Nicholas Kristof Offers a Model for Our Safety Net

This week I haven’t had much time to write–and the moment is no exception.  I will have a few updates over the course of the weekend, but for now I’d just like to share an interesting op-ed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  In “Our Lefty Military” (Thursday, June 16, 2011), Kristof notes that the United States Armed Forces maintain an institutional structure and even social values that are a paragon of liberal values.  He further notes that the integrated society and system of benefits provided by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration is both popular and a huge success.  He notes, among its many differences from contemporary corporate culture, that the US Military has avoided a top-earner to bottom-earner income ratio of 300:1–and that it doesn’t undergo repeated collapse.

The Liberal Ironist is taking a closer look at this broad issue of our growing income inequality and the increasingly-radical divide between Democrats and a restored Republican majority over the ways to address our current economic downturn and massive Federal debt.  As I mentioned in my recent discussion of our possible pathways to a 2nd recession, we may have a narrow margin of error to act on our economic and fiscal disarray before confronting (or facilitating) further disaster.  At the moment the Republican Party–both in the House of Representatives and in several States–has proposed radical, often untested market-based policies to confront the current stagnation; the Democratic Party mostly reacts.  Long before the 2010 election–before this blog, actually–I’d expressed hopes that the Republican Party could function as a viable opposition party with a coherent alternative agenda.  Now the Republican has a very thorough (though very simple) ideology for addressing our current problems and the Democratic Party seems to be defending the status quo institutionally but not (since President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address) philosophically; it seems the Liberal Ironist can’t have his cake and eat it, too.  In any case, I liked Kristof’s latest column because in seeing in the life of our military personnel a possible microcosm and model for the way Americans can live, he has offered a vision to counter understandably-emboldened but overzealous Republicans.

We need a philosophically-rooted critical perspective on this market-based ideology.  The Liberal Ironist is going to focus on this more.


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