I often hear those in political circles utter the phrase it's a step in the right direction when confronted with proposed legislation that offers no real change. This statement does not surprise me when made by apologists for the status quo who desperately seek approval from the mainstream. However, I am surprised when I hear political activists who claim to want substantive change regurgitate the phrase.
When radical changes are called for, half-measures that avoid any real change may be worse than no change at all. Legislation that offers superficial change may only serve to appease those who were fence-sitters or did not have strong feelings regarding an issue. This results in denying the critical mass of public opinion necessary to bring about real change.
A clear example of legislation that offers no substantive change is the proposed Fair Tax bill. Most supporters of the Fair Tax are concerned with big government, big budgets and high taxes, but this proposed legislation does not address any of these concerns. Proponents often say it is a step in the right direction.
Bush's tax cuts are another example of legislation that offers no real change. Despite America having the largest budgets, deficits, and national debt in history, many of those who were once so concerned about big government are now silent after getting a small tax cut. Perhaps they are unaware of the basic economic rule that there is no free lunch.
Millions of voters opposed to the Iraq war thought that a vote for Kerry was a step in the right direction because he merely criticized Bush's handling of the war - despite the fact that Kerry voted for the war and promised to send more troops to Iraq! In this case, an escalation of war was deemed to be a step in the right direction by many who claim to oppose the war.
America is becoming a surveillance state complete with spying on citizens, databases, and the coming National ID. Yet, proposed legislation that merely tweaks a few provisions of the PATRIOT Act is lauded as a step in the right direction.
There are even instances where a step in the wrong direction is confused with a step in the right direction. For example, a spending increase of 10% may be proposed and later amended to a 5% increase. The politicians will call this a spending cut and certain people opposed to any spending increase will claim this is a step in the right direction.
I suspect that those who love to say it's a step in the right direction are people who got tired of saying you can't fight city hall. These are the people who did fight city hall, were given some lip service, and decided to pat themselves on the back for making a difference - this allows them to move on to the next problem they lack the conviction and perseverance to correct.
I can't help but wonder if those so fond of steps in the right direction apply their philosophy of resignment in their ordinary lives. If I were to piss on their leg and tell them it is raining, I would expect them to become angry and punch me in the face. If I were to then piss on their leg and tell them that I am pissing on their leg, would they shrug and say it's a step in the right direction?
This article contributed by Tom Blanton of Richmond, Virginia.