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Travis Rowley: Dependency and Democrats

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Two audio recordings released this week showed both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama expressing controversial political statements. In response to a question about how his campaign plans to overcome a presumably large number of Americans who have been taught to put their lives in the hands of the government, Romney responded by saying that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what…who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims…I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

And within an audio from 1998, President Obama was exposed, once again, as a government thief. Obama expressed his desire to “pool resources, and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution.”

No surprise there. But still. What the hell.

Much has also been said recently about the fact that almost 47 million Americans “are now on food stamps” and that “the food stamp program has doubled in size since 2008 and quadrupled since 2001” – according to the Senate Budget Committee.

While everyone realizes that the Obama economy has certainly spiraled more and more people down to an impoverished state, it is less known that the progressive Left has been on a purposeful mission to increase the welfare rolls for quite a while – even during healthy economic times. Doing their part to fulfill the longstanding desires of the 1960’s radical “welfare rights movement” – that “pushed for a guaranteed living income” for every American – members of the local George Wiley Center once admitted, “We’re in the midst of a major battle…to get 60,000 more Rhode Islanders signed up for Food Stamps.”

That’s right. While normal Americans lament the fact that “one out of every seven” Americans gets their food from the government, the activist base of the Democratic Party considers this a desirable societal condition. It’s a left-wing success story. They’ll be telling their grandkids all about it someday.

Conservatives Cringe

Meanwhile, conservatives cringe at delivering more people to the dole – primarily because conservatives are not naïve. After all, their philosophy stems largely from an understanding of the nature of man.

The fact of the matter is that people do become addicted and satisfied with lives of laziness. And it’s not as if evidence doesn’t exist that illustrates the fact that many people will avoid searching for work if earned income promises to result in the loss of a government handout. After all, if life’s basic necessities – food and housing – are secured, if a virtual “guaranteed living income” has been obtained, then what’s the hurry? Just pass me the remote and the Cheetos.

After it was widely accepted that the Democrats’ Great Society programs had resulted in “generational welfare,” it finally became politically popular during the 1990s to enact the Republicans’ landmark welfare reform legislation. Liberals predicted a whole host of social ills would be the result. President of the National Organization for Women Patricia Ireland said that the new law would place “12.8 million people on welfare at risk of sinking further into poverty and homelessness." President of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Edelman called the act an “outrage…that will hurt and impoverish millions of American children…[It] will leave a moral blot on [Clinton's] presidency and on our nation that will never be forgotten." Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) called the new law “the most brutal act of social policy since Reconstruction."

Probably relying on one glaring reality – the fact that liberals have never gotten anything right – Republicans whipped welfare reform through Congress, and it became a resounding legislative success. Welfare caseloads dropped by half, the employment of single mothers surged, and millions of children were lifted out of poverty.

Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani recorded similar results in the 1990s by enforcing “workfare” standards that required welfare recipients to perform various tasks throughout the city. Go figure, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers voluntarily dropped off the rolls, saving the city millions of dollars per year.

Liberals were wrong again. Piles of emaciated bodies never materialized on the streets of New York.

Almost twenty years later, Democrats still have the same objections when it comes to government altruism. After I argued on Channel 10 News Conference last winter that it’s “simply not true” that people become homeless and starve to death when government benefits are restricted, executive director of the RI Democratic Party Stephanie DeSilva argued, “What do you think happens when you have no food and no place to live? You’re homeless and you have no food.” And when I objected to government-funded food stamp advertisements on A Lively Experiment, chairman of the RI Democratic Party Ed Pacheco gave me a similar response: “Well, you don’t want people to starve.”

DeSilva and Pacheco have clearly never considered exactly how Americans housed and nourished themselves before 1961, the year food stamps became part of the American fabric. In 1960, zero Americans were dependent on SNAP. And zero Americans were collapsing from starvation in American streets. It is only now, decades after the full-fledged implementation of federal food assistance, that 47 million Americans – all at once – seem to be in need of a government spoon.

What more proof do we need of the fact that progressive policies only serve to expand poverty, not eliminate it?

A Culture of Liberty

Conservatives also understand that the true victims of welfare programs are welfare recipients. After all, we find the most abject poverty in areas long under the direction of progressive policies – namely the nation’s urban neighborhoods. GoLocalProv.com recently reported that Providence has “more than one in three children…liv[ing] in poverty.” And just this week we discovered that “more than a fifth of children in Rhode Island are living in poverty, and over 10 percent are in extreme poverty.”

Nice work, Democrats.

Forced “redistribution” is immoral and inefficient. And it crushes the human spirit of not only those who are forced to live under its tyranny, but also those beneath its benevolence. Everything is as black conservative commentator Star Parker once wrote: "Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems. The kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others. The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.”

Liberals should have learned their lesson by now. But it seems only conservatives understand that a culture of independence is crucial in the ongoing mission to preserve freedom for themselves and future generations; that it’s more important for Americans to know liberty in their hearts before they comprehend it in their minds; that they should love liberty even before they understand it.

