☰ Menu
Blog of Mass Destruction

Individual And Collective Responsibility

By The Reverend Published: October 9, 2010

To begin a discussion on personal responsibility, which, lately, has been a very popular topic for today's conservatives and Republicans,....I think it's important to look at the national picture, first.

I am very familiar with the arguments from conservatives over individual responsibility...and, for the most part, I don't disagree with many of those arguments.

All Americans, of sound body and mind, should take personal responsibility for their own lives and not become dependent on either the government, or charitable organizations for their existence. That's the ideal.

Contrary to the often-heard criticism from Republicans and conservatives, Democrats and liberals have no desire for citizens to become "enslaved" to welfare programs and handouts. The conservative idea that Democrats WANT Americans dependent on government handouts in the hopes of securing votes for their candidates is repellant and contradicts the heart of progressive thought. Democrats, just like Republicans, want America's citizens to be self-reliant and prosperous because a self-reliant and prosperous citizenry makes for a stronger nation for all.

Since the Great Recession began, there has been an ever-louder drumbeat from the right in criticism of the role the government safety-net plays in the U.S. Most of the criticism has come from this cycle's GOP candidates, which is then expanded upon, ad infinitum, by today's conservative media. Some, for example, like Sharron Angle (R-NV), Joe Miller (R-AK), and Rand Paul (R-KY), have called those on unemployment, "coddled", "spoiled", and even "hobos." Orrin Hatch (R-UT), for another example, has called for mandatory drug testing of all those collecting unemployment checks. For every job out there today, there are 5 people trying to get it.

Often on this blog, conservative commenters have voiced their distaste for government's role in subsidizing those who are not able to take care of themselves or their families, for whatever reason.

But if our "welfare" situation is looked at on a macro level, we find this......

In the map above, the red states are states which receive more from the federal government in subsidies than they pay to the federal government in taxes. The blue states are those who pay more in federal taxes than they receive back in federal subsidies.

The second map breaks down the states by the 2008 election. Red states voted for McCain/Palin, blue states voted for Obama/Biden. With the exceptions of Texas and some rust belt states, it appears as if Republican-voting states are receiving more federal "welfare" than Democratic-voting states. In fact, as you can see, taxes collected from Democratic voting states, are being redistributed to help "dependent" red states.

There is a very strong correlation, then, between a state voting for Republicans and receiving more in federal spending than its residents pay to the federal government in taxes (the rust belt and Texas being notable exceptions). In essence, those in blue states are subsidizing those in red states. Both red and blue states appear to be acting politically in opposition to their economic interests. Blue states are voting for candidates who are likely to continue the policies of red state subsidization while red states are voting for candidates who profess a desire to reduce federal spending (and presumably red state subsidization).

This seems counter-intuitive. Republican voters in Republican-voting states are the most likely to complain about federal spending on governmental programs which assist citizens who are in need of help...and yet....those same Republican-voting states receive more federal government subsidies than they pay in revenues to the federal government.

Democratic-voting states, on the other hand, pay more to the federal government than they receive back. Democratic-voting states are, seemingly, playing the role of nanny to Republican-voting states. Federal tax monies are being taken from Democratic-voting states and doled out to, apparently, non-self-reliant Republican-voting states.

Furthermore, ask yourself why Democratic-voting, blue state citizens continue to vote for Democrats, when the Democrats they elect will only continue voting to lift up poorer producing or poorly run red state government for its citizens, only continuing the redistribution disparity.

Given this scenario, would it be accurate to call red state citizens, "coddled", "spoiled" and "hobos" because they are dependent on the federal government, as it were? Or perhaps red states could be labeled, personally irresponsible.....because they can't take care of themselves? Would that be a fair way to evaluate the disparity in redistribution of federal government revenues?

Is the constant conservative criticism of individuals as "spoiled", "coddled", "hobos", who are in need of federal assistance, like extended unemployment.....some form of self-loathing? Do conservatives in Republican-voting states hate the fact that they are dependent on the federal government so much, moreso than their Democratic-voting blue state counterparts, that their criticism of safety-net programs has become a ritual of constant public self-flagellation?

My take on this is that the contradiction can be explained by ideology. Republicans think individually when it comes to federal assistance, Democrats think collectively. Republicans point to "Cadillac driving welfare queens" and "young bucks buying t-bones with food stamps", Democrats point to the unemployment and foreclosure numbers and poverty statistics.

This is not to say that the conservative emphasis on personal responsibility is not valuable, it is. But there is nothing to be gained by bashing individual "welfare" recipients for being irresponsible or dependent, when the most conservative states are dependent, as we've seen, on redistributed-from-blue-states "welfare."



About This Blog

Prev Next