“Disposed to preserving existing conditions and institutions…”
Thus does Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary define the word “conservative." It says nothing about a conservative destroying existing or traditional institutions. It says nothing about rolling back laws or favoring one group over another. The word “conservative” stems from the word “conservation,” which means to husband resources so that our way of life may be continued.
Public education has been around since Thomas Jefferson and James Madison decided it was a good idea to educate the population of the United States to prevent another monarchy or a descent into a dictatorship. They also figured that if everyone paid just a little, the benefits passed on to the vast majority would be great indeed. Why, then, do today’s self-ordained conservatives want to strangle public education for the sake of profit and higher education for the few at the expense of the majority? This policy sounds a lot like the destruction of an institution, not the preservation of one.
The Constitution calls for the government to engage necessities for the “general welfare” of the people. Over time, our government has provided services for those who are less fortunate, less skilled or too unhealthy to build a life for themselves and their families. That government intended to follow the Constitution to expand American society’s obligation beyond those of our European predecessors’ semi-feudal leadership. It worked because most people who enjoyed this assistance used it to improve their lot in life and help the nation grow overall.
Today’s so-called conservatives want to destroy those institutions of “general welfare” for the sake of economics that are anything but conservative – in the strictest sense of the word. Attempting to pervert Social Security and Medicare into some twisted for-profit scheme upsets the institution of “general welfare," compassion for those in need and benefit to those with potential except for want of a helping hand. The Paul Ryan economic plan is clearly a craven attempt to destroy those aspects of the institution of civility (New Deal) in our country and replace it with a middle ages model of lords vs. serfs. Why else would the wealthiest be getting a much larger financial relief than the poorest? Why else would this plan turn Medicare and Social Security into for-profit entities that only the rich and the connected could exploit? Why else would the banks and investment companies be deregulated even more even after the disaster of 2008?
Under the last three conservative administrations, the national debt has increased by $9.5 trillion, while under the last two progressive administrations it increased by only $3.8 trillion. For all the reasons that affect deficits, one might ask, why are the conservative numbers so much higher than those "tax-and-spend" liberals?
It seems to me those self-named conservatives have been conserving only those institutions favoring the rich, the powerful and the connected.
The term “conservative," therefore, no longer applies to that 2 percent who are destroying egalitarian institutions. Perhaps we should look back into our history for another term that still fits this group: robber barons.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. "The Voter’s Guide to National Salvation" is a newly published e-book from Turner. You can find it at www.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.