It is an American tragedy that, when President Obama proclaims his belief in socialist “redistribution,” it resonates with millions of Americans. These are the people Mitt Romney will “never convince.” And the progressive Left aims to increase their numbers.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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Wonderful piece,Mr. Rowley's. This column draws a very clear line between the two parties.Many people want to think that they are almost the same, but that has never been as true as it is now. Just look at the campaign of Congressmistake Cicilline (aka Chi Chi). Trumpeting the wonders of government dependency without ever once discussing his own integrity, or lack thereof. We need to get rid of these liberals if we are ever going to lift this state up.

Comment #1 by Michael Trenn on 2012 09 22

I meant to say that the fact that they are different has never been as true as it is now.

Comment #2 by Michael Trenn on 2012 09 22

Democrats!! Actively trying to put more people on the government tit is insane.

I am the 53%

Comment #3 by Jared D on 2012 09 22

Well put, Mr. Rowley. Mitt Romney's sentiment (while not very articulate) was well understood, and well taken.

Comment #4 by William Suffik on 2012 09 22

Another excellent essay. Thank you. I'm with you with one possible exception. I sense you agree with Mr. Romney when he stated that the 47% will always vote for the hand that feeds them and that he will never be able to convince them to take personal responsibility and take care of their lives. As one who aspires to be our President, that is his job. That is his responsibility. He must not give up on any segment of the population of the country he aspires to lead. He may not succeed in this effot, but it is an abdication of his responsibility not to try.
Personally, I agree that what he said was inelegantly put. I do not believe he has given up on the these people. It is not in his character and DNA to give up on the less fortunate members of our society. He simply misspoke. And he ought to say so and then explain better and more clearly why he is concerned about the negative implications of a purposely expanded entitlement and dependent society, which is and has been for years the goal of the progressive democrat party leadership.

Comment #5 by peter hewett on 2012 09 22

A rather strange piece - full of emotional and dogmatic statements without much factual evidence.

Comment #6 by Richard Rendine on 2012 09 22

Mr. Rendine: It was obviously an homage to Barack Obama.

Comment #7 by Michael Trenn on 2012 09 23

No one can be serious about this article which is full of opinion parading as facts. Rowley's discussion of "redistribution" is laughable as he sets up a fanatsy Obama to make his arguments, a lazy and intellectual dishonest technique. But the cold hearted approach to a discussion of the disadvantaged is the most startling. Here Rowley does his best imitation of Nancy Reagan in her ill fated "Just Say No to Drugs" campaign. Ah, conservatives always there to lend a helping hand to the needy in the form of scolding.

As a newcomer, I hope this low level, biased journalism is not typical of what this website offers up.

Comment #8 by Charles D. on 2012 09 23

I thought Mr. Rowley provided a compelling argument and a number of facts to support his contentions that well-meaning welfare policies do not have positive outcomes. Your comments on Mr. Rowley’s article are what seem to be “lazy and intellectual dishonest”. On the issue of redistribution, President Obama’s position seems very clear. The question of helping the disadvantaged is extremely important, but this issue turns on what is the most sustainable way of doing so – do we provide a hand out or a hand up? I spent a great deal of time in China and some time in the Soviet Union and even these socialist countries have given up on the failed policies of redistribution. These countries have come to the realization that you can bring more out of poverty not by taking away from the successful in society, but by providing more opportunities for the poor to become successful. As you are a newcomer I hope you will be able to raise the level of your analysis and comments.

Comment #9 by Michael Byrnes on 2012 09 24

Charles D -- Rowley "sets up a fantasy Obama to make his arguments"???? Obama said that he "believes" in redistribution!! Obama set himself up.

Comment #10 by Jared D on 2012 09 24

Tsk, Tsk, Jared, Obama used the redistribution word in a general sense to advocate for support services to the disadvantaged. Rowley, in his long winded piece, then drove a truck though the word and made implications that Obama never came even close to making. People engage in this kind of argumentation, as Rowley does, to make their counter position easier to formulate except it’s a counter argument to a fantasy position. Purposely distorting or exaggerating a person’s words/intent is a form of lying. Hence the basis for my intellectually dishonest and lazy comment.

BTW, Mitt Romney just today suggested in his tax policy that he wants to protect the “progressivity” of the tax code. Interesting use of words, since the analog to progressivity is redistribution. And then you have Paul Ryan and his tax plan which not only advocates cuts and changes that will cost seniors and other groups more while he advocates tax cuts that benefit higher income groups. And if that isn’t redistribution what is? - except it’s a move of wealth from the bottom to the top. There should be no surprise that the wealth gap is increasing over the last thirty years as the marginal tax rate has dropped significantly in the period. And Romney/Ryan advocate even further cuts.

