Social Darwinism: From Spencer To Rand To Ryan

President Obama's evocation of Social Darwinism in describing the Paul Ryan budget proposal has led to some analysis of whether the use was apt. Paul Krugman's cleverly titled post Origins of Speciousness describes the polemica:

I was unhappy with President Obama’s decision to call Republicans “social Darwinists” — not because I thought it was wrong, but because I wondered how many voters would get his point. How many people know who Herbert Spencer was? It turns out, however, that right-wing intellectuals are furious, because … well, it’s a bit puzzling. One complaint is that some 19th-century social Darwinists were racists; well, lots of 19th-century people in general were racists, and racism is not the core of the doctrine. The other is that modern conservatives don’t literally want to see poor people die; so?

[T]he real defining characteristic of social Darwinism is the notion that harsh inequality is both necessary and right. And that’s absolutely what today’s right believes — which is the point all the faux outrage about the Darwinist label is meant to obscure.

From the legal perspective, I think Herbert Spencer's identification with the concept was most famously raised by Justice Holmes' dissent in Lochner v. New York:

The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same, which has been a shibboleth for some well known writers, is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not. The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Herbert Spencer's Social Statics. [...] I think that the word liberty in the Fourteenth Amendment is perverted when it is held to prevent the natural outcome of a dominant opinion, unless it can be said that a rational and fair man necessarily would admit that the statute proposed would infringe fundamental principles as they have been understood by the traditions of our people and our law. It does not need research to show that no such sweeping condemnation can be passed upon the statute before us. A reasonable man might think it a proper measure on the score of health. [Emphasis supplied.]

Yes, that excerpt would fairly apply to the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate. But objections to the mandate are not Social Darwinism. However, objections to its constitutionality are very much based on a notion of economic liberty that underpins Social Darwinism. As Justice Holmes stated, the notion of liberty encompassed in the Constitution does not include Herbert Spencer's Social Statics. And as such, the constitutionality of legislation should not be not judged on agreement or disagreement with the legislation:

If it were a question whether I agreed with that theory, I should desire to study it further and long before making up my mind. But I do not conceive that to be my duty, because I strongly believe that my agreement or disagreement has nothing to do with the right of a majority to embody their opinions in law.

However, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the enactment of legislation that embodies Social Darwinism. And it is undeniable that the Republican conservative philosophy was and remains steeped in its precepts. Philip Kitcher explains:

The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all. It is not entirely implausible to think that doctrines like these stand behind a vast swath of Republican proposals, including the recent budget, with its emphasis on providing greater economic benefits to the rich, transferring the burden to the middle-classes and poor, and especially in its proposals for reducing public services. Fuzzier versions of the theses have pervaded Republican rhetoric for the past decade (and even longer).

It's not that Republicans dislike the theories of Social Darwinism, it is that they dislike the label, which has historically negative connotations. But what was Ayn Rand but a Social Darwinist? What exactly would you compare Objectivism to? Now what of Paul Ryan? Here is what Ryan thinks about Ayn Rand:

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." ...

At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand's writings when he told his audience that, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ... is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict--individualism versus collectivism."

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.

This sounds like Social Darwinism to me. Of course the Randian/Social Darwinists wish to escape these labels and who can blame them? But it is what it is.

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    True indeed (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by vicndabx on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:37:02 AM EST
    Sad thing is, prior to the housing meltdown and offshoring of higher skilled white collar jobs, many actually believed in; and thought they were on, the "right" side of Social Darwinism.  IMO.  This in part is what has led to the success of GOP efforts and to a certain extent, backlash against ACA.

    And let's not forget the other inherent delusion - that the playing field is level and we all start at zero.

    Actually, I think the belief is (none / 0) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:12:56 PM EST
    not that the playing field is level, but that those with the right combination of superior attributes will fight through to success.  Which is actually true.  The problem comes in deciding what should be the fate of the people who lack that particular set of attributes. The Darwinists think you just let them languish where they are, where they "deserve" to be, that it's up to them to figure out how to survive, if they can, or perish.

    To be fair... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:26:41 PM EST
    their beliefs also include removing some of the man-made obstacles to making a living that fall harder on the have nots.

    Things like licensing & permit requirements, complex tax codes, and other tools that rig the game for those born on third base.


    some of those man made obstacles (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by CST on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:28:14 PM EST
    also make it harder for people to prey on the have nots.

    Things like licensing and permit requirements :)


    I don't know... (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by kdog on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:35:46 PM EST
    It sure feels like there are more regulations, at least more regulations that are enforced, on hot dog carts than there are on monolith investment banks that crash entire economies.

