Is there a breaking point…when reality becomes so overwhelming that it actually breaks down your preexisting beliefs? Many of us have political leanings as to how our government should work.  A prime dividing line is the degree that the government should be involved in our lives.  Conservatives believe the government should be as small as possible, that is should intrude as little as possible in our day-to-day affairs (except, of course, in regards to social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, gay-marriage, and drugs where government oversight is greatly encouraged).  Each individual should be able to do what he or she wants without Big Brother watching, regulating, manipulating and taking.  This idea sounds very attractive.  Leave me alone and let me create the life that I want.  Let me keep my money, my SUV and my guns.  I’m a good person so get out of my business!  This may work on an individual basis but when this becomes national governmental polity, we see some serious problems.

Let’s look at the issue of income-inequality.  In the 1970’s, the top 1% of our country controlled 8% of the total wealth. Presently, the top 1% control 43% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80% control just 7%. There is a truly American argument as to why this isn’t a bad thing.  If I don’t play X-Box all day but study instead, shouldn’t I reap the rewards for my delayed-gratification, sweat, dedication, and self-discipline?  Of course the answer is yes.  This is what our country is about.  Work hard and you will do well.  My counter-argument is that this concept has always been true.  It was true in the 70’s when income inequality wasn’t so severe. I am all for wealth. I am all for success. I also think, for the health of our country, that a strong and vibrant middle class is essential and that there needs to be attention paid to those at the bottom. Not everyone can make six or seven figures. We need workers at all levels of society.  We need CEO’s and we need people to park cars and the two should be compensated accordingly. There are many people who think that the 43% number mentioned above isn’t a problem at all. I wonder if there’s a number that, if reached, would these people re-think their position. “What if the top 1% percent controlled 60% or 70% or 80% of the total wealth of our country?  Is there an income discrepancy that would really make people stop and think that there is a problem.  Okay, 43% is acceptable to many people.  What if the figure elevated to 90%?  Can and should governmental policy change then?  It is clear that there is not a level playing field.  The wealthy have incredible advantages for educating and caring for their children.  They can hire a team of high-priced professionals to grow and shield their money from taxes.  Most Americans don’t put their few thousands of dollars in the Cayman Islands or in Swiss Accounts or in elaborate tax shelters.  Most people have their savings or retirement accounts where they hope for safety and a small return.  The wealthy also have outsized influence in regards to political influence (take the Koch Brothers for example) that is often used for their financial benefit.  When do the facts simply overwhelm political beliefs?

This of tried this argument in relationship to gun violence.  The argument is pretty consistent; good people should be allowed to have whatever guns they want.  Bad people will always be able get weapons so the good, innocent people need to be armed to protect themselves.  Again, this argument becomes absolute.  All guns, unlimited ammunition magazines, any amount of guns, porous background checks and minimal regulations.  Regardless of the facts; statistically the more guns and the more powerful guns, the more gun deaths, the gun enthusiast position remains unchanged.  One again, I will try an end-around argument.  “Did you hear that in a man walked into a Seattle mall and began to throw Grenades.  Seventy-nine people died and over one hundred fifty were injured.  It’s all over the news!” “I can’t believe that!  That’s impossible!  When and how did this happen!” “It didn’t happened.  I made it up! But answer me this, if anyone could go down to the local Wal-Mart and buy a bunch or Grenades, how my deaths by Grenades do you think would happened each year?  The reason why the number is zero is because people can get them.”  A wonderful argument, at least in my humble opinion, yet to know avail.

My last example is in regards to climate change. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientist believes in global warming and that the cause of global warming is in large part due to human activity.  For some reason that, in my view is completely irrational, a great many  people (blindly refute this fact {usually based on someone like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glen Beck telling them so.})  Regardless of number of reputable studies that I will show them, they stick to their position.  Once again I try and end-around: “Let’s say we both don’t really know…we just think we know.  If you’re right and I’m wrong, the worst that can happen is that we invest in green technology, reduce pollution and our reliance on foreign oil.  Yes it will cost a pretty penny but it will also do a great deal of good.  On the other hand, what if I’m right and you’re wrong?  The cost of doing nothing would be catastrophic.  It can actually threaten human existence on the planet so do you think it wise to err on my side instead of yours?”  Nope, it simply won’t work.  Why? It’s fundamentalist thinking…or rather fundamentalist thinking/feeling.  Politics and public policy has become a process that, for many, mimics religious fundamentalism.  People believe and that’s the beginning and end of the discussion.  Do we have to lose our polar icecaps, endure more and more mass killings, and have a society ruled and dominated by a wealthy few before we will finally say,

Enough is Enough!

Dr Gary Penn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in Southern California. His book, I Can’t Believe My Life Has Come To This is available on Amazon, His web site is drgarypenn.com and on Blog Talk Radio here.

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