In the fall of 2008, while I was out on the eastern shore of Maryland for work, I got the chance to catch one of the presidential debates between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama. I wasn’t a citizen yet, so I would not be able to vote that November, but I definitely had my favorite to win: John McCain. You see, I had not swallowed the claims from the Left that a McCain presidency would mean another 4 years of George W. Bush policies. Anyone who really studies how Senator McCain operates on a political spectrum knows that he’s not that far to the Right.
Also, when McCain ran for the nomination back in the 2000 election cycle, he was the victim of a lot of dirty tricks from the republican establishment. When the attacks on September 11, 2001, happened, my boss at the time was glad that John McCain was not the President. “Missiles would have been flying,” he said. “Instead, Bush will take us into war with cooler heads.”
Yeah, that didn’t quite work out so well.
Anyway, back in 2008, I also didn’t like the use of the phrase “redistribution of wealth.” It sounded very radical — and radically to the Left — to me. I was young, making relatively good money working at the lab and at the health department, and the idea of more taxes didn’t really appeal to me. I was still under the impression that I didn’t receive that much help from the government. Boy, was I ever wrong.
When I was a kid, mom and my siblings and I received food stamps. I was on food stamps through college, so I didn’t go hungry. I also received a Pell Grant and very low interest loans to go to college. And I got free healthcare from the university as well. All that money didn’t materialize out of thin air. In 2008, I had almost forgotten that wealth was redistributed so that I could make my own wealth.
The more I worked in public health, the more I realized that hyper-conservative ideas do more harm than good. (As do hyper-liberal ideas, by the way.) As the Republican Party was taken over by the Tea Party Conservatives, they declared a war on Brown people like me, especially immigrants like me. By the time I became a citizen and registered to vote, the Republican Party had left me altogether. My ideals began aligning more with the Democratic Party, though not entirely.
This change also happened from continuous exposure to my wife and her way of thinking. She is a very bright woman, and she had very good arguments to counter the more radical “right wing” arguments I had. Through great conversations throughout our relationship, she convinced me that there is nothing conservative about many of the weird policies that conservatives push.
For example, on abortion, conservatives want to ban abortion and punish women who undergo those abortions. But they don’t want to do anything else to prevent unplanned pregnancies. If they really wanted to prevent abortion, they would allow comprehensive, science-based sex education in schools. They would allow free and open access to contraceptives (not just the pill). And they would accept that sex between consenting partners — which is something 99.9999% of humanity will partake in at one point in their lives — is nothing to be feared or kept secret.
On taxes, I’m all for stopping wasteful spending. I don’t know anyone, on the Left or the Right, who is a reasonable person who doesn’t want that. We can’t waste our resources just because we can. We might not always be able to spend like we do. There have been and will continue to be economic recessions. So it is much better to be prepared and have the resources available for those “rainy days.” At the same time, a progressive tax plan allows the nation to get the money it needs from us while leaving us with enough money to survive.
For example, if I made $28,000 a year and was taxed at 10%, then I have $25,200 to live on. Now, take someone who makes $100,000 a year. If they are taxed at 10%, they will have to “get by” on $90,000. Even though we both get taxed at the same rate, they are left with over 3.5 times the money I have. This is where the weirdos come in and tell me that the person making $100k a year worked hard for it, and I’m sure they did. But there are millions of people making $28k a year who work even harder, so that’s not a good argument. I could make the same argument that the person making $100k gets tax incentives and rebates paid for by my 10% contribution more than anything I get paid for by theirs, like the tax reimbursement for homeowners or the tax-sheltered retirement fund.
Of course, you can’t tax people and corporations so much that they go to other countries to protect their cash. And you can’t scare people away from moving up to the next tax bracket, either. If making $30k a year in my hypothetical example meant moving up to a 12% tax, meaning I’d have $26,400 ($1,200 a year or $100 a month extra), I might not think that it’s really worth it to move up… Or I might try to do something — like getting paid “under the table” — to protect those extra $166 a month.
Tax plans need to be smart, progressive, and mindful of the needs of the people you’re taxing… Is what I’m trying to say. Just saying that “The Government” is going to “redistribute your wealth” is not a good strategy, so that’s where I kind of got scared of the Democratic plan, especially as I was seeing the beginning of the Great Recession happening. (A couple of friends at the lab where I worked were nearing retirement and saw their retirement accounts take huge hits, and that kind of scared me.)
Then there is the issue of immigration. Believe it or not, there was a time when Republicans were very reasonable on immigration:
Shortly after the election of George W. Bush, however, Republicans changed their tone radically and very openly to be against any and all immigration. Immigrants were the biggest problem when it came to crime and poverty, according to them. People who looked like me should be required to show proof of being in the United States legally before receiving the most basic of services, or when being pulled over for a simple traffic infraction. In Frederick County, Maryland, close to where I lived, the local police and sheriff were all-in when it came to “hunting down” illegal immigrants, so much so that they trampled on people’s rights. (Even if it resulted in a ton of money wasted on legal bills to the county.)
That was probably the last straw for me. Although I had registered as a Republican upon becoming a citizen and registering to vote, I was not going to be voting for a Republican candidate for a while, especially where I lived in Pennsylvania. In my congressional district, Representative Scott Perry has managed to be the perfect caricature of a science denialist and someone who takes advantage of every little crisis to make it about himself. According to him, we shouldn’t regulate pollution because God is a polluter. He also seems very scared of holding public town hall meetings. He mostly does “town halls” online, from his Washington office, and only with people who have the time to get online. Or he’ll have phone town halls, where you’re required to fully identify yourself and have your question screened. No uncomfortable questions go through.
Oh, and his sycophant followers get angry at me for not addressing Mr. Perry as “General” Perry since he is a general in the reserves. Sorry, dudes, I’m not in the military, and he is not acting as a general in the military when I ask for a redress of my grievances from him as my elected representative. The snowflakes who get offended at me calling him “Mr. Perry” are just going to have to deal with it.
So, here we are, one year into the empire, and the Republicans continue to distance themselves from me. Child health insurance programs have been de-funded. Americans in Puerto Rico were left on their own to die and suffer from diseases after Hurricane Maria. The new tax plan that’s being shoved through will raise my taxes instead of decreasing them. And don’t even get me started on how, under the guise of “less government,” they want to pass laws that intrude more and more in my life and the lives of my loved ones.
I’m sure glad the Emperor didn’t run back in 2008. We needed those eight years of Socialist Communist Kenyan Alien Illuminati Obama so that those of us who lived through them can have memories of how a President of The United States should behave.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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