    And the hot dog guy can't just pay the fine for his alleged violation and still make a billion dollars profit like Bank of America does.


    Or get a interest-free loan from the Fed... (none / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:41:06 PM EST
    when the register is short several billion dollars...you get my drift;)

    In theory, yeah, all the rules are supposed to be helping to level the playing field.  In practice, I fear they just tilt the field further to the advantage of the 1%.

    I wonder if the typical rich greedy objectivist/social darwinist 1%er might not know what hit them if we gave them what they want...a true free market.  


    no doubt (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by CST on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:44:18 PM EST
    money is power.  But that doesn't mean we should be ok with poisoned hot dogs.

    It's against the hot dog guy's best interest.. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by kdog on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:51:10 PM EST
    to poison his hot dogs, he won't be in business long;)

    It would be nice if the inspector was only interested in preventing food poisoning, I think they're mostly intersted in raking up fines because the cart was 6" too close/too far from the curb.  And when they drive the cart outta business, McDonald's gets the business.


    Meanwhile... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:08:58 PM EST
    the banksters and grifters crying for social darwinism can sell you toxic financial instruments all day long, and never fear going out of business.  

    They survive not because they are the fittest or the strongest (and definitely not the smartest;), but because they are too connected too fail.  While the hot dog guy fails, not because he is weak or unfit or dumb, but because he's got one hand tied behind his back right out the gate, and no lobby.


    Agree. I believe that Social Darwinism (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:31:22 PM EST
    as a description of the Ryan budget is quite apt. Read Spencer, then today's conservatives, and try to find a major distinction.

    But, as always, I must register my repugnance of the phrase -- since it is such a perversion of actual Darwinism.

    It is quite fun to read some of Darwin's essays on Spencer - he didn't think much of him.

    True. (none / 0) (#9)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:14:04 PM EST
    Darwin actually believe in evolution.  These "social Darwinists," ironically, don't.

    Yes, there's that too! (none / 0) (#11)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:20:32 PM EST
    And a lot more that's historically interesting if you're into the history of biology.

    Darwin and Spencer worked contemporaneously but their interpretations of evolution were so different. Natural selection was Darwin's mechanism, Lamarckism was Spencer's, etc.   And Darwin was unconvinced (to put it diplomatically) about Spencer's application of evolutionary theory to society.


    oxymoron alert (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by pluege2 on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:54:20 PM EST
    "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," ryan

    in other words, ryan got into "public service" to dismantle public services.

    Hasn't that been the dogma of most GOP (5.00 / 1) (#58)
    by Farmboy on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 08:13:47 AM EST
    politicians since Reagan? Anti US government rhetoric is both their shibboleth and their claimed justification for why voters should put them on the government payroll.

    Awareness of cognitive dissonance is not the rights' strong suit.


    Just so (none / 0) (#59)
    by sj on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00:08 PM EST
    Extra points for speaking in "high falutin'" language.

    Social (none / 0) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:35:12 AM EST
    Darwinism would be a good description though I'm not sure most people understand that phrase. I would probably call it "survival or the fittest" or the have mores deserve more or "the virtue of selfishness"

    They prefer the label (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:59:59 PM EST
    Social Creationism. The creator created some people to be on the bottom, and some to be on top.

    I believe this is one (none / 0) (#5)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:01:08 PM EST
    of the major failures of liberalism: Not understanding who the looters and moochers are. Many on the left mistakenly believe that moderates and conservatives are simply selfish. That they don't care about disadvantaged people. That may be true for some conservatives, but I think more accurate assessment is that people who work hard or do clever things to bring themselves stability don't want to feel their contributions to society are abused and wasted. Most people are willing to contribute to help others, but where we on the left lose moderate votes is in the creation of social programs that encourage more and more unnecessary dependency and expand exponentially. It's the hand up versus the hand out issue.

    Intergenerational welfare is a prime example. Allowing people to stay on Section 8 housing for twenty years with free healthcare for every new child born is just maddening to their blue collar neighbors. And that is the crux of the problem. People have personal knowledge of friends, relatives and neighbors who they know are sucking off the public. Since the 1970s, the right wing has successfully captured the moderates' votes by not just putting out sound bytes that resonate with them, but by relying on their actual experiences of the unfairness of our social programs. There's nothing like knowing people, many people, who see living off the public as a way of life to make you want to not vote for Democrats. BTW, I vote Democrat anyway, so please don't jump in to tell me I'm a Fox News mouthpiece. I'm talking about the surprisingly huge number of Independents and moderates who disdain my Party because if its foolish welfare policies.

