Monday, October 8, 2012

Tea-publicans: People on the Dole Complaining about People on the Dole

It has been nearly a month since the now-famous tape was leaked in which GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking at a Republican fundraiser, casually dismissed 47 percent of Americans who would never vote for him because they were on the government dole.

Romney reacted to the leak at first by doubling down on the sentiment revealed in the tape.  As the damage began to mount, however, he demurred that his comments had not been "elegantly stated" and has since gone into full backpedal mode, declaring his 47 percent comment "completely wrong."

Throughout the ruckus, Romney retained a commanding lead with the (disproportionately elderly) conservative base.  Indeed, Romney has a near 10 point lead among seniors, who draw on the two most generous government entitlements--Social Security and Medicare and are unlikely to pay federal income taxes.

Why did seniors not feel betrayed by Romney's 47 percent remark?  Simply: they do not believe that Romney was talking about them.

A personal anecdote might serve to illustrate.

During my trip home this summer, I had a rather strange conversation with an elderly relative.  It began with him observing (apropos of nothing) that Obama “hasn’t done anything [during his presidency]” and presumably did not deserve to be re-elected.  A silence ensued while I debated whether to respond, and if so how.  I finally noted that there was that whole Obamacare thing, so it’s not really fair to say Obama has done nothing.  My relative, however, didn’t see the need for reform because his health care (Medicare) is fine.  I countered that there were a lot of other Americans who did not have Medicare or affordable private insurance, which is what Obamacare was for.

His response: "Well, we just can’t take care of everybody…there are just too many people."  

What really stuck in his craw, however, was policemen and firefighters who worked for just a few years and then retired on disability.  For a few seconds I was speechless... “but you retired early on disability!”   Indeed, he has been on disability benefits from a government job for literally decades.

Another Tea-publican relative is active-duty military, but passionately opposed to the federal government.  At one point, he even claimed that federal income taxes (which pay for his salary and benefits) were unconstitutional and tantamount to theft.

These are perfect illustrations of the kind of narcissism that makes up the Tea Party/conservative movement.  Matt Taibbi said it best after conducting research on the movement: “they are full of shit.” 
In his book, he related a conversation he had with an elderly conservative couple who were leaving a Palin rally.

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."
"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"
"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."
I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"
Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!
"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"
"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."
"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"
"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much."
Perfect illustration of the Tea Party mindset.  It’s not welfare if the money is going to them.

The pie chart above, courtesy of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Centre, breaks down Romney's 47 percent of non-income taxpayers.  The biggest proportion is senior citizens (44 percent).  This is followed by those who benefit from credits for children and the working poor (30 percent).  Only 6 percent are on government programs for the poor--the storied "parasites."

It isn’t just elderly Teapublicans who are guilty of rank hypocrisy.  In fact, the bulk of government welfare goes to the very “job creators” and “producers” that the conservative movement extolls.

Welfare recipients include bankers who believe that they are  “job-creators” and “producers” despite having been saved by a massive federal bailout and periodic infusions of cash as the Fed buys up their worthless toxic assets (a practice known as quantitative easing).  Just this month, the Feds announced a third round of quantitative easing (QE3) that will pump virtually unlimited amounts of money into the banks until the labor market "improves substantially."  

Military contractors owe their profits and outsized salaries to American taxpayers, as the Defense Department funnels taxpayer money to businesses whose primary purpose is to make weapons for the military.     As Mike Lofgren points out in his blogpost, it is no accident that 7 of the 10 richest counties in the United States are inWashington D.C

Welfare recipients also include farmers and agribusinesses who rake in billions in farm subsidies--straight from taxpayer pockets.  American farmers receive fully three times the benefits that European farmers receive.  Then there are health care providers (hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations, doctors) who earn a giant chunk of their income from state and federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. (Libertarian Rand Paul was forced to admit that Medicare and Medicaid paid for many of the patients he treated in his optometry practice). 

Who else is on the government dole?

A great many of the shrillest Republican politicians and pundits who complain about having to support the have-nots.  Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman’s family has received a quarter of a million dollars in federal farm subsidies from 1995 to 2007, and her husband Marcus has earned more than 100K in Medicaid payments for patients treated in his counseling practice.   Ayn Rand Acolyte and current VP pick, Paul Ryan, put himself through school with the Social Security survivor benefits he received as a minor after his father died.  In fact, Ayn Rand herself—penniless in her final years—received Medicare and Social Security payments under her married name, Ann O’Connor. 

Hell, Mitt Romney’s own father benefitted from welfare assistance when his impoverished family fled to the U.S. after the Mexican revolution (according to Mitt Romney’s own mother).

Remember: it isn't welfare if they themselves are the beneficiaries.  As Timothy Noah put it in the Atlantic:

"Tea Partiers aren't against government benefits.  They're against government benefits for other people. They just dress it up in antigovernment rhetoric and convince themselves that Medicare and Social Security benefits are different because they've already paid for them through payroll taxes (when in fact beneficiaries take out far more than they put in."

George Carlin perhaps said it best: “Have you ever noticed how other people’s stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?”  If you cannot see this in yourself, well, maybe you are a (Tea/Re) publican.

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