Tuesday, November 27, 2012


On the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, William McGurn is almost ready to acknowledge that users of the social safety net are human beings deserving of empathy as well as fellow Americans -- at least under certain circumstances:
Several months ago, while flipping channels with the remote, I stopped on an MTV show about a working mom whose whole life was upended when her partner announced that he was splitting. It caught my attention because this mother lived in a nice apartment that looked like one in my suburban New Jersey town, and she was applying for food stamps.

This wasn't your caricature "taker" -- the woman had a real job.
Wow -- they're not all shiftless bums using your money to buy T-bone steaks! Some of them actually live in houses! In the suburbs!
With her partner leaving, however, she could no longer afford the rent, and she would have trouble providing for her two young boys alone. As she walked up to an office to sign up for food stamps, she said something like, "I can't believe I am applying for public assistance."
Ahhh, but not to worry -- this apparent angel of the gutter may not be a parasite, but she's had parasitism thrust upon her:
As it turned out, the reason her partner could abandon those two young boys is because they weren't his. He'd been supporting another man's children, and apparently decided he'd had enough.
So there's really no reason for right-wingers to rethink their unswerving antipathy to government social programs, or at least the ones that aren't plutocrat-targeted. The Republican Party doesn't have to change its message -- it just has to persuade moms on food stamps that they'd be better off if their kids didn't have enough food to eat:
The conservative might feel vindicated here: Had the mom been married to and living with her children's father, chances are she and her boys would not find themselves so vulnerable.

Being correct, however, isn't the same thing as being persuasive....

Conservatives' top priority should be promoting an alternative -- that in a highly competitive, global economy, the only real economic security for ordinary Americans is the security of opportunity....

It can be done. Three decades ago, Milton and Rose Friedman illustrated the benefits of capitalism to millions of ordinary citizens through their television series and book, "Free to Choose." We need a similar popular effort today, to bring home the benefits of the free market to Americans who think it works only for the kind of folks who work at Bain Capital -- or write columns for The Wall Street Journal.
That's what you need, ma'am! A shelf of libertarian-leaning books, not food for your kids' table! Feed your kids on Randian dreams!

That seems to be the principal lesson right-wingers have learned from the 2012 elections: their message was flawless and inerrant -- only the delivery was flawed. Will Republicans change? Nahhh. They still don't think they need to.


Victor Davis Hanson doesn't think there was anything wrong in 2012 with the message or the messenger -- especially the messenger:
Mitt Romney was a glittering Sir Galahad who, given his impressive horse, armor, and lance, along with his decency and piety, assumed that he could win a joust in a fair charge against the other team's knight. Instead he waded into a sudden fray where he was swarmed, mobbed, cut off, pulled off his magnificent steed, had his matchless armor yanked away by a mob of foot soldiers, and then, once stripped clean, was clubbed and maced beyond recognition.
Poor noble fellow! Politics -- he was led to believe it would be beanbag! Can you fault him if he was tragically mistaken?

Glittering Mitt of the Impressive Lance was brought low by, of course, the Evil Media:
The fact is that the liberal press is insidious. The worst network news anchors still have larger ratings on most nights than does The O'Reilly Factor. NPR, with 900 stations, draws more listeners than most right-wing talk hosts. It does not matter much that no one watches MSNBC if they watch NBC.... When you tally together the cultural influence of the NY Times, Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, ABC, and NBC, and then consider the slant of a USA Today or People magazine, it all adds up.
The secret weapon of liberal fascism: People magazine!

And even book tours have a potentially election-tipping liberal bias!
When an author appears on Fox, he is dismissed as rank book plugger; when he goes on NPR's Talk of the Nation, he is a literary figure.
That alone must have been worth half a million votes in Ohio!

Hanson differs from McGurn because he doesn't experience even a hint of fellow-feeling when he sees people on public assistance. They must be brutally crushed -- if only the liberal media would allow it. They are The Other, particularly the filthy Messkins in his home state of California:
"Family values" where I live means a sort of patron/client La Familia relationship in which the government becomes the patron and we are the clients who vote for it in exchange for state health care, food, housing, education, and legal help -- all means of addressing the injustice that "they" (rich people) have done to those arriving from Mexico. If anyone thinks the divorce, illegitimacy, or crime rates are lower here in Selma or Fresno and tens of thousands of Latino Catholics are just waiting for a nice word to vote for Rick Santorum, they need to have their heads examined. If anyone thinks Latinos in California just want the Dream Act and then, presto, will favor closed borders and a merit-based, ethnically blind system in which education, capital, and skills adjudicate who is let in the legal immigration line, they need doubly to have their heads examined.
Don't hold back, Victor. Tell us how you really feel about non-whites who make less money than you.
Last night I went late into the local drug store. The guy ahead of me carefully separated his groceries: in one small pile was baby formula and milk that he paid with a California food card; in the other pile was a huge heap of regular Mountain Dew, three snack packs of Snickers, expensive Beef Jerky packs, and jumbo bags of M&M's. He held up the line for 10 minutes while he went through the two piles and checked out twice. But he did apologize for the delay. I offered to pay cash for his milk and formula to expedite his cash purchase of 20,000 calories. I don't think he voted for Mitt Romney.

