather, I neither called her names nor imputed her motives because I strive for reasoned discussion. I guess Heather prefers insults.

    It’s her soapbox and I have no right to comment. Oh well, another place to avoid.

    • Mark R. says:

      Too bad your original comment didn’t show. I would have loved to read someone’s defense of the Republican Party. Heather laid out pretty clearly that your party is cruel, selfish and greedy (I would add craven)- look at the head of your party. Trump is the embodiment of cruelty, selfishness and greed; indeed, he is imbued with those traits. Please come back and try to counter anything Heather revealed about the GOP. Of course you have a right to comment, if you didn’t, Heather wouldn’t allow a comment field in first place.

    • Your comment was stuck in pending approval. I don’t know why. As you can see I’ve approved it now. Due to the time difference, I’m in bed when most of you start looking at this, so it can take a while for me to release comments.

      I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me. You’re right that I did get a bit carried away with some of my verbiage in this post. It’s something I usually avoid. However, I’ve been getting increasingly angry at some of the things I’ve seen, and the main reason I started this website was to vent. In the real world I rarely get to talk about this stuff and lead a pretty isolated life, so this was my solution. I’m not saying that looking for sympathy, just to explain the need.

      Anyway, feel free to keep disagreeing with my whenever you wish, as long as you stick to the topic and comments guidelines.

  11. GravelInspector-Aidan says:

    From the point of view of the majority of the First World, the Republican party is simply cruel.

    And the reason for actually believing something different is …
    They’re either cruel and mind-bogglingly stupid, or cruel and mind-bogglingly sadistic.
    I wonder … what is it about the gun-death statistics that gets Japan down to a score of zero/100k/year. That would mean, for the year in question fewer than 60 deaths per year. Is that credible? I suspect that the UK’s suicide-by-gun rate alone is higher than that, so flat out gun ownership must be a lot lower than the UK.

    • It’s almost impossible to get a licence to own a gun in Japan. The process is really, really, really onerous. There’s a huge amount of paperwork, lots of checks (medical, physical, financial, criminal, etc.) and more besides.

  12. Randall Schenck says:

    I attempted to put this as a reply to the Curtis comments. Sticking up for DeVos or any of Trump’s Cabinet is some job. She is typical and standard, with no qualifications for the job and does not even have a background in education. Never attended a public school in her life. Yes she is just perfect. She can float around in her million dollar yacht and talk about funds for everything but public school. She is a pathetic human being and you can just ask any teacher.

    • nicky says:

      Maybe not strictly relevant, but did not the De Vos family get filthy rich by a kind of pyramid scheme selling highly overpriced household products and snake oil, Amway? Barely distinguishable from a real scam, I’d say.

  13. Curtis says:

    There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone’s policies and questioning their motives with childish names.

    Heather’s comments that “the Republican party is simply cruel” and decrying Republicans as “selfishness and greed” are simply inaccurate and not useful for debate. I am a registered Democrat and I dislike Trump more than any president of my lifetime but most Republicans (and Democrats and Communists and Blacks and Whites and Men and Women etc.) are good people.

    As for defending Trump’s cabinet, I defended DeVos’s motivation. Heather said “the education of children is not {Devos’s] primary motive.” DeVos spent millions of dollar and lots of her time on charter schools in Detroit. You can debate whether she succeeded or not but she obviously believed that her charter schools could be a model for a way to reform education. You or I can find fault in many of her actions but that is not my point. She cares about education and made an attempt to improve for many poor children.

    Because of my background, school choice is a passion of mine and which is why I like DeVos. When my son was 4, I lived in a place with terrible schools. Because I am upper middle class, I was able to move to a place with good schools. My best friends did the same. My poorer neighbors were stuck with schools that failed to educate their children. I believe that school choice could have helped them. Perhaps I am wrong but my motives are good as are my friend who disagree with me.

    • My opinion is that there should be better investment in public schools to improve them. That is where most kids go to school. Charter and other private schools are very difficult to regulate. I admit there are many that do a great job, but there are even more that don’t.

      I’m not saying that the NZ model re schools is the best, because it’s not, but parents can rely on a good public school wherever they live. Schools in poorer areas, where crime is higher, that have more high needs students (including kids with a parent in prison, for example) get more funding. In the US, public schools in wealthy areas get more funding. I personally think that’s an appalling situation.

