Thursday, March 10, 2016

Educating TIME's Joe Klein On The Nature Of Rights & Privileges

As we move further into the Neoliberal world order, a number of efforts are being made by their elites to gut citizen thought via propaganda and language manipulation. In the past I had already cited the efforts to eviscerate all notions or memes associated with political conspiracy, i.e. by substituting the word 'scandal' for what had formerly been described as conspiracies. For example, the Watergate conspiracy is now the "Watergate scandal" and the Iran-Contra Conspiracy (as defined by then Counsel Lawrence Walsh in his Iran - Contra Report), is now the "Iran-Contra Scandal". (This was recently referenced in a segment on MSNBC by Andrea Mitchell noting how Nancy Reagan had sought to protect Reagan from the blowback from the "Iran-Contra Scandal". ) Thus as more and more hear this misuse they come gradually to accept it.

As the Elites attempt to gut all notions of political conspiracy by such language re-crafting, they are also painfully aware it cannot work completely until all of us with historical facts and memories pass away. Then, all that will be left is a mainly ahistorical, younger population that was never aware of the original terms - and probably doesn't care. In this way the future can be altered to the Elites' advantage based on reframing the events of the past.

Another domain ripe for manipulation, or what I call "mind fucking",  has to do with the nature of rights and privileges. In this case, because so few Americans understand or have been educated on the nuances of rights, and relation to privileges, they are susceptible to having their brains subtly or not so subtly exploited.

I bring this up to reference a recent column (March 14, p. 31)  by TIME's resident Neolib, Joe Klein, who wrote this in reference to Bernie Sanders's proposals:

"There is also the problem of 'rights' that Sanders claims for the people: health care is a right, not a privilege, free college education is a right - but these rights are granted without any reciprocal responsibilities. Surely, if we're going to give middle-class kids a four year college education they owe something in return- some form of service perhaps."

Clearly, like most Neoliberals, Klein regards health care and free public education as privileges not rights. But he is sadly mistaken.  Take health care. It is not a luxury item. . Rather, people are likely to need it most when their health is gravely compromised-say in a serious accident or a heart attack-  exactly the time it's most likely to be punitively expensive, or they're likely to be denied necessary care outright.

The fact that access to health care can determine life or death clearly means it falls within the purview of an unqualified RIGHT, not a privilege. On the other hand, driving a car is a privilege even if one needs a car to get to work. Hence, the recent TIME magazine cover to the effect that robot autos will soon take over and "all you have to do is give up your right to drive" is misplaced, You have no innate human right to drive. It's a myth. Nor do you have any innate rights to fast food, to ATMs, to home ownership or your own yacht.

Let's go back to health care and try to educate Klein and his Neolib cohort. In the first instance, health care can be regarded as a definite positive right under the “unenumerated rights of citizens" declared under the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. These are referred to as those rights 'not denied or disparaged' by the formally enumerated rights.

Alas, the whole concept of rights that can exist without being actually mentioned is something beyond the Neolibs' ken, or conception! Evidently, then, they never read the Constitution as carefully as they believed! In fact, as Prof. Garry Wills has pointed out  (A Necessary Evil-A History Of American Distrust Of Government, Simon & Schuster, 1999), the unenumerated rights are all those rights not already specifically declared or described in the existing document. The Founders thereby realized and understood there could exist rights in the future they hadn’t conceived of at the time of the Constitutional Convention. They thereby allowed those (then) undefined rights to become realized later under the provision of the Ninth Amendment. In other words, the rights allotted citizens are not limited to the rights actually and specifically delineated, i.e. in the Bill of Rights.

Apart from health care being a right under the 9th amendment, it is also a right by declaration of the U.S. government explicitly when it signed a (1994) UN Declaration mandating that health care is a universal right. (It can't be, clearly, if it is unaffordable or if accessing it in a desperate situation leads to bankruptcy).

Another example of  an unenumerated right is the right to privacy. This is covered under the 4th amendment, but because it's not spelled out in black and white most who read that amendment don't process it. The Fourth Amendment reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

So follow me now on this: Being “secure in one’s person, house, papers, effects” implies PRIVACY! These are after all MY private papers, my private effects, my house, etc. If an inherent right to privacy was a myth then by all accounts being secure in one’s person, papers, effects wouldn’t matter. Hell, let the whole freakin’ world see ‘em! This is why in a fascist dictatorship “personal effects” don’t exist. “Personal papers” has no meaning. The state has full monopoly, de facto ownership on whatever the person has, even his own body. Hence, in fascist dictatorships, such as existed in Nazi Germany, all personal effects, papers could be seized by the Nazis on a whim or remote suspicion - under the Reich Laws. A fundamental right to privacy, meanwhile, insists there exist bona fide entities that one can uniquely own, e.g. papers, effects – including photos or what not- that are private. Without this fundamental right, then, “personal papers, effects” has no meaning hence the 4th amendment is meaningless.

Let's now return to free public education. It can be argued this also is a universal right and which is why we have free public schooling in the U.S. The value placed on the education of citizens is implicit, else it would not exist. Extrapolating this, one can argue that granting free higher education is also a right, i.e. for those citizens who can maximize its use and contribute to the nation as a result. Klein mentions "giving something in return" but to me that is only attendant on whether the student is funded for higher elite education and in specific areas - like medicine.  In a public university it should not require anything more than the student performing to a sufficiently high academic standard. (As I pointed out three posts ago).

The "return on investment" will thereby come naturally when the graduate subsequently brings his learned skills to bear in the society, whether via the teaching profession, law, science, medicine, or in business. Hence, we acknowledge by contributing monies to the funding of qualified students' higher public education we as a nation are the ultimate winners- not losers.

Klein also carps about the "right of unwed mothers to food stamps". Again, implying that this is some kind of a privilege granted. But if we as a nation truly value life, new life in the womb  - and wish to make abortion less common - then it is incumbent on us to provide those food stamps to the unwed mother and her unborn. Not to do so is to act bestially and in an uncivilized manner, and to thereby vindicate all those who insist the anti-abortion Right only cares about protecting life in a restricted way.

Klein further asks if such mothers "don't owe us some standard of civic responsibility too"?  Yes, they do - that is to exercise intelligence and use family planning before engaging in sexual relations. Thereby, not placing an undue burden on the state.

Klein's questions and positions also elicit how the Neoliberal state and agenda has gutted job potential in the nation and created a vast unemployed (and underemployed) underclass. Given his position to do with the unwed mothers receiving food stamps with no strings, I am sure he would also demand "service" from those on welfare. (I.e. based on Clinton's wrong headed 'welfare to work') The first line victims of Neoliberal trade policies, including NAFTA. The answer is 'No'.

Charles Reich ('Opposing the System', pp. 125-26) correctly observes:

"The claim that government is free to reduce or cut off welfare and other forms of support for people in economic need is totally mistaken. Welfare is not a gift, nor is it, despite frequent assertions, a transfer from those who earn a living to those who are not.  Welfare is rather an obligation from society – and from those who are working- to those who have been deprived of work and the opportunity to earn a living. If we want to speak of transfers, it would be more accurate to say that those with a secure place in the economic system are enjoying a transfer of wealth from those who have been excluded from the economic system. Welfare then is partial compensation for a deprivation of livelihood that allows others to work"

In other words welfare,  seen in the proper context,  transcends even being a "right" to being an OBLIGATION from a basically rich society.  The latter, embracing  a perverted economic system, owes  a basic economic viability to those who have been deprived of work and are excluded.

Maybe a hard nut to swallow but there it is!

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