Anyway, we’re home now. And I must say that while overall we DID have a good time, there were some interesting political discussions that happened on this trip that I’d like to share with you all. I’ll say up front, that most of these I was little more than an observer or a devil’s advocate. For the most part I’m keen to let the family partisans fight it out – no one’s really listening to anyone else anyway, or has any intention of changing their position, so I’d rather not waste my breath burning bridges.
The first involved the Massachusetts State Law regarding care for the elderly. In Massachusetts, as in many other places, If a person cannot pay for their own long term care - and let’s face it: if you don’t have a lot of money, LTC insurance and a decent source of income into retirement, few can – then when you need to enter a nursing home, the state will provide this service, taking care of those elderly and indigent people who can no longer care for themselves. These facilities are not great places of course – the one in question was a real shithole. And yet… the costs are still astronomical. Well beyond what most people could afford even for a short time, let alone indefinitely. Now, when you are in these institutions, you are now a ward of the State. The State gets your pension, your social security, and gives you just a small weekly allowance (to spend on what, I wonder? No one ever leaves the building!) They also take any assets you have, to cover the costs of your care. If you own a house? The state will take it. Car? Same. (Etc…) There are ways around this, of course. Since laws are written by lawyers, to give more work to other lawyers, there are trusts and other estate planning tools that will allow your family to keep most or all of these assets. One has to wonder why you would write a law, and then immediately create another law whose sole purpose is to circumvent the first law, but that’s the biggest problem with politics and legislation. Beyond any Liberal or Conservative issues, the primary problem is that laws are written by legislators who are primarily – like 90% of them – LAWYERS. And their “secret agenda” is not Liberal or Conservative per se - it’s primarily to drum up more business for lawyers. If they can write a law that will result in more law suits? Or that can further complicate tax law or estate law and thus make even more work for tax and estate lawyers? They’re all over it.
ANYWAY… Feel as you will about the idea of the State taking your house, or about the fact that if you pay a lawyer to write up a new trust every couple of years, your family can keep the house, the fact is that caring for the elderly is expensive. And SOMEONE, SOMEHOW needs to pay for it! The real point of contention, and where my Father – a staunch Conservative, Republican, borderline Tea-Party type - started chiming in is that in addition to what I’ve mentioned already, Massachusetts does what they call a “five-year look back” to see if you made any large gifts over the past five years. And if you did? The State can go after the recipient to get them back! Again, this sounds really unfair, but MANY States have these look-back periods. They’re basically meant to prevent people from giving their assets away to family in order to get around paying for the care they’ll receive from the State. And, while it seems like it sucks at first, when you think about it, it’s basically FAIR. Well… My father’s having none of that: To him it’s bullshit that the State would take property, let alone look back five years and take it from other people! Now, he understood WHY they do this. He KNOWS that people could easily cheat the system, were it not for the look back system. So I asked him: How would you pay for it then? Shitty a lifestyle though it may be, this is a necessary, expensive service that’s being provided! Why is it wrong to ask the recipients of that service to pay whatever they can for it? I then added the kicker, reminding him that the alternative was socializing it, through higher taxes, spreading the cost across everyone, and making everyone pay for it. That’s a solution that I don’t really have a problem with: it would be part of my overall health care system. But I KNEW he’d never go for it. And, big surprise, he admitted that he had no ideas for alternatives, although he did point out that the family themselves used to care for their elderly relatives in house. (Yeah: Back when you could raise a family on one income, and people didn’t live nearly as long!) Anyway, I learned a long time ago that you can never get a Conservative to admit he’s wrong, but if you can get them to admit that they have no ideas? Count that as a win. For me? I just see it as evidence that Conservatives are basically whiny little bitches who want something for nothing. (And in this case a Government handout and socialized medicine! Imagine that!) But PAY FOR IT? What kind of liberal nonsense is that?!
Also hilarious, to me anyway, is hearing someone like my dad (a very wealthy man, I should add) talk about how we should just go to a “flat tax.” Now… first off all, he’s a deficit hawk, big time. Granted, he’s your typical Right Winger when it comes to the deficit: Lower Taxes (huh?), cut entitlements, trim defense (at worst), no earmarks, no pork, etc… in other words, basically shitty ideas that will do nothing to fix the deficit, and do great harm to the economy and to people’s lifestyles. But when he talks about a flat tax, I wonder if he’s even capable of basic arithmetic. Because if you assume a rate that doesn’t INCREASE the deficit, YES, his rate would go down, but the rates of ~98% of Americans would go UP. A LOT. When 1% of you population make 20% of the income (note: I just made that up – whatever the actual numbers are, it pretty bad) you cannot lower their tax bracket without raising everyone else’s, if you (1) want everyone to have the same rate. And (2) don’t want to increase the deficit / debt. So… why, you might ask would a Conservative be so much in favor or RAISING everyone’s taxes? I don’t have a clue. No, my dad’s not a stupid man. A bit self-centered in his perspective maybe, but he’s not DUMB. He just suffers for the typical Conservative’s disease of completely lacking logical consistently, self-awareness and principled pragmatism.