  14. Paul Topping says:

    It is nice that you were able to solve your problem by moving. Others (the poor and lower middle class) are not so lucky. My biggest problem with charter schools, and most Republican positions, is that it favors the rich over the poor. Public school was always the great equalizer. Obviously it doesn’t make everything equal between rich and poor but it sure helps. It is yet another example of why I think of the Republican party as the Party of the Selfish. DeVos seems to be motivated this way. She’s decided that her rich friends’ kids should receive a good education regardless (or at the expense of) other kids.

  15. Randall Schenck says:

    The idea that backing charter schools is good for education in this country is purely a republican idea or misguided democrats. All you are saying is, to hell with public school we want our kiddies to go to private. And by the way we don’t want our taxes going to public school. It is the same as allowing the religious schools to get public help. Either you are for the better funding and support of public school or you are not. This administration is not. By the way, one of the current democrats running has put forward this idea – give all teachers in public school approx. $13,000 pay raise. Paid for by the federal govt. That is one of the better ideas I have hear – A living wage for the most important people in our children’s lives. What do you suppose DeVos has to say about that one. Oh, yes, she is too busy trying to take money away from the special Olympics.

  16. Paul Topping says:

    Although born in England, I went to grade school in the 60s in the US. We were taught a little economics but not much. I was required to take Political Science 101 in college which I’m sure had a little. As I recall, none of it was directly related to how to evaluate proposed public policies with respect to their economics. I think it would help immensely to our democracy if kids got a more practical set of lessons. Besides public policy, it should include balancing a checkbook, how to buy products online, how to do internet searches, how to not fall prey to scammers, why one should worry about security, etc.

    • Thanks for that, and I agree about those new challenges that kids face these days. I would add how to evaluate whether a source is a reliable one. I think our older high school kids get some education on that, but I don’t know if it’s consistent or how good it is. The rise in things like the anti-vaxxer and anti=fluoride movements is down to people believing pseudoscience on the internet.

      I saw a really bizarre thing on CNN (from C-Span) the other day where a Republican senator or congressman was attacking John Kerry for pseudoscience because his degree was in Political Science. It was jaw-dropping.

  17. nicky says:

    These replies do not always appear to get to the right place. In response to Curtis and Heather:
    Charter schools indeed appear to be private schools using public funds that should be used to improve public schools.
    John Oliver has a nice take:

  18. Randall Schenck says:

    To Nicky. Thanks for that Video on the Charters. Makes the point much better than I do.

  19. nicky says:

    Again the reply button does not work properly.
    What I fail to understand is that the adults in the room (from both parties) cannot work out a federal compromise on abortion, along the lines of most civilised countries. The, what shall we call it, incremental model?
    Say, abortion on demand up to (eg) 12 weeks, after that for psychological and socio-economic factors (eg up to 18 weeks) and we could add (again eg) another 2-3- weeks for rape and incest (which often is rape) and after that only for severe malformation of the foetus* or the woman’s (maybe by then we could say the mother’s?) health. Is that so difficult? I think that only the extremist fringe on either side would oppose that. My point being is that even those that are not opposed to abortion per se, shrink at a 28 weeks one. That foetus really is already a little human in several ways, not a blob of cells anymore.
    Note, I have been doing abortions in a previous life, because I think that women should have control over their own bodies and life, and nobody else was willing to do them. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of late abortions (say after 20 weeks). Need I stress here that late abortions are extremely rare? I think the ‘pro-choice camp’ would give up very little there.
    An anecdotal detail: in that previous life referred to above, I had two 11 year olds (yes, 11 you read that correctly) for abortion. One we could do, but the other one (raped by her own uncle of 36) was well over 20 weeks and had to give birth, according to SA law. This as an illustration that no system is perfect.
    * I’m with Singer and Jerry C. here that even a newborn, so deformed that has no chance of serious survival and is destined to basically only suffer, should be allowed to be euthanised.
    [And I do not want to -but still do- repeat the trope that ‘pro-lifers’ are not really against abortion. Not only are they first in line to demand one if their daughter is inconveniently pregnant or when they have impregnated their house help, but if you are serious about reducing the no of abortions you should be on the barricades for sexual education and availability of contraception. Which they are not. I suspect their main motive is to keep women ‘in their place’.]

    • Whenever I listen to conservative commentators on abortion on US TV they bring up some Democrat who is for late-term abortions as a reason to be against all abortion. They never mention just how rare late-term abortions are, or the reasons they are necessary. They always ask the question as if someone is approving the abortion of a healthy 38 week foetus “just because the woman has changed her mind”. In fact, when I’ve heard it properly explained why they’re sometime necessary, the person usually understands and changes their mind.

