Promote the general welfare

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By DON VOWELL

The four Vowell children scattered to the far reaches of the western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.  Our political stances may have the same degree of separation.  It has made me question if there is an underlying theory to my politics.

Last week we attended Ralph Jull’s memorial service.  A deeply loved and respected member of our church, he was not remembered for his inventory of nice things, or canny investment strategies.  We were instead deeply moved by the loving testimony of his grandchildren.  Their stories of his unwavering support for everything they tried showed that he understood the canniest investment of all.

If I had to justify my political beliefs to my family, I would say that they are not bound by any coherent theory, just that government should follow Ralph’s example and work to make America better for the children of our children.

Why do we have a government?  The Preamble to the Constitution is a good place to find an answer.  “(1) form a more perfect Union, (2) establish justice, (3) insure domestic tranquility, (4) provide for the common defence, (5) promote the general welfare, and (6) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, … “   An optimist would think this quote should inspire more agreement than disagreement.

If liberty was suspended temporarily while I ruled the country absolutely for a month, I would immediately redistribute the wealth to some degree.  As an adult I understand that the nobly stated “all men are created equal,” found in the Declaration of Independence doesn’t mean that all men get the same amount of money.  Hard work should be rewarded.  Something still seems out of proportion.

Lots of dry statistics and facts make these things boring and unreadable.  A trillion dollars means nothing, as a number.  Let’s try it anyway.  Say that all of America’s households have a total of $1,000 to divide up.  If we do not count the home you live in as part of “wealth,” then, proportionally, the top 20 percent of households have taken $950 and left the bottom 80 percent of households to get by with $50.  That seems unequal in the extreme.

Since the 1950s our government has shrunk the share of tax revenues paid by both corporations and the very rich to the nearly historic lows of today.  During that slow and quiet decline there was no uproar over class warfare, redistribution of wealth, or “socialism.”

A day’s work leaves me exhausted and content, feeling like eight hours honest labor was traded for a living wage and a comfortable existence.  A fair trade.  What can another man do that is worth several billions of dollars in a year?  He is not capable of singly producing ten thousand times the product or labor that I have.  I flatter myself in believing that he is not ten thousand times more clever or industrious than I am.  There is the dilemma.  Government should not interfere with his legal right to take a huge part of the pie.  But that would only be true if government had not already interfered to assist him in amassing that wealth.  Congress is owned by and re-elected with the funds of the very wealthy.  If the Supreme Court has ruled that money is free speech, without money you are silent.  The Preamble urges us to promote the general welfare, not the gentility welfare

That’s what needs fixing.  If we follow the example of Ralph Jull, we govern ourselves in a way that plans for our children’s future, and it includes all children.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)

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