Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


The Republican Myth: Democrat = Parasite

If you've been watching the news at all the past week you've seen at least mention of this quote (among others) from Mitt Romney:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. . . . These are people who pay no income tax. . . . [M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

It first came to light in this Mother Jones blog post: SECRET VIDEO: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He REALLY Thinks of Obama Voters.  I shared it on Facebook, along with others, and it made the rounds.  One friend shared it and tagged me with her lead in a very vague way, so as a comment I linked to a Washington Post article, Mitt Romney versus the 47 percent, that delves into the number 47, where Romney got it and the truth behind the statistic.  I pulled a few quotes to lead the link:

When federal, state, and local taxes are added together, the United States has a mildly progressive tax system. On average, the rich pay more than the poor. But all groups contribute.

— 53.6 percent of households pay the federal income tax.
— 28.3 percent of households pay no federal income tax, but they do pay the payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare.
— 10.3 percent of households pay no federal income tax because they’re retired and elderly.
— That leaves 6.9 percent of households which are non-elderly and have incomes less than $20,000 per year and aren’t paying the payroll tax.

A friend of the friend (that I don't know) responded with a couple of long, rambling comments supporting Romney and attacking "my" numbers--I'm pretty sure; I had trouble making sense of just what she was trying to say because it was very disjointed and ranting and hard to follow.  I decided I'd had enough and came up with my own long comment:

You didn't read the article, did you?  I ask because you say, “your numbers,” as though I just made them up or something. They come from the article, which explains where they come from and what they mean. They are the same numbers every media outlet has reported in conjunction with this story, because they are the same ones that Romney used to come up with his 47%. It’s a figure that has been used and misused for a number of years now, and fact checkers keep writing articles like this one in an effort to clarify them. But regardless of what one does with the numbers, they are not disputed as far as I understand. Read the article before you argue against it, because what you say makes absolutely no sense in light of the information it presents.

When I shared the Mother Jones link on my own wall, I led with the following introduction: “For the record, Mitt Romney, I've been working since I was in high school; my net pay last year, after federal and state income taxes, social security, property taxes, and the rest, was only 60% of my annual income, and my effective federal income tax after all was said and done was well over 10%,--not counting state income tax, sales tax, and all the other taxes I pay. The only thing I get in return for this is roads, schools (in which I have no children enrolled), fire, police, and military protection, and other things that benefit the "common good." I pay for my own food, housing, health care, and you-name-it. I don't believe I am a victim, nor am I dependent on the government for entitlements; I do, however, believe in sharing. Unless something radical happens, I will be voting for the current president no matter what, and you condescendingly demonizing and dismissing me for it certainly won't win you any sympathy points from me.”

And I say demonizing and dismissing very intentionally, because that is what is happening. Behind Romney’s statement and the larger conservative position it reflects—and yours, from what I can tell in these two comments—is the belief that the conservative way of thinking, conservative stand on the issues, and conservative approach to economic policies and taxes are so obviously correct that anyone who disagrees only does so because they are morally repugnant, lazy, and selfish. That can be the only explanation, because any hard-working, self-respecting person must and will think as they do. So if Obama has a block of voters who are committed to him, who will not be swayed by conservative arguments, then it can only be because they think it allows them to stay lazy, selfish, and morally repugnant. The two categories overlap one hundred percent and define each other: everyone who stands by Obama is lazy and selfish and all lazy and selfish people stand by Obama.

But, you see, that's not the case. I support Obama's policies for exactly the opposite reason, out of selflessness. I believe it's in my best interests to have a strong community/state/nation where we are all successful together, where we all look out for each other and help each other out in times of need. And I believe in a democratically elected, representative government of, by, and for the people. Which means I think the government should reflect the values of looking out for and helping each other. So, I happily pay my taxes to share my hard-earned dollars with those in need to make our community/state/nation a better place. My benefit from this is not personal, it is social and systemic. It is a different value system than the conservative one, and it has nothing to do with selfishness or laziness.

A majority of my friends, colleagues, and family members are just like me--hard working people who have this same value system (and all of us middle class, at best, with not a lot of extra income to share). None of them, that I know, are dependent on entitlements. Calling us undemocratic communists like you do is ignorant and stupid. Romney dismissing us because we won’t vote for him and demonizing us as lazy and selfish is ignorant and stupid because he wants the job of representing us. We see things differently, and that’s okay; thinking we are so different that our disagreement makes us evil, not okay. We’re all in this together after all, like it or not.

