The Safety Net: A Sign Of Strength, Not Weakness

“Randy,” a frequent commenter on this blog, wrote the following in response to my post, “President Obama, Are you Listening?,” in which I claimed that the Democratic Party “is historically associated with protecting the blind, the elderly, and the poor“:

Well Duane, it all depends on how you define “protecting.” If you consider creating dependency “protecting” or “helping” – then yes, one party certainly has an historic record of enlarging the dependency roles. However if your idea of protecting or helping someone is to give them the tools they need (education) and an opportunity, and freedom… and provide them with a path to self sustainment and self pride – then that would lead you to a different party. I realize I am simplifying this that that both sides of this debate have pro’s and con’s. But once again, your analysis is one sided and disingenuous. Once again, you are part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Don’t be what you don’t like about the some of the Republican politicians (and if you were honest some of the Democrats too). Be the light. Be different. Be honest. You have a platform, you have a voice, use it wisely.

Since Randy has been a thoughtful commenter, and a good debater, I have chosen to use his comment—which contains a fairly common complaint—to make a larger point:

Randy,

My analysis is “one sided and disingenuous“?

There is no good argument—no good argument—against the claim that the modern Democratic Party has historically been vitally linked with the disabled, the poor and the elderly, in terms of providing them a safety net.  No good argument, Randy.  In that sense, I suppose my analysis is “one-sided.”  

And as for disingenuous, I’ll leave that for the readers to decide at the end.

You brought up “dependency.”  We can argue all day whether that social safety net has made folks dependent, which is the line I used to use when I was a conservative Republican.  But how do we measure such dependence?  Is it the amount of help received? The duration? A combination? Are the 30% of welfare recipients who work also dependent?  Are the people who have been forced on welfare due to the Great Recession dependents?

And why is dependence a dirty word?  Sometimes you and I both are dependent on others for help for lots of things. So what?  Is it a moral failing to need help?  To ask for it? To take it?

The welfare overhaul in the 1990s put an end to the dependence “hammock” (to use Rush Limbaugh’s phrase) that Republicans claimed the welfare system had become.  With time limits on benefits and “welfare to work” requirements, the cases of dependency in the long-term sense you apparently mean it have all but disappeared.  So, there is little in the way of evidence to support your suggestion that dependency is a problem.

And even if it were a problem, do you really think the relatively stingy benefits that some people on welfare get are the cause of such dependence? From The Wall Street Journal we learn that “a family of three earning more than $636 a month is ineligible” for welfare, in New Jersey of all places.  Imagine: If a family of three in New Jersey earns—earns!—about 160 bucks a week, they are ineligible for benefits.  How long could you or I live on that?

 And from that same article we find:

The average monthly welfare benefit in 2006, which reflects the most current data collected by the government, was $372.

Is that what is wrong with such people? They are selling their souls for $372 a month?

And even if—if!—that were the problem, what’s the alternative for such unmotivated folks?  Is it, as you say, education, opportunity, and freedom?  Huh?  Do you really think people who would rather get $372 a month for free than work for a lot more would avail themselves of the proper education that would “provide them with a path to self sustainment and self pride“?

It would be more likely that such people—to the extent they exist—would, if they had zero benefits, undertake  a life of crime, wouldn’t it?  Therefore, wouldn’t it be cheaper to give such undeserving folks a few food stamps each month than put them in prison for stealing bread—or cars?  Randy, it comes down to this: What kind of society do you want to live in?  One with a large prison in every community or one with a welfare office that might occasionally give help to folks who don’t need it or don’t deserve it?

And by dependency do you mean to include, say, some 70-year-old folks who no longer can do productive work and can’t get health insurance?  Are they part of the “dependency” problem?  Many are essentially dependent on Social Security and Medicare—two Democratic Party-inspired programs—to stay alive and well.  Is that what you mean by dependency?  If it is, I say thank God—and the Democratic Party—that there is something to be dependent on, something one can count on to avoid an ignominious and painful death.

You see, Randy, it really isn’t as simple as you suggest.  There are lots of dependent folks, dependent on each other, the government, their churches, and so on.  It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of cultural strength that there are places to go for help, whether short-term or long-term. 

And the only question is whether the American people, at least in the case of government, are willing to pay for such strength.

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34 Comments

  1. I work for the state at an ICF/MR facility. Mr. Brownback, my illustrious governor who doesn’t even believe in evolution wants to “privatize” these residents and put them out into the community. A challenge any like minded person to spend some time doing what I do, and then you may think twice about where they will live.
    Will they live in a “group home” next door to you?
    That home would be staffed by uncertified, very low payed “staff”.
    BTW, many of these residents are sex offenders and/or violent.

    AND….there is no savings when they move into the community. The amount that they receive for disability does not change once they move, it stays the same and most of the money goes to the group home owner.

    Kinda off topic, but we are talking about those who cannot care for themselves, and thus DEPEND on a “safety net”.

    Like

    • Tracy,

      I don’t think it’s off-topic at all. Privatizing what once were social commitments is going on fast and furious under Republican governance.

      You wrote,

      The amount that they receive for disability does not change once they move, it stays the same and most of the money goes to the group home owner.”

      That’s the idea: putting the money into the hands of businessmen, i.e., natural Republican constituents and potential campaign donors.

