Wandering in the Desert (a subsidized one as well)

NR-RINOlogo2by Brad Nelson
My head just about exploded when I read this article by Henry Olsen: Food (Stamps) for Thought. And although I had my shot at Mr. Olsen, our own Geoph2 said it best: “According to the “Conservative” media and GOP leadership – every issue is the wrong battle!

But what I did say was this:

So now basically NRO has glorified trolls writing for them. Mr. Olsen conflates conservatism as a philosophy with the Republican Party. And nearly every honest conservative I know understands that it’s not just farm subsidies and food stamps that have to be reduced. It is all of the above.

Both parties are in the dysfunctional and unsustainable habit of using our money to buy voting constituencies. And we have the trillions of dollars of debt to show for it. So instead of getting three-alarm fire bells for this real problem, we get this troll-like disingenuous post from Mr. Olsen that, in effect, is a clarion call to do absolutely nothing.

Well, Mr. Olsen, I think I speak for most conservatives when I say that I love my country, a country founded upon the idea of freedom. And although it is true that many people can’t rise above being a party hack or troll-like columnist, I think I am one of those people and know many others. In fact, the Tea Party movement was started because of this insane inside-the-beltway mentality that you so bizarrely, but accurately, display.

Or, as Geoph2 said, “According to the “Conservative” media and GOP leadership – every issue is the wrong battle!”

Goodness gracious. What has happened to William F. Buckley, Jr’s fine publication. It is supposed to be a vehicle for conservative solutions to today’s problems, not, as Mrvicchio quipped, a soapbox for Mother Jones refuges.

Who really has the tin ear?

And not a very popular response as it turns out. Which leads me to wonder just how many conservatives actually frequent that site. I would imagine very few.

A fellow named Stagester gets it:

Are you saying Conservatives can’t walk and chew gum at the same time? Why can’t we get rid of the egregious subsidies to big-agra which harms everybody and pare down food stamps to those who really need them. Even the government which administers the program admits there is $750 million in fraud each year. Add to this the administration is helping illegal immigrants to get on food stamps with the aid of the Mexican government.

My response to this worthy fellow was:

Yes, you get it, Stagester. Or, as Geoph2 said, “According to the “Conservative” media and GOP leadership – every issue is the wrong battle!”

I see no praiseworthiness in this article. A blindfolded child could point out the inconsistencies in Republican policy. This is not news. What needs to be pointed out is that both parties are using public money to buy constituencies. Must we be constrained to this bizarre view that it must be one or the other, either food stamps or farm subsidies?

We can indeed walk and chew gum at the same time. We are running out of money. Check that. We have already run out of money. We are borrowing over one trillion per year. This article amounts to little more than a distraction from the real subject: Both parties are selling this country down the river in order to use public money to buy constituencies.

We can not only walk and chew gum at the same time, we can find a cheaper brand of gum. Hell, maybe we don’t need the gum at all.

I just roll my eyes at some of the praisworthy comments to Olsen’s trollish post. As my brother says about this kind of stuff, no wonder there are so many RINOs. They know that “conservatives” don’t have their back.

And I think he’s right. If conservatives can’t clearly see this issue, then we are truly lost. There are a lot of things we need to cut. We can indeed walk and chew gum as the same time as Mr. Stagester suggests.

I also wonder how many who are thrilled with Mr. Olsen’s article are on food stamps themselves. And whether they are or not, this entire article plays directly into class warfare. I wonder how many simply love the idea of sticking it to the rich? How deeply engrained is this instinct now even amongst those who call themselves conservatives?

Does Mr. Olsen have self-awareness enough to know that he is dealing with a class warfare issue? He makes no mention of it, and yet to not mention how ingrained class warfare is in our society is to miss the elephant in the living room.

If the only cuts we make are to “the rich,” as Bill Whittle has noted in one of his videos, this will be insignificant. And as long as every real cut in government expenditures is held hostage to this stupid idea that “Well, somewhere there is a rich guy receiving corporate welfare,” we can never cut anything.