    I also think a lot of middle class liberals don't have a clue how much abuse is going on. Ask your friends who they think is getting HEAP payments, and they'll cite some elderly couple that would have frozen without heating assistance. Rarely will they consider the young adults who receive air conditioning for their Section 8 apartments. HEAP is huge oil/energy profiteer's corporate welfare program that keeps prices high for those able and willing to pay for their own utilities. Can we do better?

    If you consider all of the able bodied young adults who make non-taxed, not reported money and who would choose to participate in society in a different realm if they did not have the option of living off the public, you realize that the scale of abuse is enormous. If we find ways to end the intergeneration reliance on social systems, if we truly give a hand up that encourages people to take responsibility, we'll recapture the moderate vote and have enough political clout to end corporate welfare as well.

    I want to capture the moderate vote so we can end the back and forth left-right power bounce by changing from liberal to more functional and sustainable social support systems. I think we can create welfare systems that don't reinforce the dynamic I'm referring to above. But most liberals are unwilling to question our current systems and prefer to label conservatives as greedy and selfish. That is a vast oversimplification that ensures the continuation of our left-right political ping pong.

    If you're against welfare and abuse, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:05:59 PM EST
    and if you're in favor of responsibility, then you should be appalled with the Ryan budget.

    Because there is no corporate/wealthy responsibility in it, and heaps of corporate/wealthy welfare.

    The 'scale of abuse' you mention is minuscule compared to that of the 1%ers.


    Of course. (none / 0) (#10)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:17:05 PM EST
    Paul Ryan and other politicians are simply taking advantage of the disgruntled voters whose votes I would prefer to capture for my side.

    My point is that to stop corporate welfare, and in fact, to halt the 1%'s plutocratic theft of our fledgling democracy, we need moderate voters on board and in agreement. That won't happen until the left is willing to acknowledge that our social systems are not only dysfunctional, but are non-sustainable.

    We need an entirely new social services approach, and it won't be palatable to moderates unless it has clear, enforceable restrictions.


    The only (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:37:18 PM EST
    'clear, enforceable restrictions' I'm interested in are ones for the banks, oil companies, etc.

    I can't imagine wasting time worrying how we need to enforce restrictions on social services for the poor.


    Heh (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:47:34 PM EST
    A classic "voters think exactly as I do" mentality.

    Hello Tom Friedman.


    Nah (none / 0) (#23)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:59:24 PM EST
    Most voters don't think like me, which is why we play political ping pong between the left and the right. Lefties refuse to see the failures in our social programs, and wingers get mad at the failures and vote republican. Both sides are missing the most important problem - while we screw around fighting each other, the plutocrats are destroying our country.

    So you don't believe this? (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:11:52 PM EST
    "We need an entirely new social services approach, and it won't be palatable to moderates unless it has clear, enforceable restrictions. "

    "Moderate" Misconception (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by vicndabx on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:28:48 PM EST
    Allowing people to stay on Section 8 housing for twenty years with free healthcare for every new child born is just maddening to their blue collar neighbors

    "Allowing" implies a choice that in reality, isn't there.  You should tell your moderate friends that most of those folks probably don't choose to stay at crappy low-paying jobs (if they can find one w/their limited skill set) and send their over-burdened w/home stress kids to overcrowded schools that do a poor job of preparing them for higher education.

    Of course there's abuse - as there is w/any system.  How widespread, and whether it's in amounts sufficient to compare with the amounts for those that actually need the services, is probably debatable.  There is a vast oversimplification that occurs on both sides.


    Yeah, and their neighbors (none / 0) (#22)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:54:45 PM EST
    actually attend the same schools. Yet somehow they manage to take responsibility for their lives. The "bad schools, bad neighborhoods" meme is exactly why I mentioned the personal experience angle that makes many working Americans disgusted with liberal welfare programs.

    But that's OK, you just provided the classic liberal response to criticism of our broken social service programs: "These folks don't choose to stay in the situation they're in, and the amount of abuse is probably debatable," (read, negligible compared to the numbers of people who really, truly can't take care of themselves).

    I disagree. I think the abuse is widespread, especially when you consider the number of people who don't take financial responsibility for their children. I also think we can (and should) demand personal responsibility, which changes our hand-outs to hand-ups.

    Please don't reply that their home lives are different, hence the intergenerational failures. I understand the dynamic, which is why I disagree with our current solution.