      Duane

      Like

  2. In some cases, these “businessmen” have either been fired or asked to resign from state facilities for whatever reason. The same for the “staff”.
    In other cases, the group home owner still works at the state hospital, and has huge incentive (money) to move residents out into their own private firms. A clear conflict of interest.
    I don’t believe the disabled folks get near the level of care and attention.
    I am no expert though, I’m just repeating what your average worker sees and hears on the job.

    Like

  3. ansonburlingame

     /  July 5, 2011

    To all,

    Anyone that holds up our system of mental health in the U.S. as an example of the “benefits” of good government had best think again.

    The “containment” of mentally ill people is abysmal, almost as bad as such containment when I was growing up putting foks in “state mental institutions”.

    I would submit that mental health is a great failure in this country and have frequently used addiction treatment as an example. I don’t know enough about other mental illnesses to provide anectodaly evidence of LACK OF EFFECTIVE TREATMENT of such failure.

    If statisticians accurately protrayed the devastation of addiction to drungs and alcohol alone on society and then combined that with the obvious mental illness of most of our homeless and criminal population from other causes, the impact would in my view far exceed the impact of cancer and heart disease.

    And I lay that blame right at the feet of the “Medical Community” , the same community that is driving health care costs out of sight, despite the futile efforts of any government.

    To a degree we “contain” the poor in ghettos then pour money into the ghettos to “fix” the problem. We do the same type of “containment” for the mentally ill as well but pour much less money into such facilities.

    But in neither case does government do very much to FIX or cure the underlying causes of either the “poor” or the mentally ill, including
    MILLIONS of addicts to all sorts of “stuff”, not just drugs or alcohol.

    And to top it all off we create dependcy of all sorts in our system of education today. Students expect to receive good grades and graduate simply because they are told they have a “right” to such benefits. Few tell them they must WORK for such benefits to become effective. But those that do take advantage of our “free” system of education rarely become dependent for a life time.

    Anson

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    • Anson, do you have experience as an addict? Know anything about recovery and recitivism? Just wondering…..

      I’m not speaking of addicts or people who made/make poor choices.
      I’m talking about severely disabled people who were, for the most part, born that way.

      Conservative politics towards these people goes against the very nature of christianity, or any other system that claims to be moral.

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  4. “Anyone that holds up our system of mental health in the U.S. as an example of the “benefits” of good government had best think again.”

    And you know this because?

    “The “containment” of mentally ill people is abysmal, almost as bad as such containment when I was growing up putting foks in “state mental institutions”.”

    So end this containment by throwing them out in the streets since privatized facilities will be financially out of their reach.

    “If statisticians accurately protrayed the devastation of addiction to drungs and alcohol alone on society and then combined that with the obvious mental illness of most of our homeless and criminal population from other causes, the impact would in my view far exceed the impact of cancer and heart disease.”

    Maybe those statistician should’ve asked you since you think you’ve found a way to know the truth with no data whatsoever. Using a psychic or just out catching leprechauns?

    “To a degree we “contain” the poor in ghettos”

    I have to admit that you’re right on that one. The republicans do indeed work to “contain the poor in ghettos.”

    “But in neither case does government do very much to FIX or cure the underlying causes of either the “poor” or the mentally ill, including
    MILLIONS of addicts to all sorts of “stuff”, not just drugs or alcohol.

    The government under Democrats are the only organization that works to effective assist and raise the poor. I would like to point out that being poor is not a disease to cure, and that there really are no cures for mental illness. the best that we can do for mental illness is to provide therapy and pharmacological treatment.

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  5. Randy

     /  July 5, 2011

    Duane,

    Take a deep breath, relax, and take off the gloves. Your hyper partisanship is really is not helping. First of all, it is obvious that you did not read what I had written very closely or thoughtfully. I plainly said “I realize I am simplifying this and that that both sides of this debate have pro’s and con’s.” And what did you conclude after making all of your very one sided and miss-leading arguments “You see, Randy, it really isn’t as simple as you suggest.”

    Well Duane, I stand by my original comment. You are part of the problem. You are acting like a close-headed partisan who has no interest in seeking best solutions. You are the liberal version of Sean Hannity. I don’t think you are ignorant, so that only leaves… what? Why all the miss-leading half-truths? Why all the convenient one-sidedness? Or, maybe you are ignorant.

    No Duane, our problems are not simple and the solutions are not simple – in fact, I’d argue that there are no solutions to many of our problems. Just lose-lose choices often times. But, we should still seek to be wise and think big-picture and try to do what actually works best.

    Let me address a few of your miss-leading and/or one-sided comments. And I will say again, these are complex issues with no simple sound bite solutions. (By the way, one reason I like Newt Gingrich so much is because he understands the complexity and I believe he honestly seeks the best working solutions, regardless of the party line.) In fact, before I go any farther, let me share a quote with you (not sure where it came from) that you may already be familiar with. It goes something like this: “for every sufficiently complex problem, there is a solution which is simple, obvious, and wrong.” And so it is with our current topic.

    On dependency: I have no idea what your point is or why you asked those questions. It is a given among sociologists that one dangerous side-affect of welfare of any kind is unnecessary dependency. As far as your question “Is it a moral failing to need help, ask for it, or take it?” Obviously, no, it is not. However, it *is* a moral failing to unnecessarily keep someone in a state of dependency. And it is downright immoral to do this purposely in order to maintain a voting block (if this does indeed happen, as there is some evidence for).