Surely Mr. Olsen understands this. Or does he? Has our society become perhaps more dumbed-down than I realize? • (1758 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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28 Responses to Wandering in the Desert (a subsidized one as well)

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    A very nice summary. I hadn’t read the article yet, and it sounds like I can save my time. I read over a decade ago (in Reason, I think) that corporate welfare cost over $70 billion a year (presumably including farm subsidies). My thought is that whatever one can say about welfare for the poor, making people subsidize those who are richer than themselves is utterly unconscionable.
    Food stamps and other forms of entitlements are definitely too extensive; the threat of dependency has been a concern since the 1940s (Tom Dewey worried about the possibility). But eliminating them is unfeasible, and may even be undesirable; I can see a point to having a basic social safety net. Poul Anderson had a character make a similar point in his underrated novel Orbit Unlimited: If a society has the wealth to keep people from starving, it will do so one way or another — a concept that goes back at least to William Blake’s second “Holy Thursday”.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One of the problems with the “social safety net,” Timothy, is that there is no such thing. If it is a “safety net” for anyone, it is for politicians. That is how it is used. That is how it will always be used. It’s a relatively safe way for them (or their party) to stay in power.

      As my friend Pat typically says, government can’t love you. And I agree. But what we see happening with things such as the “social safety net” is politicians feigning love because it’s a vote-getter.

      I recommend one and all to familiarize themselves with the kind of true safety net that used to exist, and it was all private. It’s talked about at length in the book, The Tragedy of American Compassion.

      It’s a very difficult lesson for people to learn that government really doesn’t care for them. And that is certainly so if only because they don’t want to learn it. As Dennis Prager notes, people will readily accept something for nothing. It is in human nature. And politicians prey on this nature. They don’t love you. They don’t care. But they do want to remain in office.

      But there are people who do work outside of government who do care. Their care is real because they do not depend upon anyone’s vote. Their care does not become the “care” of politicians because of that “care” being inherently politicized.

      What we have now is this bizarre, twisted, and corrupted notion that has become widespread. And it’s a notion that totally plays into the hands of statists and party politics. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that it was the healthy and good ethic of any man or woman not to receive one dime of charity from the government.

      Now we’ve become a citizenry wherein we really have bought into the idea that it is the government’s duty to take care of us. And if one dime is spent on “corporate welfare,” this becomes intolerable. And what is defined as “corporate welfare” is completely open-ended.

      We now have a corrupted citizenry who thinks that they have a right to other people’s money. I had a memorable conservation a while back with a conservative friend. He told me that the oil companies weren’t paying their fair share (the actual taxes they pay is as high, or higher, than the average). The context and underpinning of his point of view was that the oil companies were holding dollars that, by rights, belonged to him or to other people.

      This is bizarre. Any sane economist understands that if you want economic growth, you need a business-friendly environment. But when reducing taxes and regulatory burdens on business is defined as “giving ‘the rich’ the money that we, the poor, should have” then you know we have truly gone Marxist.

      And we have. I am disgusted by many of my so-called conservative brothers and sister who buy into this nonsense. “Each the rich” seems to be the battle cry for people who really should know better.

      Food stamps do little more than hurt people. I remember some investigative journalist (there used to be such a thing) who wrote an article a while back about how he was looking into his city’s “job training” or “job search” programs that had been established. He knew someone who was out of a job (or played the part of someone who was out of a job…I forget some of the details).

      So he (or a friend out of work) goes to the official government offices in order to get work. But he is not given work. The only interest of the agency is to sign him up for “free stuff.” Everything about the agency was designed for this with only token aspects to actually connecting people with a job.

      He (or his friend) then hit the pavement of his own accord and within a day got a decent job.

      So I’m not buying the idea that food stamps or any of this crap is good. It’s just the state trying to get its hooks in us and/or it is now an expression of Cultural Marxism wherein the reigning paradigm is “eat the rich” and that everyone else has no other responsibility for their lives but to collect from others what they think is their due.

      This is the doom of our culture and should be refuted on all fronts.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        One should not go to government in search of love or morals. The main interest of any bureaucracy is preservation of the bureaucracy. Next comes the expansion of the bureaucracy.

        As regards those government employees in the jobs agency. Does anyone seriously believe their main interest is helping people find jobs? Their main interest is keeping their own jobs no matter how much it costs the public, no matter how inefficient it is.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Kung, I wish we could bottle your clarity. That’s exactly right. Or maybe we could put it in the form of a Red Pill. That worked for The Matrix.

        • faba calculo says:

          Strangely, even government employees value being employed.

          As for them doing it no matter how much it hurts the public, I’d guess that many of them would disagree with your opinion that their jobs ARE hurting the public.

          As for the article itself, it may be bad politics to cut Food Stampts AS WELL as farm subsidies, but it’s good economics. However, as the article points out, even if Heritage gets its way on Food Stamps, they’ll get less that full repeal of farm subsidies would net. And bagging all of the latter is likely to be at least as easy as shaving off even part of the former.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            “Strangely, even government employees value being employed.”

