An Outsider’s View of the US Election

Today’s guest post comes to us from Geoff in Australia.

Many Americans live in isolation from the world because your media does not cover stories from the rest of the world, only your local area, and during elections, perhaps the rest of the country.  I was able to watch your presidential debates on free to air television, in Australia.  When was the last time you saw something about Australian politics on your TV?

Because of this, your politics is conducted in a vacuum, without context to the rest of the world.

In most of the first world, it is a moral obligation that governments supply basic services to their citizens, such as; education, healthcare, social security safety net, roads, water and sewage, police, military, power and telecommunications.  Power and telecommunications have been privatised in some cases.  Banks were also government owned at one stage but have now been privatised (the billions in profit now go to shareholders, which used to be the government/people).  They also mandate at least 6 weeks annual leave, a minimum wage ($606 for 38 hour week for adults here) and working hours, all of which are seen as family friendly requirements.

The fact that these services are provided /required means that a citizen has more peace of mind.  A couple of older members of our church have recently had open heart surgery.  The decision to go ahead did not have a financial component; it is covered.

Our hospital system is owned by the government and treatment is covered.  There are private hospitals and you can have health insurance and be treated in either system. Obama is getting all sorts of trouble because he is requiring every citizen be covered by an insurance company.  Do those insurance companies make a profit?  Do the hospitals?  American healthcare costs more than double the cost of universal healthcare in other countries.  Most people outside America cannot understand how a wealthy country would not provide health care for all its citizens, especially when it would be cheaper.

Both sides of politics want their country to be prosperous and to be a good place to live, but they have very different plans for achieving that.  Often they seem to be talking past each other.  During the last debate there was mention of the rescue plan for the US car industry.  Obama said it was to save the industry and the jobs; Romney said his father had been boss of GM so of course he wanted it saved.  Perspective?

The conservative arm of politics generally believe they are there to provide an environment where business/free enterprise can thrive, with as little regulation as possible, and that this will produce jobs and consequently a good lifestyle for its citizens.  Businesses do not vote, so they have to convince citizens that this will work.  They will also provide welfare (incentives) to industry (farm subsidies), and even the wealthy (lower effective tax rates for wealthy), but not to the needy if they can help it.

Does your constitution say anything about business, or is it supposed to be by the people and for the people?

The liberal side of politics believe they are to provide a good lifestyle for their citizens, and that all individuals require services which industry will provide.  They also facilitate that happening, but believe business needs regulating.  The liberal side accepts there will always be some people who are unable to pay their way and need help.  If possible, they can be helped to become productive, but there will always be some who can’t, and they will need support. 

Is there a difference between allowing a wealthy person to pay $100,000 less tax, and paying 5 poor people $20,000 each?  Yes, you are following the Lord’s plan of caring for the needy.  Financially not much, except the needy will spend their money which will create jobs etc; the rich person might just park it in an off shore account.

The difference shows itself in how the economy is stimulated also.  The conservatives will find a way to give money to business believing it will eventually help individual citizens.  In Australia the Labor government made a payment of $900 to every tax payer who lodged a tax return the previous year. They also increased the bonus paid at the birth of a child to $5000, and have just reduced the payment to $3000 for subsequent children.  We are encouraging the birth rate.  Australia did go into debt to finance some of the stimulus but the budget will be back into surplus this year.

Both methods stimulate the economy.  If the average family gets a windfall payment, do they spend it, and does this stimulate business, and create jobs?  If you give money to business does it eventually/necessarily improve the living conditions of the citizens?

Another thing that is very different about the American situation is the place of religion in politics.  The Prime Minister of Australia is an atheist, she lives with her male partner, is childless, but is a caring and moral person, and doing what she believes will progress the country and its citizens.  Could someone like her be elected in US?  The discussion about abortion is over, birth control is readily available (which keeps the abortion rate down (see the discussion here).  Gay marriage is still being debated.  A member of the cabinet is an openly gay woman whose partner has just had a child.  Other members of the cabinet have wives and children.

Another major difference is the relationship between the rich and poor.  To be a cohesive, caring society where individuals believe they are all pulling together for the good of each other (a Zion society), the living conditions of the rich and the poor need to be as close together as possible.  Otherwise it becomes an us vs. them situation, not unity, not peace, not love.  Is this a moral issue?

On Sept 19, in this brilliant article on Wheat and Tares, Mike S said that all the Zion societies we have reference to in the scriptures have no poor among them and no rich, so this is the ideal.  The first world country that is furthest away from ideal is the USA, and this has been getting progressively worse since the 1970s (see Gini index).  The only thing that was better in the good ole’ days was that the Gini index was less.

When you visit a country you feel a different atmosphere depending on how cohesive a county is (see again the Gini index).  Most western European countries feel good/united, USA less so, Africa bad.

If America wants to become closer to a Zion society, if it were aware of how far out of step they are with the rest of the first world, if it wants more harmony, peace and satisfaction, fewer disaffected, unemployed people who feel they are not invited to the party, not included in the progress, and not valued, then they would pull back from unfettered capitalism, which Romney represents in his policies, running mate, and personal life, (and which caused the Global Financial Crisis) and choose Obama who is trying to lead toward a more caring (normal by world standards) society.