    On long term welfare that you claim does not exist: Government housing, government subsidized housing, food stamps, free and reduced cost school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC (keep having kids, keep getting WIC), and government provided healthcare and health services, are all examples of long-term welfare. I am sure there are more examples.

    On your misleading quote “a family of three earning more than $636 a month is ineligible for welfare.” Again, a welfare check and “welfare” are two different things. We have numerous programs for those families.

    On your question: “about 160 bucks a week, they are ineligible for benefits. How long could you or I live on that?” I cannot speak for you, but I could live on it just fine, I really could. I mean I REALLY could. Raman noodles are very cheap. Potatoes are almost free. It would be tough – but I could do it if I had to. But I tell you what Duane – I don’t think I’d have to do it for too long. I’d get three jobs. I’d wash myself in the bathroom at McDonalds. I’d buy the best clothes I could find at a thrift store to help me get those jobs. I’d walk, ride a bike, or whatever. If McDonalds said “no” to my employment, I’d be there before they opened every day for two weeks. I’d volunteer to work for free for a week. I’D GET A COUPLE OR THREE JOBS and I’d work my up. Again, I realize that not everyone is physically or mentally capable of doing that. But what’s easier, to do those things, or to just take the government handouts and live in the government housing and use the government electricity, etc ? Again, I realize that even that question is complicated – and please do not read into it to much – I am not judging folks who chose “welfare” over what I described I’d do, I understand the complexities. However, I also understand that I am not special, I am not better than them – more on that point in a moment.

    Are you happy with what you see when you look at “the projects?” Are you satisfied with the way people live in “the ghetto?” What are your thoughts on people who get hit by an act of God and their first question is “where is my FEMA check?” or “I am waiting on the government to help me.” Don’t you find this alarming? Sad? Unhealthy? What are your thoughts about the fact that many schools encourage literally every student to sign up for free breakfast and lunch – and then feed them glazed donuts for “breakfast” and a bag of chips and white bread hamburger for lunch? By the way, they publically admit to doing this so they can “receive more federal government funding.” The more kids they have on free food, they more money they get (and by the way, oftentimes waste). Never mind that they feed the kids crap. On and on I could go. Duane, read this article on the topic – I think it is about as objective as you can get (although I don’t agree wit every conclusion): http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=306620

    Okay, now back to my comment “I am not better than them.” This is huge Duane. You said “It would be more likely that such people… would, if they had zero benefits, undertake a life of crime, wouldn’t it? Therefore, wouldn’t it be cheaper to give such undeserving folks a few food stamps each month than put them in prison for stealing bread—or cars?”

    Again, this is huge Duane. Look – *I* would not do that. *You* probably would not do that. We’d go out and find a job, or two, or three. We’d find a way to make an honest living. But liberals, those who pride themselves on not being prejudiced, somehow think that our neighbors in the ghetto will not or can not do this. Liberals are prejudiced at a sort of subconscious level. They think that certain groups of people inherently “need” their assistance. That certain groups are prone to crime. (I’m not talking skin color; I’m talking social class). But that is not true Duane. I am not being Pollyannaish, there is some element of truth to what you said – BUT – here is the kicker – it is OUR fault that so many might choose crime over work. Why? Think about it Duane. You have argued yourself about how hard working the Mexican immigrants are, how the large majority of them DO NOT turn to crime. How they work several jobs – they work hard for low pay – but they do it. And they have pride. And they take care of themselves. So what is the difference? I think the difference is that we have created an atmosphere of “something for nothing” an atmosphere of “entitlement” an atmosphere of “it’s not fair that some people have more than me” an atmosphere of “the government has tons of money and they are supposed to take care of me” etc etc. In Mexico, they do not have that problem. They know that they either take care of themselves (and each other) or they starve. Again, this stuff is complicated. But to much impersonal “security” and to many impersonal handouts does lead too… well, just look where it has already led. But again, that is because we have failed – not because of any inherent inability of certain classes or types of people. If we get it right (easier said than done) these people can and will grow out of their cycle of dependency – but it probably will take a generation or two. The current dependent generation will naturally have a hard time with any changes to their routines – but again, if we do it right, we can ease the pain. So what is “right?.” That’s the million-dollar question! I don’t have all the answers. But I know what we have been doing has not worked very well – and I really really really don’t think that just spending more and more money and giving away more and more money is the answer. I asked you in a previous post “what is your plan?” “if you had total control what would you do?.” I never saw an answer (maybe just missed it?). It is so easy to attack everything we propose and point out all of weaknesses of those proposals. Where are your proposals?

    Keep in mind Duane, for what it is worth, I spent many years of my adult life living in trailer parks. My parents are both high school dropouts. I lived below the poverty line for many years of my adult life (although I was not actually poor). But through it all, my family served others and gave charitably. And we tried to be wise and resourceful. Today we are doing very well and we are very blessed in every way. My brother is a self-made million-air, FOR REAL. The American dream is alive and well Duane – and I believe that anyone who wants to move up through the social-economic classes, can, if WE don’t screw them up, if we don’t subliminally tell them they will always be dependent, if we get involved at personal levels…

    Lastly, have you read the book “Freedom From Fear” by David Kennedy? You must read it! Read the reviews and then read the book. You will love it and it will be a great education or re-education for you. It details the formation of FDR’s New Deal through first hand conversations of those involved. It is a superb non-biased non-partisan historical account of the depression through WW2 – the period that gave us all of the things you spend so much time blogging about now. Please read the book! At least check it out. You WILL NOT be disappointed.

