Dec 27 2011

Confiscatory Conservatism

Published by at 8:00 am under Hypocrites

A recent post on the “Campaign Stops” blog on the Washington Post caught my eye recently. It seems the that the Romney campaign has decided to trash once and for all the idea of so called compassionate conservatism-in favor of the idea that “anyone who uses any government program is a deadbeat.
Mitt Romney wants to stigmatize most “safety net” spending – the array of social insurance programs from Medicare to food stamps to unemployment compensation to free school lunches — as a form of welfare that is “cultivating government dependence.”
Interesting-if not a sweeping misjudgment of a hell of a lot of our fellow citizens. You’ll forgive me if I utter a succinct and totally appropriate reply to old Mittster:
What Romney is doing is nothing new-it’s a campaign gimmick that goes back as far as Richard Nixon and the early Ronald Reagan, who eagerly capitalized on typecasting welfare recipients in his 1964 , “A Time for Choosing” speech he gave in support of then candidate for President Barry Goldwater. It was not effective in getting Goldwater elected-but it did help vault Reagan to the California Governorship and then on to the White House.
Romney’s advisors are no dummies-they know that when you use the word “welfare” to an average American, it promotes exceedingly negative feelings. As the article points out:
In large measure, Americans hate welfare because they view it as a program that rewards the undeserving poor,” Gilens writes. “First, the American public thinks that most people who receive welfare are black, and second, the public thinks that blacks are less committed to the work ethic than are other Americans.”
Romney’s goal is to persuade swing voters of the imminent moral and material danger that Obama and the Democratic party pose. …
Romney and his aides have designed his rhetoric to define pretty much all spending on entitlements, including provisions for the injured, unemployed, sick, disabled or elderly as benefits to the poor who, Romney implies, are undeserving. And it doesn’t matter whether the money to pay for these programs comes from employer and employee contributions and not just tax revenue — they are all under suspicion.
Of course the problem with this line of thinking is threefold-it assumes that person’s conditions remain static, that there is absolute equality of opportunity and luck ( a key fiction that our tea swilling “friends” have carefully cultivated to justify their blatant selfishness and protect the 1% who are robbing the rest of the country blind), and it presumes that people who have paid into a system have no right to a promise that they paid into.
It would be helpful if Romney actually took a step back and looked hard at what an entitlement really is:
An entitlement, as the government defines it, “legally obligates the United States to make payments to any person who meets the eligibility requirements established in the statute that creates the entitlement.”
Thus my military retirement is an entitlement, so too is my Tricare.  So too when the time comes will be my Social Security-all of which I earned through some 30+ years of participation in the “system”. What I get back hardly equates to the effort I put in-but it does provide a safety net to compensate for the missed opportunities I was not able to take to rise to the ranks of the 1% because I thought some things were a lot more important than money. I earned them all-as I will have earned my Medicare if needed. It is a contract buster-one you better not break. Or I will be out there on the streets with Molotov Cocktail in hand.
So much is so wrong with this line of thinking-not the least of which is the circumstances of the person airing the viewpoint. Would that I had had the breaks Romney did: One of America's richest men, and an heir to his father's fortune, disparages support for the poor and celebrates "willingness to innovate, pioneer or take risk." Someone should tell him that so many of us would be willing to do that if we had Daddy's money to fall back on.
A commenter on the same post nailed what’s wrong with his attitude:
His comment that the Entitlement Society gives everyone the same reward regardless of effort or success is absurd. No one who has to rely on food stamps and Medicaid lives anywhere near as well as someone who is successful (try finding a doctor who will see you for what Medicaid pays).He is trying to deflect public attention from what has created growing numbers of poor and unemployed – unregulated and uncontrolled capitalism. You never hear him discussing the mortgage crisis or the number of jobs that have been shipped to China – perhaps because he has no idea what to do about it. You never hear him talk about the effect on opportunity of the defunding of public education as states like Texas balance their budgets. He should remember that the capitalist system is not written on stone tablets. If the people of this country decide that the rewards are given to too few people and the costs are too great for the rest, they will make a change. It almost happened during the Great Depression, but Roosevelt saved capitalism by mitigating the harshness of the Depression and giving people hope. If capitalism is going to be saved again, the same kind of things have to be done, and Romney shows no sign of understanding that.
This does not mean, by the way, that there are not procedural and system changes that need to be made to many of our entitlement programs. However, when you take the attitude that if you avail yourself of a government benefit that you are perfectly entitled too-and in a previous or subsequent iteration you have paid into or will pay into-you are condemning a whole lot of undeserving people to serfdom. Thanks but no thanks.
And then on Sunday-like a couple of my strident Facebook friends, they will go to church and congratulate themselves what loving and dedicated Christians they are. The combination of blatant selfishness and feigned religiosity is more than a little nauseating. That’s not a great society-and nor is it a society that rewards opportunity. So to hell with that idea, Mitt-and while we are at it, to hell with Mitt Romney too.
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