Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gays and Gay marriage, Unemployment and Trickledown Economics, and Progressives as a Social Movement

Today's thoughts for October 7, 2010:

* For the first time in 15 years, less than 50% of the nation opposes gay marriage. There are still more people that oppose gay marriage than support it, but it is significant progress for gay marriage advocates.

The question has to be about the strange supporters and opposition to gay marriage. The "anti-government" party that claims to want liberty, freedom, and choice for all Americans wants the government to outlaw gay marriage, a free choice for individuals to make; whereas, the "pro-government" party wants the government to allow people to be free to have more choices about who they may marry. Is it a role reversal issue? How ironic.

* Jobless filings fell below 450,000 this week, which is the lowest we have seen in about three months. It shows signs of progress, but is still high for a "recovery" period. Clearly, there is reason for concern about having so many jobless claims and prolonged unemployment above 9%. President Obama has taken heat for his claim that we needed the stimulus plan to keep us below 8% unemployment, showing America he is a politician, not an economist.

One major reason is the focus on trickle down economics that has largely been accepted in the last 30 years, largely as a misunderstood theory. The way it is commonly understood is that if we give money to rich people, they will spend and invest it, creating jobs for all. That is a big mistake as we are finding out. Currently, US companies are sitting on a ton of cash and not spending it. They claim many reasons, but the primary one is that American consumers aren't spending like before, and thus, they won't get a solid return on their investment.

Reagan had the right point, but it was spun out of control. If we give people incentive to invest, incentive to take risk, incentive to start their own business, and the freedom to do it, they will create new businesses, new industries, and new jobs for everyone. The problem became when it shifted to giving the rich everything, and praying they would invest it to create jobs for everyone. Currently, they have the money, but aren't investing it in jobs.

To create new jobs, we need to shift from major corporation lovefests, to incentives and leveling of the playing field for new small business owners and innovators. We need to insure things like Net Neutrality which give benefits to small business owners; we need to level the playing field between corporations and small businesses which has been skewed to corporations for too long; we need to remind people that they have skills and should take the risks to start their own businesses instead of just job hunting; and we need to restore the tax incentive structure to help corporations re-invest their money to avoid a balanced capital gains and dividends tax.

* Periodically, friends and family find links to articles and send them to me for my thoughts. Nate Silver's column in 2009 recently became one of those articles. Nate argued about a distinction between types of progressives, differentiating between "Radical Progressives" and "Rational Progressives."

While semi-interesting in its application, it became pretty obvious it was little more than the basic application of social movement theories. If you simply re-frame it in terms of any movement, where "zealots" or "core" members of the movement start it, and to grow the movement, they must appeal to more moderate people which create two "factions" of a movement, it becomes the exact same thing.

That is, in general, how a movement works. A small group of people get upset or energized over a cause. They have a view that is specific, but they need support. Others see the problem that energized the group, and join in. They may not share the exact vision, but they support ending the problem in a similar way. The movement needs to get more people to achieve its goals or it will remain small and eventually die as an ineffective movement. Thus, it often moderates its message to get more followers.

As the movement gets more followers, two paradoxical things happen: First, the movement gets larger and stronger. Second, the core group often loses influence since the followers are more moderated. The result is they get upset when the movement doesn't go after or achieve the more "radical" views of the original group, but instead the more moderate views are adopted.

In many ways, it is an incremental approach for change in society that utilizes the zealots as leverage in a societal "negotiation" for change.

It was nice to see someone apply basic social movement theory to a situation properly, but it wasn't some revolutionary piece of work. It wouldn't surprise me if some student in a social movements class in the last three years hadn't already done something similar. They just didn't publish it on their blog.

* I try to avoid Sarah Palin commentary because it is just too easy to take a shot at. However, Sarah recently said she "chose" not to be gay. This leads to a couple thoughts:

First, I highly doubt Sarah thought about it at all before her first attraction to a male. I know that I haven't found anyone tell me they actually thought about their first attraction's gender prior to being attracted to them. Maybe someone on the internet will stand up and shout, "I was 5 and I actually had a thoughtful discussion with myself about whether or not I should like Johnny or Jane in Kindergarten. Anyone? Bueller?

Second, I think the question of whether or not we choose to be gay or straight may be one of the biggest wastes of political time we face. I find it ironic that those who shout the loudest for "liberty" actually care about people exercising that liberty between two consenting adults in their own bedrooms. Whether someone chose to be gay or was gay by nature is irrelevant. They are two or more consenting adults, why should they have to justify those actions to the state, their neighbors, or anyone else if they keep the sexual behavior in their homes and bedrooms?

Oh, and who cares if they kiss in public? If you don't like it, don't watch! You can turn your head the other way when I kiss my wife too, but I am still going to kiss her in public and private. Anything beyond that, you don't get to see. If you see it, you went looking for it, and they aren't to blame.

It could be me, but the gay vs straight debate may be the most idiotic issues of the day. If you want to be gay or straight, go for it. If you want to enter into the contract of marriage, go for it. If a church wants to marry you, go for it. If an employer finds a benefit in giving you and your partner (gay or straight) access to benefits, go for it. After all, it is supposed to be a free country, right?

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