    Randy

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    • Randy,

      Let’s clear this up first: You said,

      …it is obvious that you did not read what I had written very closely or thoughtfully.

      You can count on one thing, Randy. If I bother to reply to you or anyone, it is after I have read what you have written “closely” and “thoughtfully.” Of course I saw that you said you were simplifying things, which is why I said,

      You see, Randy, it really isn’t as simple as you suggest.

      Get it? It really—really!—isn’t as simple as you suggest.

      Now, as to the meat of the matter. I admit to being a partisan. In fact, I am proud to be partisan, to fly the flag of my team. But how you can call me a “close-headed partisan” is beyond me. My mind is always—always—open, even as a partisan. That’s why I am the “erstwhile” conservative. My mind, even as a conservative, was open enough to have it changed. Is that true of you? Think about that for a minute. Is that true of you?

      As for Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and any number of conservative heroes these days, these men, almost to a man, have always—always—been conservatives. Very few of them were once liberals (oh, I know, you can point to a few) who changed their minds. That’s very strange to me, if you want me to be honest. If you hold the same political views now that you did when you were, say, sixteen and twenty-six and thirty-six and forty-six, I find that strange.

      You see, my story is like this: There may be nothing worse than a reformed smoker—he may obnoxiously try to get you to quit smoking—but pay attention to why he does seem so obnoxious. He knows how bad smoking is and how good it is to quit. Therefore, he is doubly motivated to get you to throw the damn things down and walk away into a new life. That’s me, Randy. I am a reformed conservative, which is to say that I am a liberal.

      I truly and faithfully believed in conservatism. I studied it. I espoused it. I loved it. But I grew to distrust it, to question its assumptions. I found them wanting and I eventually found most of them flawed. That’s what I have found irks so many conservatives when it comes to me. I was once one of you guys. I know what it means to be a die-hard, rock-solid conservative. I walked that walk. I talked that talk. I read the books, listened to the players.

      And I have rejected all that stuff, or at least most of it. I still retain some residual beliefs from those days, but for the most part I have realized the error of my ways. So, it’s just not plausible for you or anyone to accuse me of being closed-minded. Okay?

      I do want to say that I profoundly agree with something you wrote:

      I’d argue that there are no solutions to many of our problems. Just lose-lose choices often times. But, we should still seek to be wise and think big-picture and try to do what actually works best.

      Yes. Yes! Yes!!! And that is exactly why we need to abandon what hasn’t worked best: conservative economics. It has been tried and found to be failure. Don’t take my word for it. Just look around at the lasting effects of years of conservative governance. We used to have a consensus in this country between Republican and Democrats, starting with Ike, that the New Deal and a reasonable social safety net was good and here to stay and that we needed to pay our bills. Conservatism changed all that, my friend. And I was living and breathing conservative when it happened.

      As for your not understanding my point on dependency, let me try again: You are making a mountain out of a molehill. There is no widespread problem with welfare dependency in this country. Look at the studies. The “dependency problem” is a red herring that goes back at least to 1976 when Ronald Reagan brought up “welfare queens” and all that business. The Clinton-era welfare reform reduced the welfare system to one in which you pretty much have to have one foot in the economic grave before help is available. I simply direct you to study the effects of TANF and I believe you will see what I am talking about.

      But I do want to address one thing you wrote about this subject:

      WIC (keep having kids, keep getting WIC)

      Now, this is a typical retort of conservatives. But I ask you, as, I assume, a Jesus-loving fellow or at least as a lover of your fellow man, what do you do about the kids? Let the bastards starve because their mamas are so stupid? Huh? Let them starve to bleeping death? Come on, my friend. What kind of country do you want to live in?

      You claim my quote about New Jersey was misleading, but I don’t understand at all what you mean. It is a fact. As for you claim that you would “get three jobs” and do all sorts of things to avert any ill effects of making 160 bucks a week, I refuse to comment on that. As I have learned through life, no one—and I mean, no one—knows what they would do if such a reality were looking them square in the face. Through the Joplin tornado experience, I have seen folks who shunned government help in principle take it now because it is necessary to do so, something I’m sure they would never have thought would happen. Suffice it to say, though, that I will take you at your word and move on.

      As for what I see when I look at “the projects,” I will tell you what I see, since in my old line of work I saw plenty of “projects.” I see a mixed bag. I see wonderful people trying to better themselves with the hand-up they receive. I see people thriving and looking forward to the day when they could get out of the projects.

      And I seethe dark side, too. Don’t you think that stuff bothers me as much as it bothers you? I had a talk with my youngest son (16) just the other day about the devastation here in Joplin, much of it in areas of low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. Look around in about ten years, I said, and you will see how human nature is. Some will use the money wisely and rebuild and take care of business. Some will not. Some will waste it and be back in the same hole they were in when it started. That’s just human nature, Randy. And it makes me as mad (and sad) as it does you or anyone. I can’t stress that enough: Liberals get mad at such stuff, too.

      But I understand that such behavior is not the norm. Most people are not that way. It’s difficult to overlook the hard cases, but overlook them we must if we are to establish as just and desirable a society as possible. As an aside, I am a lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key liberal, in terms of those who commit violence against others. I have no sympathy for those who can’t live without harming their fellow man.

