This time of year is when I wrap up a series of model United Nations activities for high school and middle school students. Through the years, I have seen hundreds of Model U.N. resolutions written by students who struggle to find ways to address the needs of the less fortunate in countries outside the U.S. At a recent model U.N. session, a whimsical thought crossed by mind: What kind of programs would today’s GOP propose for other countries and how would they fund the programs?
First a little background. Almost without exception, the students in model UNs look for ways to address issues such as health care, education, infrastructure and clean water that face developing countries. Both high school and middle school students know that nothing comes free, so they creatively explore ways to fund programs to address social and economic needs of the less fortunate.
They take the logical approach of asking the richer countries to fund programs for the impoverished states. Suppose student-delegates propose building schools in countries with literacy rates under 50%. A typical funding mechanism might be, “The General Assembly recommends that the ten wealthiest countries in the world (as measured by per capita income) increase their U.N. dues by 0.8% and this money be placed in a special trust fund designated for this program.”
So let’s suppose that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were delegates to a model U.N. What would they propose? Here’s a bare-bones resolution:
Re.: Improving Education in Third-World Countries
Date: Thursday, December 09, 2010
Whereas, education is at least in theory important,
Be It Hereby Resolved That:
1. The United Nations establish a program to educate students in developing countries.
2. The program must focus on stabilizing global issues in such a way that it best serves American interests.
3. The teaching of evolution shall not be permitted in any school that receives United Nations funding since the theory is flawed and illusionary.
4. No country that attempts to share wealth among its citizens or exhibits other forms of socialist-type behavior will be eligible to receive funding for this program.
5. The program be financed in the following fashion:
a. The United Nations dues of the ten wealthiest countries will be reduced by 30% in order to produce “trickle-down” assets for recipient countries.
b. The United Nations dues of the fifty poorest countries will be increased by 50% so that their governments and citizens learn the value of money and hard work.
6. There will be no negotiating about the terms of this resolution.
Okay, this proposed resolution may include a bit of hyperbole. But it does include basic tenets of the Republican agenda: (a) Further redistribution of wealth from the poor to the wealthy, (b) Restrictions on the discussion of ideas that are not consistent with the GOP platform, (c) an unwillingness to negotiate about anything.
Following a week in which Republicans voted to not extend unemployment benefits while continuing to discount “fair share” payments of taxes by the wealthy, the Republicans continue to act in a Scrooge-like fashion.
Progressives and moderates are not helpless to address the Republican agenda. We need to address the “What’s the Matter with Kansas” syndrome. This means that we need to help more Americans understand that they are often voting against the economic interests. We need to enlist more support from the media in presenting this picture. We need to praise reporters and outlets that accurately paint the picture. Foremost among these is Charles Jaco of Fox2 News in St. Louis. The station may have ‘Fox’ in its name, but it has considerable local autonomy and is attempting to accurately present the news. Adam Shriver of the St. Louis Activist Hub just posted a link to two terrific reports by Jaco regarding the impact of not extending unemployment benefits. The first report presents the overall picture in Missouri; the second humanizes the impact on unemployed individuals.
Third world countries took oppression only so long and then threw off the yoke of colonialism. As Robert Reich and others have said, America is becoming, more and more, a country of two classes: the “haves” and the “have nots.”
All is not lost. We have a Democratic president, albeit one who needs help in identifying his true friends. The new Senate will still have a majority of Democrats. And while Nancy Pelosi will be House Minority Leader in the 112th Congress, she will remain as possibly the savviest politician on Capitol Hill.
Republicans have been successful in framing both their own identity and that of the Democrats. We need to become much more effective in framing both our own identity and that of the Republicans. So while the resolution above may be just a bit facetious, it may help us have a better idea of how the GOP would look to a different audience. If we are to keep hope alive, it must come from within each and every one of us.