They Want You to Stop Them: The Conservative Irony

One of the themes I’ve addressed on occasion is that various conservative areas are actually dependent on federal spending.   At the same time, they’re calling for less federal spending, even though they would be the most hurt by that.  There’s a column over at The Atlantic talking about this:

But Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

In other words, “make us stop, because we can’t stop ourselves!”

The article talks about another one in the NY Times.

Many people say they are angry because the government is wasting money and giving money to people who do not deserve it. But more than that, they say they want to reduce the role of government in their own lives. They are frustrated that they need help, feel guilty for taking it and resent the government for providing it. They say they want less help for themselves; less help in caring for relatives; less assistance when they reach old age.

Read that again.  They need the help, but say they want less.  Riiight.  You know, here’s the thing:  No one is holding a gun to their heads, no government bureaucrat is forcing them to accept government help.   It turns out that you’re not obligated to take government help in any of those areas.    Social Security and Medicare don’t run after you forcing checks into your hand, no state or federal agency pushes you onto SNAP (food stamps), no government agency prevents you from caring for your parents in their old age or planning for your own.

Which is the irony about these conservatives.  Rather than go ahead and do without that government help, they line up to receive it.  They remind me of an alcoholic who lobbies to have a neighborhood bar shut down, because if the bar wasn’t there, they “wouldn’t drink anymore.”    I’ve said in the past, and I’ll repeat it:  The worst thing that could be done to these people is to give them exactly what they say they want.   It’d be interesting to see how long they’d last.

They resent needing help.  That’s understandable.  But the problem for them is that they’re not willing to admit that, they see it as a “failure,” just as an alcoholic will go to great lengths to deny being one.   So rather than admit that these programs are necessary,  and even though they benefit from them, they’re asking for someone to do away with them.  You see, they want someone to stop them, because they’re not willing to step up and stop themselves.

It’s fundamentally selfish.  Most of the people who benefit from these programs are happy to have them available.  They’re there for a reason, and anyone who thinks the “good old days” were better is only fooling themselves.   There was a reason Social Security became known as “the third rail of American politics.”  Many seniors in the 50’s through the ’80’s had lived through the Depression, and remembered what it was like before it came along.  They had absolutely no intention of returning to those days.  They remembered what it was like before Medicare.    Most of those people are now gone, and the generation now does not, but have a hazy ideal that they think was the reality.

No, we shouldn’t stop them.  If they’re that serious, there is nothing stopping them from doing without themselves.  That they haven’t says more about them than anything else.  They say they want it, but they really don’t.  Because without it, their lives would be far worse than even their nightmares.  The real irony for conservatives is that the people they’re complaining about the most turns out to be … them.  But they can’t see it.



Filed under Politics

24 responses to “They Want You to Stop Them: The Conservative Irony

  1. Vic78

    One thing to keep in mind is that they’re blinded by irrational bigotry. These are the people talking about guns on the border. They love that damn confederate flag there as well. I’ve spent a lot of time around them and know what they are. The only feeling I have for them is contempt.

    • While I don’t rule out bigotry, I attribute it more to their sense of privilege and engrained cultural self-image. That’s why they keep saying “people who don’t deserve it,” with the privileged assumption that they do. I’ve run into that brick wall more than a few times. Add into that the cultural “ideals” that they are independent people who don’t need government, or even that “the government is the problem,” combined with an unwillingness to step back and look at those assumptions. The result is that they’re in serious denial about the objective reality, and resent it when reality intrudes.

      • lockewasright

        It’s conservative sociopathy. They make the most negative assumption that they can about everyone but themselves. THEIR need for assistance is real and is not their fault. Everyone else who needs help is lazy and made poor decisions. THEY understand when the help is appropriate and THEIR situation is one of those approprate ones. Everyone else needs to man up and quit being lazy and get some morals. Only the conservative indiviual’s pain and worry, and obstacles, and disabilities, and circumstancial barriers are real because they experience it first hand. Everyone else’s counts less. To ao conservative, everyone else’s sufferring is theoretical.

  2. I posted excerpts of the NYT article on my FB Wall, pointing out the inconsistencies of these folks’ positions and asking the same question that you ask in this post–“What will these people do it they actually get what they want?” It seems that people who hold these contradictory positions on government spending don’t realize that the cuts they’re demanding will impact them the same as they will those “other people who are sucking at the government’s teat.”

    • Or they don’t associate it with government spending. Remember all the Tea Party signs being held by elderly protestors saying “Don’t Touch My Medicare?” 🙄

      One of the Tea Party representatives, Allen West is a particularly odious example. The man has never, not once in his life been off the federal teat. He was a military brat, he went to college on ROTC scholarship, retired from the military (not voluntarily), and is now a member of Congress. His education, healthcare, and his pay have been from federal spending. To hear him rant, you’d think he’d been paying for everything himself.