      As for the Urban Institute paper, I much appreciate it and I suggest you read closely the section on dependency. But here is a relevant excerpt from the “Final Assessment”:

      Finally, if the objective is to reduce poverty without encouraging dependency, the most important thing that government can do is to assist low-income working families with such measures as the EITC, child care, subsidized health insurance, and adjustments in the minimum wage. If personal commitments to work and family are the surest way out of poverty, as they have been in the past, then these work-oriented measures are the best way to keep those who play by the rules from falling further behind.

      The bottom line is that if you agree with that paragraph, we are not as far apart as our debate suggests. This comes as close to “my proposal” for this problem as I can think of. I don’t see money spent on such things as a “giveaway,” but as in investment. Some investments pay off, some don’t. Keep that in mind.

      Randy, if you read my piece “closely and thoughtfully,” you would see that I don’t think most poor people would turn to a life of crime absent benefits from the government. But most definitely a segment of the population would, as Mexico and other developing nations demonstrate. Why do you think the drug trade is so attractive in Mexico, or Afghanistan for that matter? Because folks are poor, Randy, and some of them (a small percentage) will turn to unseemly professions to make a living. I will tell you this: If I were a poor father in Afghanistan, I would most certainly raise poppy to feed my family. What’s the alternative, starvation?

      For what it’s worth, too, my parents never finished high school. They needed to go to work. Work was valued over education. But I want to quibble with something you said, which I think most people still believe about America, but is demonstrably untrue:

      The American dream is alive and well Duane – and I believe that anyone who wants to move up through the social-economic classes, can, if WE don’t screw them up, if we don’t subliminally tell them they will always be dependent, if we get involved at personal levels…

      The so-called American dream has never been within reach for most people, Randy, if by the American dream you mean folks becoming rich. That’s a meme we perpetuate to keep people productive and to keep people believing in our system. The truth is that the American dream of being rich will almost never come true for most people, and it has nothing to do with their dependency or subliminal suggestions of such. The vast majority of folks are and will always be in a bell-shaped curve of achievement, which is okay by me.

      As for David Kennedy’s book, upon your recommendation, a copy is now on the way. I still use on a regular basis my copy of the sixth edition of “The American Pageant,” which historian Thomas Bailey originally wrote but which Kennedy updated.

      Thanks for the conversation and the book suggestion.

      Duane

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      • Very good reply. I wonder, though, if someday the “erstwhile conservative” will join us in the middle and become the “erstwhile liberal” or the “erstwhile extremist.” 😉

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        • You never know about the erstwhile liberal stuff, but it would be impossible to become the erstwhile extremist, since I am not now an extremist. Right?

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  July 6, 2011

    Sekan,

    Simple and straight forward answer to your question posed before the “books” appeared above is, unfortunately, yes. And for HLG, I don’t need a statistician to “prove” my own personal experiences and observations over a lifetime of living and observing.

    Anson

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  7. Janes impression is that when people talk about welfare they are not talking about foodstamps. Neither are they referring to the pittance we still call general welfare, which was accurately portrayed by Duane to be at a level just above homeless. In Lawrence County, if you qualify, you get $130 bucks.

    There has been a concerted effort to pry Americans away from the fact that the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution says explicitly that the nation was formed to provide for the general welfare, yet we are the only advanced country without universal healthcare.

    When somebody slurs the poor by comparing the needy with welfare Cadillac drivers, Jane’s experience has been, when pressed to provide an example, they invariably name an OASDI recipient. In this small town they use the same person lol.

    To refresh your memory, Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance(including mental), receive help from the government. The big wave nowadays would be in filing for disability. Those total disability folks actually may be driving Caddys to the casinos.

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  8. Randy

     /  July 7, 2011

    i Duane,

    Thank you for taking time to chat with me about this. Forgive me for chiding you for an obvious misunderstanding (on my “I realize I am simplifying this” comment and your response. I guess my intent was lost in my poor wording.) Now, on with the debate…

    You said: “My mind, even as a conservative, was open enough to have it changed. Is that true of you? Think about that for a minute. Is that true of you?”

    Duane, I already told you that I used to be a hard core liberal activist. I will add to that I have changed my mind on major issues throughout my life – not just political issues. I went from PC to Mac in 1994, way before it was cool. I went religiously from agnostic, to Christian fundamentalist, to mainstream Christian Evangelical, to simply “Christian.” I could go on and on with the many significant belief changes I’ve gone through… so to answer your question emphatically: YES! I have a very open mind. My motto is “may the best argument win.” If it is a draw – then I acknowledge the draw and cease to argue. Granted, as I am human, my pride often gets in the way – and I don’t go down easily. Often, the people I am debating never realize that they “won” as the change that takes place in me is residual. Any how, that’s me. But don’t get your hopes up Duane, so far, I am winning this debate hands down. (-;

    I’d like to ask you what it was exactly that led to your deception, err, I mean epiphany? Concerning your switch from ditto head to Lib? Usually, when people drastically change, it starts with one or two issues. What were your issues, and what “opened your eyes?” (or closed them as they case may be).

    Okay, now this is where it gets juicy. Duane, you said: “And that is exactly why we need to abandon what hasn’t worked best: conservative economics. It has been tried and found to be failure. Don’t take my word for it. Just look around at the lasting effects of years of conservative governance.”

