I wonder how much of the “red state/blue state” divide is based not on “politics” per se, but on misunderstanding of culture, so that the two groups use words to mean different things.

I’ll start with a quote from President Obama at the recent prayer breakfast, taken from an article by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post.

The more interesting part, I thought, involved the president’s linkage of governmental action with moral responsibility, and his explanation for why the first is necessary to fully implement the second.

“There’s only so much a church can do to help all the families in need, all those who need help making a mortgage payment or avoiding foreclosure, or making sure their child can go to college,” Obama said….

“And that’s why I continue to believe that in a caring and in a just society, government must have a role to play; that our values, our love and our charity must find expression not just in our families, not just in our places of work and our places of worship, but also in our government and in our politics.”

So who can have problems with such a compassionate view of the role of government? Indeed, most Catholics would back the idea that a government should care for the most vulnerable.

Yet the “we need the federal government” for all our problems  goes against subsidiarity.

This is the idea that a problem needs to be cared for by those closest to the problem: Family, extended family, neighbors, churches, local charities, local governments, and only then should a larger government intervene. The problem is that the larger and more distant the one giving help, the less knowledgeable and less responsive it is to local needs, and also that more money gets diverted into the paper work.

The resul tof a centralized “one stop federal help for all your problems” is that it ends up weakening the churches and local organizations, and this can result in the lack of the churches doing their real work: The teaching of people on how best to live.

No, one does not “need” religion to live a moral life (Socrates and Confucius, among others, managed to teach ethics without religion). But in America, most people link religion and morality.

So when you weaken local churches and church related groups by taking over their work or by giving them money only if they become secular, the churches lose their ability to mold the lives of people.

Take the family. Even today, most Americans care for their children and elderly and sick. Both President Obama and Clinton were brought up by single mothers with the active help of their grandparents. When the local school was found to be inferior, Clinton was sent to the local Catholic school (as was Obama in Indonesia).

I suspect that both of these presidents compassion for the poor comes from their religious training; yet they fail to recognize the anti religious trends  in the progressive agenda that they espouse could easily be implemented in the government.

So Catholic charities are being punished for not allowing children in their care being placed with gay or divorced parents, and in the near future, the fight over abortion and euthanasia being forbidden in Catholic hospitals may result in these hospitals being secularized or closed.

What also is missing is the recognition that funding social policies hurts working families because this money is taken from taxes paid by the hardest working folks. Yet what in the past was considered government responsibility, i.e. protecting local jobs, is now almost non existent.

So Government policies, including high tax rates that force many women to work outside the home to feed their family, and government policies that allowed the export of well paying blue collar jobs, have both contributed to the breakdown of the modern American family.

A feminist would point out cynically by removing women from their traditional (non paying) job as caretakers, and letting a more efficient daycare/nursing home this allows individual freedom for the women themselves.

But most women prefer working part time, so that they can care for their family.And encouraging business friendly government policies would allow more jobs, so fewer government handouts would be needed.

This is a policy that government needs to address, not just hand outs to the unemployed.

Another example is poor children. The majority of children in poverty are there because they live with one parent.

There is no way that the government can stop the sexual revolution, yet much of the adverse side effects of the sexual irresponsibility has been made worse by government policies in the first place.

For example: Easy divorce made marriage less than a “piece of paper”, and giving out welfare to those who won’t marry leads to more children out of wedlock. The lack of societal condemnation of a man who refuses father to take responsibility for his children is a social problem, but this too has a government dimension: Many young men can’t find entry level jobs and work their way up in the job to support their family, so why try? A government that ignores the importance of entry level jobs for boys, or who destroys the ability of businesses to hire and train the untrained by allowing a low minimum wage, is not addressed.(Another dirty little secret: Why hire a young boy who was never taught how to be responsible and try to train him, when a woman or illegal immigrant will work cheaper and better?)

So can and should government change behavior, to encourage people to be more responsible and honest? No, not really. The government just doesn’t do this well, and people will manage to ignore it if they object.

The churches can and should be doing this job. The fact that many don’t is something that needs to be addressed by individual churches, and one hopeful sign is that at least some Catholic bishops in the US have begun to do so.

But the media can and should police themselves when their programs promote uncivil or immoral behavior. President Clinton had his “sister soljah” moment, but one waits for a similar use of the bully pulpit of the president against the amoral garbage coming from his Hollywood friends.

But none of these should be mandated by government fiat.

Government has a mandate, but it is not to be in charge of everything, nor should it be.

And the tea party wants to go back to a time when personal responsibility and local solutions, not government mandate, was important in solving local problems.

Be Sociable, Share!