I have many friends, relatives, and work acquaintances who subscribe to the Ron Paul libertarian wing of the Republican party. If you ask them, they will say, “Republicans and Democrats are totally corrupt and they don’t want to have anything to do with either party. No labels [conservative, liberal, etc.] apply to us, thank you very much.” I’m always one who likes to find out other beliefs. I enjoy a good discussion—even though many times it ends up with, “We will just have to agree to disagree.”
There are a few things Ron Paul Libertarians and I see eye to eye on. I think Ron Paul is correct concerning civil liberties, wars, and censorship issues. However, out of respect to many of my friends and relatives (those who can't understand why I don't jump on the libertarian/Ron Paul bandwagon), I want to point out my main disagreements with Ron Paul and his brand of libertarianism.Read more
Even before I left the GOP I knew that something wasn't right with the way workers are treated in America. Reality hit home the first month back from my mission. Shelter, food, and even my College education was in my hands. My parents felt that it was the best way to introduce me to real life. It was a hard lesson and one that so many of us are having a hard time figuring out. I spent a year working at a local grocery store.
The head manager would always throw out Horatio Alger language, “If you work really hard, you too can become the head manager.”Read more
I still remember the replies when I told people I was going to the Sweden Stockholm Mission:
“Oh, that’s a hard mission! I’ve heard everyone is a socialist there!”
“Isn’t that the country that has universal healthcare? I’ve heard from my friends that it’s absolutely horrible.”
“Oh, I’ve heard that’s a really hard mission. Will you be speaking German?”Read more
A common theme in the last Harry Potter book is how mystery can create terror. Voldemort and the Death Eaters are bad enough, but then not knowing when or how they're going to show up, what powers they have, or what, exactly, they're going to do, makes the good witches and wizards even more terrified.
Which brings us to the Affordable Care Act, and the latest (old) rumor to be circulating around: that Obamacare includes a massive wedding tax that's going to be levied against us Mormons and other upstanding people who are married or desire to be married, leading to a rash of divorce as people do whatever they can to avoid the tax, which will invade our communities and homes, leading to . . . well, I'll let you fill in the rest.
But it's just not so.
Here's what's going on:
1. As part of the marketplace, where insurance companies compete--in a market--for new customers (those of us without employer coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid), our nation is providing subsidies to those making less than 400% of the federal poverty line, so we can put in some of our money, taking responsibility for ourselves without breaking the bank.
2. Because our nation still holds to the traditional view that couples only start living together once they're married, it assumes that once two people are married, they save money by sharing housing and other durable goods. (What economists call economies of scale, just on a household level.) This economic situation is one reason church leaders teach against having children out of wedlock or getting divorced unless there are very serious reasons: it's much more expensive, on a per-person basis, to live as a single person than as a married couple.
3. In an effort to save taxpayer money, the designers of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) decided to take into account this reality of traditional marriage, and provide slightly higher subsidies to individuals than they would receive if they married one another and (presumably) started living together.
4. The Heritage Foundation, designers of the framework for the ACA, but now more of a partisan group rather than a (very conservative) policy shop, picks this effort to cut government spending and labels it a "federal wedding tax." (This is back in January of 2010.) This is the primary article that's circulating among my friends on Facebook. This gets picked up Representative Darrell Issa (R-California) almost two years later, though Rep. Issa, one of the senior Republicans in the house, is yet to champion a bill that would actually spend more taxpayer funds to increase the subsidies for married couples. (There's more on this from ThinkProgress here.)
5. Which brings us to today. With the roll-out of the marketplaces just days away, old bogeymen about the ACA are making the rounds again. It's absolutely fine to debate the proper level of subsidies for single and married adults, but whatever one's position: it's a gross stretch of things to call this a "federal wedding tax" or "Obamacare wedding tax." It's not a tax. It's just our nation trying to pinch pennies by assuming that married couples live together and benefit from this union.
When I was a full-time missionary, I quickly learned to ask people at the end of lessons, "What are your questions?" instead of "Do you have questions?" because everyone had questions but were often too shy to admit it. Whatever your questions about the Affordable Care Act, the marketplaces, no copays for preventative care, no more pre-existing condition denials, etc. go to Healthcare.gov, which was designed to answer them. (If you're just looking for a quick overview with cool graphics, you can go here.)
I'm a big believer in the idea that when folks are in good health, and find it economically feasible to visit a doctor for well and sick visits, they're better able to exercise their agency to the fullest. I think this is crucial for our community and our families. I welcome debate on the best way to reach this goal, with just one rule: don't make stuff up.
