"What if John McCain had come into power and his remedy for the country was continued deregulation of the private sector and broad-based cuts in entitlement spending?I'm sure you wouldn't think this plan would help our country out of the financial crisis. But I'd imagine you also wouldn't want it to work because it would justify further deregulation and encourage the government to make fewer transfer payments in the future. That doesn't mean you wouldn't want the economy to improve necessarily. You simply wouldn't want our recovery to be connected with policies you believe are ultimately bad for the country."
Here's where he's right: I wouldn't believe that McCain's plan would work. Here's where he's wrong: if the plan was put in place to lift us out of an economic recession and the economic community had reached a broad (though not unanimous) consensus that this is what it would take to do it, I wouldn't hope for its failure. Because although I have an ideology, it has one strong basis and that is what is ultimately good for the people. If something that goes against the grain of my ideology actually is ultimately good for the people, if something that goes against the core of what I think is right and good saves jobs and homes and makes our world better, then it is my ideology that needs to change to reflect that. If this plan worked, then I would have to reassess whether or not those policies I disagree with were ultimately bad for the country, or if I was wrong about them and their application. I would be remiss not to; I would be foolhardy to cling desperately to a belief system meant to make America better if an alternate system proved to do the same thing.
Here's also where my friend is wrong: I may have an ideology, but on economic matters I'm not to the far left; I'm more of a slightly-left-of-center person than anything else on economic fronts. I am a capitalist. I believe in markets. And although I'm more of a Keynesian than anything else, that has more to do with the negative impact a truly self-correcting market economy would have on the "little" people (and some bigger ones) than a hard and fast ideology about economic theory. I tend to think we do economics wrong in America; I tend to think that our regulatory practices are too influenced by lawmakers' interests in terms of making the lobbyists and the campaign contributers happy. I tend to think that doesn't work so well. But then, although I'm mostly ambivalent, I do still think that in many ways, our economic system - like our political system - is the worst, except all of the others that have been tried. For my part, my economic ideology is driven by the more pragmatic "will it work?" than anything else. For my part, I don't think that what we've been doing lo these past 8 years (and if you really want to think about it, more) really has. For my part, I think it means something, something bad, when the disparity between the wealthy and the really not is as large as it is; as Bill Moyers points out, "In 1960, the gap in wealth between the top 20% of our country and the bottom 20% was thirty fold. Now it is 75 fold." For my part, I'm outraged by the amount of Americans living below the poverty line. For my part, I'm dismayed by the amount of Americans who don't have access to quality and affordable health insurance. My belief in economic theory and what is best for the economy is somewhat mitigated by my worry over the average American. So if deregulation worked, then I would have to rethink my casual faith in Keynes' work and go more for Milton Friedman.
Those people being crushed by the economic downturn right now are why I'm not willing to give those who hope for Obama's failure any leeway. Because ideology comes second to making those people's lives better; because an ideological win means less when American citizens are jobless and homeless and feeling hopeless. On a strictly ideological level, I'm not really for bailing out banks, or the auto industry. Those people make a lot of money, and they've squandered a lot of capital - both monetary and political. But on the other side of that is that if the banks fail, then a whole mess of people who haven't squandered a lot of capital - who don't have a lot of capital to squander - end up pretty royally screwed by the system they bought into. So, from a pragmatic standpoint, I'd rather save the banks because to do anything else would be to cut off my nose to spite my country's face. And above it all, above political ideology and economic ideology and social ideology, I'm really very patriotic. Seriously. I tear up when I hear the Star Spangled Banner, and the reason why I give money to political organizations and the reason I write letters and the reason why I am interested in following the political scene and talking about the political scene and writing about the political scene is that not only do I love my country but I think my country can do better. I think we can reach higher and accomplish more and do better by our citizens, especially those who are too often left on the side of the road during public discourse. And because of that, my ideology in some regards is fairly flexible. And this is one of those times when my beliefs are.