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Travis Rowley: Left and Right - A Starting Point

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Is Rhode Island capable of standing on its own? If the nation’s capital were to suddenly run out of money (or, should we say, admit to being out of money?), how would Rhode Island fare? Would Rhode Islanders be capable of independence from their benevolent central government?

I pose these questions – primarily – within the context of the welfare state, and because a YouTube video surfaced this week that featured a proud Obama supporter taking part in an anti-Romney rally in Cleveland, Ohio. Stepping slightly away from the SEIU-organized protest, the woman spoke aggressively toward a citizen cameraman: “Everybody in Cleveland [inaudible] minority got Obama phone! Keep Obama in president, you know! He gave us a phone! He gonna do more!” When asked how Obama gave her a phone, she responded, “You sign up! If you’re on food stamps, you on social security, you got low income, you disability.” She went on to add, “Romney, he sucks! Bad!”

It wasn’t caught on camera, but it was reported later on that she finished her rant by screaming, “I am the 47 percent!”

This is hardly the first video that has exposed the ugly and immoral underbelly of the welfare state – videos that showcase people of the Jerry Springer variety, and everyday readers of the Providence Phoenix.

Alexandra Pelosi, the daughter of Nancy Pelosi, garnered a lot of attention when she produced a short film that exposed viewers to a crowd of benefit-hunting citizens of New York City. While “most of them are able-bodied,” the film depicts a man who says, “I’m here trying to get some Obama bucks.” Asked if he was even interested in working, he responds, “I just want to get a free check.” Then he declares that he’ll be voting for Obama “cuz he’s black.”

“Bitch, I want a check,” says the guy with five kids delivered by “four baby-mamas.” A white woman openly admits that she likes Obama “cuz he gives me stuff” while a black man confesses that he’s “not looking for a job,” that he hasn’t worked in “half a decade,” and that he’s entitled to other people’s money “because my ancestors came here [and] helped build this place…My ancestors, the slaves.”

  1. It’s quite a trip down reality lane. Check it out .

Wealth Redistribution

People are rightfully upset whenever one of these videos turns up, reminding them that their hard-earned tax dollars are being funneled to such individuals – no matter what percentage of welfare recipients they truly represent.

So, in the wake of current controversies concerning wealth redistribution and the fact that 47 million Americans now rely on food stamps, it seems reasonable to ask why the federal government considers it wise and/or necessary to take Rhode Island money down to Washington in the form of tax dollars, only to deliver it back to Rhode Island in the form of welfare dollars.

How much Ocean State wealth becomes waste as it passes through the Washington wealth incinerator? For every dollar delivered to Washington, how much commission do federal bureaucrats take? With the administrators so far removed from the recipients, how much unnecessary fraud and abuse results from such detachment?

Aren’t “able-bodied” individuals more able to scam the system due to a lack of oversight, and a political culture that now considers federal cash manna from Heaven whenever it finds its way back to its home-state?

How much less could Rhode Islanders be taxed by the federal government if Rhode Island was allowed to govern its own welfare programs? And what would it do for the local economy if more wealth was allowed to remain in Rhode Island pockets? Wouldn’t this policy change act as free-market stimulus? And wouldn’t lower income tax rates provide more incentive for people to find employment? How many Rhode Islanders would immediately fall off the welfare rolls?

And, perhaps the most important question lies here: Are federal welfare programs even authorized by the US Constitution?

(Note: Not that liberals care. After all, it was President Obama who once lamented the fact that the “[Warren Court] didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution” in order to “[venture] into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”)

A Grand Bargain

James Madison once described the roles of the federal and state governments in this way: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” W. Cleon Skousen, the author of The Five Thousand Year Leap, commented, “The idea was to keep the power base close to the people. The emphasis was on strong local self-government.”

This is one of the philosophical treasures of the dreaded, Constitution-carrying Tea Partiers – Americans who have come to be saddened and enraged by the clear fact that, after a couple centuries past the nation’s founding, much of the framers’ wisdom has been forgotten, discarded, and ignored.

Conservatives wonder where the flaw can be found within this portion of Constitutional wisdom, especially when dealing with issues of wealth redistribution. Democrats believe in government. Fine. But must it be the federal government that administers the solution to local poverty?

Republicans should take up this cause on the grounds of Constitutional principles, Constitutional law, and common sense. If Democrats are not too devoted to centralized power – if they’re not too insistent that the “power base” be kept in Washington – then this seems like a good starting point for all that compromise that everyone speaks so highly of nowadays.

The inevitable economic growth would allow local liberals to find jobs while they attempt to expand their state’s welfare infrastructure. And local conservatives would be able to better ensure that redistributive policies don’t end up becoming counter-productive, and that public funds are protected from society’s dregs and slugs.

Who could argue with that?

But if Democrats won’t come along, then let the nation watch them resist the reform. After all, federal welfare programs aren’t very popular. But if they do begin to become more widely accepted, then the GOP can always release the “SEIU-Cleveland video” during halftime of the Super Bowl or something.

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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