Thursday, April 14, 2005

Government with Heart

The Washington Post recently boasted an interesting story about how popular, but embattled, Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has spearheaded efforts to open a public shelter for that city's elderly prostitutes with nowhere else to go.

The Post's Mary Jordan writes:

"Lopez Obrador has built a huge base of support among the disenfranchised since he took office in 2000. In addition to building houses for the poor, he has established monthly cash payments and public transportation discounts for the elderly, medical assistance for the disabled and economic support for single mothers. He has fixed streets and parks, spent lavishly on public works projects aimed at alleviating traffic congestion and even turned over the spacious city-owned building to aging prostitutes.

"So when Congress voted Thursday to strip him of his immunity from criminal prosecution in a relatively minor land dispute, several hundred thousand people -- many of them the city's poorest residents -- turned out in Mexico's central square to support him. They decried the action as a political lynching of their mayor, the front-runner in early polling for next year's presidential election.

"Lopez Obrador's opponents say his free spending on social programs represents not a big heart, but a big ego. Even though critics say some of his social programs such as the shelter are laudable, they argue that the mayor is using city money to buy votes at the expense of the city's long-term economic health. They say his economic policies scare off investors who could improve the city's economy and create jobs that would help lift people out of poverty."

The story is worth a look, if for no other reason but to reflect upon how genuinely altruistic public policy in the United States would be considered a political kiss of death.

That open-heartedness, the belief that our most vulnerable citizens deserve our help, is perhaps what I find most attractive -- at least in the abstract -- about the Democratic Party (even though I'm a Republican). Too often, of course, that desire to help can transmogrify into a patronizing we-know-best-for-you mindset (hence being a registered Republican, I suppose) but the most fundamental level of humanitarianism -- working to ensure a roof over one's head, a meal in one's belly, a real opportunity to better oneself, free body piercing (that one's iffy) should always be a priority for politicians.

Neither party, of course, really aspires to be much of a voice for the downtrodden. When push comes to shove, after all, the downtrodden don't vote in great numbers -- and they sure as hell don't contribute to campaigns.


At 11:49 PM, Blogger Ceres said...

Very interesting article (and post). That is why Dubya keeps shoving that faith-based crap on us. A swine stuffed with cash can't help the sinners, the sinners need to go to the soup kitchen in the church.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Dr. Pants said...

I just think it's funny how much things have changed in the last 20 years. The Republicans are now the party of the church? That used to be Democrats.

Personally, my wish is that more Republicans could accept that Democrats want to make the country better and more Democrats could see that Republicans are just trying to do the same. We've all got good ideas, we just need to get over ourselves (and our party affiliations) long enough to do the right thing, no matter which party it benefits.

At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Join the official Dubya bash fest at, news the news is afraid to tell you!


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