A Culture of Dependency
By Earnest Prankheimer
Conservatives have always hated the poor and needy. It’s more than hatred, it’s contempt. They think those people are just lazy, otherwise they would all be millionaires. Much of this delusion comes from the heavy streak of Calvinism that runs deep in their mythology. John Calvin was a 16th Century preacher who figured out that you could tell who were the righteous men — they were the ones favored by God with great wealth. Hence, poor equals immoral. It’s the same thing in the secular wing with Ayn Rand. If there’s anything that absolutely makes these people insane, if anything gets their knickers tighter than Greta van Susteren’s mouth, it’s the idea that somewhere, somehow, someone is getting something for nothing.
This is why we heard Paul Ryan warning that the social safety net is becoming a hammock. Rick Santorum: “The dream of America has become a nightmare of dependency.” And this from Newt Gingrich last Spring: “I’m opposed to the government giving people money for doing nothing.” You should understand that “Culture of Dependency” is code for the New Deal. Conservatives have hated it from the beginning, and never stop looking for ways to destroy it. But the Right always projects its own traits to others — it’s a classic psychological trick. So let’s look at where this dependency idea really comes from.
The Right has hijacked Christianity, claiming it as its own, because the liberals are all Godless atheists who hate America. Alright, I’ll play by their rules. Let’s get into the way back machine and set it for Exodus 13. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. Their ultimate destination was the Promised Land, which turned out to be occupied by the Palestinians, (then called Philistines). Initially, though, they found themselves in a hard-boiled, sun-baled, desert wilderness. Had they known this would be their reality for the next 40 years, I wonder how many of them would have run back to Pharaoh, even if they had to swim the Red Sea this time. They quickly ran out of water, and came to the waters of Marah, so named because they were bitter. The Israelites complained to Moses, so the Lord had him throw a certain tree into the water, which sweetened it. But not long after, they were out of water again, and bitched to Moses again. This time the Lord had Moses strike a rock with his staff, and it belched out water. Apparently, none of the Israelites had the slightest idea of how to find water in the desert.
There was nothing to eat but snakes and scorpions, and the people soon began pissing and moaning to Moses about that, too. And so the Lord caused manna to fall from heaven each night, to be gathered each day. Biblical scholars tell us manna was a bread-like substance, but I don’t think of sliced Wonder Bread falling from the sky; more like pieces of lefse, which is a sort of Norwegian tortilla. Now I don’t know what it must have been like to eat nothing but manna for 40 years, but I think I can imagine the conversation around the dinner table:
“I’m hungry enough to eat an ox. What’s for supper, honey?”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Not manna again! We’ve been eating nothing but manna for 40 years now. Manna with locust, manna with scorpion, baked manna, fried manna, deep-fried manna, sun-dried manna. What I wouldn’t give for a bowl of wheat flakes and some goat’s milk.”
“Well, we HAD wheat flakes AND goat’s milk back in Egypt, but Nooooooo! We had to follow Moses to this promised land of his. Well, I don’t see any promised land, and I don’t see any wheat flakes either, so eat your manna already.”
And eat it they did, for 40 years. What did they do to earn it? Nothing. They just sat around and waited for their heavenly version of welfare checks. Exodus does not tell that any of these people sought meaningful employment, or even made any attempt to pull themselves up by their sandal straps. Talk about a culture of dependency. I realize these were people of the Jewish persuasion, but the Right Wing claims all this as their religious heritage, so I’m more than happy to let them have it.
Recently, Mitt Romney said “We will end this culture of dependency, and install a culture of hard work.” He meant it too, because their ideology is “You’re on your own — no safety net for you!” Around this time he also said, “If they want more free stuff from the government, tell them to vote for the other guy.” I wonder which free stuff he’s talking about. Does he mean roads and bridges, schools and libraries? Because these aren’t free stuff; they’re paid for by our taxes. Maybe he meant Medicare and Social Security, the so-called “entitlement” programs. Well, we paid into those all our working lives (therefore we’re entitled to the benefits), so these aren’t free either. Ah, he must have meant welfare. Do you think this is free stuff from the government? If you ask people on welfare, I’ll bet that most of them will tell you it’s anything but free — it costs them their dignity and self-esteem, and that’s a very high price to pay.
Let’s talk about welfare. The five biggest U.S. oil and gas companies made $137 billion in profits last year, yet they got billions in subsidies. Hey Mitt, look! There’s some of your free stuff from the government! The big agribusiness companies like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Con-Agra and Cargill made billions in profits, too, while receiving subsidies. Mitt! Over here! I found some more free stuff from the government! And where do these subsidies come from? They come from our taxes; that is, those of us who PAY taxes. If you’re in Mitt’s income class, you only pay 15% in capital gains taxes (that’s when you make money by sitting on your ass by the pool, waiting for your dividend check). Mitt likes to take credit for saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, and he deserves it. But the only way he was able to accomplish it was with a $1.3 billion subsidy — free stuff from the government. This is what I mean by projection; rich welfare queens accusing the working poor of what THEY themselves are doing, sitting around, waiting for more free stuff from the government. “No free lunch” they’re always saying. But there IS a free lunch — the hogs are feeding at the trough, and lunch is on us. This is the true culture of dependency.