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Kos Diarists, the Gov’ment Cheese, and No Understanding of Federalism

June 28, 2009

Recently I posted in regards to Keith Olbermann’s tendency to address anyone who disagrees with him as an “idiot”, a “buffoon”, or some other comparable imprecation, in addition to believing that anyone displaying the slightest conservative leanings ought to resign simply for… displaying the slightest conservative leanings.

Similarly inspired by Rep. Cynthia Davis’s apparently appalling belief that parents ought to be responsible for the care and upkeep of their children, Daily Kos diarist “Glaze72” decided to jump on the bash Davis bandwagon by publishing a rather personal account of his childhood in early 1980’s Illinois.  After calling Davis a “brain-dead political hack from Missouri who thinks that supplying food to hungry children is somehow a bad thing”, Glaze sets upon the main theme of his diary entry: growing up poor and hungry.

The account is actually quite compelling.  Glaze describes his life as a child when things apparently took a downward turn for his family:

That is when I found out what it is like to really be poor. We ate homemade vegetable soup almost every night (it seems) during that interminable winter of 1983-84. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs, from  people who went to the church that my mother’s parents attended. It was always cold in the house that winter. In December, parishioners of the Mount Zion Lutheran Church (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod) left a small artificial Christmas tree on our front porch. They had pinned money that most of them could not afford to the branches. My mother cried.

It was during that winter that I grew to know and hate that damned goverment cheese. We used in everything from sandwiches to chili. It was pale and it was impossible to cut and it was awful.

My brothers and I also had reduced rate lunches at school. I remember exactly how much it cost. It was 40 cents that you would drop into the big plastic cup in the lunch line at Washington Elementary. Cynthia Davis must really hate that idea. But it saved my parents eighty cents a day, between me and my brother (a buck-sixty when the other two were old enough to attend school). Eighty cents a day is four bucks a week, which is over a hundred dollars for the school year, and that could buy you a hell of a lot of rice and milk and peanut butter and gas in 1984.

Obviously, I don’t begrudge Glaze his opinion that growing up poor sucks–it’s a manifestly obvious conclusion.  But growing up poor, and writing a gripping story of your childhood don’t give you the right to demonize your opposition, nor do they allow you to bypass debate, as the diarist posits in his introductory paragraph:

This diary is inspired by Cynthia Davis, the brain-dead political hack from Missouri who thinks that supplying food to hungry children is somehow a bad thing. I won’t argue her point.

But only a person ideologically in perfect lock step with the Kossacks would read this wrenching account and conclude that the key to Glaze’s eventual success was the benevolence of the federal government.  By all accounts, things turned out well for Glaze and his siblings, and probably more because this Glaze character has a keen intellect and was able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps (emphasis mine):

Let me set you straight, Senator. The poor are not bad people. My father could have taken Social Security disability in 1983. He is still working to this day. My mother raised four boys on a pittance, saw one go to college, three get married, and still baby-sits small children to help out her husband. One bad accident you could put you where we are. One illness, one divorce, one lost election, and you could be there, asking for your reduced-rate lunch.

Back to Rep. Davis’s actual point.  Davis thinks–rightly, I might add–that the primary mechanism for the care and maintenance of offspring falls on the parents of said offspring.  She didn’t advocate for children starving to death, nor did she frown upon the “poor” as unwashed, ignorant, or “bad people”, as the author seems to think.  But while we’re on the subject of poverty, a quick perusal of the comment section is enough to make any person with a heart sick to their stomach.  Here’s a choice example:

pixxer, they’re Republicans, free-marketers, and (2+ / 0-)

Recommended by:
Kentucky DeanDemocrat, pixxer

libertarians — all devoid of any emotion more complex than selfishness.

Texas: Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Lady Bird & LBJ, Ann Richards, Sam Rayburn, Dan Rather, Ike, Sully Sullenberger, Lloyd Bentsen. It’s No Bush League!

by BlackSheep1 on Sat Jun 27, 2009 at 09:54:08 PM PDT

I might point out for the umpteen-millionth time that once again, conservatives and libertarians give far more to churches and other charitable organizations that liberals do.  To people like BlackSheep1, charity begins with other people’s money.

Poverty is not a vice; it’s also not a virtue.  That it exists is simply an unfortunate fact of life.  The difference between conservatism and liberalism isn’t that one wants to do something about it and the other doesn’t; the difference is that one advocates the power and potential of the individual to adapt and overcome with minimal help from time-honored institutions (such as the church and charity) founded upon voluntary associations, while the other advocates the power of the federal government, using tax dollars forcibly removed from the pockets of people who are arbitrarily deemed to have enough to go around.

Rep. Davis was advocating for federalism, not for the mass starvation of children.  Her point was: many of the recipients of the free-meal program had parents who were perfectly capable of providing adequate, wholesome meals for them.  True to the MSM’s accepted template, Olbermann painted a picture of a well-to-do rich Republican ruthlessly beating down the indigent masses with her polo mallet, and the Kos offered up a diarist willing to parrot Olbermann’s straw man argument.

There are institutions besides the federal government which are infinitely more suitable to care for the genuinely ill-equipped among us.  If parents require help in providing for the basic necessities, there is the extended family, churches, charitable organizations, and state and local governments.  That’s the true wit and strength of federalism: responsibility is delegated to the lowest possible level.  After all, aren’t the entities closest to people–both geographically and culturally–most ideally suited to provide for their constituents?

But statists have a two-step formula for problem solving that goes a little something like this: 1) Brilliant liberals identify problem, and 2) brilliant liberals in the federal government solve the problem by throwing money and resources at said problem.

Possibly in between step one and step two, there’s a bit more–as Olbermann and the Kos diarist demonstrate: engage in reductio ad absurdum argumentation and demonize your opponent with emotionally-charged arguments bereft of any greater moral principles.

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