Sunday, October 03, 2010

It's Not Government Money If It Goes To Me

Latest Newspaper Column:

One of the most famous quotes from the Days of Rage over health care reform was spoken by an elderly gentleman who got all fired up on a steady diet of tea party hysteria and Sarah Palin Tweets and loudly demanded that the "government keep its hands off my Medicare."

At first I saw it as an amusing example of just how misinformed some people could be. Then I began to notice more and more that a lot of the people who were complaining the loudest about the dangers of a single-payer, publicly funded government health insurance program were themselves recipients under just such a program (the aforementioned Medicare).

A recent Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi noted the number of people at a tea party event who were riding those little scooters - you know, the ones you see on TV commercials that promise that Medicare will pay 100 percent of the cost. He rather unkindly suggested that "[t]he average tea partier is sincerely against government spending - with the exception of the money spent on them."

There's an alternate explanation, to wit: Tea partiers suffer from a strange form of cognitive dissonance that causes them to think that, if the money's spent on them or folks like them, it's not really government spending at all. It's the kindest explanation I can think of for the tea party's love of certain candidates whose public stances are wildly out of sync with their behavior when they're not campaigning.

Take, for example, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul. Paul is no fan of Medicare; he's called it "socialized medicine" and is on record proposing that seniors be subject to at least a $2,000 deductible.

"But try selling that during an election," Paul admitted in a 2009 video.

Now it's 2010, and Paul is very, very unhappy that his opponent is using that statement. Quoting him accurately, according to Paul, is "politics in its lowest form." Well, he'll probably scream like a murdered bunny if his rival starts pointing out that the supposedly tight-fisted Paul also opposed a government proposal to cut some Medicare payments to doctors like himself.

He justified this by protesting that he and his fellow physicians "should be able to make a comfortable living." That's the Paul solution: Grandma pays more, Rand Paul keeps his comfortable living. Anyone who'd buy into this must not really think that Paul's getting that Medicare money from the government.

This curious blind spot regarding government money applies to other types of spending as well. Arizona congressional candidate Jesse Kelly, a TP favorite, really hates government spending in general and the federal stimulus in particular.

"It must stop now," Kelly says of the stimulus. "This is bribery with taxpayer money, and it's a disgrace." He also scoffs at the idea that government spending on infrastructure can create jobs. "Government is not a job creator, it's a job crusher," he claims.

Yet, according to an article in The Tucson Weekly, Kelly's company, Don Kelly Construction, gets a whopping 90 percent of its business from federal contracts, including some projects being paid for with that bad old stimulus money. Guess he doesn't realize that government contracts (and therefore the workers he hires to fulfill them) are paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Another TP-backed candidate is Florida gubernatorial hopeful Rick Scott, who also hates, hates, hates the stimulus. According to The Tampa Bay Times, Scott said back on June 2 that he "would fight all the stimulus money" and that Florida "should not have accepted that money."

Perhaps Florida shouldn't have, but when Xfone Inc., a company which lists Scott as a "controlling shareholder," was offered 60 million of those precious taxpayer dollars "to develop high speed Internet infrastructure," Scott put up less of a fight for his virtue than a drunken cheerleader on prom night.

So I have to think that these tea party candidates and the cranky old folks who love them are just suffering from a form of cognitive dissonance brought on by mental illness or possibly a dietary deficiency.

Otherwise, I'd have to believe that they were just unprincipled demagoguing hypocrites who just pretend to care about government spending and only really care that the money's not lining their pockets or being spent by their own people. And that would be terrible, wouldn't it?

9 comments:

Karen in Ohio said...

Dusty, have you been following the Alaskan Senatorial race? Joe Miller is a carpetbagger from either Kansas or Oklahoma, and a Tea Party candidate who knocked Lisa Murkowski out of the Republican primary. The Mudflats blog has been exposing him for the hypocrite he is, as he has taken quite a bit of government money.

People are so easy to rile up and manipulate. The Koch brothers must be laughing up their sleeves at how easy it's all been to get all these folks who barely pay taxes to do their dirty work for them.

Bill Crider said...

Being a cranky old person myself, I can tell you that it's been ever thus. Remember the great passage in Catch-22 about Major Major's father?

"Major Major's father was . . . a long--limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow."

And so on, but you get the idea. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

There appears to be an incredible lack of any cohesive political philosophy behind these tea-baggers, which leads me to speculate, and assume, that there is an underlying basis behind them that they don't want to discuss, so they spout platitudes instead, like "I want my country back" and "Obama care is socialism (but Medicare is not)!", all mealy-mouthed, empty slogans with no substance. That's why one can only assume that the hidden, unspoken motivations behind them are racist, because there doesn't appear to be any other reason, and that's one thing that does seem to cut across the board - antipathy for the black man in the White House.

And why is your name not on the list of attendees in SanFran?

John Purcell

David said...

Apparently, the TeaPublican attitude toward infrastructure is "Let the roads crumble, let the bridges fall -- except for the ones I use."

Phoebe Fay said...

Teabaggers have been remarkably consistent in the attitude that "all government spending is evil, except for the stuff I get."

The other consistent thing about teabaggers is their belief in magic, as in: you can have a massive tax cut AND keep all social security, medicare and defense spending intact, and then something magic happens to balance the budget and pay off the debt.

Dana King said...

I have said for years that Americans' greatest fear is not terrorism, death, or even public speaking. It is that someone, somewhere, is getting over, and they're not.

eviljwinter said...

The very definition of pork is money carelessly wasted on other districts/states and not wisely invested in yours.

Fred Zackel said...

(The BS from the Tea Partyers...)

Alaska's mood led to surprise. State, heavily dependent upon and resentful
of the federal government, buffeted by "tea party."

the CNN Wire Staff
August 29, 2010
Remote, thinly populated Alaska received $1.84 in federal money for every $1
paid in taxes in 2005, the third-highest ratio among U.S. states, according
to the Washington-based, non-partisan Tax Foundation.

U.S. government is "going bankrupt," and needs to transfer its
responsibilities and power "back to the states and the people," Fairbanks
attorney and GOP activist Joe Miller told CBS' "Face the Nation." He said
Alaska would take less money from Washington in exchange for land from the
federal government, which owns about two-thirds of the state.

"It's our position that as the money is restricted, the lands are
transferred. So that's the plan that we want to implement," he said. Alaska
would then use its "extraordinary" resource base to create jobs, he said.

"I would suggest to you that if one thinks that the Constitution is extreme,
then you would also think that the founders are extreme," he said. "We just
simply want to get back to basics, restore essentially the constitutional
foundation of our country. And that means the federal government becoming
less onerous, less involved in basically every item of our lives. What that
means is there does have to be some transition."

We find this offbranch of liberatarianism Out West: Get the Feds out of our pockets ...But keep building dams for us and letting us graze of public grass.

Screw 'em. They want their entitlements not get lessened by others getting theirs.

Fred Zackel said...

Alaska's mood led to surprise. State, heavily dependent upon and resentful of the federal government, buffeted by "tea party." from the CNN Wire Staff, August 29, 2010. ”Remote, thinly populated Alaska received $1.84 in federal money for every $1 paid in taxes in 2005, the third highest ratio among U.S. states, according to the Washington-based, non-partisan Tax Foundation. Thw U.S. government is "going bankrupt," and needs to transfer its responsibilities and power "back to the states and the people," Fairbanks attorney and GOP activist Joe Miller told CBS' "Face the Nation." He said Alaska would take less money from Washington in exchange for land from the federal government, which owns about two-thirds of the state.

We want more. You get less.