Another bit topic of conversation was the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” To which I say, “It’s about damned time, and what the hell took so long?!” But my Brother in Law was in the Navy and my Cousin was a Marine, and they’re both Conservatives – my brother-in-law to a kind of annoying, Sean Hannity degree, my cousin to a more psychotic G.Gordon Liddy / Mike Savage degree. And of course, despite the fact that they both served with gays, whether they knew it or not, this was of course going to signal the death knell of American Military Dominance. Putting aside of course that we spend twice on defense what England, France, Russia and China do combined. Putting aside that almost every other non-Muslim country has already done the same thing, and it’s had no impact. Putting aside that polls showed that even 70% of White Evangelical Christians supported its repeal… It all over. We’re doomed. And it seemed like everyone else (most of whom range from Massachusetts Democrats to Massachusetts Liberals) just LOVED to get my cousin torqued up about it, and get him going on one of his homophobic rants. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good rant as much as the next guy, even when I disagree with the speaker. It’s fun to see a man feeding off his own hatred, anger and fears. It’s fun to see someone just lose it. I know. I’m human too! But as I listened to him, a theme started to emerge that I found rather… disturbing.
I can’t really cite any one thing he said, but he acted like the Marines were their own entity. As if they were a club that could make their own rules and their own policies, rather than an arm of the democratically elected Government, created to enforce theirs. He acted like the Marines existed only to fight – which, yes, they do – but beyond that, as if their whole raison detre was fighting for fighting’s sake alone, or for any reason they alone saw fit, and that other factors, like actual foreign policy and actual American Values like freedom and equality were not the REASON they were fighting. I’m not going to suggest that he speaks for all Marines, but to hear him going off, in an almost thug-like, borderline-Nazi manner, you’d think he thought that it was the Marines, and the mentality of Marines like him that decided (not SHOULD decide, but ACTUALLY decided) what they should be fighting for, what the country stands for, and how the laws should be made and that somehow anything that goes against that fascist psychosis somehow constitutes a betrayal of our brave men and women in uniform. But answer me this: If you’re in the Middle East fighting a bunch of misogynistic, theocratic homophobes, and yet you DON’T believe in religious freedom, or equality, then WHAT THE FUCK ARE FIGHTING FOR?! At that point, you can only be fighting for fighting’s sake. I don’t believe, as he does, that America is betraying that part of the Military by allowing Gays to serve openly. I believe that for many years, large parts of the Military have been betraying American values by not respecting, supporting and fighting for what America actually believes and stands for: Equality and religious freedom.
And one point he actually said, “I don’t judge them [gays], but they’re deviants!” Remember what I said about lacking self-awareness?
Of course, the TSA and Muslim profiling came up. At which point I had to point out (again) that the terrorists were not the ones with long beards and turbans, but rather the clean-shaven ones wearing suits. Also that a turban was rarely indicative of a MUSLIM, and far more often indicative of a HINDU. And that the average Hindu hates Muslims even more that then average American bigot does. Now this lead to a brief conversation about other religions, and which point my Mom asked me what religion “those kids I went to school with were.” I knew the ones she meant: The ones who wore turbans and never, in their life, have cut their hair. To which I answered that they were Sikhs. My brother-in-law chimed in, adding that they “wear daggers around their necks” which is technically true, but also a grossly misleading oversimplification. After which my Father commented that it was a religious with “weird beliefs.” I asked him, “What religion DIDN’T ask you to believe weird things?” and then said, “Do you know what you call a religion without weird beliefs? SCIENCE. (And maybe Philosophy.)” That earned me a wink and a nod from my Uncle, by far the most liberal man in the room, and one of the most liberal men I know.
Speaking of weird beliefs… Do notice how some people will believe anything about someone they don’t like politically?
There was an article – on the front page of the Boston Globe no less – about the fact that the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s dog died. (Yes the Kennedy’s are still royalty in Massachusetts to the point where the death of a dead Kennedy’s dog is front page news!) Now… I noticed something in the article that, I thought, revealed either a gross display of bad taste, or a complete lack of self-awareness on the part of the late Senator. The dog’s name? SPLASH. Seriously. A guy who will forever be remember for driving his car off a bridge, drunk, into a river and allowing a female campaign aid worker to die in the icy water… named his dog SPASH. Now… although I’m not a particular critic of the late Senator, I found this point to be at least a bit perversely humorous - my favorite kind of humor - so I pointed it out. At which point
Anyway, while it was still a good time overall… It’s definitely good to be home
BTW… There’s was this John Stossell thing that ran on Fox while we were up there that I’d like to debunk, but this post is long enough, and that’s a post that should probably be its own post anyway.