Sunday, May 4, 2014


The subject of welfare comes up so often and in so many different ways, it made me wonder if there was something fundamental, innate, or even personal about it. I remember my mother saying something along the lines of poverty is something that should be ameliorated while my father was more prone to say if they would get up off there back-sides and go to work they wouldn’t need help from me. The strange thing about the question was they never seemed to debate the issue; one believed one way and the other the other way, which is a sure sign they both believed each other’s positions had merit.

Over the past 50 or so years, I gathered from listening to political debate that political positions in respect to poverty started to include a moral element, which means to me that people were starting to look for reasons to justify their position. Poverty is as old as humankind itself is. From a biological point of view, it seems poverty is a multifaceted variable associated with survival; the resulting sum of physical as well as mental attributes. The fastest runner, the one with the best eyesight, or the one who can figure out how to catch two fish as opposed to one is the winner—or in Darwinian terms, the survivor. With the addition of morality to the mix, our more advanced and sophisticated society has implies to be a slow runner or have bad eyesight or not being able to catch more fish is morally inferior—and by extension to be poor is to be inferior, which is the ugliness of social Darwinism laid bare. If the poor are unfit, they cannot and should survive. Worst yet, use them to survive, in other words the superior should kill the inferior, as in war; take their territory, their resources, or anything else that would help them to be superior.

Because of humanization, we are no longer capable of reverting to survival of the fittest on such a bestial level; however, some of us seem ready to accept that if they cannot survive that is their problem. I look at #Ayn Rand in that light; the classic picture of an orphaned baby elephant seal looking for a mother until it dies of starvation. The audience viewing that film gasped in horror at the sight; the meeting of bestiality with humanization.  

I think about Paul Ryan, and people like him, looking at the human poverty, and gasp in horror at he positions he is taking. I learned much from a book written by #George Lakoff, a person who bills himself as a cognitive linquist—I have to admit I do not know what that title means. Nonetheless, the 1996 book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, has explanatory merit. He used the family as a model for society as a whole; if a family has a child that is misbehaving, it is morally wrong for the father not to punish that child. The child will grow up to be an irresponsible adult. Paul Ryan clearly sees poverty in that light. If you do not punish people in poverty, they will stay poor. He clearly sees himself as being morally correct in cutting all welfare; it is the moral thing to do. Of course, he couches his rhetoric in different terms. He goes to great lengths not say he wants to punish poor people, which would reveal his lack of compassion. He would say he wants to help people just as a father wants his child to grow up and be a good person; he is looking for accolades for what he is doing. He sees himself as a father figure, a compassionate conservative, as George W. Bash believed he was going to do if he could eliminate Social Security; if old people lived in poverty, it would somehow be morally correct.

The broad sweep of welfare cuts does not bother persons like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, or Ayn Rand who has the “righteous” philosophy of “spare the rod spoil the child”. Even if the child is not responsible for what the father thinks he of she is responsible for, because the “good intentions” will eventually contribute to making him or her into a better person. Of course, liberals know that beating a child will not turn “them” into good runners, or give them better eyesight, or make the more intelligent, still liberals know there are those who deserve punishment; the problem is in knowing which ones. In most cases, we know how to find out, for example drug testing for welfare recipients, or State ID for voters, or driving license and a long list of etceteras:  however, we usually are too compassionate to accept the punishment. Who among us are content with the idea of letting a person starve on the streets if they are drug or alcohol addicts or cheat on social security, or have a marginally low IQ. Who is willing to let the elephant seal pup die because it could not find a mother?  

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