    However, from my figuring of this data http://www.laits.utexas.edu/gov310/PRES/partycon/ here is what it looks like (if I interpreted it correctly):

    From FDR until to day the Democrats have had unified power for 34 years versus the Republicans having unified power for 4 years (and if memory serves me correctly, at least 2 of those years they had a very very slim majority). Besides that, over all, there are a whole lot more D’s (59) on that list than R’s (18). So, your contention that conservatives have created our mess is entirely baseless. Your boys have been in charge the past 80 years an overwhelming majority of the time. We’ve had a total of 4 years out of 80 to our thing unhindered Duane, and like I said, 2 of those years we had such a slim majority we were stopped at every turn. Now, about that open mind of yours….

    Okay, you also said “There is no widespread problem with welfare dependency in this country. Look at the studies.” And “The Clinton-era welfare reform reduced the welfare system to one in which you pretty much have to have one foot in the economic grave before help is available.” Show me the studies and I’ll take a look, but from my observations and readings, that is simply not true. Plus, I don’t think you understand the widespread and long term use of such programs as food stamps and school meals, and many many other government welfare programs. If you do understand them you are conveniently/deceptively not including them in your analysis. By the way – well over half of the students in my relatively affluent school distract are on free or reduced lunches at school. And 99 percent of those folks have even a toe in the grave, much less a foot. And, if you (Duane) have ever received a hand out (or “benefit” or even secondary source of income, etc) on a regular basis of any kind then you know full well how dependent upon it you become. That’s just the way people are for the most part…

    Then Duane, you said another thing that sure makes it seem like you are not paying attention… but I will refrain from judgment and rather I’ll just scratch my head in bewilderment. How on earth could you say this? – “But I ask you, as, I assume, a Jesus-loving fellow or at least as a lover of your fellow man, what do you do about the kids? Let the bastards starve because their mamas are so stupid? Huh? Let them starve to bleeping death?” As someone who used to be a conservative, you should know my sincere response to that – AND, since I already told you my view on that previously, you should really know it. And, since I have already told you my personal involvement in such matters, you should really really know it. But, here goes again: No Duane. We should not let them starve. We, THAT’S WEE with a capitol WE, should get involved and help our neighbors near and far as best we can. What we should NOT do is send a 100 dollars to Washington DC so that they can send back 5 dollars to those who need it (after they squander the 95 on buying votes, hiring personal assistants, flying their dog and trainer in a private tax paid for jet – yes I am talking about Obama, living lives of personal luxury, funding pet projects to assure their re-election, funding their re-election campaigns, general waste fraud and abuse, etc). Duane, if American citizens through private charities will send hundreds of millions of dollars to Africa, India, and other places to help the needy, don’t you think we’d do far more than that for our own if we felt the need to do so? And that is the other problem with our welfare state – it robs us of our opportunity to help our neighbor. Everyone thinks “they don’t need my help, the government takes care of them” and worse, we have developed bad attitudes about the whole thing because of our high taxation rates and our perceptions of “the lazy welfare recipients.” Please do not miss-read or miss-understand me, I am merely saying that liberalism – through it’s top down, “the government is the solution to everything” policies, has produced those emotions as a side affect. It’s just human nature. When our personal touch is removed, and someone else confiscates our recourses (even for a noble cause like helping the needy), and then uses our resources detached from us to provide a vast safety net (effective or not – it is perceived that the net is there, “after all, they ARE taking a lot of our money so it better be there” is the thought) then we feel like we have done our part and we wash our hands of it (general public I am speaking of) and we have a bad attitude to boot.

    All of that would be so much different if we instinctively knew that if WE did not help, no one would, and people would suffer badly. That’s why we give to Africa, etc. We know we have to. Think about that stuff Duane, allow that mind to open again like it once did (-;

    As far as you New Jersey quote being misleading… it does not consider all of the welfare programs, it only considers welfare checks. That is misleading.

    As far as my 3 jobs comment, you read into it. I never said I would NOT take government help. I certainly would. I never turn down free stuff, unless it was obtained unethically, and even then it is awfully tempting. Heck, I am going to college full time right now on the government’s dime (post 9/11 GI bill). All I meant was that in our country, for as long as I have been alive, there is no economy that would have kept me form taking care of my family. I’d work 3 jobs at once if I had to – and I’ve know people to do so. I’ve worked two jobs many times. I am not saying I would not take anything the government wanted to give me to help – I’d take it in a heart beat – but I am saying that I’d work my self out of that help (not cause I did not want the help, but because I always strive to advance… I always strive to improve… etc). And all of that was to say that the American Dream is alive and well. And once again, on this topic, you cause me to scratch my head. You said “The so-called American dream has never been within reach for most people, Randy, if by the American dream you mean folks becoming rich.” You must have been a lousy conservative Duane. You have no idea what we are talking about and how we think. Perhaps that way you are Erstwhile – you had it all wrong to begin with. The American Dream is not necessarily about getting rich – at least not in American terms. It *is* about getting rich by the worlds standards I guess. And, by the world’s standards, almost all Americans are rich. But, what the American Dream is in reality Duane is simply that you can move up. Wherever you are, you can move up. This has been proven zillions of times. And even if it was simply about getting rich in American terms – that IS within reach to most people. As I told you, my brother is a million-air. I have known countless people who have become quite wealthy, and they come from trailer parks and ghetto’s and poor farms, etc. I’m not wealthy, but I think I live the American Dream. I make about 100K, and life is good… and my great grandparents in Mississippi could not even read and write! I am surrounded by people who would tell you the same. The American Dream *IS* alive and well Duane. If you are teaching your children that it is not, well, I feel sorry for them. I tell my daughter in college that the world is hers – she can the president, she can be the next Stephen Splielberg (that’s what she wants), she can do anything… AND I REALLY BELIEVE THAT. That my friend is the American Dream, and all the folks I hang out with still dream it and live it. You liberals are just a bunch of sour pusses. Sorry go there… but my gosh Duane, it is absolutely mind-boggling that you (and the rest of the libs) would say that. Just incredible. How can you be so blind? I know so people of all colors and ethnicities who have “made it” and they would laugh in your face, or maybe slap you, if you told them American Dream is out of reach. Do you get out much man? Have you been anywhere besides your home town? I’ve lived in 5 states and over 20 communities in my life. I have fellowshipped with countless churches – maybe that gives me some perspective you don’t have?? I don’t know. But for you to say that the American Dream is out of reach for most people shows a profound ignorance.