      The stats in the US are that there are more abortions in the Bible Belt than anywhere else. I suspect it’s for the reasons you’ve mentioned – the lack of sex education and access to contraception for teens. The reason I think you’re right is because in NZ there’s a direct correlation between the improvement of sex education and the availability of contraception and the reduction in the number of terminations.

      And that’s another problem with religious schools – even if sex education is mandated, the quality in those schools is usually appalling. I saw video of sex education in a Baptist Church in the South. It equated girls (but not boys) losing their virginity with picking up a used toothbrush from the street and using it. The only message was to say “No,” and pray to God for help with that. It also made the saying “No” part largely the girl’s responsibility. It went on, and on, and on, making sex into a dirty, unnatural act, and that anyone doing it should be filled with guilt and shame. I’m not sure how anyone could have a normal, healthy sex life after that kind of education. No wonder the Bible Belt also has the highest access rate to porn sites, especially ones that cater to fetishes.

      Religious conservatives also always talk about abortion as if women use it as a form of contraception. They’ll have anecdotal evidence of one woman, and use that to say all women are like that. Of course, the truth is it’s one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make. It’s the same way they handle things like social security benefits. They find one stoned surfer living off a benefit with no intention of ever finding a job, and use him to say there should be no social security.

  20. Linda Calhoun says:

    This is in reply to Curtis’ post above. I tried clicking on “Reply” but it didn’t bring me to the comment screen, so I’m not sure where it will show up.

    Heather’s “namecalling” aside, the mistake you make is taking your single, anecdotal experience and generalizing it to all charter schools.

    Charter schools have had decidedly mixed results. I have seen some studies showing that charter schools have generally worse outcomes than public schools. But, whether the same or worse, there are no studies that I know of showing that charter schools have BETTER results than public schools.

    I am not against the idea of charter schools per se, but what really bothers me is that the charter system has been set up to avoid any oversight. As a taxpayer, I don’t see why my tax money should go into schools that don’t have to document their results.

    As an example, we have two charter schools in the area I moved away from a decade ago. One is really good. I know several families who sent their kids there, and the parents and the kids all have good things to say about the experience.

    The other one is run by a bunch of fundies. A friend of mine taught science there for one semester, and was fired because she refused to teach creationism. She had no recourse, and really didn’t want to go back anyway, but we still own property in that county, so my tax money is going to fund a religious school. How do you justify that?

    Creationism isn’t science. It rejects the scientific method. In real science, all conclusions are provisional, and can be revised, expanded, or rejected based on new information. Creationism’s conclusions are set in stone. If information arises which contradicts it, the information is rejected, not the conclusion. So, scientific ignorance is being taught with MY TAX MONEY.

    Where’s the accountability?

    DeVos’ motives are not better education. She has a financial stake in charter schools, which she has not set aside during her tenure as Education Secretary. She’s whoring, just as they all are.

    When accountability is built into the system of charter education, come back to me and I might change my mind. Until then….

    L

    • Even if all charter schools were wonderful, it would still not make sense to invest in them at the expense of public schools. 90% of students go to public schools and there’s no way charter schools can take over from that. It’s not physically possible. There aren’t enough resources for that to happen. There are limited dollars to be spent on education, and they should be spent where they will do the most good. That’s clearly bringing those public schools that are failing up to scratch.

      When I hear that poorly-paid teachers are having to pay for supplies for their students, but there’s enough money to arm those same teachers, my blood boils.

      Kids are the future of the country, and there can be no better investment in the future. That includes improving the quality of teachers. The best people will not go into teaching unless they have a real vocation because they just can’t afford to. It appalls me that so many look down on teachers in the US, but that can be fixed by making it into a profession that attracts a better quality of person and getting rid of science teachers (and schools) that teach creationism.

  21. Randall Schenck says:

    Again, this is a reply to Linda, although it will not show that. A good part of the Charter School idea is the continued privatization of everything by the republican party that has been going on for years. Take all things operated by the government and privatize it. Bush even tried this in Iraq by none other that the brother of DeVos. Just look up Blackwater. But charter school is just another game to throw public school in the ditch and to bring religion into the school. Surprise Suprise. Now, I am away that some in the Obama Administration were sucked into the Charter school idea but they were also wrong.

    Privatization is nothing more than saying, there must be a profit in this for business. Just look at the for profit higher education schools that have been ripping people off.

  22. nicky says:

    He he, I see what you’re doing: referring yo the Trump Academy, ne?