    But hey, keep the ping pong bouncing between the left and the right for another fifty years and it all won't matter. The plutocrats who buy off both left and right wing politicians will have destroyed the planet.


    Well (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by vicndabx on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:24:54 PM EST
    you are the one looking for simple solutions to a complex problem, you obviously don't truly want to engage in discussion, rather you seem to want reiterate some rightward talking points.

    Demand personal responsibility - what does that mean?  Arrest dead-beat dads?  Put more homeless on the street?  How much will that cost?  Won't you just be playing musical chairs w/the money?

    What I'd like to know is what you think will work that doesn't involve funneling significant resources and effort, not to mention an economy that can support people on the tail end?

    Fact is a top to bottom approach has never been tried, rather, we've chosen to throw money at the symptoms instead of address root causes.


    We need systems that don't encourage (none / 0) (#40)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:51:20 PM EST
    perpetual reliance. It's a big topic, too extensive for this thread, perhaps. But if I had to give a quick synopsis, I'd say I want to publically fund basic, minimal living standards with strong personal responsibility requirements. Free college with community service and clean and sober living requirements. An emphasis on improving people's chances to be productive members of society. Give everyone a fair chance, but also require recipients to take responsibility and participate in their community. I'd expand high schools to start earlier and end later because the infrastructure of public secondary education is a good foundation for providing less expensive higher education. I'd triage, because some people are going to destroy their lives no matter how much help you give them. We should give them the support they need to change, but stop enabling them. Instead of paying a woman's rent & utilities in an apartment or house and giving her free-loading a boyfriend/baby daddy a place to live, provide community living arrangements with dorm rooms. Keep the dorm rooms at a reasonable temperature, but stop paying massive amounts to oil companies via HEAP for private heating and air conditioning bills. Make our services less enticing to free loaders and more enticing to those who are disadvantaged but are willing to be successful if given the chance. Above all, stop setting ourselves up for failure by funding systems that encourage intergenerational welfare.

    Oh, dear Lord... (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:25:28 PM EST
    shall we make them all wear uniforms, so we know who's on the dole, and can report those we feel are violating the terms of their government assistance?

    Clean living means mandatory exercise, right?  That will be quite a sight in the courtyards of these community living facilities, huh, everybody in their your-tax-dollars-at-work uniforms and all.

    And for the lowest-of-the-low, we can always go to poor houses and debtors prisons, right?  The uniformed community service participants can just sweep them up off the street like the garbage we know they are, and dump them at the door.  I mean, three hots and a cot - can't beat that!

    How about economic policy that, instead of imposing austerity, creates the conditions where people can find good, well-paying jobs?

    If this is your idea of what Democratic policy should look like, and where it should go, just to be able to garner some moderate and independent votes, the party is headed for the rocks.



    Yeah, fine. Go vote for Obama (none / 0) (#55)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:30:21 AM EST
    and let's keep the just keep the ping pong going with a Democratic president that takes away habeas corpus and enshrines health insurance profits for the rich. Then in four years, the moderates will swing give up on us and vote for a Republican prez, who will do the same thing with different corporate interests.

    Hey, just as long as liberals never have to take responsibility for creating intergenerational welfare. It's alright, sooner or later everyone will have the same blinders on as you and we can all live in kumbaya paying other people's rent.


    News flash, pal: I didn't vote for (none / 0) (#57)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 06:40:17 AM EST
    Obama - or anyone running for president - the last election, and I fully expect that in November, I will be voting third party or passing again.

    You think I don't know what Obama has done for the erosion of privacy and other rights?  How he has catered to the corporate and special interests?  Think again.

    The social safety net was created because there were people who believed that we did not want to be a nation that just discarded and kicked to the curb those who, for whatever reason - old age, disability, illness, job loss - could not adequately support themselves.  Have some taken unfair advantage of safety net programs?  Sure - but if we do things your way, we so inflate and bloat the bureaucracy that we make the system unmanageable, and make it so hard to qualify that millions who need help won't get it.  And I'd be willing to bet that whatever money gets "saved" by not giving handouts to "irresponsible" people would go right back into the maw of that bureaucracy.

    Don't worry, though, Obama's pretty intrigued with "fixing" all these programs, and the Republicans can't wait to get their hands on them, so I think the day will come when we do become that nation that goes the rest of the way to plutocracy, and just discards and treats as garbage anyone who can't survive economic policies that are geared to helping only those who already have and just want more.

    Sure hope you never need help, because things are going to look a lot different from that side of the fence.  And then it will be too late.


