Ten years ago, two members of opposing political parties both wrote essays on their views of politics in America. Jeff Faux, a progressive liberal, and Charles Krauthammer, a conservative, each argue about what America’s problems are and how to remedy them. Some of the problems they discuss are reflected in American politics today, and some of their prescribed solutions are applicable to American society today as well. Faux’s view best reflects politics today in its social concerns and obstacles for political change, which will be elaborated on as this paper progresses.
Faux, in his “Progressive Compact,” argues that globalization of the American economy is reducing the amount of available jobs for the majority of locals, who do not have college education and cannot compete with foreigners, who offer cheap labor. This economic change is hurting Americans socially by contributing to poverty, which puts a strain on marriages, lessens the likelihood that children will receive a good education, and promotes crime. Faux’s solution to the social decline is for the government to pass laws that advance the rights of the working and lower classes, ensuring that they can become employed and socially wealthy based on citizenship alone. Faux advises fellow progressives to make local initiatives a priority over global ones, when writing public policy, because in order to better help the impoverished in other countries, America must first help its own poor, who may have higher living standards than the poor of third world countries, but are the American government’s responsibility.
Faux stresses the need for better infrastructure and education, which is vital for competing for well-paying jobs in a global economy. His answer to poverty is reforming America by creating more job opportunities for residents in local cities and rural areas, fixing roads, and improving school buildings. He calls for mutual support from other progressive movements to rebuild the labor movement and advises progressives in government to market their campaign towards members of the working and lower classes, because their votes could make progressives the majority party in government. Securing support of the working and middle classes would give progressives control over America for the next century, because if more progressives were elected in office, then they would have more control over the education of children. Through education, the progressives could indoctrinate children with progressive ideologies early, so that when these children grow up and take governmental office, they will be more likely to further progressive political agenda.
Krauthammer’s “A Social Conservative Credo” blames the welfare system on America’s social decay, which he defines as the decline of the family, volunteer associations, local government, and the church. Krauthammer argues that rates of pre-marital sex and homelessness have risen, because the welfare system rewards single mothers and homeless people with food stamps and other aid. He advocates a meritocracy in America, where people are not encouraged to abuse the welfare system, which promotes divorce, crime, illegitimacy, homelessness, and other social ills. To achieve a meritocracy, the laws keeping the welfare state functioning must be abolished.
According to Krauthammer, rapid information exchange during these times of globalization poses a problem to American society, because individuals are bombarded with media that promote the lifestyles of divorce, crime and illegitimacy. Krauthammer uses rap music as an example, claiming that rap music promotes crime because the lyrics are often about gangs and crime. He believes that the solution to this influx of lifestyle-threatening media is for the government to force the mass media to alter their message, but more importantly, he believes that the American people must develop strong values, so that they can filter foreign ideas that could lead to the decline of the family, and inevitably, society. If people stop demanding to watch or listen to media that promote foreign ideas like divorce and illegitimacy, then the media will be less likely to continue producing such media, families will more likely stay intact, and society will be better off with its basic unit stable. To lessen people’s demand for foreign media, Krauthammer recommends cultural reform, which involves people embracing religion and rekindling values that uphold the family structure.
Faux and Krauthammer agree that globalization has made America decline socially, as rates in illegitimacy, divorce, homelessness, and crime have increased. Faux believes that globalization is responsible for America’s economic crisis, attributing the decline of American society to the global economy. Krauthammer believes that globalization is at fault for America’s cultural decay, attributing America’s social decline to a decline individual American’s values, and the abundance of public policies that support the welfare state. Faux’s solution to America’s social decline is for the government to write more laws to promote social development, especially in the working and lower classes. Krauthammer suggests that the government abolishes public policies that promote the welfare state, and instead, people must reform themselves for social development to occur.
Faux’s view on American politics best reflects politics today in its social concerns and obstacles for political change: the republican-led government has not made local improvement enough of a priority over global interference, leading to a social decline in America. Faux believes that the government’s priority should be to lessen America’s global intervention and revert the government’s political gaze inward, onto local initiatives. Today, we face a similar issue, as America has been spending too much funds on the war in Iraq and too little on local infrastructure. Educational funding has also been cut, while billions of dollars have been spent, assisting Iraq to build a democracy. The government has been helping other countries before helping its own people, who are its primary responsibility.
During Faux’s time, conservatives had control over the government. During the current Bush administration, we had the same obstacle until the very recent election. Our government was largely conservative, and our president was a staunch republican, who placed his personal interests before that of others and had vested interest in global interference, such as the Iraq take-over. After the recent elections, conservatives no longer outnumber the democrats in government, but Bush, who is still president, refuses to end his “war on terror,” and is blind to the possibility that terrorists attacked America on September eleventh to protest America’s interference with world economics.
Much of the current government’s effort today is being used on the war in Iraq, when it should instead be focused on local infrastructure. Last year’s hurricane Katrina disaster occurred, because the New Orleans dam had needed repairing years before the hurricane struck, but the government was too busy spending on global initiatives to finance a good local repair. The result of the government’s neglect was devastating: the majority of people in New Orleans, members of the working and lower classes, were reduced to act like animals, when they stole food to survive in the flooded city. The disaster set those same people back economically for years. They are now forced to rely on the welfare state, not because they are lazy and want to abuse the system as Krauthammer would say, but because they have lost their homes and jobs and have to build their lives all over.
The New Orleans disaster highlights Faux’s idea on how the government needs to prioritize local needs before helping out other countries. Fixing infrastructure is just one of the many local needs that should be dealt with. The government should also increase funding for good education in low socio-economic areas. American children from any social background should have the right to the same quality of education to ensure them ample opportunity to get decent-paying jobs, but political policy has not prioritized this issue. The lack of education contributes to the large number of unemployed youth, who waste their lives experimenting with drugs, sex and alcohol. Faux argues that an employed youth would spend less energy on vices. Krauthammer, in contrast, argues that education is an insufficient remedy to the nation’s social ills, but he is mistaken. Instead of living a life of crime, educated children would be more likely to be on the path to healthy adulthood. Given that the youth are the future leaders of America, Faux’s view stands that we need more progressives in government, because they will have control over how America’s youth is raised for the next century.
Globalization of the American economy has increased the competition for jobs with a livable wage. Cheap labor has been found in third world countries, so less jobs of that sort are left for Americans. As Faux argues in his article, citizenship alone should guarantee all Americans rights to employment and social wealth. Without available jobs, Americans end up relying on the welfare system. Faux’s belief that jobs should be created for unemployed Americans still applies today. Jobs should be provided that involve improving transportation, environmental infrastructure, and schools in local cities and rural areas. America needs to help its own working and lower classes before it extends help to other countries.
Faux, J. (1997). A progressive compact. The Nation, 264 (14), 269-273.
Krauthammer, C. (1995, Fall). A social conservative credo. The Public Interest, 121, 274-280.