  3. It’s like the current problems with funding the Postal Service — Congress reduces their money by hook and/or crook, and the USPS needs to shut down the least used offices, which are (of course!) in the heart of conservative land.
    They demand that the big city ones be closed. The problem is that even cities which have several handle hundreds of people a day (at least!) and the smaller offices handle a couple dozen. Which would you close?
    My point is that we can already see what happens when the government cuts them off—they whine about the unfairness of it all, and blame the government for not taking from someone who deserves it less and giving it to them. They are addicted—to the sense of being privileged.

    • Exactly. They talk about making the service “more efficient” and point to FedEx or UPS, but ignore that neither of those two have “local offices” in every town, and aren’t subject to congressional meddling.

      Another example is their current heart palpitations over the potential for a base closing initiative. The stampede to get to the podium to tout how wonderful and necessary their local base is, and the number of jobs it has, is remarkable. Somehow they forgot about “less spending” and their stance that “government doesn’t create jobs.” 🙄

      • Vic78

        Their cities would turn to ghost towns without those bases. It looks like there will be a few base closings due to tea bagger stupidity.

        • I don’t have to imagine it, I’ve seen it. When upstate NY had a vibrant manufacturing economy, the military bases were “nice to have.” When the manufacturing went south (literally), the bases were what kept the nearby cities and towns with functioning economies. When they closed, it took a long time – and in some cases still hasn’t – for things to rebound.

  4. Alan Scott

    Norbrook ,

    You have framed the argument for government spending as all or nothing . Even you I hope will admit that if we continue to over spend at the rate Obama is, the future will see draconian cuts in worthy programs . To save the programs they must be cut now or they will be cut much more in the near future .

    I would like to benefit from the socialist programs I have been paying for all of my life. But by the time it is my time, this country will be Greece. Don’t you think it is a disgrace that we have not had a budget for so long ? Is this anyway to run a railroad, unless you love Gomez Addams train wrecks ?

    When the national debt gets to $100 Trillion will that be too big ?

    • (sigh) Alan, in case you haven’t been paying attention, and obviously you’re watching Fox so you haven’t, the President hasn’t been “overspending.” He’s been doing exactly what every economist has said he should be doing during a recession. That is, you have to have deficit spending during an economic depression, if you have any hope of getting out of it. You might also want to look at the most recent budget proposal, which has $2 in cuts for every dollar in increased taxes.

      Finally, I find any complaining about Obama’s spending from any conservative to be hilarious. Seriously, it is. When you want to talk about raising the deficit, you only have to look at Reagan or both Bush’s to see massive increases in the deficit. Remember, George W. Bush inherited a budget surplus, and in 8 years added more to the national debt than Obama did. In all the years of conservative control of the White House and the legislative branch, “fiscal responsibility” was something they only gave lip service to.

      They’re still giving lip service to it, and that’s the point of this article. They say they want it, but the moment it turns out that they’re impacted, they scream like little girls. As I said, just look at the reaction when Secretary Panetta asked for another BRAC Commission. Their precious military bases might be on the block. I also note that none of them are willing to do the tough thing, which is to restore the tax rates back to where they were. All the whining and moaning about “high taxes” is complete bullshit, and they know it. They can’t balance a budget without taxes, and they damn well know it. A good chunk of the “deficit” is because conservatives are doing their damnedest to keep spending while not raising taxes.

  5. Alan Scott

    Norbrook ,

    Right now we are loading up with debt at very attractive borrowing rates. And not every economist says that is the right thing to do . Not everyone believes in the Krugman school of thought.

    At some point the European slow motion disaster will resolve itself, one way or another . At that point we will no longer benefit from having bigger deadbeats around that make us look good in comparison . In 2013 and beyond the world will punish us with higher interest rates for our debt .

    As far as Bush and Reagan and their deficits, Democrats and some Republicans in Congress were always pushing for more freebies to buy votes . And Obama had the misfortune of having Pelosi and Reid for two years running Congress. You will note that the miserable improvement that Obama has achieved on the economy came only after the Tea Party and Boehner acted as a brake to Obama’s policies. Granted it wasn’t much .

    Also the rate that Obama has piled on the debt, makes what Reagan and Bush did pale. And defense is never a bad investment .