    For the record, I believe in helping others. (none / 0) (#64)
    by MyLeftMind on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 07:22:07 PM EST
    Sure hope you never need help, because things are going to look a lot different from that side of the fence.  And then it will be too late.

    I want to improve the system, not kick people to the curb. Please reread my comments, there's nothing in them that would indicate I don't agree with having social service programs.

    The difference between you and me is that I understand how much our dysfunctional liberal programs impact political potential, and you prefer to believe most of the people using theses services are helpless people who would die if we didn't pay their rent.  

    if we do things your way, we so inflate and bloat the bureaucracy that we make the system unmanageable

    Guess it's not worth trying to fix it then. Let's just maintain the status quo switching between Dem and Repubs every few years. That's working so well for us...

    From your comments (none / 0) (#65)
    by sj on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 10:47:35 PM EST
    it appears that you want to "help" others by kicking them to the curb.  

    You're making stuff up. (none / 0) (#66)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 02:17:38 PM EST
    I said nothing of kicking people to the curb. My comments promote the concept of a hand-up instead of a hand-out. But as usual, many people are so unwilling to acknowledge the massive abuse of welfare that they see a right wing threat to destroy social programs whenever someone points out the systemic failures of our current system.

    "kick them to the curb" (none / 0) (#68)
    by sj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 02:44:54 PM EST
    It's true that you didn't use those words.  But you have been strenuously advocating policies that would do just that.  

    You think I'm making stuff up.  I assert that you are denying the obvious.


    Timely commentary (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:42:33 PM EST
    That (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:49:57 PM EST
    actually is one of the best critiques of welfare reform. Apparently the biggest flaw in the program is that it made no allowances for when times were bad and always assumed that times would be good.

    Wow! (none / 0) (#38)
    by Zorba on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:20:09 PM EST
    Great article, ruffian.  Thanks.

    Oh, brother...this again... (5.00 / 2) (#39)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:40:31 PM EST
    I have a pretty good idea who the looters and moochers are; dollar-for-dollar, there is more money being looted from the American people and the Treasury via corporations than from welfare cheats.

    Here's an interesting statistic for you:

    Citizens for Tax Justice have put out a new report for 2011, which follows up on the report they issued last year for tax years 2008 - 2010 - the one that showed 30 corporations with a negative tax rate, and what did it find?  

    it shows that, if you include the tax year of 2011, 26 of these 30 corporations still paid a negative tax rate overall. That's four years of paying no corporate tax, and instead receiving back billions in subsidies. According to the report, if these 30 companies paid the nominal tax rate of 35% over the four years in this analysis, they would have paid $78.3 billion in federal taxes. "Put another way, over the four years, the 30 companies received more than $78 billion in total tax subsidies," according to CTJ. And of course, this is merely 30 of the nation's largest corporations.

    The study shows that Pepco Holdings, General Electric (the company of Obama Administration Jobs and Competitiveness Council chair Jeffrey Immelt) and Pacific Gas & Electric are the worst offenders. GE, for example, has a -18.9% tax rate for the tax years of 2008 to 2011. While some apologists like David Brooks have claimed that the tax breaks mostly come from GE's production of wind turbines, McIntrye of CTJ says that they actually come from two factors. "GE gets most of its tax breaks from its leasing subsidiary GE Capital," McIntyre said. "Leasing always generates more tax breaks than they can use. So they use them on the rest of their operations."


    The current corporate tax collection over the last three fiscal years has fallen to 1.2% of GDP, according to the Treasury Department. Says the CTJ report, "That's lower than at any time since the 1940s except for one single year during President Reagan's first term," and it stands in contrast to an average rate of about 4% of GDP in the 1960s.

    And the corporate whine is always that they do so much economic good that they and their sharehoiders really should be able to keep more of all that money they're making.

    And please list for us, if you can, all these "more and more" social programs that encourage more and more dependency; and maybe, while you're at it, you could weigh in on the possibility that it is the economic policies of conservatives and centrists so convinced that the answer to everything is always in the middle, but can't see that the middle keeps moving to the right,  that have helped create the conditions that push more and more people over the economic edge.

    "Allowing people" to stay on Section 8, as opposed to what?  Booting them into the street, where they will learn that if they don't want to live in a cardboard box, they'd better go out and get a job - or, in the case of many using Section 8 vouchers, a better job, or another job?  How many minimum wage jobs does it take to get off Section 8 and pay rent in a decent apartment?

    And "free" healthcare?  I don't think so.  