  23. Paul Topping says:

    Yes, that exchange was between John Kerry and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky. Amazing. I doubt Massie seriously thought Political Science is a science. He was just being maximally disrespectful in the Trump style.

    https://youtu.be/8DSi2gzIkHM

  24. Randall Schenck says:

    This is maybe just a bit off the topic but it’s politics. I just heard the speech by Pete Buttigieg, announcing officially he is running for president. Must say, I think this guy is the real deal.

  25. Jenny Haniver says:

    This is another excellent post (and good cartoons). I have nothing material to add to the discussion but a lot to think about and learn from both the post and the readers’ comments.

  26. Linda Calhoun says:

    Reply button still not working.

    Heather, I agree with you about money in public schools, but I think that certain charter schools might have a place in the public system.

    Charter schools ARE public schools, in the sense that they are paid for with public money. Charter schools which have magnet type curricula, and which serve particular interest areas can be really beneficial to kids whose interests are strong in those areas. My friend who had the bad experience in the fundie school ended up in a science magnet charter. The school had two tracks, engineering and health sciences, which overlapped somewhat. The students were highly motivated. Schools like that, I think, have a place in the larger public system. The students in that school would have been bored to tears in a traditional high school. Why hold them back?

    I still think that accountability is needed. Groups shouldn’t be able to siphon off money and hide what they’re doing. And, I agree with you that putting more money into teachers would go a long way toward making things better.

    L

  27. nicky says:

    Re Mr Buttigieg, I think that despite him being an out of the closet homosexual and married to another male, he’s one of the best prospects of beating Mr Trump next year. He has this ‘Obama’ factor, much more than O Rourke. (Yes, I do like Beto too).
    He’s intelligent, moderate, how shall I say, he has good ideas without falling into cliche traps. And in his short life he has shown he could take his ‘shithole’ town out of a ‘shithole’. [It is a bit silly to say he would be an infinitely better president than Mr Trump, even you or I would be. Almost anybody would be].
    Of course I’d like to see a Buttigeig-Gabbard ticket (one of the ‘sins’ of Gabbard was some comments disparaging gays, or am I mistaken?), but I’d take any Buttigieg ticket.
    If I were a USian I’d vote for Mayor Pete any day. I think he’s brilliant, the stuff good presidents are made of.

  28. Paul Topping says:

    I like Mayor Pete also. He’s smart and confident enough to handle Trump’s nasty rhetoric which, unfortunately, is bound to play a big part in this election. I hope his closet is clean.

    BTW, saw Fareed Zakaria interview Hillary Clinton on his GPS show yesterday. Although I voted for her in 2016, I am so glad she’s not running again. She is virtually tone deaf when it comes to politics at the presidential level. Still better than Trump of course.

  29. Curtis says:

    Heather,

    I am glad that my failure to post was just a technical glitch. Thank you for letting me (and others) disagree with you.

    You missed the point of my original post. I was not debating your policy views, I was disagreeing with your impugning their motives.

    Republicans, like almost every other group, are mostly decent people. They generally advocate for what they think is best for their country or community. Obviously, they have a bias towards themselves but so do you and I.

    To effectively debate people, I think you need to understand with them. I am mostly libertarian and I vehemently disagree with progressives and conservatives but I still like, admire and love many of them. With the exception of small groups like Antifa and the White Supremacists, I think they mean well.

  30. Randall Schenck says:

    You can “vehemently disagree” all you want but when it gets down to reality and you think the republicans are good people I can only think you are not paying attention. You have not been paying attention for the past two plus years and see what path your republican party has taken. There is not enough space here to begin.

  31. Curtis says:

    @Randall, do you know any Republicans? Are any of them good people? Do any of them volunteer in schools, donate to the needy or help others in any way?

    I am not a Republican. Many of the people I love, work with and volunteer with happen to be Republican. I do not let our political opinions affect my relationship with them. They are by and large good people (as are Democrats).

    I have seen some of my friends turn from caring people into hate mongers because of politics. It’s unfortunate and I try hard not to succumb to the temptation.

    I think Trump’s most lasting legacy will be creating hatred on both sides of the political spectrum. Our constitution limits his legal effects but his effect on civil society is a bigger issue.

  32. Randall Schenck says:

    Do I know any republicans? I live in Kansas and before in Iowa. I was and am surrounded by them. I do not personally hate all of them, that is not even important. What is important is what nearly all of them in our congress are doing on behalf of the most disgusting, crooked excuse for a president we have now. All of those nice republicans you know likely voted for this vile person. He is the lowest form of human on this planet, far as I can see. They put him there and we will be paying dearly for it for many years to come. You have a good life with your republican friends.

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