"GOVERNMENT SUCKS" IS THE CONSTANT; THEIR OWN SENSE OF SELF-WORTH IS THE VARIABLE
Before this big New York Times article came along, it was obvious to anyone who was paying attention that tea party supporters and other right-wing heartlanders hate government, yet avail themselves of government programs just the way the rest of us do. What we see from the article is how they feel when the contradiction is pointed out to them.
Hardly any of the good people of Chisago County, Minnesota, will acknowledge that maybe we ought to come up with a tax structure that will pay for the services they and the rest of us readily use. Agreeing to that would contradict the one constant in all right-leaning heartlanders' belief systems: that "less government and lower taxes" is the answer to every political question that doesn't involve killing brown people overseas.
Forced to acknowledge the contradiction, some express a willingness to throw themselves and their families under the bus rather than have another dime go to the hated government:
The government helps Matt Falk and his wife care for their disabled 14-year-old daughter. It pays for extra assistance at school and for trained attendants to stay with her at home while they work. It pays much of the cost of her regular visits to the hospital.
Mr. Falk, 42, would like the government to do less.
"She doesn't need some of the stuff that we're doing for her," said Mr. Falk, who owns a heating and air-conditioning business in North Branch....
Mr. Falk ... said he did not want to pay higher taxes and did not want the government to impose higher taxes on anyone else. He said that his family appreciated the government's help and that living with less would be painful for them and many other families. But he said the government could not continue to operate on borrowed money.
"They're going to have to reduce benefits," he said. "We're going to have to accept it, and we’re going to have to suffer."
Some literally burst into tears:
Barbara Sullivan, 71, moved last year to the apartments above the Chisago County Senior Center in North Branch. Waiting on a recent Friday for the hot lunch, which costs $3.50, she watched roughly 20 people play bingo for prizes including canned soup and Chef Boyardee pasta.
"Most of the seniors around here are struggling to make it," she said.
She counts herself among them. She lives on $1,220 a month in Social Security benefits and relied on Medicare to pay for an operation in November.
She believes that she is taking more from the government than she paid in taxes....
But she cannot imagine asking people to pay higher taxes. And as she considered making do with less, she started to cry.
"Without it, I'm not sure how I would live," she said. "With the check I'm getting from Social Security, it's a constant struggle on making sure that I pay my rent and have enough left for groceries.
"I haven't bought a Christmas present, I haven't bought clothing in the last five years, simply because I can’t afford it."
You have to read more than ninety paragraphs into the article to find someone -- a woman described as "a centrist Democrat" -- who thinks someone, perhaps, ought to pay more in taxes because the services are needed:
Barbara Nelson has little patience for people who say they will not need government help. She considers herself lucky she has not, and obligated to provide for those who do.
"Catastrophes happen in life," she said, sitting in a coffee shop in Taylors Falls....
Ms. Nelson, 61, who describes herself as a centrist Democrat, also dismisses the claim that people cannot afford to pay more taxes.
"Anyone who can come into a coffee shop and buy coffee is capable of paying more," she said. "If someone's life can be granted, in terms of adequate health care, if that means I give up five cups of coffee a month, that is a small price to pay."
Even economic right-centrists (David Frum, for instance) acknowledge that government social programs are ingrained in American life. Government programs actually make it easier for capitalism to function in many ways, by softening the shock of layoffs and reducing the burden workers feel when there's illness or infirmity in their families, to name only two examples. But that notion has disappeared from Main Street conservatism. Heartland rightists would rather see themselves punished than admit that maybe government isn't evil.