Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Elegantly Stated

Mitt Romney believes he could have more "elegantly stated" his contention about nearly half this country being victims, dependent on government and basically useless to him.
Paul Ryan would phrase it as "makers vs takers." Right out of Ayn Rand, that one, and about as hurtful.
John McCormack of the Weekly Standard (Bill Kristol's publication, if you're playing along at home) says Mitt's words play right into the liberal playbook, along with Mitt's comments that the Republican party is the "party of people who want to get rich."
I have an idea for Mitt: How about "Let them eat cake"?
See, here I think is the problem with the current dynamics of American politics: in this country, it should be a given that there will be poor, trod upon, disadvantaged folks but those folks are as important to the American dream of all of us as the folks who live in Park Avenue apartments and summer in the Hamptons. Indeed, if anything, those poor souls deserve a shot, an opportunity, to make something of their lives that's better than the current "40-40-40 plan."
That's where you work forty hours a week for forty years only to retire on 40% of what you were barely able to live on while you were working.
A true conservative believes this opportunity can be achieved through the free market. A liberal believes that the government should be involved, in order to make sure everyone gets some shot at the dream.
And that's what the basic dialogue in this nation should be. A true conservative understands that, but for the grace of God there go I. Good DNA, a little bit of bad luck in school, a good mentor, a bad community, all of these are involved in determining the opportunities available to a person as he develops. 
All this is before we actually take into account the individual.
Modern conservatisim gets into "blaming the victim," which is just wrong. That's not to say an individual is blameless for the state of his well-being. He or she makes choices, some of them smart, many really dumb.
But here's the thing: at the very least, we all ought to recognize that even if someone makes perfect choices, circumstances can align so that they cannot find the opportunities available to even the average American, and to expect extraordinary outcomes in circumstances like those goes beyond silly and all the way to cruel.
Does that describe the so-called 47%? No, not all of them. Most of that number are in transition, like students with Federally guaranteed loans, or the long-term unemployed. These are people who will eventually bounce back and put their lives together in some form that resembles a typical American life.
Another large piece of that puzzle is the already-retired. They took their best shot and are now leaving the stage. We care for them, of course, but they are not "victims" by any stretch of the imagination, except of the predations of modern conservatives.
The rest? Ahhh, these are the poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. These are the people who suffer the most every time a Republican tosses around phrases like "victim," "dependent," "don't care about them."
These are the disabled. The chronically disadvantaged, like people who had to drop out of high school to support their parents or a newborn baby. These are people whose best opportunities lie in fast food jobs and day work, home healthcare aides that might make $10 an hour if they are lucky, and so need a little supplement to their income because market forces are cruel. It costs money to live any place, and even though market wages may vary to reflect that, they rarely cross the cost-of-living line in order to support the person fully.
And are you going to tell Grandma she can't have her attendant? Or your kids that they can't go to McDonald's because it's closed?
Market forces are very cruel, and this is an issue that we can take up with both forms of conservativism: who gets to decide who really needs help versus those who are just "slacking"?
Which leads me to another aspect of modern conservativism: the ability to paint everyone with broad strokes. Like Romney's comment.
His 47% includes around 50 million elderly folks who favor Romney by about 8 percentage points. Well, they did until he just wrote them off. But then, look at his running mate and how he wants to treat Social Security and Medicare. I'm not sure he really cares.
Let them eat cake, after all.