    • nabsentia23

      What Norbrook just explained is firmly established in economics. Krugman certainly didn’t invent it and he’s not the only one who believes in it. It’s taught in Economics 101. You are also under the mistaken notion that economic policy is permanent. Proper economic policy changes according to the present conditions. Right now, it is appropriate for the government to spend more and for the Fed to keep interest rates low. It is also appropriate for taxes to be cut. I find it interesting that conservatives keep focusing on the tax cut part, but completely ignore the increased spending. In difficult economic times, stimulus is necessary. In economic boom times, you raise taxes, decrease government spending, and increase interest rates at the Fed. During these times, there is an excessive amount of money going into the system which will eventually lead to inflation. Raising taxes, decreasing spending, and increasing interest rates help alleviate this.
      Tax cuts are not suppose to be permanent and neither are cuts to government spending. And we followed this method, our government would have already have the appropriate funds needed for stimulus during the bad times due to the increased taxes and decreased government spending it did during the good times. But thanks to ideologues tainting the discussion – things are out of whack. You talk about Obama not having a clue; what about Bush cutting taxes and waging two wars? Wars are expensive and yet, Bush cuts taxes? You complain about our government borrowing money. How do you think paid for these wars? It’s conservatives, not liberals, who love to borrow money, Alan. It’s how they avoid the need to raise taxes yet, increase the burden on future generations. Not even Bill Clinton (who was more conservative than Obama on many economic issues) cut taxes because he knew that tax cuts were expensive.

      In regards to Europe, I find it every interesting that we are recovering at a faster rate. Have you ever asked yourself why? And maybe if the Tea Party and Boehner weren’t such idiots, our recovery would be even better? How do you think Reagan got the country out of the recession which occurred when he first took office in ’81? Deficit spending! It’s just that Reagan kept going and didn’t know when to stop.

      Besides, it’s a known fact that conservatives only pay lip service to debt. They’ve been doing it for 30 years, Alan and have no credibility in this area whatsoever. You’re doing what so many conservatives like you have done before. You only care about the deficit when there’s a Democrat in the White House and/or Democratic majority in Congress. That’s it. Your concern is simply not geniniune.

    • Alan, Reagan ran decrying the “huge deficit” (IIRC, it was a whopping 29 billion) that Carter was running. Then he proceeded to triple the national debt during his 8 years in office. It’s not the Krugman school of thought, it’s called Keynesian economics, and it’s something that’s had a very long history of working when it comes to dealing with depressions and recessions. Now, when you’re talking about “European slow motion disaster,” you’re not talking about Germany, France, Sweden, etc. You’re talking about Greece, Ireland, and Spain. What I find interesting is that many people on the right were touting Ireland as a model a few years ago.

      I should also point out that the most recent major cut in defense spending was not under a Democratic administration, it was under a Republican administration. Remember the “peace dividend?” The one where they cut the military almost in half? Guy named Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during that one.

      Defense spending as an “investment” is not the way to look at it. Instead, it has to be looked at as “what are are real interests, and what size do we need to protect that.” Which means we don’t go around the world looking for fights.

  6. Alan proves he’s still only getting his “news” from Fox, because it’s always the Democrats fault (and “some” Republicans, of course).

    In reality, the GOP has been nothing but obstructionist since Obama has been in office. The improvement on the economy has still managed to be the best private-sector growth in a long, long, time. We were losing 3/4 of a million jobs a month under Bush, and we are now gaining 1/4 million jobs a month. That’s an improvement of a million jobs.

    And “defense is never a bad investment?” How many nuclear missile submarines do we need to fight in Afghanistan?

    Don’t worry, Alan. We liberals will take good care of you when you get old, no matter what you say you want now. We’re good people.

    • nabsentia23

      Yep, Goldarn.

      We liberals have helped Alan live the good life he’s grown accustomed to and this is the thanks we get?

      Well, don’t worry, Alan! We’ll still look out for you because it benefits our society as a whole.

  7. Alan Scott

    I do thank you all for your responses . I ask, if increasing the money supply in bad times was the answer you Keynesians believe it to be, why don’t we encourage counterfeiting ?

    It does matter where all the money that you Krugmanites create out of nothing, goes to . Tax cuts allow private individuals to create real demand, and make real investments . You all seem to believe that shoveling money out the door and allowing Washington politicians to decide is the answer. Forget about Solyndra. How about spending close to $350,000 per household to give broadband service to parts of Kansas, Minnesota, and Montana ? It’s called wasting scarce resources.

    Again, thank you . I am now going to make myself a turkey and cheese sandwich, before it becomes illegal . I might even live dangerously and include chips and a banana.

    • Dear God in Heaven.

      Seriously, when you take out a loan to buy a car or a house or get an education (assuming you had one), was that money “created out of nothing?” You _already_ referred to “debt”, so you _know_ how it happens, and yet the words “created out of nothing” still got typed.

