The Sunday New York Times Article, Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It, takes us through a Chisago County, Minnesota, a predominantly Republican county occupied by many conservatives distraught about the increase in government spending and fearing the national debt will ruin the country. Yet, the vast majority of those citizens not only use government programs but are actually dependent upon them. Chisago County is not some outlier in this category either, but as Paul Krugman has been pointing out (here and here) the states that receive the most government funding tend to be Republican dominated.
So what has happened here? Why is there this hypocrisy in the heart of the Republican Party? We have Republicans lambasting the President and Democrats while it is the right who wants to cut Social Security, cut Medicare and de-fund programs like the ones that benefited many of Chisago’s residents. The Republican Party has somehow convinced millions of people to vote against their own interest. In the name of what…? to keep taxes low for the rich, to view corporations as more important than people and most importantly, to deem government as the root of all evil.
The shocking thing is the Republican leader’s message has stuck; average Republicans are buying into this logic. The average Republican who benefits greatly from the government has been persuaded into believing any government spending, any government regulation and any expansion of government is somehow an attack on our freedom and a threat to the America we know.
I can’t help but wonder why conservatives are buying into this message when it is precisely due to government that we have the America we know. Having equal opportunities to receive a college education, earn a decent wage, and own a home is made possible through government for many individuals not born in an environment ensconced in privilege and incomprehensible wealth. It would be one thing if everyday Republicans hated these programs but the fact is the average Republican, the Republicans outside of Washington and void of K Street priorities, use and depend on these programs while cursing their existence when the government lends a hand to others.
Republicans have two options: they can start practicing what they preach and mail back their Social Security and Medicaid checks. Or, they can take a second more pragmatic approach and vote for the party that wants to keep the government programs they benefit from, and not the party promising to dismantle them (this promise gets applause at rallies – it just doesn’t make sense). They can vote for the party who actually wants to maintain a viable safety net for our most vulnerable people, and not the party that argues self-reliance as the pathway to prosperity. They can vote for the party who sees middle-and-lower-class individuals as just important as millionaires, CEOs and campaign contributors, and not the party held hostage by the delusional belief that wealth trickles down.
I applaud Republicans. Convincing people to vote against their own self-interest is amazing. Truly astonishing. Bravo… Bravo