If you thought yesterday’s post on dog poop bags was just a quick toss-off, well think again, for the moment I saw the Seattle Times/AP piece on cash-strapped Everett spending $8,430 on plastic dog poop bags, I immediately recognized an opportunity to provoke a conversation on what I believe to be the most pernicious aspect of today’s conservative movement: its stubborn insistence on choosing ideology over reality.
And at least in this regard, my comment thread did not disappoint:
6. Rae spews:
How about dog owners’ be responsible and thus, bring their own poop bags? This isn’t a public service at all, but yet another way the liberal government is sending a message that people aren’t or don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions. Want to have kids? Let someone else feed them, clothe them, provide day care for them. Want a dog? Provide poop bags. Get real.
22. The Riddle of Steel spews:
Why cant dog owners(who apparntly can afford to own a dog) purchase their own shit-bags instead of making everyone else pay for them?
This has to one of the stupidest fucking govt programs I have ever heard of. Its shit like this that pisses people off and keeps them from voting for higher taxes.
mommy govt at its finest…..
Of course, in a sense, both Rae and Riddle are right; dog owners should be more responsible about cleaning up after their pets, and there are many other things I’d rather spend taxpayer money on than plastic poop bags. Personally, I rarely leave the house without a ready poop bag in my back right pocket, and neither should any other conscientious dog owner. (Next time you see me, ask me to show you my poop bag; I bet I’ll have one.)
But this ideologically driven, moralistic approach ignores the fact that the free-dog-poop-bag policy itself has proven damn effective at keeping dog shit off the soles of our shoes, and out of our waterways.
Fecal coliform bacteria is one of the most serious pollutants in many of our nation’s urban streams, and modern DNA tests routinely trace the majority of the contamination back to dog waste. That’s why, in an effort to combat both this very real health concern, and the general nuisance factor of unpicked-up poop, municipalities nationwide have pursued a coordinated campaign that includes general public outreach and education, the creation of dedicated off-leash parks with adequate waste handling facilities, and yes… providing and stocking taxpayer funded poop bag dispensers at parks, trails and other popular dog walking routes.
Municipalities maintain this expense, even in the face of dramatic budget cuts, because it works… not just due to the convenience, but because the mere visible presence of these bag dispensers and waste receptacles is socially reinforcing, resulting in a dramatically higher compliance rate with existing pooper scooper laws. From a public health and quality of life perspective, few public expenditures produce such bang for the buck as the $8,430 Everett spends on plastic poop bags.
But that’s not good enough for the personal responsibility crowd. The mere notion of spending public dollars on something individuals should do for themselves offends their sensibilities. And so they would prefer to see their public sidewalks, parks and trails covered in shit than admit that sometimes, reality trumps ideology.
Substitute poop bags with condoms or sex education or health insurance or the minimum wage or unemployment compensation extensions or carbon credits or marriage equality or “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” or any number of other issues, and you begin to understand why conservatives are so passionately opposed to so many of the policies we in the reality-based community consider no-brainers.
This is the real problem with modern conservatism… not the ideology itself, which even I admit has something to contribute to the public debate, but its relentlessly dogmatic exercise. Today’s conservatives seem so obsessed with how people should behave, that they have little or no tolerance for how people actually do behave. So steeped in faith — faith in God, faith in the market, faith in American mythology, faith in their personalized reading of the Constitution — nothing will stop today’s conservative leaders from advocating what should work over what actually does.
And that’s why, when finally given the reins over both Congress and the White House, the Republicans so spectacularly stepped in it.
In the thread, HA reader Rae only reinforces my thesis by attempting to defend her previous comments:
I don’t know if I should be flattered or po’d. But you’ve missed the mark. By providing poop bags, the government has just reinforced their beliefs that the population is incapable of being responsible. And I personally object to being thought incapable of being responsible.
She objects, on principle, to a policy that works. Exactly.