    And who are these "people" who have personal knowledge of the looters and moochers?  Do you know of any?  If not, I don't understand, as to read your comments, you would think it impossible to swing a dead cat without hitting one.

    I guess I'm enough of a bleeding heart liberal that I know that in order to be able to help the least among us, most of whom are children who cannot change their circumstances, we're just going to have to accept that some people are going to benefit who could have other options.  But I'm not about to tell a kid that he or she has to pay the price for a parent's failings.

    Energy assistance for the poor? I hate to break it to you, but these are exactly the kinds of programs that are being cut at both state and federal levels, something you and these "people" of whom you speak can gloat over even as you fail to think about the old, the sick and the very young who don't have other options - is it okay for the baby of the young adult getting HEAP assistance to be living in a sweltering apartment?  Collateral damage, I guess you would call them - and a "teachable moment" for all the other looters and moochers.

    I'm not saying these social programs are perfect - we all know they're not - but your comments reek of selfishness and superiority and a gross misunderstanding of who these programs serve.

    Maybe next time, you could speak for yourself, and not hide behind all these people with personal knowledge of more and more social dependency programs for able-bodied moochers and looters.



    Oh please. Did you even read my post? (2.00 / 1) (#42)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:58:39 PM EST
    I get it, corporate welfare is worse. I think I even said that. But to stop the plutocrats, we need the moderates' votes. That's been clear since they put Reagan and Nixon in place. We can't get those votes when we're creating public policy that doesn't work.

    Stop acting like I don't care about people who need our help. We can't help those who truly need it when so many others are taking advantage. Unless you really think Republicans get elected by greedy insensitive people who don't care about anyone but themselves. If that's the case, give it up. Because they  must be half our country.


    What? (5.00 / 2) (#43)
    by Addison on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:18:38 PM EST
    We can't help those who truly need it when so many others are taking advantage.

    It's not ideal, but of course we can.

    It's like saying we can't vote when there are "so many others" committing voter fraud, so we need voter ID laws. Except the incidents of voter fraud are fabricated and overblown in the first place, and in any case don't prevent people from voting the way voter ID laws might.

    The idea that the big thing Democrats need to do to win over the moderates of this country is tackle fraud/misuse in the social services sector is bizarre. That isn't shown in any polls about what is actually important to people. It's part and parcel of the right-wing fantasy of what Americans are thinking about all the time: welfare queens in Cadillacs, people buying kool-aid with foodstamps, poor people with flat-screens, etc. These are the things bubble-dwelling Republicans hope people actively care about when they're making their ads. But most people only care (briefly) about that stuff when it's shoved in their face as part of a pre-packed outrage platter.

    Should we reduce fraud/misuse in the social services sector? Sure. But it's such a minor side issue by virtually any measurement, and it's so dwarfed by other issues (both in terms of policy and politics) that your focus on social services fraud/misuse is, frankly, a bit suspicious.


    The moderates are not stopping the (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:27:38 PM EST
    plutocrats - that may be the silliest thing I've heard all day; that and that we can't help people because of all the freeloaders.

    Comedy gold.


    Makes me almost wish (none / 0) (#51)
    by sj on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:13:18 PM EST
    I had sock puppets so I could recommend over and over again.

    What (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:09:50 PM EST
    happened to workfare? Did these people not understand what went on or they just still stuck in the past as far as all this and don't realize that there has been "welfare reform"

    Yup - it was exactly these voters (none / 0) (#30)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:25:44 PM EST
    Clinton thought he could capture with welfare reform.

    Curious (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:46:30 PM EST
    What's the genesis of your user name?

    Isn't it obvious? We can see that (none / 0) (#21)
    by observed on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:53:17 PM EST
    he's not in his right mind.. hence.

    Heh, (none / 0) (#24)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:01:17 PM EST
    Methinks you bought the liberal philosophy hook line and sinker. So why isn't it working? C'mon, discuss my ideas, not my moniker.

    Still curious (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:10:39 PM EST
    Even more so now.

    Do I get an explanation?


    Aw, c'mon. (none / 0) (#35)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:08:58 PM EST
    You don't care about my name, you just despise my beliefs.

    Not mutually exclusive (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:54:32 PM EST
    hey observed, (none / 0) (#31)
    by sj on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:33:15 PM EST
    do you not find the usage to be risible? :)

    Or, mayhap gyrfalcon was right.*

    * Attached to MLM's comment as an example relating to a previous discussion.  MLM may or may not understand the reference.  If not, my apologies.