            What’s your point? I did not say government workers didn’t value employment. Generally, people like to get as much money as possible for doing as little as possible. Money is good and most people have to exchange their labor to get it.

            “As for them doing it no matter how much it hurts the public, I’d guess that many of them would disagree with your opinion that their jobs ARE hurting the public.”

            Duh! But let’s be specific. I said :

            “Their main interest is keeping their own jobs no matter how much it costs the public, no matter how inefficient it is.”

            This is somewhat different from how you styled your response, but let’s go in your direction.

            Do you think government inefficiency “hurts” the public? I certainly do. Can you deny that their are huge inefficiencies in such government programs as mentioned? I would like to hear that denial with backup.

            So while the inhabitants of those government jobs may not think they are hurting the public, it is indisputable that through waste and fraud a significant number of them are, in fact, hurting the public.

            And, by the way, do you think their main interest is helping others find jobs or keeping their own?

            • faba calculo says:

              My point is that none of this is unique to government workers.

              “And, by the way, do you think their main interest is helping others find jobs or keeping their own?”

              Again, like everyone else, their primary interest is in keeping their job.

              “Can you deny that their are huge inefficiencies in such government programs as mentioned?”

              I would guess that there are large inefficiencies in any large organization, and the government is a very large organization. And while eliminating as much inefficiency as possible is certainly a duty of the organization in question (especially in the case of government, as their funding comes through confiscation of other people’s money), the larger issue, of which efficiency is just a part, I would say, is value added. I’d rather keep having a military, even if it wasted a quarter of the money it was given, than crop subsidy program that spent every penny with scientific accuracy.

              • Kung Fu Zu says:

                “My point is that none of this is unique to government workers.”

                I did not say or imply it was.

                “Again, like everyone else, their primary interest is in keeping their job.”

                True, but the Nanny State promotes higher taxes and intrusive behavior by selling the lie that “we care” and “we are doing this to help the people” while they are really there just to help themselves.

                “I would guess that there are large inefficiencies in any large organization, and the government is a very large organization.”

                The difference is that private organizations have a self correcting mechanism to deal with inefficiencies. Either they correct the inefficiency to some degree or go broke. That is not to say there is perfection, but problems are dealt with in a more rational way than in government which rarely corrects problem.

                Furthermore, private organizations are run with private money and do not have police. If they go bust, I don’t lose money unless I own shares.

                On the other hand, not only do I have to pay for government inefficiencies, but the government can also force me to do things which are against my interests and beliefs. Why would I be in favor of increasing such an organization beyond the minimum size required to perform its constitutional duties?

                Your points are really about human nature and simply confirm my original post. I am not saying government workers are uniquely greedy and power hungry, although I do believe they must have an inherent bias for big government if they go to work for most government agencies.

                What I am saying is too many people who work for government do so as they know it is hard to fire them. They vote in the candidates who then give them employment contracts and conditions which are too often unsustainable. And that the immunity from sanction combined with the power which goes with government office, brings out the worst in too many who work for government.

              • faba calculo says:

                “True, but the Nanny State promotes higher taxes and intrusive behavior by selling the lie that “we care” and “we are doing this to help the people” while they are really there just to help themselves.”

                They aren’t (necessarily) there JUST to help themselves. It’s their highest motive, almost certainly, but that doesn’t make it their only motive. Hell, doctors claim to care about us. And they probably do. Just not as much as they care about themselves. They have to be villains from an Ayn Rand novel to do otherwise.

                “The difference is that private organizations have a self correcting mechanism to deal with inefficiencies.”

                It is a difference. But it’s not always a virtue.

                “Furthermore, private organizations are run with private money and do not have police. If they go bust, I don’t lose money unless I own shares.”

                Hell, with governments, you can go broke from them even if they’re doing fine. Confiscation is overwhelmingly their primary way of funding themselves.

                “I do believe they must have an inherent bias for big government if they go to work for most government agencies.”

                “Big government” is too loose a terms for me to address. Still, I’d have to believe that just about everyone who works for the Fed thinks there should be a central bank. And everyone who works for a regulatory agency thinks there should be regulations. And everyone who works for the military thinks there should be a vast military.

                “What I am saying is too many people who work for government do so as they know it is hard to fire them.”

                I doubt that that’s a primary motivator for even a sizeable minority. It, along with the allied fact that they’re nearly recession proof, it a good thing about being a federal worker. But state and locals, as recent history has proved, are even recession-proof, though firing them is likely still cumbersome.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Public employee unions are bringing down California. The price of doing business there is chasing away a lot of companies.

