Wednesday, May 06, 2015

WTF Mike?

By Richard Barry

And that's the name of that tune

Ever since we first heard Tea Partiers express the view that government should keep its hands off their Medicare, we knew there was some serious cognitive dissonance going on in the conservative movement.

If you think about it, though, people rarely have difficulty with their own entitlements, which they are sure they deserve. It's always the other guy's entitlements that ought to be cut back or abolished.

Mike Huckabee is smart enough to figure that out and said so to supporters as he launched his campaign on Tuesday to join the growing field of Republican presidential candidates. As the New York Times reports, he declared himself "the guardian of so-called entitlement programs, warning, 'Let them end their own congressional pensions, not your Social Security!'"

But his pledge to fend off any tinkering with the popular Social Security and Medicare programs put him at odds with his Republican opponents, exposing growing fault lines in the party over an issue that has long been considered a political third rail.

At the core of Republican concerns about the programs is a traditional distrust of big-government largess, coupled with growing fears about their long-term insolvency. Yet the party’s base of white — and often older — voters includes many blue-collar conservatives who mistrust the government but depend on its programs for older Americans.

Sounding a bit like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, Huckabee "said in a video announcing his candidacy, 'Washington has done enough lying and stealing. I’ll never rob seniors of what our government promised them and even forced them to pay for.'"

Progressives might think that government is the vehicle that allows us to pool our resources to everyone's mutual benefit. And though Huckabee seems intent on perverting that notion to suggest entitlement programs are nothing more than what the government owes individuals who have "paid in," to a particular system, he is still reminding folks that government has an important role to play. He is reminding people that it isn't the bigness of government per se that ought to worry, but in whose interest government acts when it acts on our behalf.

Making more conservative voters aware of government's role in delivering Social Security and Medicare may not make them raving socialists, but it could help to challenge some of the libertarian rhetoric that informs so much of the debate on the GOP side these days.

Thanks, Mike.

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  • The Republicans' big idea over the last 50 years has been that they could separate the deserving from the undeserving. So it is always a matter of "my earned benefits" vs "your welfare." I know a number of people on SSI who do little but watch Fox News. They are certain that if the Republicans just got their way, all that nasty welfare for "those people" would go away, yet they would be just fine.

    I spend a lot of effort talking to regular middle class people about their mortgage interest deduction. I think they more than anyone need to understand that this is one of the very biggest welfare programs in the nation. I'm all for it. But I don't like to allow people to delude themselves into thinking that they don't get welfare when they get lots of it.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 10:37 PM  

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