The financial crash of 2008 made historians and economists draw immediate comparisons to the Great Depression. A year after the crash, the reasons and complexities of why the crash occurred were easy to find. Documentaries, books, and an endless amount of media delved into the Great Recession. However, while there were tons of problems on “why” the crash occurred, there were very few books and analysis that explained how to fix the problems. Lately, historians and economists have gone back into the archives and libraries to find ways that America overcame the devastation of the 1930’s. One person keeps coming up in this search—Marriner Eccles, the American Federal Reserve Chairman from 1934 to 1948. The ideas that created the most peaceful and stable American economy from 1945-1980 were directly influenced by the philosophy and knowledge of Utah’s greatest public servant.
In a way, having a Mormon stake president in Sandy, Utah give a sermon at a stake conference of a political nature has at least the benefit of sparking a public conversation. In case you missed it, here’s the gist:
An LDS stake president in Sandy did something in a speech earlier this month that other Mormon leaders have done many times: He warned that evil is corrupting the world.
Then President Matthew DeVisser did something few LDS leaders ever do over the pulpit: He rattled off a number of Republican talking points, lamenting that voters last year chose "socialism over capitalism, entitlements over free enterprise, redistribution and regulation over self-reliance.
From at least my perception, most Mormons almost to a fault will avoid discussing anything controversial simply to avoid contention. While I don’t plan on being contentious here, I do believe strongly in “standing for something” in life and that often involves speaking out.
First, I can tell you that this stake president was not speaking for the Lord or the Church, but rather from his own personal opinion and human bias. He obviously felt very passionate about it, even evoking the “Holy Ghost” as his authority. I find that disturbing on many levels.
This story has caught the attention of people in circles outside the church, many of whom are close to me here in Nevada. These sorts of stories do not go over well with people outside the Church, at least the ones who don’t agree with this stake president.
I try to explain that the Mormon Church doesn’t have any beliefs about tax policy, Social Security, or mandated purchasing of health insurance. It’s hard to convince them when even Mormons don’t usually/always understand this. The volume of anti-communist/socialist rhetoric from Church leaders of the past don’t make it any easier.
President Heber J. Grant was adamantly opposed to Social Security and FDR’s New Deal in general. Yet I would submit that most Mormons today don’t see Social Security as a ‘corrupt evil’ or ‘a threat to freedom.’ Mormons and their leaders are subject to the attitudes and prejudices of their day. Members should remember this. After all, it wasn’t until nearly 1980 that black members of the Church were allowed to hold the priesthood or women allowed to pray in church.
Church leaders often speak out about things of a political nature. They’ve spoken out against gay marriage, communism and other moral issues. One thing that has always disturbed me is the lack of speaking out during the civil rights era. How about on wars or illegal torture by our government? Unfortunately they’ve been astonishingly silent. My only point is that leaders of the Church are not perfect. They are human, just like all of us.
How about self-reliance? Yes, that is a principle taught by the Church. Of course the Church has its own robust welfare system. So clearly self-reliance isn’t an excuse to leave the less fortunate out in the cold. So what exactly was this stake president talking about when he started comparing redistribution and self reliance? The truth is he doesn’t even know. He didn’t bother to think about it. He was so juiced up by conservative talking points, he couldn’t think for himself.
The truth of the matter is that with the great recession and the decade leading up to it, this nation has seen a transfer of wealth from the people at the bottom to the people at the top. That’s redistribution of wealth in reverse. That probably never occurred to this gentleman and folks of like mind.
We are living in a time of great struggle for people in the bottom 60% of income earners (that’s more than half of us) and yet this stake president is worried about low taxes, deregulation, free enterprise and self-reliance… things known to help the top income earners, not anyone else. It doesn’t trickle down.
When it comes to poor people, conservatives have an attitude about them that says they are “takers,” that they have a “sense of entitlement” brought about by a “culture of dependency.” Most of them believe the poor need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, all 47% of them.
In my estimation, this conservative attitude reflects a regretful level of disdain and judgment towards the poor. The scriptures certainly suggest as much:
“But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2nd Nephi 9:30)
I don’t think there’s any dispute that free market enthusiasts are more concerned for wealth than they are about fighting poverty. As a matter of fact, fighting poverty is never even brought up in conservative circles. They feel that there is ample opportunity in this country, and if you aren’t doing well, it’s probably something you aren’t doing right, or you aren’t trying hard enough. Hmmm, what does that sound like?