    Huh? (none / 0) (#46)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:10:59 PM EST
    To heck with MLM, I don't understand the reference.  What was I right about??

    There was a conversation (none / 0) (#50)
    by sj on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:09:28 PM EST
    about "methinks" -- well actually started with "anon" -- right here.

    OK, gotcha (none / 0) (#52)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:21:26 PM EST
    thought it was something more profound than that...

    LOL (none / 0) (#53)
    by sj on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:31:20 PM EST
    Nope, not profound at all.  Just tickled my funny bone.

    That's the best explanation yet! (none / 0) (#27)
    by sj on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:22:28 PM EST
    But I expect it's much more mundane and typical than that.  MLM is the blog commenter version of Richard Cohen in newspaper and [insert pseudo-liberal here] on TV.

    Statistics, please (none / 0) (#28)
    by ruffian on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:23:49 PM EST
    You do accurately describe the beliefs of the so-called moderates, but I would like to know if those beliefs are based on fact.

    So can I see some numbers supporting this:

    Allowing people to stay on Section 8 housing for twenty years with free healthcare for every new child born...

    and this

    If you consider all of the able bodied young adults who make non-taxed, not reported money..... living off the public,

    If there were statistics, (none / 0) (#34)
    by MyLeftMind on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:08:26 PM EST
    there would be evidence. If we had evidence, theoretically those people would be denied public money.

    People don't want tax money wasted on those who would choose to run their lives differently if they had to. The liberal response is, predictably, recipients for the most part aren't cheating. If you think lots of them are, then prove it.

    Moderates who vote for Republicans don't need proof. They have personal experiences. Sure, some are suckers for Faux News sound bytes. Some of them are selfish and greedy. But they're not the ones whose votes we can recapture for the Democratic Party. The ones who look around and see their friends, relatives and neighbors living off their hard earned wages are the ones who will vote Democratic if we change our social service programs.


    Wait... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Addison on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 03:15:35 PM EST
    The ones who look around and see their friends, relatives and neighbors living off their hard earned wages are the ones who will vote Democratic if we change our social service programs.

    You think the main reason such people are not currently voting Democratic is because they know people using the social services sector, and disapprove?


    I feel like it's 1980 again. (5.00 / 2) (#49)
    by observed on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:11:24 PM EST
    where's my welfare Mama's Cadillac??

    Nope-SSD and SSI (1.00 / 1) (#54)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 11:47:07 PM EST
    The new welfare.  Applications are WAY up for soft diagnoses since the recession hit and unemployment went up.

    Supposing you are right, (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by observed on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 02:17:37 AM EST
    what do you expect people who cannot get jobs to do?

    Heh. Sj's troll rating on this comment (1.00 / 1) (#67)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 02:24:20 PM EST
    indicates that it's OK to cheat Social Security and use it as welfare just because we're in a recession. I reiterate: we don't solve these problems by letting people cheat the system and suck it dry.

    Instead, we need to fix the system, gain consensus across the nation for new, functional, sustainable programs and wrest back control of our government the old fashioned way (voting the plutocrats out).


    sj's troll rating (5.00 / 0) (#69)
    by sj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 03:04:42 PM EST
    is for an unsourced assertion that shows ignorance of the fact the people can "apply" for SSI all day long but eligibility requirements are stringent.  

    And really I didn't know it was possible to "apply" for SSD.  Would that make the Solid State Drive discounted?  Now SSDI not only has stringent eligibility requirements, but also the addition requirement that one must have worked "long enough" and paid into SS.  Find your own link for that.  It's out there.

    Now I could be wrong, but I don't recall a single sourced comment of diogenes.  On the other hand, they usually resemble this one: a sentence or two of dogma that he doesn't hang around to defend.

    You, OTOH, spew paragraphs and paragraphs of unsourced theory which gets more and more cognitively dissonant the more you write.  It's not even theory, it's personal prejudices masquerading as a political discussion.


    Social Security Disability is the new welfare. (none / 0) (#70)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:08:59 PM EST
    There's no sudden increase in people getting sick or injured, yet applications for disability are mysteriously up 16% and decision makers may be ruling more people eligible because of the recession.

    "We are seeing a significant increase in both retirement and disability applications as a result of the recession," said Mark Lassiter, a Social Security spokesman.

    You, OTOH, spew paragraphs and paragraphs of unsourced... personal prejudices masquerading as a political discussion.

    Yeah, right. My personal prejudices are making me want to make our social programs better. Get real. I'd say you have a personal biases that prevent you from acknowledging the failures of our welfare state.