    Then you said “I don’t think most poor people would turn to a life of crime absent benefits from the government. But most definitely a segment of the population would, as Mexico and other developing nations demonstrate.” Again Duane, you have it wrong – the reason people usually turn to crime is because there is no hope. And in many countries there is no hope. And when you go around telling certain groups of people in America that they have no hope – that the man is out to keep them down.. etc, then they turn to crime too. But where there is hope, where there are dreams, crime is less likely. That was my whole point in my original post. Liberal policies create a circle of despair and hopelessness… and no wonder, like you, most liberals are hopeless (you said it, I’m just paraphrasing you).

    But Duane, since you are open minded, I have hope for you. Perhaps some things I’ve said will cause you to reflect and reconsider some things. We conservatives are not evil. We are not trying to bless the rich and screw the poor. I wish you’d quit painting us that way and I wish even more you’d see the truth.

    Randy, The Erstwhile Liberal

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    • Randy, I’m on the road and writing this in a McDonalds, so I’ll have to keep it short. Since you seem to have a problem with my “hopelessness” regarding my comment about the American Dream, I went back and reread what you wrote about it:

      My brother is a self-made million-air, FOR REAL. The American dream is alive and well Duane…

      Now, when someone prefaces belief in the American Dream with millionaire talk, naturally I assume getting rich is what he has in mind. If it wasn’t, then we can certainly agree that to the extent that the American Dream is upward mobility, then that is still within reach of many Americans, or folks who aspire to be Americans. I very much believe America can be the kind of place you denoted, although it is increasingly becoming difficult to move up, Randy. Much of the wealth in this country is being concentrated in just a few hands, and that is dangerous. That’s why I’m a liberal. That’s why I became a liberal. Through my work as a union activist, I saw firsthand the results of Republican governance, which are too long to go into here. Suffice it to say, the reason I am a liberal is to make sure that America remains a place where people can move up in the economic system without having to worry about starving to death or geting health care in the meantime.

      In any case, I did want to quickly dispose of the argument you made about the number of years Dems have been in control versus the GOP. Even if I granted you your premise–which I don’t–it still wouldn’t help prove what you claim. Let’s suppose I were assigned to maintain a ballpark. And let’s say I had the job for 10 years. And then let’s say that the park was in pretty good shape after ten years. Then comes along another groundskeeper who pockets the money for lawn mower repair and fertilizer and so on and let’s the field go to hell in the matter of one year. Then I get rehired to clean up the mess left behind. Is it fair to say that since I had control of the park for ten years and the other guy only for a year, the mess is my fault?

      Come on, my friend.

      Duane

       

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  9. Randy

     /  July 7, 2011

    *Hi Duane,…

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  10. Seriously ‘Randy”, six pages of platitudes?
    You may need some reality therapy.

    There is a reason it is called the American “dream”. Take away your 100 grand income and you will steal bread.

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  11. When comments get this long, they should be posts of their own. Seriously.
    They just become scroll-over material.

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  12. ansonburlingame

     /  July 8, 2011

    No Jane,

    He won’t have to steal bread, the government will give it to him!!

    Anson

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  13. Randy

     /  July 8, 2011

    My last comment was meant for Jane, sorry. And as far as missing the point, Jane missed my points entirely. All she saw was the 100k, i guess the years living in trailers well below the poverty line don’t count for anything to liberals. Once somebody “makes it” and once again proves the American dream is alive and well, they just attack that person. Again, I don’t get it. Or maybe I do. It’s just sad.

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  14. Randy

     /  July 8, 2011

    Duane said “Much of the wealth in this country is being concentrated in just a few hands, and that is dangerous.”

    Adam Smith demonstrated 250 years ago that wealth is not finite. It can not be “concentrated,” at least not to the detriment of others.

    And Duane, you can’t seriously expect your baseball stadium analogy to accurately portray which party has had, overwhelmingly, the largest influence over the past 80 years. That is simply not honest Duane. And even if it was a valid analogy, your guys have been in charge for the past 18 months… so according to your analogy its obviously the liberals who have messed things up. But, we both know your analogy is severely flawed. However, the truth is that liberal policies *have* dominated the political landscape for the past 80 years – and Duane, you do know that is true, surly you can concede this painfully obvious point?

