Sunday, February 12, 2012

In America, the People who Depend on the Government Hate it the Most

From the Times:
Ki Gulbranson owns a logo apparel shop, deals in jewelry on the side and referees youth soccer games. He makes about $39,000 a year and wants you to know that he does not need any help from the federal government. He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice. There is little poverty here in Chisago County, northeast of Minneapolis, where cheap housing for commuters is gradually replacing farmland. But Mr. Gulbranson and many other residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year. Dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in the county in 2009, a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation. In Chisago, and across the nation, the government now provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income.
This is the era of political denial, in which people who depend absolutely on the government think that only other people do. I wish I understood what was behind this, but I just don't. I have a feeling that the rhetoric of conservatism is a part of it. People hear constantly about what independence-sucking corrupt moral disasters "government programs" are, and having internalized this view they simply can't accept that they are the ones who depend on those same programs. Matt Taibbi attended a Tea Party rally in Kentucky where he marveled at the number of old people riding electric scooters:
the person sitting next to me leans over and explains. "The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."
I see nothing wrong with government subsidies to people who need help; I am all for them. And I suppose that if you want to oppose such subsidies and demand lower taxes, that is your right. But it is wrong in a deep way to depend on such subsidies while railing against them. This disconnect is seriously corrupting American politics, leading to fantasy budgeting, soaring deficits, and completely unrealistic expectations on the part of voters. Somebody needs to tell Americans the truth.

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