Yesterday the right-wing news site the Drudge Report linked to a post at occasional advocate of destroying entire countries Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller. Basically, this post was aimed at stirring people up over the fact that the Great Recession has sent the number of SNAP recipients in the military through the roof. Yup, it’s a “takers vs. producers” story aimed at the troops.
Say, do you know what happens when a prominent Dem says anything even close to this critical of the soldiers? That’s right, he/she is viciously attacked as hating our military or even being a traitor. Now, I don’t think that the military is beyond criticism. Nothing is. But damn if it ain’t hypocritical but funny when people try to impose ludicrous standards on others and then flunk them.
I should point out that the number of people — both military and civilian — on food stamps and other kinds of welfare can be expected. It wasn’t that long ago that the economy collapsed, eventually bringing the unemployment rate up to over 10%. When more people are down on their luck, you get more people on welfare. It’s basic logic, not something that indicates a decline in American work ethic or morality.
Now, it’s true that the economy has improved greatly since then, but median incomes have been remarkably less positive. So it’s no wonder that the number of people on the welfare rolls isn’t going down very fast.
Why are Drudge and the Daily Caller taking their campaigns against welfare recipients in this direction? Well, it goes back to a strategy pioneered by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. His “welfare queen” speeches involved a fictional woman from Chicago who got benefits under lots of aliases and drove a Cadillac. It was an outrageous tale intended to spark hatred of the poor, complete with helpings of race and gender bait. And the legacy of this would be a welfare reform bill much closer Newt Gingrich’s version than Bill Clinton’s.
The right is still at it, warning about a permanent underclass that gets everything for nothing. The “makers vs. takers” explanation for why President Obama won a second time is only the latest. Guess welfare reform was a colossal waste of time. Except that these same conservative tend to praise that bill. How odd.
There is exactly one unique thing about this generation of welfare bashers. Reagan was always very careful about how he rhetorically targeted social programs. That’s why he cited a very specific kind of recipient. Not so with today’s right wing (reality check: that’s the real reason Obama is still in the White House). They’re the guys shut down the government over pet causes and have nominated candidates who say stupid things like that pregnancy by rape is something that “God intended to happen.”
Point is, they’re much too short-sighted to realize that it’s unwise to attack just anyone who gets a government service. Soldiers enlist into the service of their country knowing full well that if sent into battle, there’s a real chance of being killed. People just aren’t going to be too quick to judge such a person.
And that explains why the Tea Party cause is largely incompatible with political reality. They want to eliminate the deficit and debt entirely through spending cuts. But you’ve got to cut deep into the mega-popular Social Security and Medicare to do this, especially since Republicans want yet another tax cut for the wealthy. But the support for such things isn’t there. Why? Because people don’t want to be tossed on the street.