Government Help at the End of the World

Jon Armstrongpulls something out herethat I missed when this article originally made the rounds with all the quick and easy commentary that a) conservatives are inherently fact-free and b) as long as a white person’s getting it, it’s not REALLY welfare. That’s all in there, too, but honestly, lately I’m sitting here staring at my screen just waiting for something different to say because of course, and it’s all hateful, and I am having such a hard time with everything being hateful things we know all about already. I can’t tell you. And from this, it sounds like a lot of other people are, too:

Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

They don’t want less help. They want to NEED less help, which means they want things to be easier. And they’re not wrong. I feel like this whole country just needs a goddamn nap. Like if we could just shut everything up for about 24 hours, let everybody get enough sleep and a sandwich, and then try this again. The economy, the unwinnable and clandestine wars, the presidential campaign, the health care fight, all of it. Gas prices, I mean, and how much a gallon of milk costs.

And this isn’t about technology or “the pace of life these days” or kids with their iPods or whatever. This about things that shouldn’t be fights being fights: Being paid fairly for the work you do, being able to buy food to feed your family, being able to see a doctor when you get sick, being able to take care of yourself when you’re old. Has anybody noticed that our culture, lately, is obsessed with the end of the world? I see where it’s coming from. Everybody is just so tired.

So what’s the answer? A lot of people are ready to burn the whole fucking place down and dance around the flames. If you say you’ve neve thought about it, you’re a liar to me or yourself and it doesn’t matte which. A lot of people are ready to tear the safety net down, take us back to some place they imagine that this shit was handled without them having to think about it, as if begging in the streets wasn’t something that in the timeline of the universe was the snap of two fingers ago. A lot of people would like to put a government in place with the express instruction to clap our national hands over our ears and yell LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

The trouble I think is the impulse to shame, to make “assistance” and “need” into things that give someone else the upper hand over you. We take that shame and we give it the power to stop us getting what we need, and we divorce “government” from “that thing we pay for with our taxes” and make each other the enemy that way. I’m just kind of thining out loud here. We’ve made compassion a weakness, and so anyone showing us compassion makes us weak or evil, and our own need just becomes one more burden to us.

One more thing to carry, when we’re already bent under the weight of the world as it is.

A.

10 thoughts on “Government Help at the End of the World

  1. frazer says:

    Insightful as always, Athenae.

  2. quixote says:

    The dissatisfactions behind, well, dissatisfaction are the same, right or left. You’re right about that. Be nice if more people saw that.

  3. MichaelF says:

    Yesterday I finally decided to actually read as many of The Federalis Papers as won’t bore me to death…sort of a bucket list thing since one, I’m getting old, and two, I’ve got a degree in Political Science so I should at least get a few classics under my belt, and they’re shorter than slogging through de Toqueville…anyway, look what’s in Federalist 1:
    …a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
    Alexander Hamilton, an aristocrat-wanna-be of all people, is saying watch out for the less government types. And it would have been nice if, a generation ago, some enterprising politician or journalist, or I don’t know, anyone with a platform, had bothered to point this out when Ronaldus Magnus and his minions made less government a central tenet of their creed.
    Instead, we’ve had a generation of people who’ve grown up not realizing that “less government” was supposed to be strictly dog whistle (as Lee Atwater conceded)…and now they’re maybe finally realizing that less government isn’t such a good thing — you can either have government that does stuff for you, or government that does stuff TO you.
    Sigh.

  4. They don’t want less help. They want to NEED less help…
    YES.
    OH MY FUCKING GOD YES.
    Jesus that is so fucking OBVIOUS and I was SO pissed at the New York Times for Not. Fucking. Getting. It.
    Really, thats all that needs to be said. They don’t want less help. They want to NEED less help. End. Of. Discussion.

  5. jimintampa says:

    great post – great insight “wanting to NEED less help,” if you never write another line, you’ve made all that oxygen worthwhile.

  6. Interrobang says:

    It would also helpa lot if the stupid broken culture (and I’m including my own home country here, lookin’ at YOU, Harper) didn’t shame and blame people for taking the help they need, and for needing the help they take. I still remember reading here quite a while ago an excerpt from one of TommyT’s Freak Republic Roundups of a guy who was literally in tears over having to apply for food stamps —despite having played by the rules and done everything right all his life and still getting laid off.
    Any culture that makes anyone — even a Freeper — feel guilty and quasi-criminal about taking help is very broken and needs to go.

  7. Gummo says:

    Any culture that makes anyone — even a Freeper — feel guilty and quasi-criminal about taking help is very broken and needs to go.
    Not to mention the fact that he’s not “taking help” — he’s paid for that safety net his whole life; would he feel guilty if had to make a claim on his private insurance?
    There’s no difference, but the winger noise machine is doing its best to completely destroy the whole idea of a public commons and collective identity.

  8. pansypoo says:

    attack roots, not branches.

  9. “…the impulse to shame, to make “assistance” and “need” into things that give someone else the upper hand over you…”
    And on that note, today the Williamson County Republican Chair and his first vice chaircame out against a school breakfast program for poor kids. Why? Because, they both agree, “It is not the role of government to feed people.”
    The first vice chair, a home-schooling mom, adds, “It’s not the government’s job to feed students. It’s our job to provide for ourselves. The government is deciding where our money goes. And we should be deciding where our money goes.”
    So, you know, there’s that anti-government element. If the government feeds you, you’re a slave to the government. This isn’t coming from the people who need the assistance, it’s coming from the Republican Party chairs in Tennessee’s wealthiest county. Deciding how THEIR money will be spent, and they sure don’t want it goign to YOU unworthy peons. Because it’s THEIR money. And YOU don’t deserve it.
    That was in that New York Times article, too.

  10. BlackSheep1 says:

    They don’t want less HELP. They want a world where they don’t NEED help to afford what they’ve worked for all their lives.
    Example: Friend works seasonally as a tax specialist. Banks with one of the TBTF cabal. Gets a phone text at oh-dark-thirty that her account is below the minimum, so she runs — literally — into the nearest open branch and makes a deposit IN PERSON of more than twice as much as the draft was, and is assured, IN PERSON, all is well, there will be no Overdraft Protection Fee, and go about your merry way, ma’am, it’s taken care of, glad to be of service, etc. and so on.
    ONE FUCKING HOUR LATER her credit card will not work at a gas pump because there is an OVERDRAFT PROTECTION FEE against her account and her account has a HOLD against it. Halway across Texas from home, unable to buy gas because the TBTF Bank LIED TO HER FACE.
    FUCK THE TBTF BANKS. That is all.

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