Friday, July 07, 2006

Barak Obama vs. Paris Hilton

Sen. Barak Obama has made another superb speech on the critical role of faith in public life. He rebuked the secular wing of the Democratic Party – his party and mine – for it self-defeating paranoia about faith. He put it more nicely than I did.

Just to give a sample of the speech, he said
But what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Obama then went on to take a couple of examples of how faithful people, not just Christians, make better public policy when the act on their faith -- fighting AIDS, lifting Third World debt, stopping genocide.

One example surprised me as not usually on the faith-based list. Sen. Obama contends that
And by the way, we need Christians on Capitol Hill, Jews on Capitol Hill and Muslims on Capitol Hill talking about the estate tax. When you've got an estate tax debate that proposes a trillion dollars being taken out of social programs to go to a handful of folks who don't need and weren't even asking for it, you know that we need an injection of morality in our political debate.
I have long thought that the estate tax is a serious moral issue, and a political issue that Democrats can and should win. Yet Republican opponents of the estate tax have been winning the argument – no, not the argument, just the rhetorical competition – through the brilliant trick of always referring to the estate tax as the "death tax." George Lakoff cites this as one of the best examples of how Republicans have been winning the political competition by reframing the terms of the debate, without changing the substance of the debate.

I believe that whenever someone says "end the death tax," Democrats should say "strengthen the Paris Hilton tax." If we really had an estate tax in this country, Paris Hilton would have to look for honest work (and no, porn star doesn't count).

Obama has raised my sights in this debate. The estate tax is not only good for the character of rich kids. It is a just way to fund some social programs for the poor. Starting with Paris.


Quotidian Grace said...

Using Paris Hilton as the poster child for increasing the estate tax for redistributionist purposes is unfair! It's almost enough to make me agree with you!!!

Victoria Crowell said...

Oh, Barack, how I love thee. I wish you could be president.

Kerri said...

Morality definitely has a place in politics (even making that statement seems absurd). What bothers me is that the right focuses all its morality into micro things, while the left has a strong moral backing for its position on more macro issues, but is afraid to cite the moral sides of its points.... I hear a lot about homosexuality in the Bible, but nothing about egalitarian economics.

Gruntled said...

"It's almost enough to make me agree with you!!!"

Ah, the insidious tactics of the center.

As to egalitarian economics, Kerri, the group that Obama was addressing in this speech is one of the leading Christian groups pushing for more pro-poor economic policies.

And who knows, he might be president some day...