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Seeing the Good

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As we go through the process of searching for ways to cut money from our national budget, we should be doing some soul-searching as well.

You can watch the political parties lining up with their masters and pets, trying to focus the effort on the places where they want the budget cut. To do this, they need to demonize and dehumanize the people whose funding they want to cut.

One side wants to cut funding and pork that goes primarily to the wealthy class in our country. They look to move the taxpayer dollars toward those on the lower end of the income scale, and away from those on the upper end. In addition, they target defense spending as the best place to reduce cost.  The defense industry argument is an easy one to make, I’ve written before about the amazing money we could save if we cut our defense spending to twice as much as the next biggest defense spender in the world – $600 – $700 billion a year. It’s staggering. But there’s a human side to that. Defense contractors are the biggest “welfare recipients” in the nation, and when they get that taxpayer money, they pass some of it on to their employees in the form of jobs; often really good jobs. The people who have these jobs aren’t demons and crazies. They are for the most part good people, often hard-working people, trying to get by and do a good job. As we cut the defense industry’s “welfare” ticket back, many of those good and hard-working folks will be out of a job.

The other side wants to cut funding for any programs that move money toward the middle or lower classes in the country, while retaining programs that continue to benefit the upper class. They typically demonize the waste in government programs like Medicare and Social Security; these are the places they want to make the big cuts.  But there’s a human side to these cuts as well; much easier to see. While there is surely waste and fraud in any bureaucracy, be it Medicare or defense contracting, there is also a great need among the poorest class in our country. As we cut these programs back, those with the greatest need will feel the greatest  These people aren’t demons and crazies. They are for the most part good people, often hard-working people, trying to get by and do a good job.

The budget has both a revenue and a spending side. Both sides need to be addressed. On the spending side alone, as we pound the table with our strong opinions about whose government funfing we should be cutting, let’s do our best to understand clearly what those cuts mean, who will be hurt by the cuts, and what that pain will look like.  Even when we hold strong opinions about who should receive the biggest cuts, let’s try and see the real people who will feel the pain of the cuts. Let’s see the good within those people, rather than demonizing them.

The same logic holds true for cuts to overseas programs that the government funds, or cuts to outreach programs in churches, temples, and mosques. It’s even more stark in those cases, as the recipients of the help often look very different from us, and live very differently, too. It’s much easier to not see and understand those more distant people, and much easier to see only the bad things about those people.

We all have good and bad within us, right? We all have things we’re proud of, and things we’re ashamed of. When we look at someone else, we choose whether we’re seeing the good or the bad in that person. Until we see the good in a person, we’ll not be able to provide real and meaningful help, or find real and meaningful solutions. We’ll not be able to open the Giving Circle.

This post will be published on my blog, as part of a series on finding ways to provide help.

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About Neil Hanson