    AB. (5.00 / 0) (#71)
    by Addison on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:19:06 PM EST
    Two things:

    (a) Older Americans unable to find a job might very well choose to receive retirement benefits earlier.

    (b) Americans who are eligible for disability insurance may have been able to find work previously that accommodated their disability, but can not do so now.

    You haven't proved your basic assumption, which is that people not entitled to these benefits are receiving them.


    I'm just referring to disability, (none / 0) (#72)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:40:32 PM EST
    not retirement applications.

    Okay, then see point (b)... (5.00 / 0) (#73)
    by Addison on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:56:48 PM EST
    It's a little complicated, but if they used to do "heavy" work and now no longer can and there isn't any "light" work available in the economy, they qualify for SSDI if they can't reach the SGA monthly level through other means of income.

    Likewise, if they did heavy work ~15 years ago and file today, their past work isn't held against them. So again, many disabled older Americans who can't find sedentary work (but did light/heavy work 15 years ago) qualify for SSDI. In a different economy they might be able to find sedentary work providing them with SGA. They can't so they apply for the insurance payments they're qualified for.

    Additionally, and this is from personal experience, many people get on SSDI who were ALWAYS eligible in times of economic downturns because other means of private and state-level assistance dries up. People who have serious chronic illnesses, mental illnesses resulting in long-term homelessness, etc. -- these people were previously able to "get by" on family or faith-based assistance without going through the long and convoluted SSDI process. Now, in the downturn, those supports are weakened and a flood of "unexpected" SSDI application come in.

    You're also advancing the idea that people in the SSA are actively assisting in federal benefits fraud by moving people through steps where they should be denied. I don't see any proof or support for that, either in facts or my experience.


    Your "better" (none / 0) (#74)
    by sj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 07:57:03 PM EST
    is your opinion only.  You're so very, very concerned about the "welfare state" that it's startlingly Reaganesque.  

    Some people who once had, you know jobs, before the economic downtown that allowed them to work in spite of some disabilities no longer have that option.  So qualifying for and now using the safety net, to which they have contributed, is now the "new welfare".  I hope that high horse you're on lives as long as you do.


    It's a common enough phobia... (5.00 / 1) (#75)
    by Addison on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 08:08:32 PM EST
    ...the overriding and monomanical fear that some poor person or poor family somewhere is getting more money than they "deserve". I think it'll be in the new DSM-5.

    Funny you bring up Reagan (none / 0) (#76)
    by MyLeftMind on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 08:17:25 PM EST
    since he rode to power on an anti-welfare wave of anger. Perhaps that anger was unjustified, but I believe most people care about their neighbors and are willing to help others survive. They just don't want to be taken advantage of.

    I'm suggesting we can create systems that do no longer elicit that pro-Republican vote. To do so, we have to acknowledge that what we have creates dependency, not self sufficiency.


    Sure (none / 0) (#77)
    by sj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 11:01:25 PM EST
    I believe most people care about their neighbors and are willing to help others survive.
    I believe that, too. I just don't believe they are able to support them.  A few casseroles, running errands and giving out hand me down clothes isn't going to keep them homed.  And there will always be "pro-Republican" votes.  Because there will always be people who think like you do.  You're just trying to smoosh them into the Democratic party.  So that way we end up with Republican policies labeled "Democrat" and bat-sh!t crazy labeled "Republican".

    so, whats the rest of the plan? (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by jondee on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:23:50 PM EST
    since you insist on harping on further welfare reform (single-issue gal or fella that you are..)

    More of "our hard-earned dollars" going for retraining programs, or college tuition, or should we just build more jails and prisons in anticipation of the time when these folks hit the streets after getting cut off from their pittance..

    And, having worked in the field, I can tell you that YES, it is a pittance. So don't even think about going there..


    that was for MyLeftMind (none / 0) (#61)
    by jondee on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:25:16 PM EST
    another problem in this country.. (5.00 / 1) (#62)
    by jondee on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:31:43 PM EST
    idiots whose entire political consciousness revoles around one narrowly obsessive issue..

    The bums on welfare..baby killers.. mean people who say mean things about Sarah Palin..

    Rather than doing things to get them to vote for our side, we should be encouraging them not to vote at all..


    Just what I was thinking... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by kdog on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 12:45:15 PM EST
    I don't think it is a good idea to cater to those who miss the forest for the trees, especially with no guarantee they won't keep missing the forest for the trees.

    There are worse things than losing a few votes...