Comment #11 by Charles D. on 2012 09 25

So Obama says I believe in redistribution, and you excuse it by saying he was advocating "for support services to the disadvantaged" in a "general sense." Is that still not redistribution? Okay, you take that one. What about the fact that Obama used to be a dues-paying member of The New Party (socialist)? What about when he said, "I believe when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." What about when he said, "I believe at a certain point you've made enough money." What about redistributive legislation such as Stimulus, Obamacare, Cash for Clunkers, foreign aid for oil drilling, etc, etc, etc. You act as if this was a one-time slip of the tongue. The only person engaging in "intellectual dishonesty" is you (and Obama).

And "progressivity" isn't necessarily redistribution. It depends on the direction and final destination of the funds. But if Romney ends up being an agent of redistribution, I'll call him a socialist too. Ya know, because I'm intellectually honest.

Comment #12 by Jared D on 2012 09 25

It still behooves me how liberals can call the allowing of individuals to keep more of their own money as "a move of wealth from the bottom to the top." Charles asks, "if that isn't redistribution what is?"

Orwellian, indeed. What country is this?

Comment #13 by William Suffik on 2012 09 25

Jared, your problem is you (and others of like mind) have turned the word redistribution into a pejorative generalization. I did not say that Obama’s use of the word was a one trick pony. I see redistribution programs all over and I see no problem with those that are focused on social needs - like social security, Medicare, Medicaid; our progressive tax system is in itself redistribution. Other examples abound – Mississippi as a state gets back a $1.80 for every $ 1.00 they give to the Federal government which is another form of redistribution.

Judging from what you write, I have to conclude you have a black- white mentality and are comfortable with simplicity and not complexity. This was my point in using the example about Nancy Reagan because it is so reflective of the typical conservative approach to issues and problem s of the day - just make it simple and it will just go away and if it doesn’t , just scold.

As for Obama’s belonging to the New Party, all I can say, it happens. When I graduated from college, I was an strict conservative, I supported Barry Goldwater and avidly read his book, “Conscience of a Conservative”, joined Young Americans for Freedom, and living in Boston I waited in long lines to hear Ayn Rand and other conservatives speak at Jordan Hall. But then I grew up. My transition began in grad school in Chicago where over time I noticed that the people I admired the most were well read, took up new ideas quickly, were interesting people who took an active interest in community and always seemed to be liberal in their politics. The Conservatives I met, often wealthy business men, I found to be change adverse, doughty, materialistic, talking always about their possessions, their wine cellar, their travels and little else. The wealthy liberals I knew talked about some of the same things, but they were always dedicated to social causes and spent their money in support. So I slowly changed my viewpoint and never looked back.

BTW, if this piece by Rowley is typical of his thinking, we are not talking a first class mind here. I could go through his piece sentence by sentence and question the logic and I never admire anyone who engages in vicious name calling. Like others of his like mind, he ignores the salient fact that over the last thirty years policies and thinking right of center have generally dominated American politics. So if you think the country is in a mess think broader, Rome wasn’t built in a day either.

Comment #14 by Charles D. on 2012 09 26

I challenge anyone to prove this wrong. Under Obama's leadership, we have....

23 million unemployed

43 straight months of 8+% unemployment

45 million on food stamps

Black poverty at record highs

The middle class has lost 33% of its net worth under Obama

Black youth unemployment over 50%

Hispanic unemployment at 10.3%

Illegals due to receive roughly $7.4 billion through Obama's Additional Child Tax Credit.

Food prices up 15% under Obama

Gas prices doubled under Obama

Obama has the worst job creation record since 1945

Obama recovery the worst in 75 years

Median household income $4,300 declines under Obama

Average family health insurance up $1,500 under Obama

Added $6 trillion to our debt...more than all Prezs. Combined

Presided over only US credit downgrade

Over 100 million people on some form of means tested welfare

Obama's Failed policies hurt 100% of Americans

Comment #15 by Captain Blacksocks on 2012 09 26

A recent study showed that Conservatives more than any other groups engage in low effort reading and are more swayed by sound bites. This list by Blacksocks is a perfect confirmation of that study. Whether this laundry list is even accurate I would not engage in, but if one of the axioms the discipline of Statistics states that correlation does not imply causation, then what would that discipline say about the one dimensional facts presented here. It is a distortion to imply that all of this was caused by Obama and ignore the effects of long range policies going back for over 30 years.

Let me just make brief comments on two points.

Looking at the surge in the number of people on food stamp without looking on the deep circumstances causing it is like a doctor telling you that you have a temperature of 102F and doing nothing more.

As for the deficit, when you dump on spending without looking at the total equation and fail to factor in the loss of revenue that has accrued yearly due to tax cuts to the wealthy and the cost of two wars, you are biased. Conservatives are always against spending except when it comes to war where they are eager supporters. Calling them war mongers is an appropriate reaction. Finally, we only have to look to Europe to see the bad effects of a misplaced austerity concept.

Comment #16 by Charles D. on 2012 09 28


We are in awe of your intellect. You must be proud of your self. Keep up the good work.

Comment #17 by Michael Byrnes on 2012 09 28

Sorry Michael, but when you have nothing to say your natural reaction apparently is to make a personal attack. This is not about me, it's about policies. Let's stick to the subject.

Comment #18 by Charles D. on 2012 09 28

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