              In the free market, what you earn is based upon your value to someone or to your customers. But in the public sector, it’s about how much you can extort, via politicians and your own union thuggery, from the public.

              • faba calculo says:

                Certainly the case of California unions, especially the prison guards, is a study in shame. Gray Davis got (at least some of) what he deserved.

                Still, there are public unions and then there are public unions. The dreams of those who wish to weaken the unions in Wisconsin is but a pale shadow of the reality of the federal unions. Not only can’t they strike, they can’t even bargain over wages, benefits, etc. Working conditions is about it in terms of bargain.

                In fact, government benefits were considerably curtailed back in the 80s. Much (though not all) of the cushy federal benefits people think of, especially in terms of pensions, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Many years ago, I had a conversation with a libertarian friend, Pat McCray (who once wrote a libertarian-oriented graphic novel, Elvis Shrugged — and once identified himself at W. W. Cousin’s as “Francisco D”). Basically, I consider socialism/communism a clear failure, and much the same is true of what might be called social democracy. But the idea of a limited safety net is another matter; it MAY be a better system pragmatically than strict Randian capitalism. In any case, it’s a genie we can’t put back into the bottle (barring total societal breakdown). Perhaps it would help if we could find a way to exclude government dependents from voting. After all, the crucial problem with government transfer payments is that they lead to a sizable portion of the population that basically votes for a living.

        • faba calculo says:

          I have a hard time seeing social democracies such as Sweden as a failure.

          • Black JEM says:

            They have had their moments. I believe at the current time their social democratic friends in the EU in general are the biggest distraction. I think Sweden kept its own currency, correct? GOod thing.

            • faba calculo says:

              I’m not following your point. When you say that “[t]hey have had their moments” is that to bolster the idea that they are failures or to disagree with it?

              Also, what are the other social democracies distracting us from?

              However, on your point about Sweden keeping its currency, you are quite correct. And that’s a point in and of itself: Europe’s recent difficulties are a lot less about social democracy than they are about a poorly designed monetary union.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            Sweden is the case people use when they wish to praise Social Democracies, but Sweden is a special case.

            When Sweden started down the path to Social Democracy, the population was small as well as racially and ethnically homogeneous. In small countries with one tribe it is always easier to reach agreement on social policies as the main culture is dominant and social mores are held in common.

            This seems to make it easier for the population to agree to redistributive policies. After all, “we are just helping our family.” Such uniformity of agreement is much more difficult in multicultural societies.

            However, over the last 20-30 years Sweden has had a huge influx of foreign immigrants and about 20% of the population is foreign born or is the child of two foreign born parents. I have serious doubts that the Swedish model will be so successful in about 30-40 years time. I believe, “diversity” is a killer for political and economic cooperation once the percentage of “aliens” gets past about 10% or so.

            Furthermore, Sweden has backed off much of the more radical economic policies of earlier years, although the total tax burden is still pretty heavy. So it is not the Socialist haven it once was.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          But the idea of a limited safety net is another matter; it MAY be a better system pragmatically than strict Randian capitalism. In any case, it’s a genie we can’t put back into the bottle…

          In other words (and I more or less agree with you, Timothy), the corruption must continue.

          I don’t know a single conservative who doesn’t want his or her tax dollar to help fund research for diseases or to help the handicapped.

          But the problem is that we now have “compassion” defined in political terms, specifically Cultural Marxist terms. If you’re out of a job, it’s now whitey’s fault. Or it’s some corporations fault. If you lose your job, it’s now expected that your neighbors pay your way…up to 99 months at the moment. If you have the morals of a slut (either male or female), instead of acting responsibly and getting married, it’s now just assumed that the taxpayers will act as your surrogate spouse or parent.

          Everyone should read Jack Cashill’s wonderful article at American Thinker (there’s a link at the very top of the home page, the new “Special Report” bar). Grievance is a bottomless pit, as is victimhood. And it’s now commonly leading to murder.

          We’re not being asked to fund research for diseases or to help the handicapped. We’re being asked to pay for grievance as defined by the Democrat Party and Cultural Marxists.

          And I have as little love for payouts to farmers by Republicans (and Democrats). We don’t have the money for this kind of nonsense.

          So maybe like you said, there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle short of a collapse of the system, but we at least ought to be talking about it. And that’s why I was so disgusted with the truly wimpy and stupid article by the Chairman of the Republican Party that appeared at NRO the other day. What a caterwauling weasel.

          There’s an essential idea that the bleeding hearts have to realize. There is not enough money to go around for everyone to be an aggrieved victim of one hobgoblin or another. You can try to extort money from the public by calling it “women’s health” or “social justice,” but it amounts to the same thing.