Nor did the other guy at the Selma Save Mart the day before who got into a new Honda Accord (6-cylinder, no less) after buying 2 cartloads of subsidized food. It may be callous and rude to say that lots more Americans look to government after 2008, but it happens to be true. What Romney said before and after the election may have seemed insensitive and in some details inexact, but his basic drift was correct.
So we're literally back to parasites buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. That's a GOP message for 2016? Well, I guess it worked for Reagan.


aimai said...

He should definitely have sold off one of those cylinders to pay for food.

The fact that people have lost hteir jobs but hung onto assets that they can't, in fact, sell other than at a loss, seems to have totally escaped these guys like Hanson and the first one. You make commitments to your family when you have a good job and then you can't easily downsize or sell off what you own, or change the situation, in a way that makes sense. In the case of that woman she can't break the lease without a high cost, in the case of the guy in the car (even presuming he exists) he may be living out of the car.


Victor said...

Too bad Mitt no longer has Secret Service protection. "The Albino Lance" would have been a great code name!

And boys, let me tell you something about food stamps - or, SNAP, as it's known in the Liberal paradise of NY State:
My mother and I get a whopping $16 a month in Food Stamps - for the two of us - together. That ain't even one good T-bone!
Actually, that's not even enough for a 1/2 gallon of milk and a dozen eggs, a week.

I keep being told we Liberals and Democrats were promised 'gifts.'


At least bring me another MFing iced tea!

aimai said...

"Get me a m-fcking ice tea" never gets old. Never. I still laugh hysterically.


Johanson said...

It's the framing, the relentless framing. We're all supposed to be outraged that a few people might get a package of lamian noodles they might only deserve about 4 of the 5 ounces, yet someone like Mitt Romney has over two hundred million dollars and has only done a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of actual work his entire adult life. We have 10% of the population getting filthy rich off riding on the backs of millions of American workers, the real producers. But there will be no outrage editorials about that in the WSJ because we're not talking about economics, we're talking about what the cult of conservatism believes in.

Pete said...

VDH is a national treasure, who should be pickled in amber. And buried. Alive.

Chris Andersen said...

Mark my words, the "makers vs. takers" theme of the modern Republican party will be its destruction. You don't win elections on the theme that anyone who might not agree with you *must* be a moocher.

BH said...

I wish I could agree with you, Chris, but only 2 years ago the R's won a whole shitpot of elections using that very theme (with its subtext of racism) - and quite possibly would have taken the Senate with it, had they nominated 3 or 4 better-camouflaged people instead of Day-Glo headcases like Christine O'Donnell. At a minimum, I see nothing to keep them from riding "makers/takers" for a long time yet here in the south, keeping enough Congressional power to hobble even moderate, much less liberal, national policy.

Cranky Fan said...

MTV Mom is probably divorced because a) she's a woman and b) she's probably a slut. She should have been more submissive. That's what women these days are not doing enough of.

aimai said...

This point ended up above, in my own post, but there is a major error in guilt attribution in the essay about the woman who suddenly needs foodstamps because her boyfriend leaves. The writer of the essay argues that she "needs" this money because she sluttishly chose to have children with someone who didn't stick around to pay for his own children--that by ending her marriage (something he presumes she did unilaterally) or by having children without being married, she "chose." So the kids are a lifestyle choice, an expense she couldn't afford, like the apartment itself or an expensive car.

But although children are certainly expensive, and like any other expense one might take them on at one time (with one set of social circumstances, one good job, health care coverage) and later find them to have been a bad decision ONE CAN'T DOWNSIZE OR SELL THEM--anymore, or after a certain age. In the old days people who had too many children--especially people from communities that forbade family planning--used to turn children over to orphanages or have them adopted out or apprenticed out in order to take the burden of support from the biological/social parents.

Whether the woman was married to their father or not she and he could both have ended up in the same financial place: strapped, without enough income to support the children or feed them.

But in any event it is also the case that marriage or not the biological father actually has a duty to support his own children and can be sued for support. The implicit argument that the slutty lady with two kids lost her right to support for the children because she was not, or is not, married to their father is factually incorrect. The law considers that the biological child has an absolute right to support from the male biological parent--or the adoptive parent--regardless of the marital status of the parents.

But if you were to acknowledge the fact that the children have a deadbeat dad in the picture, not a worthless mother, you might end up having more sympathy for the woman, rather than less. So the author prefers to ignore reality and the law and blame the woman for failing to maintain a conventional marital relationship with the children's biological father, as though only such a relationship could guarantee his duty to support them.