      You’ve also fallen for the “job creators” myth, where the rich create jobs. Perhaps you’d better tell them get started; they had no problem creating jobs at a 50% tax rate under the Godlike Reagan, surely they can manage under the lowest tax rates in my lifetime?

      But still, if I were you, I’d keep on regurgitating your talking points and believing what the 1% tells you. You don’t sound like the type that wants to think for yourself; you just want to believe you’re thinking for yourself. Too harsh? I think someone who dares to eat chips can take it.

    • Alan, spare me. Really. I’ve heard that routine about tax cuts for people creating demand for the past 32 years now. That only holds true if you’re talking the lower 40% of income earners. It has been proven not to hold true of any of the top 20% in earnings. If it were true, then we’d have an incredibly booming economy right now, since tax rates on the wealthiest of us are have been at their lowest level for the past decade. Neither have they been making “investments” – at least in this country. They’ve been quite nicely investing overseas in places like India and China, and somehow managing to avoid bringing any of that back into this country.

      Bringing broadband to rural areas – and no, it’s not quite that much – is an infrastructure project. I supposed if you were around in the ’30’s, you’d have been decrying the whole Rural Electrification Administration. It cost a heck of a lot of money to run electrical wires out to those rural areas, you know.

  8. Alan Scott

    ” I think someone who dares to eat chips can take it. ”

    I had a good reason for detailing all of those food items. I wondered whether anyone on this board would get it and thank you for confirming my high opinion of you .


    Okay, I will spare you reality, except on one point. Results matter . Reagan got results with his tax cuts . The way your leader Obama did it , didn’t work. I could go point by point and shred all of your arguments, but you will simply twist my words and deny, deny, deny .

    Now spin like a top and blame Bush .

    • “Okay, I will spare you reality, except on one point. Results matter . Reagan got results with his tax cuts . The way your leader Obama did it , didn’t work”

      Two points:
      (1) The way Pres. Obama did tax cuts didn’t work? Biggest private-sector growth in dang-near forever. Reagan had to massively increase the size of government to get anything like that kind of growth, plus *RAISE* taxes a few times.

      (2) Reality? Seriously? Dude, you are so far away from Reality that the light from Reality takes decades to reach you.

      Now go away and feel superior. We liberals need to actually get work done before you conservatives manage to elect another borrow-and-spender anti-birth-controller into government.

    • Really, Alan? Here’s something about Reagan:

      With the stroke of a pen, Reagan had reduced individual tax rates by 23 percent, slashed the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 50 percent, and dramatically accelerated the pace at which corporations could write off new investments. Altogether, Reagan gave taxpayers about $143 billion in tax relief over each of the next four years.

      And then — just two months later — he asked for about a third of it back

      I’ll also point out that his economic recovery didn’t start taking effect until well into his first term, and even then started back down shortly after he left office. There’s a lot of glorification of Reagan going on, and unfortunately, the objective reality of his administration seems to be ignored by conservatives. I see the same thing when it comes to liberals and FDR. The difference is that Congress used to be willing to compromise with the President and vice versa. These days, the Republicans have one answer: “No.”

      Oh, and Obama’s programs are working, much to the dismay of conservatives. Remember, the “free market” people wanted the car manufacturers to go under? Well, they just posted profits – GM, in fact very large ones. Unemployment is dropping as well.

  9. Alan Scott


    ” (1) The way Pres. Obama did tax cuts didn’t work? Biggest private-sector growth in dang-near forever. Reagan had to massively increase the size of government to get anything like that kind of growth, plus *RAISE* taxes a few times. ”

    Didn’t Pres. Obama also increase the size of the Federal government ? I don’t know, if you compare GDP growth under Reagan vs Obama, up to this point, who wins ? Also Reagan tamed inflation. Obama did not inherit that problem like Reagan did .


    ” Well, they just posted profits – GM, in fact very large ones. ”

    So tell me, when will Government Motors be paying back ‘ all ‘ of the money it owes to the US treasury ? And we’d like it back in US currency, not Chevy Volts .

    • They already are paying it back, Alan. Just as Chrysler is. The government also still owns stock in the company, so it gets a share of dividends. You know, income from stock investment?

      Matter of fact, Obama has not “increased the size of the Federal government.” Matter of fact, he’s been holding hiring down – even cutting – and proposing plans to do away with or consolidate various agencies. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the massive increase came under G.W. – remember the “Transportation Security Agency” and “Department of Homeland Security?”

      Reagan also came into office during a mild recession – what was known as “stagflation.” That’s not the same thing as what President Obama came into office with – a massive collapse of the financial system and huge unemployment. Saying “oh, the GDP grew more under Reagan” assumes and equal starting point. I also note that the GDP has been growing the past couple of years.