          America was built of the energy and dynamic of freedom, of people building their own lives and being expected to do so. Now everyone is a victim. And to use one of the stupid five-dollar words of the Left, that is not “sustainable.”

  2. cdjaco says:

    Love the graphic!

    That said, I don’t know if “RINO” works anymore; there seem to be so many more non-conservative Republicans than conservative ones. What about CHIMP: Conservative Hipster In My Party?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Cdjaco, I defer to your wisdom. And I appreciate you chimpy humor. 😉 I’ll see if I can come up with something.

      All jokes aside, I think you’re right. I think there is a preponderance of non-conservative Republicans. And I can respect a different point of view. But many of them are basically either statists or mindless party hacks. Or (worst of all) they are “centrists” who take the wimpy positions that they do in order to stay under the radar of the people who are really driving the agenda: The Left. It’s all about “image” and “respectability” which all means in relationship to the liberal press.

      • CCWriter CCWriter says:

        To me, “RINO” signals only that whoever is slinging the term disagrees on a policy or strategy point with someone else on the right but can’t be bothered expressing why. But people should feel free to go on using that if that’s what they want me to take away.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I think RINO has a legitimate meaning (someone who is very hard to distinguish from a Democrat), but it’s true that most people who are called that don’t qualify. In discussing the defeat of Richard Lugar in the primary last year, I noted that his record wasn’t quite that of a RINO — but neither was he any longer the “Reagan conservative” his defenders made him out to be. Perhaps the best example today would be Susan Collins, but even she has her good points (even aside form the unlikelihood of Maine electing anyone we would like better).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I think there are herds of real RINOs out there, CC. We can think of them as “Progressives Lite” or just statists, as Mark Levin notes.

          Whatever the case may be, there are many Republicans who do not stand for a principle much deeper than political expediency hidden under a “conservative” (and often false) exterior. (Romney “I am very conservative.”) I have no use for them.

          This isn’t about policy differences. Andy McCarthy disagreed with me (that was kind of fun having a brief conversation with him) about the NSA thing. But he’s no RINO. He’s a very thoughtful and honest conservative who I simply disagreed with on that one point.

          But RINOs abound.

          • CCWriter CCWriter says:

            Even Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan are now being called RINOs. All it means now is “I don’t like your strategy; it’s less appealing to me than yelling and screaming or closing my eyes and just wishing with all my might for total victory.”

            I repeat, RINO has lost all effective meaning through misuse. I can’t assume that the use of the term tells me anything I can rely on, so I must disregard it.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Paul Ryan is sort of a squishy statist. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but he ought to be replaced by a real Tea Party guy.

              Ted Cruz, on the other hand, might be the best guy we have.

              Maybe RINO has lost meaning for you, but it hasn’t for me. Oh, we can quibble about who is a RINO, who is a “centrist,” who is an Establishment Republican, and who is a Progressive Republican. I guess those differences matter.

              But the Republican Party is full of people who will not honor the Constitution or basic fiscal sanity. Let’s call “RINO” the genus and those other names the species. But I do think the term RINO has lots of meaning, even if some use the name too casually.

              • CCWriter CCWriter says:

                Well, granted not everyone uses it that loosely, but there’s enough of that so I’m going to have to either fact-check it whenever it’s used, or else disregard. So a person might as well be more specific if they want me to understand and believe what they’re saying about someone else’s positions.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    So a person might as well be more specific if they want me to understand and believe what they’re saying about someone else’s positions.

    CC, I’m fine with that. But you won’t find me a part of the dubious “no labels” crowd. Here’s how it works:

    You say “Apple.” If a person is holding an orange in his hand, then he’s either batty or needs a new pair of glasses.

    You then go to the next level of detail: What kind of apple? Gravensteins? Red Delicious? Pacific Rose (one of my favorites)?

    And then we could get down to another level of detail: Ripe? Unripe? Overripe?

    But, yeah, if somebody just calls a “horse” a “sheep” there’s not much you can do about that. But that in no way discredits the use of labels. And there are indeed people who are Republicans In Name Only. Lots of them.

    • CCWriter CCWriter says:

      I think labels can be useful. But I think the RINO label has been rendered meaningless through misuse brought on by laziness and self-indulgence on the part of some on the right.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        CC, I don’t doubt that the RINO label is thrown around carelessly. But in my opinion, if you lined up all the Republicans in the House and the Senate against a wall, and then threw a water balloon at them with “RINO” magic-markered on it, your chances of hitting an actual RINO I think would be better than average.

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