    For what it is worth, I am a union member too Duane – I belong to the ATDA – the American Train Dispatchers Association. Which is one reason for my very nice paycheck, my military retirement (enlisted) check makes up the rest. I started at the rail road about 6 years ago. Anyway – I have mixed emotions about the union… their counter-productive, anti-company, sometimes very selfish attitude is a stark contrast to my inherent “accomplish the mission” and “put the team first” attitude. But, I do appreciate the fat pay check (which, truth be told, is probably a lot more than we deserve for what we do).

    Well Duane, I hope you are enjoying your traveling. I would really like to hang out with you sometime – I think we’d get along great, you seem like my kind of guy, just a little misguided… and a little hard headed (-: (I know, erstwhile, but still…)

    O, I need to say one more thing – about open mindedness – there are only two issues where my mind is absolutely made up (and therefore closed), and those are of course abortion and sexual perversion. I am absolutely, 100 percent convinced, on those issues. EVERYTHING else is honestly and sincerely on the table. I think I am right, but I certainly could be wrong and I am open to be swayed. May the best argument win. And as I said earlier, right now, you are losing. Big time. (-;

    Randy

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  15. ansonburlingame

     /  July 9, 2011

    Randy,

    I have met Duane and even engaged with him in a radio interview, publicly broadcast. He does his homework for sure. But what he presents in his blog is only one side, on purpose. And he defends his right to do so with no argument from me as to that right.

    It is the screwy ideas that proliferate in here that I rebut, often, but to little avail herein. Folks like Jane just call me a “dull tool’ or worse and continue with the screwy ideas.

    Unions can do no wrong nor can big government in this blog. He is smart enough and well read enough to know better. But as with any union negotiator he will never give on his points, at least in his blog. And of course that is why only about 10% of America’s work force is now unionized and a lot of them are government workers today.

    If unions worked as well as Duane suggests, then we would be completely unionized and all would be well, right? And if we ONLY spent MORE money today, federally, all would be well, as well, right?

    One reassuring FACT at least around these parts of SW Missouri is that only about 30% of the local folks agree with Duane and I doubt that his blog will raise that number by much, at least locally. But then again my blog does not make some 30% or so of the conservatives, call them red necks if you like, around here very happy either.

    Blogs are not popularity contests, or should not be in my view, however. They are an outlet for sharing ideas and debate which Duane’s blog achieves as long as you and I participate along with his normal “followers”.

    Stick around here. I endorse much of what you write.

    anson

    Like

  16. Randy

     /  July 10, 2011

    Thanks anson,

    To add a bit to your comments… and the rest of the comments here… the main problem with liberals is that they do not understand human nature. They continually rail against evil or corrupt “big business” all the while failing to realize that anyone or anything with power is also evil and corrupt. Big government (made of of people, the same kind of people who make up big business – the same kind of people as you and me) is just as corrupt as everyone else. If they could only see that then they would understand why our founders went to such lengths to limit the power of government.

    Randy

    Like

    • “the main problem with liberals is that they do not understand human nature”

      The same can be said of most conservatives, who put too much trust in “big business” and believe they can be trusted to operate totally unregulated.

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    • Randy,

      I’m not sure anyone understands human nature, especially humans.

      But I will take issue with your statement, “that anyone or anything with power is also evil and corrupt.” That’s a pretty bold statement, don’t you think? I mean, under that definition, God, assuming he exists and is omnipotent, is also incomprehensibly evil and corrupt, no?

      And you said,

      If they [liberals] could only see that then they would understand why our founders went to such lengths to limit the power of government.

      The truth is our founders went to a lot of trouble to expand the power of the federal government, which, if you remember, was the purpose of tossing out the Articles of Confederation in the first place. You conservatives want to forget that fact, or at least minimize its importance, but I am here to remind you of it. The Constitution, which does place some limits on the federal government, makes big government possible.

      You’re welcome.

      Duane

      Like

    • ” realize that anyone or anything with power is also evil and corrupt”
      ……even the Dalai Llama????

      Like

  17. Randy

     /  July 11, 2011

    Two thoughts on that Rawhead. First, I am not so sure conservatives want zero regulation. I think they for the most part want limited regulation. Secondly, if a business fails do to human nature… it’s not that big of a deal (unless the government is too intertwined with it, or wants to bail it out). If the government fails due to human nature, that’s bad. But, you are correct – we can not trust business to do the right thing, especially concerning environmental issues and other peripheral things… and some regulation and oversight is certainly necessary. Most conservatives would not argue with you on that.

    Like

  18. Randy

     /  July 11, 2011

    Duane,

    I have a copy of the constitution right here beside me. I can assure you that it goes to great lengths to limit the power of federal government. Have you read it?

    Yes, it expands upon the Articles – but it was still carefully (and contentiously) written with the purpose to limit the power of the federal government, while giving the government the power it needed to make the USA “work.” As far as my bold statement… good point about God. I should have said any human or any human institution has great potential for evil.

    randy

    Like

  19. ansonburlingame

     /  July 11, 2011

    To all,

    Anyone reading Article One, Section Eight of our Constitution sees “self evident” intent by the Founders to limit the size and power of the Federal government. It is all the accumulation of Implied Power that has gotten us into trouble over the decades. Just Interstate Commerce and the 14th Amendment are good places to start such considerations.

    Now for God. God is not evil, in my view. But he is ambivalent as to individual outcomes. HE “shows the way” to succeed, in just about any basic “religion”. But if we the people as individuals fail to “follow” then that becomes our choices of outcomes, not God’s. Start with the Golden Rule and go on from there.

    Anson

    Like

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