Perhaps the most concerning concern concerning the citizens of the Coalition is the highly polarized political rhetoric that makes it difficult to have meaningful conversations about, much less take appropriate action to address the numerous complex and interconnected challenges facing our society. In order to reverse this trend, and instead encourage civilized discourse and critical, yet constructive debate,

 

The Concerned Citizens Coalition

presents

A Dictionary of Politically Polarizing

Conversation Stoppers

 

 

Liberal/Conservative

 

Liberals and conservativesWhatever their original meaning, these political labels have become incredibly confusing, with people who call themselves Liberals taking conservative stances on many issues, and many who claim to be Conservative similarly staking out liberal positions. We at the CCC are concerned that when words come to mean their opposite, coherent coversation becomes exceedingly difficult. We therefore urge concerned citizens to shed these labels in favor of labels we all have in common, such as American.

 

 

Socialism/Communism

/Fascism

 

1. Contrary to the beliefs of some concerned citizens, these are not all the same thing. Fascism is a form a radical authoritarian nationalism that promotes proletarian culture and a mixture of planned and free market economies through indoctrination, political violence, and war. Communism is a revolutionary socialist movement that aims to create a classless, moneyless and stateless social order structured on the common ownership of the means of production, which sounds great in theory, but has been an abject failure in practice. Socialism is a bit harder to define since National Socialism, Democratic Socialism and Libertarian Socialism are all significantly different from one another.

 

2. None of these systems is perfect, just as Capitalism has also been shown to be imperfect. The most satisfactory solution to many of the societal issues that citizens are concerned with often involves both the public and private sectors, which is why the United States, and indeed all first-world countries, have adopted a variety Social programs, even if many are still predominantly Capitalist societies.

 

3. There is of course nothing wrong with spirited discussion on the merits of social programs compared to free market solutions, and what the optimal balance is in various sectors of the economy--but in order for this to function properly, both Capitalism and Socialism must be subservient to Democracy. 

 

 

Big Government/

Small Government

 

We think this is a rather silly way to frame a conversation about our government.  We have yet to meet a single concerned citizen who doesn't think we shouldn't work to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and corruption, or that government can't increase efficiency and effectiveness in doing the things we collectively agree government should do. So perhaps we should start framing it that way instead.  

 

 

Tax & Spend

 

1. We can all agree that no one particularly likes paying taxes. We can also agree however that we tend to like many of the things that we pay taxes for--roads and bridges and subways and schools and police and fire stations and hospitals and libraries and parks and water and power and Medicare and Social Security, for instance. Taxes, in effect are the price we pay to live in a civilized society. 

2. Concerned citizens who  focus solely on our supposed spending problem and effectively shut out any argument that spending may not be the most critical concern related to the deficit and debt are doing a disservice to concerned citizens everywhere by not taking other possible solutions into account. Additionally, many of these same citizens were utterly silent when we put two wars and a tax cut that disproportionately benefited the wealthy on our nation's credit card, so it is hard to take their newly found call for fiscal responsibility seriously. Add to this the fact that annualized government spending growth has actually been slower under Obama than arguably any President since Eisenhower, and tax revenues as a percentage of GDP is the lowest it has been since the 50's, and it would seem that revenue is at least as much of a problem as spending.

3. In addition to the aforementioned tax breaks disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, the out-of-control spending is almost exclusively a result of the defense budgetThe Great Recession of 2008 and slow economic recovery have also played a large role, so we might want to start there instead. After all, we should be able to agree that increasing economic growth will close the deficit and debt without increasing taxes or cutting spending.

 

Redistribution of Wealth

 

1. Let us not pretend that wealth has ever been distributed evenly, or that the rich and powerful haven't ever sought to exploit the poor and powerless.

 

2. Let us not pretend either that the economic and tax policies of the past thirty years have not have the effect of pushing wealth upward, and keeping it overly concentrated at the top.

 

3. Let us also remember that while individual hard work and ingenuity certainly play a role, private wealth is ultimately derived from our collective wealth as a nation, and our willingness to work together to build things that benefit us all as a society. 

 

 

Entitlement Class/Program/Society

 

1. We the People of the United States of America are indeed endowed with and entitled to certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the health to pursue that happiness, a government that represents our better interests, and the equality of opportunity to show what is best in us.

 

2. The vast majority of citizens who collect from these so-called entitlement programs have paid into these programs for many many many years, so they may be more rightfully called earned benefit programs. 

 

3. Which class feels more entitled, those on welfare, or those whose businesses receive billion dollar subsidies and bailouts? Most folks want to work, if not to earn a living, at least to feel they are making a positive contribution to society. Some folks can't work--and those folks who are too young or too old or too sick to care for themselves, we generally believe society shoud help take care of them. Some folks could work but don't, but they are a very small minority. And of course most folks don't want to support folks who are lazy, but how many folks are truly lazy, and how many simply do not see any way to improve their situation? 

 

 

Obamacare

 

The popular name for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by the President in an attempt to adress the gross inadequacies of our health care and health insurance systems. The term was initally coined by those who opposed the bill, and have since sought to repeal it, even in the wake of a Supreme Court decision upholding its constitutionality, and despite the fact that a repeal stands no chance of being passed by the Senate, and would certainly be subject to a Presidential veto. 

Although many citizens are concerned that this bill will impact them negatively, they like many of the individual pieces of the bill, such as not allowing insurance companies to drop coverage or price discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, or requiring them to spend 80% of their gross revenue on actual health care--policies that are opposed now for purely political reasons by the same people who originally introduced them. 

 

Of course no citizens really like the idea of being told that they are required to purchase something from a private company, but the problem is that without this so-called mandate, there would be nothing in the bill to control the skyrocketing costs of health care, and individuals in good health would simply wait until they became sick to buy insurance, thus raising costs for everyone else. The irony here is that the most effective measure to address out of control health care costs short of a single payer system--the public option--was never given serious consideration, and instead we have perpetuated a system where most people have no real choice but to pay for their health care through an insurance company, whose primary objective is not to care for the health of its customers, but to maximize the profits for its shareholders and executives. 

 

 

 

Death Panels

 

The idea that some government bureaucrat may come between you and your doctor should really be no more terrifying than it being a private insurance official instead. In fact the private insurance official is potentially worse since his job is to protect the company's bottom line, not care for your health. At least the government's primary objective is to promote the general welfare, which at least seems a bit closer. 

 

 

Gun Control 

 

 

For some reason, any time any concerned citizen mentions “gun control,” other concerned citizens get all up in arms and start screaming about how the government is coming to take their guns away. And while there have been proposals to ban certain kinds of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, the phrase “gun control” actually covers a lot of other policy proposals that do not seek to ban certain types of weapons or accessories, such as universal background checks, requirements for registration, for reporting transfers of sale, waiting periods, keeping certain guns locked up, and other proposals aimed at keeping guns out of the wrong peoples' hands, and reducing gun-related tragedies. (Note gun control for concerned citizens is slightly more complex than gun control for dummies.) 

 

 

Class Warfare

 

David Horsey class war political cartoonWhenever one group of concerned ctiziens accuses another of class warfare, it is the citizens who concern themselves with civilized conversation who tend to suffer the most casualties. Of course, when the upper class is doing the accusing, the lower classes are quick to point out, "They only call it class war when we fight back."