(end quoted comment)

Right after I left the comment, this picture that sums things up more succinctly started making the rounds:

But I don't really think it's going to matter what we say, because the myth is too engrained in the conservative identity.  40 years ago, for instance, this 1972 Nixon ad said that if McGovern won he'd pass a hugely expensive bill that would put 47% of Americans on welfare. "And who's going to pay for this? Well, if you're not the one out of two people on welfare, you do."


The same number and the same idea: 47% of the population are the lazy entitled who vote Democratic and the rest of the decent, hard-working, presumably Republican population supports them.  It's not a new idea in their political game.

I found the Nixon video at this blog post, which also points out that Republicans are spinning Romney's gaffe as a good thing because it gets their true position out on the table--they see the 53% vs. 47 % battle as one between "producers" and "parasites."

Hello, Ayn Rand.

And if you want to see more about that, check out this very nice article that supports my point that us so-called 47%ers are actually quite hard working: Ayn Rand Worshippers Should Face Facts: Blue States Are the Providers, Red States Are the Parasites.

But in the Republican mindset none of that matters, because they can't get past their instinctive, base-of-the-gut belief that anyone who would support a Democrat like Obama must surely be morally void and parasitic.


At 9/20/2012 3:59 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

On another forum . . . a FB friend shared this article about Mitt Romney's dad being on Welfare when he was young and Mitt's mom mentioning it during a campaign in 1962. A friend of that friend (who I don't know) was very outraged at this attack on the Romney character, that the article was implying the family didn't work hard. Here's my response:

What I take from it, B___, isn’t a point about whether the Romneys are self-made or not, but one about the philosophies of the political parties. In general terms, the conservative mantra is that we need to value personal responsibility and an individual work ethic, and that government assistance programs undermine those values by teaching people to be dependent on help, with the ever present danger and imminent endpoint of creating life-long habits and dependencies that people won’t ever grow out of.

The Romney family story, however, contradicts that very narrative that Mitt is now trying to sell—at one point in their lives they were in a situation that led them to accept government assistance, but instead of creating a dependency habit that undermined their self-reliance it kept them from falling so far into poverty that they couldn’t climb out and provided a launching pad for their success. Their lives tell the story that government assistance and self-reliance are not contradictory states that compete with each other but can work hand-in-hand to help people be successful.

So maybe instead of deriding people who accept government assistance as incapable of ever accepting personal responsibility, he instead might say, “I know what that’s like because we were there, too. These programs helped us and I want them to help you, too. It’s okay to have to rely on them a bit when times are desperate, just don’t get stuck in them, keep working hard to improve yourself and your situations, just like my family did. We want to help you, but we expect you to work hard and be responsible in return.”

At 9/20/2012 4:03 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

And this article from AP does a nice job dissecting the statistics, that in his comments Mitt didn't just conflate two statistical categories, but three: Obama voters, people who get federal benefits, and those who pay no federal income tax. There may be some crossover, but they are definitely not the same things.

At 9/20/2012 6:48 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

Now that I think about it, I didn't start working in high but in middle school, when I had a paper route.

At 9/22/2012 12:21 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

Article: I Was a Welfare Mother

" . . . My country gave me the chance to rebuild my life — paying my tax tab is the only thing it’s asked of me in return.

I was not an exception in that little Section 8 neighborhood. Among those welfare moms were future teachers, nurses, scientists, business owners, health and safety advocates. We never believed we were “victims” or felt “entitled”; if anything, we felt determined. Wouldn’t any decent person throw a rope to a drowning person? Wouldn’t any drowning person take it?

Judge-and-punish-the-poor is not a demonstration of American values. It is, simply, mean. My parents saved me and then — on the dole, in the classroom or crying deep in the night, in love with a little boy who needed everything I could give him — I learned to save myself. I do not apologize. I was not ashamed then; I am not ashamed now. I was, and will always be, profoundly grateful."

At 11/07/2012 4:34 AM, Anonymous Richard said...

Congratulation on your victory, but I don't want your help and I sure as hell don't want to help you.

I will limit myself to not buying anything made in traitor states like California and Oregon if I can and, certainly would throw an extra loaf of bread or quarter down a sewer rather than give it to some hobo parasite and, whatever money I can save I'll keep overseas in currency that's nor US dollars (So it's outside the economy) and doesn't help parasites even tangentially.


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