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
The Lord has commanded his faithful to take care of the needy. The notion of self-reliance should be taught in example, persuasion, and from a sense of duty, not by means of starvation and deprivation.
If you’ve ever found yourself saying “get a job” or “you reap what you sow” or “poor people poor ways” you should probably strongly reconsider King Benjamin’s sermon. Called it a hand out… or free advice.
Written by Daniel
In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $9/hour. There was an uproar from people across the country, including me. I write this to state that I am highly offended by the thought of a minimum wage. I am offended that one group of human beings cares so little about the other humans who they employ, that these owners are willing to pay their workers a wage that makes them so dependent on the government to cover their basic needs, that they would perish otherwise. I am offended that that we still are fighting to legislate slavery away. If you, as a conservative, want to solve the 'problem of entitlements', you need to fix wages. The reason costs for government benefits has increased is because wages have not increased, yet costs have increased significantly over the same period.
I write this to state that I have been a ’wage slave‘ and understand the horrors of it. I worked for a company that paid its workers over the minimum wage, but still below what is recognized as a livable wage, and then claimed tax credits for hiring these workers. However most of whom still relied heavily on the government for subsistence, not because they wanted to but because they had to. When I took help from the government it was embarrassing & degrading. Every time I went to the store to get groceries, I did my best to make sure no one saw that I was using my SNAP benefits (AKA food stamps). Contrary to popular belief, I was not/am not lazy; I worked 50+ hours per week and I do not have a degree that has "no chances of getting people jobs." (I take issue with that statement anyway) as I have a degree in engineering. When a company can pay you so little, and then get a tax credit for it, you can plainly see that the system is severely broken.
I write this as a call to remind us that in the late 1800's & early 1900's the Owners (read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations if you need to understand my reference) paid their workers very little as well. A movement started in the country & after the crash of 1929 many of their goals were realized. We as a nation supported the middle class. We stated that we didn't want kings of old, so we raised the tax rate on the wealthy so that we could avoid aristocracy. We set up social safety nets, as a type of insurance, to allow business to take the reasonable risks. We also stated that we as a nation needed to better manage those risks.
I write this to say that both the Senate & the House of Representatives need to realize that Owners very rarely support the idea of a middle class.
I write this to state I support the middle class, unions, social safety nets, fair wages, and a whole litany of other progressive ideals.
I write this to state that I stand, because sometimes that's all we can do.
This is the fourth in our five-part series titled "Mormonism, Agency, and Politics." In the first post we discussed the importance of agency in Mormon doctrine. In the second we addressed Satan's strategy of limiting our agency. In the third, we addressed the view that agency can be restricted simply by restricting freedom. In the fourth, we will examine the idea that agency can be restricted by removing differences between good and evil and explore its political implications.
Like we've said before, we don't believe that force in any way restricts agency. As one person put it,
The way I understand agency, you could put me in a dungeon in a straightjacket and blindfold/gag me, and I'd still have agency. I wouldn't have a lot of freedom, but I would still be able to choose between good and evil.
So, if force doesn't limit or restrict our agency, how was Satan going to go about limiting our agency while here on earth? His plan was to remove agency by erasing the difference between good and evil: if we don't have moral alternatives, we don't have agency. There are certainly many ways to do this, but we'll just look at two possibilities:Read more
This is the third in our five-part series titled "Mormonism, Agency, and Politics." In the first post we discussed the importance of agency in Mormon doctrine. In the second we addressed Satan's strategy of limiting our agency. In the third, we addressed the view that agency can be restricted simply by restricting freedom. In the fourth, we will examine the idea that agency can be restricted by removing differences between good and evil and explore its political implications.
As we discussed previously, one popular view of agency is that it can be decreased any time freedom is restricted. As Mormon liberals, we are frequently presented with the argument that a particular government intervention is bad because it limits our agency. This is most frequently repeated when dealing with taxes: "if I want to help the poor, let me exercise my agency and do it. Don't force me to be charitable, because that's Satan's plan." While we obviously don't appreciate being told that our political ideals are the spawn of the devil, we also disagree for doctrinal reasons.Read more
If there is one thing people on all sides of the aisle can agree with it's this: parents do incredibly important work. While not everyone wants or needs to be parents, there's no doubt that LDS Church leaders regularly preach the centrality of parenthood to the family, society, and eternity.
Parents of the world, we here at MormonLiberals offer you a big THANK YOU.
And, in the American economic market, that's basically all you're getting.Read more